Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost
BY ART BYRON
Tube Screamer. The Open Road Overdrive
is a new animal entirely, primarily because it
addresses the shortcomings in its predecessors. One of the most frequent gripes
about stompbox overdrives is their overabundance of midrange frequencies. The
midrange spike can really build up in the
studio come mix time, and it can take its
toll on stage, even though lots of mids are
a natural outgrowth of the way an overdrive clips the incoming signal.
The Open Road does well to preserve the
fundamental frequencies—the bottom
end—while delivering the flavor up top, and
the Tone knob adds sparkle to the top end
when turned clockwise, but without adding
an overabundance of midrange. At no time
did the tone become obnoxious or overbearing. The engineers at Visual Sound have
done a nice job here, making this dial more
than just the sonic equivalent of choosing
between a fine or coarse cheese grater.
With the Drive dial cranked, the Open Road
oozed with plexi goodness, especially when
goaded by a Les Paul Custom loaded with
humbuckers. With an American Strat packing traditional single coils and the Drive
knob set less aggressively, we found ourselves squarely in classic Fender Twin territory. The one thing the Open Road doesn’t
do is the over-the-top shred fest; if you’re
looking for a box to deliver apocalyptic
metal mayhem, this is not it.
Hard gigging pros who live on the road
know that good tone can come and go with
the wind. Venues change, back lines rotate,
and equipment that breaks gets replaced or
repaired, sometimes with unintended results.
The idea of carting around expensive or irreplaceable boutique amps begins to take on a
questionable logic. For all but a few players,
it is the pedalboard, not the amplifier, that
becomes the reliable backbone of a signature
sound. Second only to a few trusted guitars,
the pedalboard is your sound. And even the
most renowned players, who can afford to
carry road cases full of one-off handwired
amps, still largely rely on the pedalboard to
define their sound.
The folks at Visual Sound have an uncanny
understanding of the road warrior musician,
and what makes him tick. They seem to really
get the degree to which guitarists lean on
their pedals for their signature tone. Visual
Sound’s latest salvo into the extremely competitive stompbox market is their Truetone
Clean Boost and Open Road Overdrive pedals. Let’s hit the road, and put the pedal to
the metal—and the pedals to the test.
Open Road Overdrive
Visual Sound’s newest overdrive unit is a
refinement of the company’s earlier Route
808 Overdrive, which itself was a well-crafted clone of the classic Ibanez TS-808
The Volume knob allows you to control how
hard you hit the amplifier’s preamp stage, and
thus further invites you to dial in more tone.
I tested the Open Road with a Line 6 Spider
Valve 1x12” amp, which has a tube preamp, a
tube power amp, and 12 digital amp models.
We set it on the “plain Jane” vanilla clean setting, the least forgiving setting for a unit like
this (in fact, the sound clips were recorded
entirely from the Line 6’s high-Z line out and
the clean amp model). The Volume control
helped beef up the output nicely.
Larger boxes, like the Visual Sound housing,
do take up more space on the pedalboard,