If you want an overdrive pedal that offers tones like a classic tube amp without the hassle or without sounding like another uninspiring Tube Screamer clone, then the Visual Sound Open Road is worth every penny.
When Ibanez released the original Tube Screamer over 30 years ago, it’s safe to say that no one would have guessed how many future effects pedals would be based on that simple circuit. From the Fulltone Fulldrive to the Boss Blues Driver, effects pedal designers have used the Tube Screamer as the basis for some excellent (and many would say improved) effects. However, there comes a time when you need something a bit different than the midrange-focused Tube Screamer and its countless offspring. Fortunately, Visual Sound, who happens to make a killer TS808 clone with its Route 808 and Route 66 pedals, realized this as well. Enter the Visual Sound Open Road.
When Visual Sound released its V2 series of pedals, I have to confess that I was less-than-impressed with their appearance. I don’t know. They just looked like toys to me. Then I bought one, and realized that these pedals are little multi-colored tanks! And the footswitches are quite simply the best you’ll ever find on a pedal. The Open Road is no less impressive. While the yellow color is a bit on the garrish side, you’ll definitely see it in a crowded pedalboard on a dark stage. Three simple controls are Drive, Tone, and Volume.
I tested the Open Road with a Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster HSS into a Dr. Z MAZ 18 NR, and realized immediately it’s definitely in a different class than the TS808 clones. Instead of a defined hump in the midrange, the Open Road offers a more defined low end and sparkling high end, perfect for cutting through a busy mix. Honestly, it sounds more like an amp emulator than an effects pedal, though it’s got a wide range of dynamics. It’s also a pedal that you could leave on all the time and simply control with your guitar’s volume knob. I could easily go from Marshall Plexi to a cranked Fender Twin sound without much effort. If you’re a shredder, though, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, since high gain isn’t the Open Road’s forte.
However, if you want a pedal that offers tones like a classic tube amp without the hassle or without sounding like another uninspiring Tube Screamer clone, then this pedal is worth every penny.