If you’re in the “chorus/vibrato is an abomination!” camp, the Walrus Audio Julia might change your mind. If you love chorus and vibrato, the Julia is a real gift.
Deep and open, Julia just sounds great—if all it had was a boost knob, it’d be an instant classic, one of those “always-on” pedals. Instead, it has controls for rate, depth and lag, a knob labelled d/c/v, and a toggle that shows sine and triangle waveforms (the toggle switches between the two).
“Rate” controls the rate of Julia’s modulation, and “depth” controls the amount of effect in the signal. You might be able to guess what “lag” does, but it’s hard to describe, so I’ll punt and turn to Walrus: “The lag knob lets you set the center delay time that the LFO effect modulates from.” In practice, I felt this control offset the effect from the main signal, which really helped me dial in less-traditional chorus and vibrato effects.
In retrospect, “d/c/v” is pretty obvious: it stands for “dry,” “chorus” and “vibrato.” The ability to blend between dry and chorus, and then to slowly ease into vibrato, makes Julia surprisingly versatile, and when combined with the dry and lag controls and the waveform toggle, there are a surprising number of options available.
When I first received Julia, I plugged in and didn’t touch the knobs. With the d/c/v and ag controls at about 1 o’clock (slowly moving from chorus to vibrato) and Depth at about 11 o’clock, I was immediately in Robin Guthrie/Lush land which, when it comes to chorus, is where I like to be.
Indeed, with Julia’s natural and deep tone, I had a hard time copping the more traditional Chorus tones of, say, Andy Summers—when I think of early ‘80s guitar gods, I think of metallic overtones; Julia is always warm, round and watery. Nick McCabe’s tone on the first Verve record is a good example. Nevertheless, I got close to the new wave greats when I set Julia to chorus, with depth at 10 o’clock and lag maxed.
With d/c/v at about 10 o’clock and with the lag set fully counterclockwise, I got some really cool—but subtle—through-zero flanging-type effects. With depth at noon, set fully to chorus and with lag on max, I got some incredibly effective rotary-speaker-tones, and I’m somebody who’s pretty picky about that effect.
Lag on max was the secret to a nice shimmering tremolo, too. And once again, between the depth, d/c/v and waveform controls, a variety of subtle textures were available to me. Julia won’t take the place of a dedicated tremolo, but this effect was a tribute to its versatility.
As with the chorus mode, the vibrato mode is incredibly warm, round and organic, and absolutely nails “Lucy in the Sky in with Diamonds,” then betters it with its deep, 3-D sound. For better or worse, Julia is polite; while fairly intense pitch shifting can be achieved, the effect is always tasteful; there’s no ring modulation here.
Given the more subtle effects I gravitated towards, the effect of the toggle was similarly subtle, and when used with the depth and lag knobs, its effect was even more elusive, but I heard more vocal sounds within the pitch shifting when in Triangle mode, with the d/c/v knob leaning towards vibrato.
I suppose the theme here is “subtle.” But maybe “tasteful” or “organic” would be better; Julia always sounds like part of the music, not a circuit, not an algorithm. To my ear, this sets it apart from most chorus and vibrato pedals and explains why I enjoyed it so much.
What we like: Beautiful, gorgeous tones, the kind that can make a player find room on his or her board for a—gasp!—chorus (and vibrato) pedal.
Concerns: Some of the artifacts associated with classic chorus tones are hard to find in this dreamy pedal.