Always on the watch for good-looking, good-sounding, durable pedals, we were recently drawn to three of the latest gizmos from Visual Sound, the Florida-based company that started out building a signal-chain noise reducer called Pure Tone, and later moved into the effects arena.
The Test Subjects
Housed in a steel case shaped kinda like a traffic sign (or home plate), these units aren’t small. Each operates on battery or AC adaptor power, features independent “classic-style” footswitches for each effect, and employs handy LED indicators.
The switches are placed just close enough so you can hit both at the same time, but not so close that you can’t switch them independently. One screw holds the 9-volt battery compartment cover in place.
For our tests, we used Visual Sound’s 800mA “1 Spot” AC adaptor (which, as the name implies, uses just one outlet space on a standard power strip and can power a chain of most 9-volt pedals).
Once ready to roll, we grabbed a ’73 Strat, a G&L Legacy, and a ’70s Les Paul plugged into a 1×12″ Marhsall combo and a Marshall half-stack.
Two For the Money…
First up was the H2O Liquid Chorus and Echo, which offered both analog chorus using NOS BBD chips and up to 800ms of digital delay. Controls for the chorus included width, delay time, and speed while the echo had an effect level (mix), repeats, echo time, and a slide switch for short/long times.
The chorus section delivered a wide range of modulation sounds from very lush chorus to almost a flanging sound.
By manipulating the speed and delay controls, we were able to get close to a Leslie/Rotovibe sound without sucking out all the low-end, like some chorus pedals are apt to do.
The delay section of the pedal is digital, but delivers the effect with a distinct analog voicing. The repeats had that slightly dirty/muffled analog tone that work great for short, slapback ’50s-style echo, and also allowed us to mix the repeats hotter with longer delays, without having them get in the way. Even with both effects on at the same time, the H2O was quiet and didn’t distort or diminish the signal.
Gettin’ Our Kicks…
Next up we tried the Route 66, an overdrive/compressor combo. The overdrive portion of the pedal is modeled after a TS808 – it even uses the same JRC4558 op-amp chip. Controls include drive, tone, volume, and bass boost switch. The compressor has sustain, tone, and gain controls. Like the H2O, both effects had separate footswitches and LEDs. The overdrive channel delivered very fat, musical distortion without cutting low-end, due mainly to the bass boost switch. Adding the compressor made it even hotter.
The compressor worked well by itself, thickening and rounding out the clean tone, or just as a volume boost for soloing.
Last up was the Jekyll and Hyde. Also two effects in one, this one sports two overdrives.
The Jekyll side was very similar to the Route 66, and employs the same JRC4558 op-amp and with the same controls.
The Hyde half added another EQ control and sharp/blunt switch for scooping mids to get a metal/hard rock tone. Both do a very good job of letting you tweak to taste. Running them simultaneously produced endless sustain, though it proved a bit difficult to control and lacked low-end.
All three pedals are high-quality and produced a variety of good, usable sounds. So the fact you get two effects in each for under $200 just adds a bit of gravy to the meat.
Visual Sound effects pedals
Type of pedals: combination chorus/echo, overdrive/compressor, twin-overdrive.
Features: authentic tones, minimal extraneous noise, steel cases, AC/DC operation, classic-style footswitches, LED indicators.
Price: $169.95 to $199.95 (dealer list).
Contact: Visual Sound, 6535 Winding Brook Way, Delray Beach, FL 33484, www.visualsound.net.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.