The analog delay-tap tempo is still a relatively new phenomenon, but given how well Walrus Audio has implemented its Bellwether delay unit, it may be the last word in the format. Armed with rich sound and enough features to make me think they should’ve called this unit the Bells-and-whistles, Walrus has delivered an analog delay for the serious analog snob.
The Bellwether doesn’t shy away from the characteristics most people associate with bucket-brigade analog delays: the bandwidth is limited and the decays are anything but pristine. But the sound is absolutely gorgeous, with a midrange that has the density of a bank vault door. That said, the Tone control, which is a low-pass filter, still comes in use, as I found myself dialing back the top end a bit to allow the delay to sit perfectly behind my original signal.
In addition to the necessary Repeats control, the expression pedal jack (not to be confused with the TRS effects loop jack that sits next to it) is assignable via a toggle, and can be set to control either the tempo or the number of repeats. This means the user can either smoothly segue between tempos or the number of repeats and, yes, this means self-oscillation can be achieved via expression pedal. Very cool.
The tap mechanism is straightforward and mechanically solid, and can be refined by the Tap Division knob, which converts the tempo you’ve tapped in to quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted eighth notes and triplets. What did I say about bells and whistles?
And speaking of metal percussion and wind instruments, one of the coolest features of the Bellwether is the way it allows the user to interact with the delay’s decay. To begin with, the Mod toggle allows the user to switch modulation on or off. With the toggle in the off position, you’ll still get the pixelated-but-linear delay you’d expect from an analog (not tape) delay. Set the toggle to “on” and you have control over both the depth and rate of the modulation effect, and then the fun begins.
When the Depth and Rate knobs are turned up, it’s easy to approximate a poorly set-up tape delay (so I guess you can take what I said with a grain of salt), and go all the way to a case of psychedelic seasickness. That’s fun, but what’s really fun is what happens when you turn the depth to about 8 o’clock, and the rate to about 10 or 11 o’clock: magic. Settings in this ballpark produce a gorgeous shimmer that blooms behind the note, adding texture without distracting from the root note or tempo.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a secondary output to run to a second amp, and an external jack to allow for off-board tap control—just in case. Bells. And. Whistles.
Apart from sounding gorgeous, the Bellwether kind of falls into David Gilmour territory circa The Wall, is somewhat reminiscent of early Cure and, using the modulation setting I referenced above, sometimes it sounds like early 4AD records, but what it really sounds like is plain ol’ analog goodness. And did I mention it has a lot of bells and whistles?
What we like: Gorgeous sound and an incredible array of useful features in a reasonably sized box.
Concerns: I found the Bellwether’s rich midrange content made it difficult to use on busy rhythms with thick overdrive on the neck pickup (which is kinda my bread and butter). However, this wasn’t an issue using either a bridge pickup or a clean tone, with the latter being particularly susceptible to the Bellwether’s charms.