Review: Walrus Audio Mako Series R1

Walrus Audio’s sequel to the world-conquering D1 delay is a stereo reverb with six modes and some fiendish bonus features.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Walrus Audio Mako Series R1
8

SUMMARY

A wondrous pedal for stereo space exploration that’s not so strong on the humdrum stuff.

It’s hard to get anyone’s attention with a ‘normal’ reverb these days – in 2021, it seems, we’re all sonic space travellers intent on blowing our own minds with celestial sorcery. And so, hot on the spangly heels of the EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny, comes this second instalment in Walrus Audio’s Mako Series of high-end digital effects: the R1 multi-mode stereo reverb.

Bear in mind, though, that this is the follow-up to the D1 delay, our 2020 pedal of the year – a device that’s about doing everything, not just the outlandish stuff. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see that three of the R1’s six modes are dedicated to the old-fashioned basics: spring, hall and plate reverb.

In terms of design this could almost be a photographic negative of the D1, echoing its crisp and classy form but now clad in black to emphasise its mysterious depths (or just to look a bit moody). It has the same twin inputs and outputs on the sides, for mono or stereo operation, and the same layout of controls.

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Perhaps the most important knob is the one in the middle, for selecting your reverb algorithm. We’ve mentioned three of them already; the others are ‘BFR’ (two of those letters stand for ‘big’ and ‘reverb’ – let’s just leave it at that), ‘refract’ and ‘air’. This, in short, is the ethereal half of the pedal.

The key thing to note in terms of operation is that everything revolves around presets. You have nine slots available (plus another 119 via MIDI), accessed by selecting bank A, B or C from the central switch then pressing both footswitches to toggle through three options indicated by a red, green or blue LED. The controls only become ‘live’ once you start twiddling them, which means their positions are not always telling you the truth; if you’re a fan of fully manual knob-twiddling, that’s going to take some getting used to.

Anyway, what are those controls? Along the top we have decay time, ranging from nothing to practically forever; ‘swell’ for killing the note attack and letting it fade in as slowly as you choose; and mix, which will mute the dry signal completely when maxed out.

The other two knobs, marked ‘tweak’ and ‘tune’, are each partnered with a three-way toggle switch. On the left, you can change the rate and depth of modulation applied to the reverb and also the pre-delay time; on the right, it’s low and high EQ plus an ‘X’ factor that’s specific to each reverb type.

The second footswitch also needs some explanation: this takes a snapshot of the current reverb sound and sustains it magically until you tap it once more or, if you’ve kept your foot pressed down, lift it up again. Yep, it’s the same deal as the ‘infinite’ footswitch on the Strymon NightSky – let’s hope it’s every bit as bewitching.

Walrus Audio Mako Series R1
Two’s company: The Mako Series R1 truly comes alive in stereo

In use

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Our explorations begin with spring reverb, as it’s the first mode on the dial, and to be honest we’re a little disappointed. It’s springy alright, offering some good authentic judder, but the tonality of the effect is quite mid-focused, with less zingy freshness than we’ve come to expect from real spring tanks – and from other digital emulations. It’s nice to be able to grunge things up with a dash of ‘X’, but we’d like a little more flexibility from the tone controls here.

The hall and plate effects have a similar kind of voicing, and there’s still not much air in the reverb even with the high EQ at maximum… but the R1 starts to make more sense once you abandon all thoughts of subtle ambiences and start pushing that decay knob into the spacey zone. And it makes even more sense once you plug in a second amp.

In glorious stereo, the hall effect does sheer hugeness about as well as any other pedal of its type. Now the modulation comes into its own, allowing you to add just as much background wobble as you need to give everything a sense of shoegazey 3D depth.

Flipping over to the BFR mode – which, incidentally, happens seamlessly with the tail of the old reverb carrying over rather than cutting off abruptly – we’re suddenly forced to reassess our definition of hugeness from the previous paragraph, because it really goes up a notch here. Walrus describes this effect as ‘a vast cavern filled with choirs of angels’, which is not something we’ve been able to test for accuracy but does go some way to describing its harmonic richness.

The refracting reverb brings a crate of glitchiness to the party, in the form of arrhythmic stutter effects floating around within a similarly dreamy wash; you can alter their speed and intensity using the tweak knob, while turning ‘X’ down low gives the stutters more prominence by making the main reverb all but disappear.

That just leaves ‘air’ mode, which is as close as this unit comes to an octave-up shimmer effect. There certainly are higher notes at play in this bright and breezy swoosh-scape, but they’re textural rather than overt and you might well argue that’s no bad thing. Three chords with this one and that’s your next massage soundtrack basically done.

Could we be any more blissed out? Actually, yes – and a single prod of the sustain footswitch is all it takes. Play over the top of your sampled snapshot if you like, but most of the time you probably won’t feel the need to add anything to this mesmerising loop of quivering strangeness. It’s a hard pedal to turn off, this.

Walrus Audio Mako Series R1
Take the bait: the R1 and ACS1 are the latest in Walrus’s Mako Series

Key Features

  • PRICE £319
  • DESCRIPTION Digital multi-mode stereo reverb pedal, made in USA
  • CONTROLS Decay, swell, dry/reverb mix, modulation rate/depth/pre-delay switch with tweak knob, EQ low/high/X switch with tune knob, preset bank A/B/C switch, six-way rotary programme switch; bypass and sustain/latch footswitches
  • FEATURES Mono/stereo inputs and outputs, microUSB for firmware updates, five-pin MIDI in and through; 9 presets, with up to 128 slots accessible via MIDI; switchable true, DSP or true+DSP (for trails) bypass; powered by 9-volt mains supply only (not supplied)
  • DIMENSIONS 126 x 75 x 63mm
  • CONTACT walrusaudio.com, face.be

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