Pedals

Walrus Audio Descent

  • By David A. Evans @tonereport
  • July 15, 2014
  • 0 Comments

Fans of spectral chord swells and sci-fi sound effects, listen up: Walrus Audio’s new Descent Reverb might be the pedal for you. It can take you to outer space and back, but it’s just as handy when all you need is to dial in the perfect room sound.

Of the pedal’s three modes, perhaps the most interesting is Shimmer. Turning the dry mix knob down to nearly zero so that only the wet signal passes through gives a few arpeggiated Em9 chords a spacey, sci-fi ambience. Like a wraith’s forlorn cry, the chords seem to swell up from the depths, then modulate gently as they fade. With these sounds, the work of Manuel Göttsching and Ash Ra Tempel comes to mind, as does the work of Brian Eno and guitarist Daniel Lanois. What’s particularly interesting in the Shimmer mode is that the pedal clearly gives voice to the individual notes in a chord. These tones don’t get lost in a morass of sound, as might be expected of a lesser reverb pedal. Rather, the individual notes practically sing as they swell and fade.

This singing quality can also be found in the Hall mode. The Descent’s plethora of knobs allows the user to dial in flutter-like echoes or a more general room reverb. What’s cool is that the “Diminish” and “Tweak” knobs control the type of walls that make up that room. They could be jagged walls or flat walls, and the frequencies that are reflected might be high or low depending on the knobs’ settings.

The Reverse mode can create hallucinatory whooshing noises that, at their strangest, sound like the screams of some abyssal creature rushing up from the deep. Indeed, playing staccato, percussive notes seems to work best for this setting. The sample time can be adjusted with the reverb time knob, and with a little playing around, individual notes sound as if they are rushing from some faraway pit, only to stop dead in the player’s face.

Curiously, Walrus Audio expanded the tonal palette by including two octave knobs—one for low frequencies and another for higher frequencies. To boost the low-end without muddling the tone, add a judicious amount of “-1.” The high-end “+1” knob adds a crystalline shimmer that, at the higher settings, was a bit too strident and, well, “digital” for this player’s ears. However, if a player is looking to make a throbbing, bassy sound à la the music of John Carpenter, the pedal can accompany a bass note with a string-like swell.

At 299 dollars, the Descent Reverb makes a solid purchase, particularly for tone hounds that want a well-built pedal that gives them a wide-ranging control of their sound. What’s really cool is that the pedal accepts both remote footswitch and expression pedal controllers. Just preset the reverb and play—there’s no need to interrupt a performance with a quick lean over to adjust the settings mid-song. To be honest, however, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing because the knobs really are solid and pleasing to the touch. Better yet, use the expression pedal to glide between two settings. In the end, though, it’s really the sound that matters, and the Descent delivers as promised. But even the pedal’s artwork says a lot: a couple of divers discovering a skeleton in a spooky cave. The image perfectly evokes the eerie atmosphere that the pedal can create, and encourages players to discover their own sonic mysteries.

What we like: This pedal just sounds really cool. It’s also built to last. Walrus Audio also gives the user tons of control over the reverb parameters. And it’s even possible to use a footswitch to choose presets!

Concerns: Turning the “+1” past 12 o’clock gives the wet signal a harsh, “digital” quality that this user found objectionable.

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