You can describe the Velocity overdrive pedal as ‘organic’ and ‘amp-like.’ Similar in sound characteristics to the 12AX7 valve, the Velocity sounds more robust and broader in harmonic scope than most overdrives I have tried – and you get that authentic tube saturation effect. Just about any overdrive pedal can push an amp or add gain to a signal, but the Velocity by Mission Engineering (NuAudio Technologies) certainly sets itself apart. With this being a dual overdrive, I’ll address the characteristics separately and when working with a clean amp channel and a dirty channel.
If working with a clean channel, the Lo Gain option is ideal for pushing an amplifier, but also works exceptionally well at boosting single-coil pickups (and making them sound richer and thicker). When turned low (e.g., 9-o’clock), the Velocity’s Lo Gain is barely audible (insofar as hearing a tone difference, as opposed to a volume difference, dictated by the Output knob). This means you can use it as a clean(ish) boost if desired. You do hear a slight grain and energy in the signal at 9-o’clock, but not much – enough if you want that subtle grit and liveliness. Once the Drive is at 12-noon there is a pleasant velvety crunch that merges the characteristics of overdrive with a hint of distortion. With the Drive closer to 2-o’clock or greater, there is as much emphasis on distortion as there is overdrive, and even bordering on slight saturated fuzz when cranked full. Regardless, note definition and harmonics remain clear and detailed.
If remaining on a clean amp channel, the Hi Gain option needs to have the Drive set to about 9-o’clock for its gain qualities to somewhat equal that of the Lo Gain setting (with the Drive full). Consequently, you get a lot more from the Hi Gain setting if and when you need it. This setting gets more distortion from the pedal itself (whereas distortion on the Lo Gain setting tends to be more from the pedal pushing the amp into break-up mode). On Hi Gain a low to moderate Drive setting produces more of a crunch quality, and then anything from 12-noon or greater is ideal for lead. Moreover, anything with the Drive past 2-o’clock, and if playing power chords, brings you into the realm of a thick distortion that borders on fuzz.
The touch sensitivity is excellent on both Gain settings. As with most overdrives, if you dial back a guitar’s volume the signal cleans up nicely, and if you turn up the volume you get more punch and overdrive effect. This is true with the Velocity, but additionally there is a marked difference in attack and OD-distortion whether picking lightly, moderately or very hard. Dynamics abound with this pedal.
If working with an already dirty or overdriven amp channel, the Velocity is the most natural I have heard, as though it is an extension of the amp itself. I have used that descriptor before, but I can’t help employ it again with an extra thumbs up. Now, certainly you can run the Hi Gain option of the pedal into a dirty amp (although while keeping the pedal’s Drive turned all the way down), but the Lo Gain offers a lot more finesse, clarity and adjustment room. I found having the pedal’s Drive set between 11-o’clock and 1-o’clock sufficient and without producing an exaggerated OD result – and I ran it into the high-gain of an Orange Tiny Terror, the classic metal channel of the AMP1 Iridium and the second channel of The Sheriff V4 preamp (Plexi-like in sound) with equally good results (see demo video). The results in tone for all three amps/preamps were more three-dimensional with added definition, harmonics and depth, all of which serves to cut through a mix more effectively.
The Velocity is an ideal choice if you like the sound of tube-driven overdrive pedals, but consider them bulky and costly to replace the tubes – a dual overdrive and distortion pedal for guitar. The Velocity pedal’s technology is based on the Korg ‘NuTube,’ which is a vacuum florescent display that has been redesigned to function as an audio amplifier. What is cool about the NuTube technology is that it is smaller, longer lasting and uses far less power, so that you get a smaller pedal running off a traditional 9VDC power supply, but with the same great tube sound found in traditional valve-based overdrives. This pedal has a lot of things going for it, and two things to consider that may not be desired. On the plus side, this is one of the best touch sensitive overdrives I have used, and its sound is not thin or one-dimensional like other drive pedals (not that the other pedals in my studio don’t sound good, but when compared to the Velocity they sound ‘flatter’). This OD also has a good EQ range without being excessive, e.g., no shrill top end or muddy bottom end. As important as the previous two points, the range of this pedal from cleanish boost (with little change to the tone) to slightly driven, to distorted and to heavy fuzz-like covers so much territory that you may be able to clean up your pedalboard with this one fantastic tool. As well, it sounds great with both traditional analog gear and digital amp modelers.
There are a few minor negative points about the Velocity. First, when turning on the pedal via the footswitch there is a metallic-sounding ‘ping’ in the signal, which is typical with the NuTube technology and its circuit board (however, the loudness depends on how hard you step on the soft-switch; and it is barely noticeable when bypassing the pedal). Bear in mind that the ping is not excessively loud, simply noticeable. The second consideration is that for now there is no way to change out the NuTubes in the pedal. The company suggests that you can get ten years playing daily for several hours before the tubes would burn out, which then means replacing the pedal altogether. This factor may be the biggest turn-off, but if you consider the cost of regularly changing vacuum tubes in other tube-driven pedals, then the cost of full pedal replacement is not as significant and may be equal in overall investment over the course of several years (this depends since valves are notorious for burning out quickly or lasting relatively well). Regardless, the sound quality of Velocity outweighs any of its design short-comings.
This pedal is relatively easy to use – dialing in how much Drive you want and where the EQ should sit will be your only concern. There is an Output knob that controls volume, whereas the Drive controls how much gain and/or distortion you want. Obviously these two need to balance since more Drive equals more Output. Fortunately, the difference between a moderate amount of Drive and a lot of Drive is not excessive, and so much Output fiddling is required. The EQ has a good range, but setting it depends on the sound from your guitar and amp (dark versus bright). With all three controls at 12-noon you get more of a flat response, if you prefer fixing EQ on your amp or through your guitar’s tone knob. Dialing in less or more bass, mid or treble on the pedal does produce noticeable results, with turning the knobs less than 12-noon cutting the frequencies, whereas turning the knobs greater than 12-noon increases the frequencies. Pretty straight-forward, but keep in mind that the Velocity adds a hint of darkness to an amp, which means likely cutting back on bass and some mids, while boosting the treble if your amp does sound dark. I suspect bright amps would become bold and beautiful with the Velocity. The Lo Gain option (via the toggle switch) is ideal for some overdriven qualities and when working with dirty amp channels. The Hi Gain option works better with clean channels and gives a wide range of OD-distortion for Rock crunch and lead.
Velocity is a medium sized pedal (slightly wider than a typical pedal), measuring 90mm (W) x 120mm (D) x 50mm (H with knobs) or 3.54 x 4.72 x 1.96 inches. It has a solid steel chassis power coated in dark blue with white graphics. There is a small acrylic window exposing the NuTubes, although damage is highly unlikely considering the height of the footswitch and knobs. The knobs are of standard plastic and the noiseless pots turn smoothly. The footswitch is soft, although it produces a slight ping sound (naturally due to the technology) when engaged and particularly with higher gain amps (however, my Velocity is on always, and so that does not concern me). The toggle switch for Gain has a solid feel and clicks into each position well. All connections are in the back, which saves on some pedal board real estate. Current draw is 180mA and requires a standard 9VDC power supply. Below is a short video that covers the technology of the NuTubes, as well as additional sound samples: