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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Walrus Audio is a small US FX maker with a fast-growing reputation, widely available in the USA and increasingly overseas, Lewis Turner looks at a compressor and overdrive from one of the ones to watch.
Walrus Audio is a handmade effects pedal company from Norman, Oklahoma...and that’s all I have managed to find out about them! Here's hoping that their pedals speak more than a flashy in-depth bio ever could.
I'm reviewing two pedals here, the Deep Six Compressor, and the Voyager Overdrive. Let's see what similarities they share before looking at each one in more detail. The first thing I noticed is they both look and feel great, with eye-catching paint jobs and unique artwork. They also feel solid, well-constructed, with positive switches and knobs that seem like they will stand the test of time. With true bypass, powered by either a 9v battery or DC supply, they look and feel great and offer all the features that players require, but the most important question remains: how do they sound?
Ah, the age old question, to use a compressor or not? Whether you’re after the Nile Rodger's funk sound, or a Brad Paisley chickin pickin' cut-through, a good compressor pedal could help achieve the tone you're after. Some players love them and use them constantly, others hate them, and some use them occasionally to get “that sound”. I fit firmly into the third category, so I was interested to check this one out and see how it matches up to others on the market. Walrus claims “the Deep Six is inspired by the performance of the Universal Audio 1176 with the simplicity of the Ross and Dynacomp”. This particular pedal offers Level, Sustain, Attack and Blend controls, which is a lot more than most other compressor stomp boxes.
Level – Used to set the Deep Six to unity volume. When maxed out the pedal provides enough output to drive the amplifier and other pedals for added sustain.
Sustain – For rhythm playing, run the sustain control at a lower setting so that the compressor is more of a tone shaper. This will keep your sound nice and even and compensate for any variance in the velocity of your strumming. For those Santana style leads turn up the sustain control for added output warmth.
Attack – Allows you to adjust how fast the compressor will react to your notes. Set it higher for punchier leads, and lower for smooth rhythm.
Blend – Mixes in the compressed signal with the original, dry signal. Running the blend control all the way down while adjusting your level control will allow you to use the Deep Six as a volume boosting effect. Turn the blend control up to blend in the compressed signal. For high output signals (humbuckers), the blend control allows you to dial in more of the dry signal and dial out the distortion that most humbuckers bring to a compressor.
In use I found this pedal to be fantastic. With some time spent dialling in the various controls it adds extra colour to your tone without making it sound too fake, cold or forced. It makes rhythm playing sound even, and gives your lead sound that extra boost to cut through the mix. The blend control is a particular favourite of mine, allowing the perfect mix of compressed and dry signal to be obtained.
This is a great pedal and will compliment any pedal board, I would personally place it first in the chain.
Walrus Voyager Overdrive.
There is certainly no shortage of overdrive pedals on the market at the moment, so a manufacturer needs to come up with something special to get people's attention. Walrus has certainly done that with the pedal's styling, but how does the sound sit in the swamped market of crunch?
The Voyager is a gain/preamp overdrive with just three simple controls, Volume, Gain and Tone.
Volume – controls the output level.
Gain – adjusts the gain output. As it is increased, the signal becomes grittier and more over-driven. When it is decreased, the signal becomes less gritty and sounds closer to the original, unaffected signal.
Tone – allows specific adjustments of high end/treble frequencies. Turn clockwise to increase, counter-clockwise to decrease and add low bass frequencies into the signal.
In use I was slightly underwhelmed by the Voyager. It sounded good, but I felt it didn't live up to the hype of offering; “A full spectrum of tone from any setting, with the gain turned up, the Voyager transforms into a thick overdrive.” Personally, I think this is more of a booster pedal rather than an overdrive. As a booster pedal it would work great to add a bit more drive to one's sound, for a bit of chord crunch or bluesy lead. The tone control is fine, offering clear trebles, warm mids and non muddy bass. However, the gain is just not enough to really put it into the big “overdrive” category. The Voyager would be a great addition to a pedal board in the chain as a booster/crunch, but if you are looking for a filthy metal overdrive then you may have to look elsewhere. That said, these things are always subjective, so have a look at the video and see what you think.