Visual Sound Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost pedals
Visual Sound LLC, visualsound.net
Open Road Overdrive, $119.95; Truetone Clean Boost, $99.95
Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2009
Visual Sound's Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost pedals are ideal for guitarists who play rock, blues, hard rock and even jazz.
Overdrive and boost pedals have come a long way from the relatively simplistic Rangemaster and Tube Screamer type of stomp boxes that defined the sound of players past. Today, many guitarists want pedals that have minimal effect on an amp’s tone and feature a wider range of control over the effect. Pedal manufacturer Visual Sound has been responding to this demand by looking beyond established design ideologies and creating effect boxes that aren’t merely clones of the classics. The company’s unique offerings, which include the use of specially designed components, have made its products popular among guitarists that want distinctive tones, controllability and reliable performance.
Part of Visual Sound’s V2 Series, the Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost pedals should appeal to guitarists across a broad range of styles. Like the company’s other pedals, both feature oversized switches rated for 10 million cycles, handwired jacks, special knob protection, road-worthy die-cast housings and easy-open battery doors. The two units also accept barrel-type nine-volt adaptors and have circuit protection that prevents them from being damaged should you connect them to power supplies of incorrect voltage.
OPEN ROAD OVERDRIVE
Where most overdrives are tuned to distort the midrange frequencies primarily, the Open Road spreads its signal-crunching horsepower across the guitar’s full bandwidth. Drive and volume controls set the amount of gain and output, respectively, and considerable levels of each are on tap. The tone knob primarily alters the level of treble and upper mids and interactively increases the gain and presence as it’s dialed clockwise.
The Open Road offers lots of gain and volume, but don’t be fooled—it can also be used in subtle ways. The style of gain is very Fender-like, with big lows, an essentially flat midrange and round highs. This lack of a midrange hump has the side effect of preserving the amp’s sound and feel.
In front of a Fender-style amp, with the drive and volume controls at or below the noon position, the Open Road performed like an extra gain stage, where there is no effect on string definition. As the pedal is turned up, it urges the amp into silky overdrive that’s as smooth and satisfying as soft-serve ice cream. Turning the tone knob past noon unleashes more bite and sparkle from the gain circuit, increasing touch sensitivity and odd-harmonic angst.
The Open Road’s massive and accurate low end is a rare treat from an overdrive pedal and does wonders in front of a Fender, Victoria, Matchless or similar amplifier. However, its overall gain structure and boldly organic tones are not the best tools for pushing a Marshall or other midrange-focused amplifier, and likewise the pedal’s adeptness with rock and blues precludes its use as a metal-style overdrive.
TRUETONE CLEAN BOOST
It's difficult to increase a signal’s amplitude without causing distortion or inciting an amp’s first gain stage to overdrive, all while retaining the amp’s character. Visual Sound’s Truetone Boost succeeds in this regard better than any pedal I’ve heard in this price range, and in terms of feel, it outperforms many pedals that cost twice as much.
The pedal has a tone control and an output volume knob that together deliver a surprising variety of textures and boost levels. When dialed properly, the Truetone is one of the finest clean boosts you’ll find. There is almost no perceivable change in tone, feel or detail. It doesn’t take anything away, although I found that with some amps it adds just a hair of honk in the mids, which is a function of how it interacts with the first gain stage and input impedance.
Tube purists, myself among them, will fall in love with the Truetone’s accurate performance. I was stunned by how musical and natural this pedal sounds, even when compared to ultra high-end boost pedals. For most applications, I preferred to leave the Truetone’s muscular, yet transparent circuit engaged and then use my guitar’s volume control to change my level.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Visual Sound's Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost pedals are ideal for guitarists who play rock, blues, hard rock and even jazz, especially if they use a Fender-style clean or overdriven amp. The Open Road is a classic overdrive with American-type distortion, tube-like response and impressive low end. If you’re looking for more of the clean sounds that you already have without adding distortion, the Truetone Clean Boost is one of the best values and top performers on the market.
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