I am ever intrigued by new entries into the overdrive pantheon - an already hugely overcrowded sector. And as JHS’s Josh Scott keeps telling us - there are only a few circuits really at the root of everything dirt-wise - yet a myriad of possible outcomes.
I always approach new overdrives from circa 4 key points of perspective - what is the circuit based on / nearest match, how does its core tonality / frequency profile sound, what is the pedal’s range and versatility, and what is its unique innovation or distinct feature and functionality aspect.
Right from the outset there are a couple of immediate distinctions which aren’t rare by themselves, but rarely appear in combination on an overdrive - a multi-clipping Mode selector and Dry Blend. Dry Blend helps enormously when you want to get those more clearer spanky tones - or just notch down / temper your gain / saturation a fraction - and is considered pretty much essential for bass players to retain their core dynamics and feel. There are a number of overdrives which feature a Dry Blend or different clipping options while the Ages is indeed pretty rarefied to have both.
In gauging what sort of overdrive we were dealing with I straightaway detected a certain mid-hump bark, not particularly nasal - but sounding somewhere in the territory of a Klon or a Tube Screamer. So Shnobel Tone Roman’s demo versus his original Klon Centaur was the key formative demo for me as it helped me to place and position the Ages along the 12 Degrees of Saturation arc.
It does sound remarkably close to the Klon in many ways but somewhat muddier / grittier somehow and lacks some of the Klon’s sparkle and dynamism and that slightly more present low-end. Also the various clipping states are set up to be very close and complementary - so that they don’t so much markedly change the core tonal character but more the Compression, Saturation, Thickness and Tightness of the output. We’re talking about shades of grey here rather than noticeably different hues. Some say this is a two-voice pedal because of its Low and High Gain clipping groupings, while others say it’s rather three as the final state is hard-clipping. You can really argue it either way - but in general those voicing are relatively close to each other and rather subtle.
I also presumed an Active Baxandall style of tone-stack - while it seems that the Bass control is active and applied pre-gain, while the Treble control is post-gain and seems to be more of a High Frequency Cut / Filter - at least from what I can gather.
There’s obviously a significant amount of range in some of the key aspects of the overdrive - while the tonal signature with its sort of mid-hump bark is quite distinctive throughout - so you really need to love that aspect of it as you can’t tune that out.
There is one aspect here in particular that I’m a little miffed about - and that is the fact that Walrus Audio have ’borrowed’ the ’Ages’ name from Anasounds - who already launched their Anasounds Ages Harmonic Tremolo back at Winter NAMM this year. I’m not sure what the pedal-builder’s etiquette says about using someone else’s name - but I would personally consider it somewhat indecent behaviour. Alex at Anasounds seems fairly chilled about it - but I personally would be more than a touch annoyed with all the conflicting marketing and SEO clashes that will undoubtedly ensue.
Still - this Ages has lots to recommend it, it certainly has an inherent degree of flexibility - while I personally am not that taken by its core timbre and tonality. I feel I have better sounding alternatives in similar and related categories and several of which seem to yield more satisfying results with rather less controls.
That said I think many will be very happy with this addition and for some it could form the core of their pedalboard drive section. I will probably do a later follow-up article identifying pedals in similar categories which people might prefer - including ThorpyFX’s Peacekeeper and Matthew Effects’ Architect V3 for example. For sure the Ages definitely has an appealing aesthetic and feature-set though.
It has 6 highly interactive Controls :
There's a somewhat odd juxtaposition of flexibility, versatility and variety here - in that the core tonality is very much maintained throughout the range - which goes into more Greer Amps -style High Gain Overdrive variety versus proper High Gain touching on Distortion territory.
On first encounter I wasn't overly taken by the core frequency profile and timbre - but it definitely improves for me once is gets more saturation - and particularly in the High-Gain clipping modes. The comparison with the Klon is a very interesting one as that is a flavour that I'm so familiar with and recognise right away. So it's evidently not a Klone as such or necessarily a direct derivation or evolution - most likely something OpAmp-based - but part of it's tonal DNA is surely rooted in that hard-clipping overdrive category.
I love overdrives, distortions and fuzzes in particular and have no qualms about adding more of such to my extensive collection - which is already overflowing with stellar examples from most genres. The Ages 5-State Overdrive though is something of a tangent for me and definitely more of a nice-to-have than an essential.
Walrus Audio has done an excellent job in saturating social media and YouTube with really decent collateral - and I love the look and overall execution of this pedal. I'm just not that taken with its core tone and timbre - and somewhat prefer the Walrus Audio 385 Overdrive which is one of my wishlist items I really need to sort out some day soon.