Most two-in-one pedals combine overdrive/distortion with a boost stage, but the latest Route 66 from Visual Sound (who are in the process of changing their name to Truetone) goes further. Now in its third version, the pedal has become a feature-packed, two-headed monster that seems focused on squeezing as many tones as possible from a single box.
The Route 66 pairs a potent overdrive with a great-sounding compressor. The addition of separate inputs and outputs for each effect makes the Route 66 a true two-in-one. The ability to single out each effect and place other effects between them may be invaluable for players using programmable effect loopers.
The original Route 66 overdrive had Tube Screamer-esque roots (it used the 4558 op amp). But the latest version boasts a redesigned circuit based on the Drivetrain II that Visual Sound designed for Reverend. In addition to standard drive, treble, and volume controls, two mini knobs control clean mix and bass. Add in an A/B switch for different voicings, and you start to grasp how much tonal ground the Route 66 covers. (The A setting provides throaty midrange presence, while B is a bit more scooped.)
Honestly, it was difficult finding unusable dirt flavors with the Route 66. The single-coils in my MIM Strat acquired humbucker-style growl with added bass and gain. I transitioned easily from the dry, Texas punch of “Tush” to slightly compressed Larry Carlton-style tones that would suit a Steely Dan cover band. The only thing I took issue with was the sweep of the treble control. I found the overall range a bit subtle and thought it could use a more dynamic top end.
The Route 66 isn’t a completely transparent compressor—think of an old Ross or MXR Dyna Comp—but it can achieve subtlety via its mix knob. The compressor circuit didn’t get as drastic an overhaul as the overdrive, though it’s acquired a mix control and a switchable noise gate. At stage volume the Route 66 was comfortably quiet. It made my Deluxe’s clean tone blossom with beautifully warm high end. The magic of the original Route 66 was how well the two effects worked together, and this reboot somehow improves on that.
The Verdict Visual Sound has packed two greats stomps into one box. The compressor can move from country-spank squish to singing sustain, while the overdrive can satisfy both Screamer addicts and classic-rock mavens. At roughly $90 per effect, the Route 66 is a contender for the bang-for-buck championship belt.—Jason Shadrick
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