Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Visual Sound Open Road Review / Truetone Open Road Review

You wondered which pedal I chose to replace the MXR M115? It was nearly the Boss OD3 but in the end, the Visual Sound Open Road won out.

The Open Road actually sounds quite like the OD3 but as many people have found, it cleans up very nicely on higher gain, and certainly much more cleanly than the OD3. What do I mean? Well, as the gain is turned up, the chords and solos sing and cut through without breaking up or getting lost in the mix.

Unlike the mid-humped tubescreamer, and even more than the mid-frequency (FM - flat mids) cut on the Fulldrive, the Open Road is extremely transparent and has a sweet low end beyond any pedal I've ever heard.

Reviews across the web make it clear that the Open Road works well with any guitar or amp due to its deliberate transparent nature. The transparency simply means it overdrives your amp without colouring the sound. The pedal also 'cleans up' nicely on the volume switch on the guitar, responding with increase or reduction in the volume switch (and in your playing) with a corresponding increase / reduction in the overdrive.

In practice, we have 3 switches keeping things very simple - gain, tone and volume. The gain ranges from a crunchy singing blues through to a more overdriven sound with a nice sustain - especially nice when used alongside the Fulltone on its Vintage or CompCut settings.

Build quality is excellent. It has a bright although not lurid yellow colour. The pedal is unusual in design with the rear of the pedal rising up above the control section. The power is at the back, input to the right, output to the left. What I really like is the on/off toggle which unlike many other pedals, is sturdy but silent!!

The Visual Sound pedals aren't true bypass, but in 'blind' tests with an audience Visual Sound (click here for youtube video) have shown that the buffer in the VS pedals sounds much better than much of the 'true bypass' hype.

A truly excellent pedal. It's a bit pricey at around £120 but I managed to get one a good bit cheaper. Visual Sound have truly made a brilliant pedal in the Open Road and it sits happily on my pedal board alongside the Fulldrive 2. Both pedals are unique but sit well together. Couldn't be more pleased!

Edit January 2018 - This is still my 'go-to' low-end drive. It's very full, very transparent and just works so well with other drives. Not sure why they chose to discontinue this pedal. Obviously, Visual Sound have long since renamed to 'True Tone' but they don't offer this pedal. They are still offering kicking pedals with killer tones clearly, but this classic pedal is no longer in the range. If you can pick one up second hand, do so!

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