What is it?
Stacking gain pedals, creating different textures, with different levels of saturation and all the harmonic possibilities that come with that... Well it's like baking for guitar players. Where pedals such as Walrus Audio's Ages Five-State Overdrive can help is by preserving pedalboard real estate – and maybe instil in us a moment's discipline when we walk past our local guitar shop's magic glass counter.
Fat chance. But the Ages has a lot going on in its relatively compact chassis. It is an overdrive with five clipping modes, a wet/dry mix knob, with bass, treble, volume and gain controls. Those five modes promise versatility, and thus if this thing works well then we could save the space of two or three overdrives.
Top-mounted jacks are another space saver. The olive green enclosure is painted with what Walrus describe as a "mythical three trunked warrior elephant," which presumably is the spirit animal of the fifth clipping mode. Time will tell.
The Ages takes 9V of DC, center negative, juice, drawing ~ 100mA of current. Power supply is sold separately.
Performance and verdict
The five clipping modes are clearly where the action is so let's run through what's going on. Mode 1 selects symmetric silicon soft clipping for a compressed, smooth low-gain tone. Mode 2 is symmetric LED soft clipping, and here it gets a little more open, for pushed tones, just on the edge of breakup.
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What this pedal is all about is options: options in dialling exactly the overdrive sound you want, and then options in using that sound live with different degrees of footswitchable gain. Cool.
We fond modes 1 and 2 to be suitable for fairly clean, transparent boosts. You'll find unity gain at around one o’clock on the volume dial. The Mix dial is very intuitive, allowing for level of almost total control over your signal and how much of this drive is being fed into it.
Bringing up the gain in those low-gain modes offers lots of territory for pop chime and bluesy grit, with mode 2 a brighter tone – ideal for a live band mix.
Modes 3 and 4 are high-gain versions of 1 and 2, with the natural compression of 3 offering a tighter response, where 4 is has a little more air about it. These operate as the Mr Hyde to modes 1 and 2's Dr Jeckyll. These are very musical gain flavours, and the 2-band EQ gives the Ages an amp-like quality in how it lets you shape the tone.
Clipping Mode 5 is more saturated still, with symmetric silicon hard clipping offering the effect of a valve-head and stack being driven hard, issuing forth layers of treacle-thick gain. If things get a little hairy, there's always that Mix control to take some of it out and put some singe-string definition back in there. Very impressive.
MusicRadar verdict: A space-saver with an epic range of drive tones, the Ages is a super-practical pedalboard option that can be used for clean, transparent boost, or run it as a de facto cranked stack with hot, saturated gain, and all stages between.
The web says
"Capable of low-level transparent boost through to hard-hitting saturation, the Ages offers a versatility that enables it to work with a wide range of different guitars and amps, not to mention stacking with other drive pedals. Definitely one that will stay on your ’board."
"Ages gives you the power to finesse both the treble and bass ends of your sound and, even at extreme settings, we find the sounds useable across a variety of musical contexts. Be advised, however, the settings affect each mode differently and as such you may need to tweak the gain and volume as you move along the dial."
Living Room Gear Demos
- PRICE: $199 / £179
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Drive pedal
- FEATURES: True bypass, 5x drive modes
- CONTROLS: Volume, Dry, Gain, Bass, Treble, Mode switch, Bypass footswitch
- CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output
- POWER: 9V DC adaptor, 100mA
- DIMENSIONS: 67 (w) x 125 (d) x 57mm (h)
- CONTACT: Walrus Audio