Walrus Audio have developed a reputation for crafting high quality analog guitar pedals over the last few years. There’s also no mistaking that they make some of the coolest looking and beautifully designed pedals as well, particularly attributed to their eye-catching graphic artwork. But while gazing at their pedals may induce love at first sight, it’s the tone-obsessed artwork under the hood that really makes Walrus Audio pedals something special. From the moment I first got some hands-on time with Walrus Audio’s Janus fuzz/tremolo pedal, I knew this company would continue channeling their indy spirit into pushing the boundaries of pedal design and sonic creativity. The Descent, Walrus Audio’s first digital effects pedal, is yet more proof of just that.
The Descent is Walrus Audio’s bold attempt at crafting a cutting edge digital reverb pedal with a few interesting surprises. There are 3 modes of operation – Hall, Reverse, and Shimmer – for plenty of reverb shaping possibilities. There are also slots for 3 onboard presets, handy for recalling your favorite sounds in a live setting. Most notable, however, is the Descent’s ability to create additional +1 and -1 octave tones and feed them into the reverb. Octave synthesis is generally the essence of “shimmer” style reverb effects, and it’s interesting that the Descent features optional higher octave and sub-octave voices that may be used across all 3 reverb modes. This is produces shimmering and thick ambience for a potentially unique reverb experience across all of its modes of operation. Tone tweaking is handled from the pedal’s convenient surface mounted knobs (or optional expression pedal), a treat for those who despise digital menus and prefer the instant feedback of knob control. Is this the best octave/shimmer reverb effects pedal around? We’ll excavate the answer in our Walrus Audio Descent review.
3 modes of operation: Hall, Reverse, and Shimmer.
Descent can store 3 user presets indicated by blue, green, and red LED lights.
Control knobs for Dry Mix, Reverb Time, Diminish, Tweak, Wet Mix, Dry Signal, -1, and +1 (Functions vary per mode).
Footswitches for Bypass and Preset
Stereo Outputs (for Mono use Left Out only).
Exp input for using an optional pedal to knob single or multiple knob functions.
Remote input allows control of Bypass and Preset selection via an optional 2-button footswitch (sold separately), letting you place the Descent at the back of your pedalboard to free up space at the front.
Requires 9VDC power supply capable of suppling 140mA (Note: The Walrus Audio Aetos Isolated Power supply will power this pedal from the higher current 250mA outputs).
Sound & Performance:
I’d been waiting to get some time in with the Descent since its first public showing at Winter NAMM 2014 as it’s certainly one exciting looking pedal for Walrus Audio fans who love reverb. Right away you can tell it exhibits the same impeccable craftsmanship typical of the artisan effects from Walrus Audio, feeling like a rugged, roadworthy pedal that’ll withstand the gigs ahead.
Of the 3 unique reverb modes on offer, I started with the Hall mode to see what sounds I could dig up (Hooray for puns!). Even at low Reverb Time settings, the Descent produces some fairly big room/hall sounds. The reflections are plate-like and somewhat grainy at low Diminish settings, and I found that bringing the Diminish up a bit helps to round out the sound for smoother reverb textures. As you push up the Reverb Time the virtual hall extends, creating a deep expanse of reverb that sounds like you’re plummeting into a subterranean cavern. Bringing in the -1 octave only enhances this thunderously massive effect although I wish I could have pushed output volume even higher. If you want something more ethereal, the +1 octave will add some shimmering highs to your reverb. I really the Descent’s super long hall reverb with some +1 octave in the mix. While I typically don’t prefer octave pitch-shifting effects that warble, this detuning effect gets lost in the stream of heavy reverb and blends with the Diffusion to create a satisfying overall sound that emphasizes the octave. If the +1 octave is too bright you can use the Tweak knob to reduce the high-end frequency content in the wet reverb signal.
The Reverse mode is a pretty unique way to add some rhythmic ambient variation to your playing. When turning down the Diminish, the Reverb Time knob essentially sets the timing of a delayed repeat of your playing. It’s like a single repeat delay. Bringing in the Diminish adds a swelling reverb trail that leads into the repeat to create the reverse reverb effect. The repeat itself plays forwards. Adding either the +1 or -1 octave will allow those tones to swell in the reverb as well, culminating at the point the repeat is heard. It’s also interesting to cut the Dry Mix level so that your initial playing is softer, swelling to a louder duplicate of your riffs. The Reverb Time and Diminish controls are interactive in this mode allowing you to find the perfect response of your reverse trails. Here the Tweak knob serves to lighten or darken the overall tonal response.
The Shimmer mode is yet another highlight of the Descent, delivering sounds ranging from small/medium room ambience to crystalline cavern reverbs. Turning the Diminish control down and adjusting the Reverb Time to the left of noon will reveal subtle room-like reverb effects that are more gentle than the lowest Hall mode settings. It’s when you start cranking the Diminish control and boosting the Reverb Time past noon that shimmer effects kick in as the Decent stacks your signal and adds a natural sounding octave up sheen on top. Boosting the +1 octave adds to the intensity and generally makes the verbs even more shiny. The Tweak knob can reign in those highs if it gets too intense for your tastes. Also, bringing in the -1 octave makes for an even bigger sound, and again, it’s impressing how the warbling of the digitally pitch-shifted octaves is rendered a non-issue within the expanse of the majestic reverbs created by the Descent.
Saving presets is easy. Just dial in your reverb sound, then push and hold the Bypass foot-switch for a few seconds to save your creation to one of the 3 presets. Pushing the Preset foot-switch cycles through the 3 presets, indicated by a blue, green, or red LED. A cool hack for having access to a 4th sound in a live situation is to have the knobs set to a sound you like, then push and hold the Preset foot-switch for a moment until the LED turns off. You’re now playing the Descent with the setting where the knobs are currently set. Also, all knob parameters can be modulated via expression pedal, and yes, all expression pedal settings are savable per preset. You can even use an expressional pedal to morph between 2 entirely different sounds in the same mode, each set to the toe and heel position. With an expressional pedal and foot-switches, you can have quick access to up to 7 different sounds in a live situation, no knob turning required.
The Walrus Audio 2-Channel Remote Control Switch is also a handy accessory worth considering to go along with your Descent. It allows you to place the Descent towards the back of your pedalboard to conserve easily accessible pedal positioning and use the small remote switch to recall presets and activate/bypass the pedal. All you need is a standard male to male ¼” TRS cable. It’s a useful implementation that shows how the Descent really is a pedal designed by guitarists with guitarists in mind. Very, very cool.
Want a full stereo reverb? The Descent features stereo outputs, and there’s also the option of feeding the pedal a stereo signal via its TRS input. Just unscrew the backplate from the pedal and flip the positions of the 2 internal dip-switches. The ability to use the Descent in either mono or full stereo means it’ll find a place in any mono or stereo guitar rig.
Yes, the Descent’s In jack may be used in stereo with a TRS cable!
Just flip the 2 internal dip-switches as shown above…
Now you can place the Descent after your favorite stereo delay pedal! Sweet!
There is one minor technical issue to be aware of. Anytime an LED blinks on or off, you’ll hear a slight “click” in your signal whether the pedal is engaged or bypassed. This is only glaringly noticeable while making changes to a preset. When a preset is altered the Preset LED light will flicker on and off, resulting in an audible rhythmic clicking sound in time with the blinking. If you’re going to change knob settings in realtime while playing, be sure to exit from any preset by holding down the Preset foot-switch for a couple seconds until the Preset LED turns off. Then you can make adjustments without the LED blinking and causing an audible noise in your signal. This doesn’t have to be a problem that affects your signal when performing, but it is a minor issue that I’d like to see addressed if there is a 2.0 hardware update at some point. (UPDATE: Walrus Audio already fixed this with a firmware update! Now the preset LED turns white when making changes to a preset, canceling the previous flickering issue.)
All in all, the Descent was worth the wait and is an awesome first foray into the realm of digital effects processing for Walrus Audio pedals. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for guitarists next! Let’s see the final result.
The Walrus Audio Descent is an inspired take on digital reverb processing with an emphasis on its built in +1 and -1 octave effects that may be used with all 3 of its Hall, Reverse, and Shimmer modes. For those who like reverbs that shimmer, this pedal will be a haven of majestic reverb sounds. The -1 octave makes for some cavernous, booming reverb worthy of its subterranean namesake. And you’ll find some great traditional reverb sounds and cool reverse reverb effects as well. If you’re looking for the best octave/shimmer reverb effects pedal, the Descent offers some sounds quite unlike any other pedal and is definitely worth more than an audition.
That concludes our Walrus Audio Descent review. Thanks for reading.
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