Excellent core voice and useful clipping options. Wet/dry knob enhances versatility.
Might present more decision-making duties than some players prefer.
Walrus Audio Ages Overdrive
Ease of Use:
Multi-mode overdrives became a popular stompbox design direction over the past decade. Walrus Audio’s addition to those ranks is called the Ages. It derives many of its varied voices via a switch that moves between LED and silicon diodes in hard- and soft-clipping modes. But the Ages adds other features to ensure that it’s more than just another green screamer clone. Chief among these are a parallel-path topology that enables blends of the clean signal with effected path, and a boost/cut low-frequency control that’s wired before the gain stage to enhance clarity.
In a Mode
Controls include gain, volume, bass, and treble, plus a dry control for the clean-signal blend. Another dial, mode, selects from five clipping states arranged in ascending gain levels: low-gain silicon soft clipping, low-gain LED soft clipping, high-gain silicon soft clipping, high-gain LED soft clipping, and high-gain silicon hard clipping.
Build quality is rugged and confidence-inspiring, and it’s all packed into a 4.75" x 2.65" x 1.65" enclosure that won’t take up a ton of space relative to the available tone options—especially given the top-mounted inputs and output. Walrus Audio recommends use of an isolated supply to connect to the standard center-negative 9V DC input, rather than a daisy-chained power solution.
Rock of Ages
With tweed Fender- and Marshall-style amps, and humbuckers and single-coils, the Ages proved beguilingly versatile. Yet it retains a strong fundamental voice at most settings. There are hints of Tube Screamer in that voice, and it ably delivers much of the naturalistic thickness and extra fur that makes so many players treasure the timeless TS—particularly when you can’t crank an amp to get it there by itself.
The first two mode settings are best described as subtly different flavors of boost. Both are more textured and fattening than linear or transparent, and position 1 is a little more compressed, where position 2 reveals a little more shimmer. Proper overdrive happens at position 3, while positions 4 and 5 are thicker and more complex, with plenty of sweet, singing saturation on tap as you advance the gain knob.
Though the wealth of clipping voices creates many cool overdrive shades, a lot of tone-shaping power comes from the dry knob, which enables the player to determine how clear, articulate, and attack-forward the overdrive sounds. That’s not to say the Ages is lacking in articulation in pure overdrive positions. Completely saturated settings can still generate dynamic overdrive sounds. But the ability to blend in sharper pick attack and more transparency with the dry knob helps shape the output in very specific ways to suit a band mix or song arrangement—and makes the Ages exponentially more versatile.
The only tricky part of using the Ages—and this is something I’ve experienced with most multi-mode overdrives—is that you may be tempted to stick with a single mode in performance rather than constantly flick between modes in the middle of a tune. That can make you feel like you’re underutilizing the many available options. But it’s hard to complain much when you’re trying to craft a just-right overdrive tone in isolation or in the studio.
The Ages is a well-built overdrive with an appealing core voice, super-useful clipping options, and the capacity to concoct ideal blends of grit, clarity, and pick attack from the clever dry control. The ability to more readily switch between the clipping variations would really maximize the Ages’ potential. But chances are, you’ll pick a setting, play it, and smile.
Watch the Demo: