I started my new job as Marketing Director for Visual Sound this past week. I’m loving it! I get to work with great people and promote great products. It’s a beautiful thing! I wanted to share the company story. It’s pretty inspiring!
At the beginning of 1995, Bob Weil and his wife Julie started Visual Sound in their apartment in Norwalk, Connecticut. Over the past 16 years, Visual Sound has become known as one of the premier guitar effects manufacturers in the world. Their marketing tag, “Real Tone for Real People”, articulates the company’s philosophy. “My goal has always been to make the best products money can buy at a price the average musician can afford”, says Weil.
The product that started it all was the Visual Volume pedal; a volume pedal with 10 LED’s to show relative volume levels. As with many inventors, Weil’s inspiration came out of frustration with an existing product. In the late 1980’s, the Big Name volume pedal Bob used was inadequate in many ways, specifically lacking a visual reference. After discovering no such pedal existed, he decided to create his own. With no experience or training in electronics, Weil went to the local library and his workbench to try and figure out how to make a “visual volume” pedal. By the end of 1994, the first prototypes of Visual Volume were completed and Bob introduced both the pedal and himself to many artists at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.
Following the relative success of Visual Volume, Weil began to experiment with other sound effects circuits for guitar, releasing the Visual Metal, Visual Blues, and Visual Wah-Volume in 1996. Although none of the pedals took off, they did open a door that led to a phone call from the band U2. Bono, having seen the pedals, custom-ordered a Visual Wah pedal. After handcrafting two of them, he affectionately labeled them the “Bono Wah”. That experience helped to reinforce Weil’s stubborn persistence over the next two years as the company struggled to build inertia.
The Birth of a Line
1997 saw the beginning of what would become Visual Sound’s trademark pedal shape and design with the creation of the Jekyll & Hyde Ultimate Overdrive. Although the company had just started producing the Visual Volume in Taiwan that year, Weil didn’t have enough money to make the minimum production order for the new Jekyll & Hyde pedal. So, he and his wife Julie sat down at their kitchen table and hand-made the first 100 pedals themselves. They sold out almost immediately. As a result, production quickly moved from the kitchen table to Taiwan!
Although Visual Sound continued to struggle through 1998, a miraculous turnaround occurred later that year. At the very time Weil invented the pedal that could change the future for both he and his company, the money ran out. “Through a miraculous set of circumstances, in my darkest hour I suddenly was given the opportunity to have a bunch of orders paid for up front. Believe it or not, that turned everything around, giving us the exact amount of money we needed (to the penny) to start over. Right then I recognized the hand of God was on my business. At that time, I actually had begun to close up shop, but evidently God wanted me to keep going. How could I say no?” Since that time Visual Sound has continued to expand and grow.
R.G. Keen; The V2 Series and Beyond
In 1997, Weil began a friendship with R.G. Keen who was a “guru” to the then emerging boutique pedal industry. That relationship blossomed over the years from Keen designing circuit boards, to co-creating what would become the extremely successful V2 Series of pedals. Weil had designed the Jekyll & Hyde, which in turn launched the Route 66 (Compressor and Overdrive in one housing) and the H2O Liquid Chorus & Echo.
Weil redesigned the pedal that started it all, releasing the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Visual Volume pedal in 2006 (having been out of production since 1998). With a new housing and many upgrades, Weil created a highly refined version of its predecessor.
Because of the demand for the effects to be made into single pedals, Weil and Keen undertook the task of creating new single effect pedals to compliment the already successful original three. More than just cosmetic changes, the V2 Series represented the culmination of everything they had learned over the years in terms of reliable pedal construction and tone. It took 2 years to complete the design of the V2 Series, which finally became available in 2008. Not long after, new pedals were introduced to the line including the Angry Fuzz, Truetone Clean Boost, and the very popular Open Road Overdrive.
In 2010, Visual Sound released an entire new line of pedals called GarageTone, a budget line in keeping with the idea of affordability without skimping on quality. Five pedals launched the line including delay, overdrive, distortion, tremolo, and phase. GarageTone was greeted with incredible reviews worldwide, and is quickly becoming a new standard in economically priced effects pedals.
Throughout the years, one of the most widely used and successful products in the Visual Sound stable of products is the 1 SPOT power supply which includes versions for Britain, Europe, Australia, and of course the USA. Included in the line are adapters for other units as well as 5 and 8 plug connector cables for running multiple pedals off of a single 1 SPOT.
Visual Sound continues to expand with new ideas on the horizon. 2010 has also seen the start of its Custom Shop for unique products, as well as some very exciting new pedals coming in the not too distant future.
Artists and Producers and Tours
Visual Sound has one of the most unique and diverse Artist Rosters in the industry. Every genre is represented, featuring many of the worlds most elite and highly respected musicians, producers and studios. From concert halls to clubs, television to motion pictures, Visual Sound can be heard around the world. Over the last few years, Visual Sound has begun branching out into co-promotional opportunities as well as Tour sponsorship; including becoming a part of the hugely successful traveling rock circus, Vans Warped Tour. Visual Sound even created a limited edition pedal called the Vans Warped Distortion exclusively for that tour.
In keeping with his belief that God has His hand on Visual Sound, Weil has continued to look for ways to give back out of all that he has been given. One of the many ways he does that is to give a portion of the sale of each Visual Sound product to an organization called EngageHIV Foundation. 100% of the funds go directly to communities in Africa that have been devastated by HIV/AIDS.