Price paid: $ 180
Purchased from: RIT Music Holland
Ease of Use — 7
Because of the wide range of tones and controls on the Jekyll & Hyde, it does take a little tweaking to get tones perfected. I can't knock Truetone for this, that's just the reality of trying to get so many sounds packed into one box. The effort is reasonable though, and once acquainted, dialing up different sounds is easy. One of the best new features of this version is the bass control dials. I own the previous versions of the J&H as well (silver box V1 and red box V2), and love the bass dials. The V1 had no bass controls, while V2 had a bass boost switch on Jekyll which I found to toggle between an anemic "too little" amount of bass and a woofy "too much," and the Hyde side's bass control was on an internal trim pot that required getting inside the casing to adjust. Not exactly helpful features, especially because I consider proper EQ matching a vital part of a good distortion box. The V3 is fully adjustable for bass response, and the controls are useable at all settings.
Especially with the V2 version, I found myself endlessly tinkering with knobs, but never finding "it." The refinements of the V3 finally give it the right sounds when properly adjusted.
The one knock that I have to give this pedal is the order of the Jekyll and Hyde sides in the signal chain, and the extra jacks for changing the order. Why VS/Truetone insists on placing the drive AFTER the distortion confuses me. While it may have a purpose, I think the vast majority of players would prefer to have the overdrive first, to allow boosting the distortion. So, now for V3, you can change the order of effects by using a patch cable and the extra in/out jacks on top of the unit. I was excited about this at first... let me tell you, it's not as nice as it sounds. There's not enough room to pack all those cables on the top of this pedal. Right angle cables get in each others' way, especially when the power supply jack is thrown in the mix. Straight jack cables stick way out from the top of the pedal, which is especially troublesome if you have a second row of pedals on your board. So, Truetone, looking ahead to V4, please just put it on a toggle switch!!!
Sound — 9
The Truetone Jekyll & Hyde could be one of the best solutions for a clean amp player needing to get a wide range of drive sounds from one box. I play it with a variety of PRS guitars (soapbars, humbuckers), and it reacts well to all of them. The Jekyll (overdrive) side, which was a tubescreamer clone in previous iterations of the J&H, has been updated to provide a more transparent EQ response if desired. Leaving the bass and treble controls set low leaves the mids out front for a push similar to a TS, but raising them evens things out to offer overdrive without altering the final EQ from the amp. The drive knob offers a nice range of breakup, very little at the lowest setting, and hot enough for mid gain classic rock and blues when turned up. The clean mix is a fun added feature for when you just can't find the right amount of breakup, allowing you to mix some of the clean tone back into the mix. It's not the right solution for every sonic need, but a nice option. The drive character itself is definitely a "crunch." It's not an ultra-smooth, velvety sound, like what I get from a Bogner Wessex, or my previous Lovepedal Eternity, so it may not meet the needs of jazz and some slow blues players. But for rock, it's a good sound to have on tap.
The Hyde (distortion) side has gotten some major sonic upgrades over the previous versions of the pedal. In the past, many players have noted that the original silver faced V1 had a Rectifier type tone on the Jekyll side, while the V2 had a hot-rodded Marshall sound. Both great tones, but not identical. Truetone has now managed to merge the capabilities of both into this V3 pedal, all on the "A" side of the Hyde's voicing switch. Leaving the bright switch off and increasing the mids reveals a focused, present, modern type Marshall sound. Engaging the bright switch and turning the mid dial below noon is a metal player's dream, with plenty of top end sizzle and punchy lows, great for defined rhythm lines. Moving to the "B" side of the voicing switch brings out something totally new to the J&H, a more open, less compressed tone reminiscent of vintage Plexi amps. There's slightly less gain, and the drive character sounds more like the wide open crunch of a roaring stack, rather than a newer amp focused on preamp distortion. An excellent choice for classic rock, this mode even rivals the usefulness of my beloved Wampler Plexi Drive. In fact, while the J&H can't match the exact sound of the Plexi Drive, I've found it to have sounds just as good and useful in their own right, which is something I couldn't say about previous versions. The first time I gigged with this pedal, I was floored by the punch and grind of the Hyde channel with the band at full volume. It cut through extremely well.
The wide range of sounds makes this easily my favorite Jekyll & Hyde. I love the Silver V1 for Hyde's Recto tone on the Jekyll side. The V2 was a decent sounding pedal for lead tones, and Jekyll had more output for boosting another gain stage. This V3 has all of those sounds, just as good or better, and more. For a player using a single channel clean amp looking for an all-in-one solution for overdrive tones, this box is hard to beat. Of course, for the rest of us, it's still a lot of fun too!
Reliability & Durability — 8
Truetone covers all products with a lifetime warranty, which says a lot. I've never experienced a problem with a Truetone/Visual Sound product.
This pedal's casing is a bent steel design, apparently out of a single sheet of moderate thickness material. I did prefer the cast housing of the V2 pedal more, because it felt like a tank (even saw a video of someone run one over with a truck!), I wouldn't recommend that with this V3, but barring an industrial strength mishap, it is sturdy. The soft-switch footswitches feel fantastic, and the jacks are solid. The larger knobs are sturdy, however the smaller knobs in the second row have some wiggle to them. Ultimately, I'm not worried about this unit failing, given my track record with the company I'm gigging this pedal with no reservations.
Overall Impression — 9
I was a big fan of Visual Sound pedals for a long time, but with the rise of the higher end boutique builders I became addicted to their perfected tones. I feel that the new Truetone is the response to that trend. The tones and features are a new level of refinement that can keep up with high end market, while being reasonably affordable. The J&H is no clone, yet it can replace quality pedals without leaving one wanting. I would estimate that the range of tones in this box represents 3-4 good pedals, and easily $400 or more, if purchased separately. Plus, something this unit has that most boutique builders don't offer, is switchable buffers (of which the Truetone buffer is one of the best), and a fantastic built in noise gate.
For a rock player, this pedal is a gem to have onboard. It will produce almost any driven tone one could need. Despite the very reasonable price, there is no "for the money" compromise here, because the tones are excellent. By far one of the most impressive pedals from VS/Truetone to date.