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Visual Sound: Open Road Overdrive and Truetone Clean Boost Review

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Truetone Clean Boost
The Visual Sound Truetone Clean Boost pedal is deceptively simple: two knobs, and an On/Off button. That’s it. It’s like a supercharger bolted to an already healthy V-8 engine. It will boost everything by a factor that can be set with the Volume knob. Whatever tonal nuances you bestow to your incoming signal will be amplified or accentuated. In point of fact, the Truetone Clean Boost is two tools in one. In its simplest guise, it’s a high-gain preamp. In a world of complex digital effects with computers running algorithms, the Clean Boost might seem a bit of a throwback, but for the vast majority of road-going bands, there’s no monitor engineer, or even a mix engineer. If you need to step up for a solo, you need to be able to just hit the gas and go.

This pedal is best with an amp with lots of headroom. A boost to the incoming signal isn’t going to be terribly effective if the power amp is sending out a clipped signal. In recent years, there has been a trend towards using very clean tube power amps with all of the tone sculpting coming from pedals and other outboard gear. Players who value dynamics get the maximum benefit, and the tube saturation of the amp is still an integral part of the sound.

When used as a quasi-overdrive, the Clean Boost excels, provided it’s hitting the “right” preamp. The Clean Boost provides a fat, mostly unadulterated signal (depending on the tone setting). If you’ve got vintage tweed, a plexi, or any type of warm, multistage tube amp, the Clean Boost is going to catapult you into the pleasure zone without making your ears bleed. The simple Tone knob works best when conceptualized in the classic sense of an equalizer—tamping down a high end that’s too strident, or adding some sharpness to a dull, swampy signal. When positioned between a Stratocaster and the Line 6 Spider Valve combo amp, the Clean Boost beefed up the bottom end, hitting the preamp hard for some authentic, old-time overdrive. In this situation, the tone control allowed me to roll off some extra high end which was having an undesirable effect on the natural overdrive of the amp. When the Strat was switched out for the Les Paul Custom, I needed some extra high-end boost.

Like the Open Road Overdrive, the Truetone Clean Boost also gets the benefit of Visual Sound’s formidable housing and robust foot switch. But the aluminum shell of  the Truetone’s volume knob had come unglued from its plastic core. The metal knobs are cosmetic caps that are glued onto the plastic core, into which the  metal shaft of the pot is locked. According to Visual Sound, this is a rare problem that occurs during shipping, and they will replace any defective  knobs.
Buy if...
your amp or overdrive unit needs an extra kick in the pants at just the right time.
Skip if...
you've got a channel-switching tube amp with great gain staging options.

Street $99 - Visual Sound  

The Final Mojo
Armed with just the Open Road Overdrive and the Truetone Clean Boost, I’d feel confident walking into any joint, plugging them in to any random guitar amp and laying down some righteous jams. With the Open Road Overdrive punching up the bottom (while keeping the top sizzling along), it all promises to be a fun-packed, high-speed road trip. The Truetone Clean Boost likewise will provide serious passing power on your musical highway when you need it the most. In the studio, we were rewarded with inspiring tone right out of the box—even when our test units were placed at a tonal disadvantage. These are workhorse pieces at a terrific price, and if you’re the kind of guitarist who likes to toneshape with foot pedals, both of these will provide rewarding jams.

Editor’s note: the print version of this  review originally contained incorrect information regarding the Volume knob  of the Truetone Clean Boost, the aluminum shell of which came unglued from  its plastic core during shipping. The html version of the review has been  corrected. We regret the error.
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