A classic tale of overdrive and distortion
By Michael Ross
Tone-conscious guitarists know the sonic superiority of pushing one overdrive pedal with another as opposed to turning up the gain on a single pedal. In addition, the two pedals can be employed individually, offering a wider range of distorted tones. The downside is that this setup requires extra cables and batteries or power supplies. In 1997 the folks at Visual Sound thought, Why not combine two distortion pedals in a single housing? The result was the Jekyll & Hyde overdrive/distortion—one of the first dual pedals in what has since become a burgeoning market.
Double your pleasure
Each channel of the Jekyll & Hyde sports its own set of controls. The channels can be used individually or together. The overdrive channel, called Jekyll, is designed to improve upon the sound of the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer—the classic go-to pedal for medium grit or for boosting the front-end of an amp. Jekyll & Hyde veers off from the 808 by providing a Bass Boost switch for those who need more low end, as well as pushing far more output to really punish an amp's input or lead channel. The Hyde side is a heavier distortion with more inherent bottom end. Rather than just a steroid version of Jekyll, Hyde is voiced very differently.
The doctor is in
In the Robert Louis Stevenson fable, Dr. Henry Jekyll is a mild-mannered physician. Though the Jekyll side of this Visual Sound pedal can be easygoing dirt-wise, it can also get fairly aggressive. With its Drive all the way down, Jekyll became a clean boost without a hint of dirt, and the most transparent Tube Screamer–based pedal I have tried. At low volume the Rebel 30 Channel 1 is extremely clean; cranking the Jekyll Volume up full, with the Drive down and Bass switch off, added a significant amount of extra volume, while remaining clean. Only after adding the Bass Boost did the channel begin to break up a little. The Channel 2 of the Rebel and the Orange broke up more easily, letting the boost function of the Jekyll drive them from clean to crunch or crunch to scream.
Beginning to increase the level of the Drive knob produced a natural amp-sounding breakup that ranged from just a little edge when I dug in, to crunchy rhythm and sweet-singing solos. This was through the Rebel Clean channel, so all of the drive was coming from the pedal. The Jekyll effect seemed significantly less compressed and more present than many 808 clones.
Using the Bass Boost or not is very situation-dependent; the interaction of effect and amp is complex—while some settings seemed to call for it, others were fine without it. In any case it is a great option to have. The Tone control offered extensive coloring options without straying into unusable screech or woof.
The monster is loose
Dr. Jekyll's alternate personality, Mr. Hyde, was a monster who wreaked havoc on the neighborhood. The Hyde side of this Visual Sound pedal can deliver its own brand of sonic devastation, but also more measured tones, voiced in a British-inspired area.
Keeping the Drive down at about ten o'clock; Treble, Middle, and Volume at one o'clock; and the Sharp setting activated yielded a terrific Hendrix-style rhythm tone. For solos I would add in Jekyll with the Bass Boost activated to smooth out some of the British edge and to add sustain. Conversely, I enjoyed setting Jekyll for a more American rhythm sound and adding Hyde for edgy soloing.
Goosing Hyde's gain revealed metal tones galore. The combination of the Mid control and the Sharp/Blunt switch let me dial in scoop, grind, sludge, and everything in-between. I could switch to the Jekyll side for smoother solos or add it into the Hyde for a solo boost or massive mayhem.
The Jekyll & Hyde was Visual Sound's first dual pedal and has been modified over the years. The V2 configuration has the housing lip that protects the knobs, and the extremely sturdy switches rated for ten million footstomps (yes, you read that right). More recent upgrades are knobs that are easier to read under stage lighting, and slide switches for Bass Boost and Sharp/Blunt, which are sturdier than the previous rocker type. Add all that to the aforementioned multitude of tonal possibilities and it is hard to imagine any situation from mild to wild that this pedal can't handle. This is one incredibly versatile and great-sounding overdrive and distortion station.
Features & Specs
- 2 separate overdrives
- Separate controls
- Redesigned noise reduction
- Authentic TS808 sound on Jekyll channel
- Use effect channels separately or together
- Die-cast aluminum housing
- 10 million cycle switching
- Easy battery access
- Circuit protection
Jekyll Overdrive Channel controls:
- Drive level
- Tone level
- Volume level
- Bass boost on/off switch
Hyde Distortion Channel controls:
- Drive level
- Treble level
- Mid level
- Volume level
- Sharp/Blunt switch
Tags: Effects Pedals