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.