If you’re ready to put a little hair on your tone,
it’s good to have options like Visual Sound’s VS-XO, a single unit that houses two
flavors of overdrive. Each side has a distinct sound and its own relationship to
low end, and the outputs are wired so you can send a line out from one output,
two separate outs, or cascade Drive-2 into Drive-1.
Drive-1, on the right, has a clean mix knob
that takes you from 0 to 100 percent overdrive.
The VS-XO’s three-way clipping switch selects
among low-gain (“A”), medium-gain (“B”), or highgain/smooth (“C”) clipping-diode voices. “A” is
just one smooth notch up from clean; “B” has an
edge, and “C” takes it farther, noticeably boosting
the mids, especially apparent with the tone
knob up. The bass switch, meanwhile, helped me
choose between slight bass cut, slight bass boost,
and a bigger bass boost.
If Drive-1 hinted at a rattling SVT, Drive-2 is more like an Ampeg B-15 approaching its limit—earthy and darker, with less midrange bark, and as
you might suspect, it was easier to precisely dial in
low end with Drive-2’s bass knob than it was with
Drive-1’s three-way bass switch. Drive-2’s tone
knob, which controls both gain and drive, was crucial.
Used separately, each side of the pedal shined,
but putting the two channels together took me right
to the edge of distortion.
My only complaint? I heard a noticeable click
through my amp when I depressed the footswitches,
but I doubt it’d matter in a live situation. Did the
pedal suck my low end? Perhaps a tad, at lower drive
levels, but it was nothing I couldn’t fix with the bass
knobs and switches. It’s a small price to pay, after
all, for the VS-XO’s subtlety, versatility, and wide
range. Premium, indeed.