While many pedals attempt to provide faithful recreations of classic models, Visual Sound’s H2O is a new high-quality, dual-function pedal that provides a sound of its own.
The H2O Liquid Chorus & Echo is exactly what the name entails – one part Chorus and one part Echo. The Chorus effect in this sounds great, while the Echo section provides only basic echo capabilities.
This unit provides clean effects in either mode, with limited flexibility provided by its basic function controls. It doesn’t provide the broadest range of chorus or echo sounds, but it gets high marks with us for having a sound with its own character unique to this pedal. If the sound is right for you, the H2O won’t be a clone of any other specifically identified tone.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.1
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
At first glance, you’ll find that the H2O Liquid Chorus and Echo pedal is larger than most stomp boxes, but considering that it contains two effects in one unit, the size is appropriate. Visual Sound pedals are enclosed in an aluminum housing with heavy-duty metal footswitches.
The Chorus section is controlled by three basic functions – Speed, Width, and Delay Time. Internally, the chorus features use of “classic” bucket brigade chips. Rather than relying upon New Old Stock (NOS) that would eventually run out, Visual Sound has acquired manufacturing rights to some classic (discontinued) Panasonic chips for use in their pedals. This means the H2O isn’t emulating classic chorus effects – it’s really using (in part) classic circuitry.
The Echo section features up to 800ms of digital delay controlled by three settings – Echo Time, Repeats, and Effect Level. The Echo section also has a switch for Short or Long Echo values. Delay functions are somewhat limited compared to dedicated units – there are no options for selecting the type of delay, and there is no Tap Tempo option for control.
Each effect has its own independent On/Off button footswitch with individual status indicator LEDs. The buttons are positioned close enough together that with a large shoe surface, you can turn each effect On or Off simultaneously – a nice touch.
The battery compartment is easily accessible via a swivel battery door located on the bottom of the unit. Screw driver not required.
The H2O pedal provides two outputs that are wired for one wet signal and one bypassed signal (to route to an alternate amp or effects bay). This direct signal bypass is a great feature for some players, but in a traditional pedal setup, using the single output, the signal is buffered. Visual Sound provides instructions for custom wiring the unit to have both outputs deliver an effected signal, but operation would then be dual-mono, not stereo.
Surprisingly absent from this otherwise well-designed pedal are wet/dry/mix controls for effect level.
The H2O is extremely easy to navigate. If you have any previous experience with effect pedals, you will find this pedal easy to use due to the basic functions provided.
The control knobs are tightly set together and require adjustment by hand (For those lazy “turn the knobs with my toes” kinds of players, you’re out of luck this time).
In the Echo section of the pedal, Echo Time was only adjustable by the control knob – there was no Tap Tempo option. Also, when adjusting Echo Time from short to long delays, we had to move a switch from Short to Long and set our delay time to the desired value.
Overall we found the delay useful more as an accessory to enhance chorus effects, or for simple slap-back and other basic delay sounds, but for serious delay fans who require more direct control of the delay settings, this isn’t the right pedal to use.
Visual Sound could not have named this “liquid” pedal more accurately. The Chorus effect of this unit is indeed very liquid/wet, providing a lush chorus effect.
We tested this pedal using a Gibson Les Paul and Mesa/Boogie Lone Star amp combo with the pedal connected to the front of the amp as well as through the effects loop. In both applications, the pedal was very transparent, resulting in no loss of sound quality in the Off position of the effects.
Once the effects were engaged, the pedal provided a very clean effect with no noticeable distortion, and provided a very slight volume boost when using either (or both) effects.
The Speed and Width controls provided a wide range of control in creating the desired chorusing effect. No matter how we set the chorus, the effect was very lush. We would have liked to have had the option to adjust the effect level to control the amount of wetness.
The Echo section of the pedal worked reasonably well for simple delay effects. We were able to obtain a slap-back effect/rockabilly sound as well as long delays for those big, deep solos ala Pink Floyd, but would have preferred to have some control over the rhythmic style of the repeats.
Unfortunately, the Delay Time control seemed to color the tone/envelope of the original guitar signal at all dial positions. No matter which position the delay time was set at, we were unable to hear our original guitar as when the effect was bypassed. Though the pedal still provided a desirable effect, maintaining the original tone of the guitar or having the option of a wet/dry mix control would have been even better.
When placed in a signal chain using a distortion/overdrive pedal preceding the H2O pedal, the effect provided a wet chorusing effect, but also had an increased amount of flanger effect present in the mix. This is common in the sound of vintage chorus effects, and will be appealing to some players, but not the desired effect if you are after more of the ‘80s L.A. sound.
The H2O pedal is definitely characteristic of itself – limited in terms of overall sound crafting in a broad sense, but it definitely provides high quality sounding effects with a signature sound of its own.
Documentation and Product Support
Visual Sound provided ample documentation regarding connections and sample settings to get the user acquainted with the unit. This pedal is simple in function and does not require much instruction for functional use and effect creation.
The Visual Sound H2O Liquid Chorus & Echo ($219.95) sells for approximately $170, which falls within the mid-range pricing of chorus pedals. Take into account the additional delay functionality and it becomes an even better value.