I used a DOD digital effects pedal for years on a solid state amp, and one day a friend came over to jam – and he had his pedal board with him. He plugged it into one of my amps and we were playing some classic rock, and he was using this overdrive pedal that looked like home plate on a ball field. Actually, it had some scratchy pots – and he asked me if I would clean it for him.
Cleaning electronics isn’t my favorite thing, but I agreed to do it mainly just to have the pedal to play around with for a week or so. The version he had was from the 80’s or 90’s I believe, and the pedal was built like a tank. It looked like this one:
All I really did was take the pedal apart, and then spray the volume pots with De-Oxit (to take the scratchiness out), and then I tightened the input jacks a bit, and bent them in a tiny bit (to make the connections tighter). Then it was time to fire it up and check it out!
You can see in the image above that the Route 66 is actually two pedals in the same unit. You have an overdrive distortion pedal on the left, and a compressor on the right. Even though both pedals are in the same box, you just have one input and one output jack, and 3 separate pot controls for each, in addition to a switch.
First off, I want to point out that this pedal is still being made new (by Visual Sound) today, and it looks nearly the same, with the exception of the the raised backplate, and the broader foot control switches (that look like smushed mushrooms):
You can see in the image above that all knobs and controls are the same in both versions. I plugged the pedal into my tube amp, which at the time was a Carvin Legacy. I started with the overdrive side, and the drive and tone at about 2 o’clock, and the volume at 10 o’clock.
I have to say I immediately fell in love with the overdrive side of this pedal. Since testing this pedal, I have bought one for my own pedal board, and the settings are the exact same to this day. There is a “bass boost” switch (which I never use). You can swing the gain up or down and get from Tom Petty and ZZ top sounds, all the up to Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC – you truly have nearly every single American “classic rock” sound covered. With the volume you can choose to use it only as a straight overdrive, or to boost the signal for a lead / overdrive. Generally I use it as an distortion overdrive only – and I’ll tell you why next.
The other side of this pedal is a “compressor”. A compressor is an effect that “compresses” the signal and makes it louder. You can think of it as a boost, but it also gives it a bigger, fatter, rounder character as well. The compressor also has it’s own sustain, tone, and gain knobs. The switch is whether the tone is on or off. The sustain knob controls how compressed the signal is, the higher it is the longer the notes “sing”. The gain isn’t exactly an overdrive, but it does make the signal more dirty. So you can choose if the compressor is more of a dirty or clean boost for your signal.
The reason that this pedal is so unique, is because you can just use the clean channel on your amp, and then use the compressor to get a rolling stones type dirty sound. It’s also great for country, and even blues. On the other hand, you can use the overdrive side for an entire song “on”, and then hit the compressor for leads. This is great for that “little change in your pocket, going jang-a-lang-a-lang” type songs, or even heavier stuff. I also own a Tubeworks Realtube pedal that I use a lot that is more Bluesbreaker-ish – and I like to play with that on blues songs, but then use the Route 66 overdrive (with the Tubeworks pedal still on) for just searing, stinging leads.
I think it’s unbelievable that you can get the Route 66 for only $149 brand new, and compared to all the boutique pedals on the market, this thing is priced quite affordably for what you get. I’m a pedal addict, but I can’t get rid of this one no matter what I find. It just blends with any amp I use (solid state or tube), it sounds great with every guitar I own, and combines well with all other pedals I try it with. In the future I’ll review the other Visual Sound pedal that’s on my board.
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