Bob Weil – Founder, Inventor, and President of Visual Sound
No, he doesn’t look like a mad scientist… but neither did Dr. Jekyll for that matter! But truth be told, Bob Weil, the creator and mastermind behind Visual Sound and its products, is just that… a Mad Scientist!
So what possesses someone to start a guitar products company in the first place? Well, it all goes back to November of 1988. “I needed a volume pedal, so I went out and bought an Ernie Ball mono volume pedal. After a short time I became frustrated with it. The volume taper was too abrupt, and more importantly, it didn’t have a visual reference so I could see where I was at.” After shopping for what he certainly thought existed at the time, to Bob’s amazement there was no such thing. So what did he do? Well, like any good inventor, he did the next best thing…created one.
“I could see my Ernie Ball pedal only had a pot and a string, so obviously the volume part of the pedal was easy.” But what about making an LED scale to go with it? “Well, I had one small handicap… I didn’t know ANYTHING about engineering. Heck, I didn’t even have an erector set when I was a kid! I was working in sales and marketing with a degree in Business Administration. That’s great for business, but doesn’t do much if you’re trying to design a product that nobody’s ever even tried to make. I started hanging out at libraries reading books on basic electronics. I also called a lot of engineers at semiconductor companies and asked all sorts of stupid questions. Eventually, over a period of years, I figured out how to make a “visual” volume pedal with a 10 LED scale.”
Over time Bob taught himself electronics, mechanical engineering, and patent law. And from what started as a wood block prototype, Bob’s original vision began to take shape. “I made a couple of prototypes and showed them around and eventually certain musician friends of mine wanted one of their own. So, I patented the whole “Visual” concept for pedals (another learning curve) and in November 1994, I jumped into business with one product… the Visual Volume™.”
Like any startup company, Visual Sound had its share of ups and downs trying to find that one thing that makes it all work… “If there was a mistake to be made, I probably made it. Unfortunately, volume pedals simply don’t sell as fast as effects pedals do. So I tried a few different test-market productions of other pedals such as: Visual Metal, Visual Blues, and the Visual Wah/Volume. All had less-than-impressive results.” But it wouldn’t be long before Bob created the pedal of his dreams… the classic Jekyll & Hyde™. This would be the pedal that would take things to the next level… you might say it put the “pedal to the metal”. “It wasn’t ‘Visual”, Bob said, “but it was exactly what I had been wanting as a guitar player for years.”
But the biggest challenge was yet to come…
At the very time Bob invented the pedal that could change the future for both him and his company, the money ran out. Bob tells it this way, “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, which normally never happens. Believe it or not, that turned everything around by giving us the exact amount of money we needed to start over. Right then I recognized the hand of God was on my business. At that time I actually thought I would close up shop, but evidently God wanted me to keep going. How could I say no?”
Since that time Visual Sound has continued to grow.
Now, with a bright future ahead, Bob pursues his dream of excellence in creating new products that will establish Visual Sound as a cutting edge music company far into the future. Following the success of the Jekyll & Hyde™, Route 66™, H2O™, and the immensely popular 1 SPOT™, Weil and chief engineer, R.G. Keen, have created a new line effects pedals called the V2 Series. And back by popular demand in 2005, Bob redesigned his flagship pedal, the Visual Volume™ just in time for the 10th anniversary of Visual Sound.
With a host of amazing session players and touring musicians in Nashville, Los Angeles, New York, and around the world, Bob Weil and Visual Sound are synonymous with helping create the great sounds flooding the airwaves of today’s most innovative music.
To read a more complete account of Visual Sound, go to http://www.musiciansfriend.com/document?doc_id=105001 , the Musician’s Friend 2009 interview with Bob Weil.
(Bob, a native New Yorker, lives with his lovely wife Julie and their two talented children outside of Nashville, Tennessee)
Visual Sound staff:
R.G.Keen – Chief Engineer – following a 30 year career with IBM, R.G. brings a vast wealth of knowledge to VS for product development. Well known throughout the boutique and DIY communities for his http://www.geofex.com website, R.G. is known by many as the Godfather of Boutique.
Steven Bliss – Artist Relations – with a career in music that began in the late 60’s, Steve brings his talents as a “music business” insider to connect Visual Sound in a more personal way to the talented Artists and Musicians who use and endorse our products. A successful musician, award winning songwriter, producer, and publisher, Steven connects the dots for Visual Sound.
Zac Childs – Distributor Relations – Zac is an accomplished guitarist himself – playing with the likes of Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley and Buck Owens, amongst others. After graduating from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, he studied for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. In addition, Zac was the long-time guitar tech for Brad Paisley, as well as Terry Clark and, most recently, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood’s band. Along with his tech work, Zac is been a contributing columnist for Vintage Guitar magazine.
Steve Mikesell – Dealer Relations – Steve was a touring musician for many years, backing up artists like Michael Card, Wes King, and many others. Also having worked in retail music stores, Steve is able to provide support to Visual Sound dealers throughout North America.
Dana Weaver – Customer Service/Tech Support – Dana has worked both in music retail and as a touring musician (Sonic Flood, Geoff Moore, etc.) and brings his vast knowledge and skill to Visual Sound in overseeing all of our Service Operations and meeting the needs of our customers. Please e-mail Dana at support @ visualsound dot net.
Michael Weil – Operations/Marketing Manager – Bob’s older brother relocated from Connecticut with his family in 2005, following Michael’s 18 year career with Boardroom, Inc. Michael’s expertise in marketing and organizational detail will help VS to continue its exponential growth, impacting the musician marketplace and beyond. Mike gets the devil out of the details so the rest of us don’t have to worry about it.
Phyllis Weil (Bob & Michael’s mom) – Office Manager/Bookkeeper – Bob’s mom is not only Bob’s mom, she becomes everyone’s mom at Visual Sound. She keeps the accounts balanced, processes orders, and tries to keep everyone’s head on straight.
Jamie Rowe – Marketing Director – Known by many as the lead singer of the band “Guardian”, Jamie is known to his friends at Visual Sound as the social media guru and high-intensity marketing guy. Joining the VS ranks in early 2012, Jamie has his sights set on getting every guitar player on the planet into Visual Sound.