Walker Stereo Steel Review

I acquired this Walker Stereo steel used in pieces from different sources. I paid $800 shipped for the entire rack system and $425 shipped for the JBL enclosures. This system produces a wall of sound that is legendary in the steel guitar business. Imagine two steel amps based on the tried and true Session 400 combo amp packaged in one rack mount enclosure coupled with a modern effects unit with custom presets for pedal steel guitar. The Walker Stereo Steel sounds full and lush with excellent near field sound for the player's enjoyment and great projection in the far field. Owners of this system have posted glowing reviews of it online and it remains a standout at steel shows where all kinds of amps are played. Components in my system include:
  1. Stereo Steel Combo Amphead - Black Face
  2. TC Electronics M-OneXL effects processor
  3. Gator soft case rack unit
  4. Furman M-8D power conditioner
  5. Two 15' long cables
  6. Two 15" re-coned JBL speaker in closed back cabinets
  • JBL cabinets contain pre-1980 re-coned 15" JBL speakers featuring the preferred Alnico magnets
  • Optionally this system can be supplied with Peavey Black Widow speakers
  • The TC Electronics processor comes supplied with steel guitar friendly presets (if purchased from Walker)
  • The Stereo Steel amp is available in either gold or black face
  • My system has closed back cabinets but I've seen other Walker systems with open back and various other custom speaker cabinets. I prefer the closed back cabinets for small studio work. It's easier to keep each cabinet mic'ed and not have stray sounds from the back of the cabinets bounce all over the studio.
  • Since the TC has been programmed with a combination of wet and dry sound, the SS Routing switch should be left in the Series position
  • There's actually TWO 300 watt RMS (into 4 a ohm load) power amps in this system allowing for full stereo effects and tons of power and headroom!
  • The system can be run with only one speaker cabinet for smaller jobs
  • Mr. Walker offers outstanding customer service, is a great steel player and is readily available by phone or email to answer any questions you might have. He graciously supplied me with the user manual listed below!

Weights and dimensions:

  1. Amp, effects, power conditioner in soft case/rack: 34.5 pounds, 8.0" H x 20.5" W x 15.75" Deep
  2. Speaker cabinet 1 28.9 pounds
  3. Speaker cabinet 2 29.1 pounds
  4. Speaker cabinets: 18" H x 18" W x 9" Deep at the top and 11" Deep at the bottom
  5. Total weight of 2 15' speaker cables: 1.8 pounds
  6. Total system weight: 94.3 pounds

Some useful links:

Two full song recordings with real bass, rhythm guitar, EZKeys piano, EZDrummer drums. Sax and organ parts generated by Band-In-A-Box RealTracks. All guitar and fiddle parts are played through the Telonics TCA-500C.
Shuffle beat country song!
Original composition with some blues sounds!

User Manual (Stereo Steel Manual, TC Setup1, TC Setup2, Quick Start Manual)

Steel tracks audio only. See first Reaper snapshot below for all stereo steel tracks combined into one track. Note these tracks were recorded onto the Zoom as stereo "linked" tracks, swapped to other Zoom stereo tracks, and when imported to Reaper as wav files, they retained their stereo nature as one file having both left and right stereo tracks. This makes DAW automation and envelope editing much easier as both the left and right channel are edited together with one volume envelope! Second Reaper snapshot below shows the stereo reverb's effect of having unique program content (ignoring the amplitude differences) on the left and right channels despite the steel guitar being a monophonic source.
Click here to listen to all steel tracks solo - no band!

What's Inside And My Little Side Trip After The First Power On

When I first powered this system on all I heard was 60/120 cycle hum! While there was some guitar signal being passed the hum was as loud as you'd get from a blown transistor output section. My Walker Stereo System was shipped to me mounted in a rack as described above and seemed to be well packed. Somewhere along the way it took a nasty hit or fall and some internal components got damaged. In fact further inspection on my part showed that the very large and heavy power supply toroidal transformer had been ripped out of its bottom plate mount. Furthermore inspection showed that the loose transformer also ripped a 1000uF/35VDC filter capacitor off of the preamp board. This explained the hum I was hearing. I decided it would be risky to ship the amp back to G. D. Walker with this heavy loose transformer floating around inside. I called Mr. Walker and he agreed even offering me some tips on how to properly repair the amp myself while also agreeing to accept it for repair if my own repair didn't work out. I flattened out the bent bottom chassis plate and remounted the toroidal transformer to it using extra large and heavy duty washers to spread the mounting force out over a larger portion of the bottom plate. This would prevent any chance of the bottom mounting screw working its way through the bottom plate again. Like most power transformers you have to rotate the toroidal transformer a bit to find the mounting orientation that induces the least hum into adjacent circuits before totally tightening the mounting bolt down. I purchased a 1000uF/35VDC capacitor from Amazon to get 2 day delivery and it came in the wrong size so I had a wait a few more days for one to come from Mouser. After removing the top pre-amp mounting nuts and flipping the preamp board over I was able to clean up the old capacitor soldered area and mount in the new capacitor (see last picture). Everything now works like a champ! As a result of having to do this I figured I'd take a few pictures of the amp internals to share while I had it all apart. See pictures directly below.

Review Summary

After getting the system powered on and reading the user manual and various internet posts I decided to go through all the settings posted for this unit in the Steel Guitar Forum. While I'm still tweaking the EQ settings here's what I've settled on so far:

My settings

  • Gain 11:00
  • Presence 11:00
  • Treble 10:00
  • Mid 11:00
  • Freq. 1:00
  • Bass 12:30
  • Warmth 11:00
  • Parametric 12:00 (Off)
  • L/R Vol. 12:00/12:00
  • Master Vol. 11:00
The first thing I noticed about this unit is the huge amount of output power the amp has and the ample gain in the pre-amp section. Overall the amp is about as quiet as far as hum and white noise as the average steel amp so it's quite good for playing live and recording with mic's. The stereo effect of having the effects section output feed two separate power amps is really stunning in the near field. It's like having the stereo reverb from your digital music workstation built into your amp. Very spacious and easy to adjust and the TC Electronics M-OneXL effects processor allows independent adjustment of the reverb and delay levels for example right at the front panel. I'm not sure my effects unit has the Walker factory patches in it. It has TC Electronics patches 1-200 and user patches 1-14. The stereo reverbs are very detailed and smooth and add a lot of fatness to the sound on slow songs. My cabinets are closed back (see pictures below) and tend to be very directional with all sound coming out the front. This is a good thing for studio work and makes it easy to keep the left and right mic feeds separated. There's a lot of EQ controls and I found that they all have a unique effect on the tone. Having separate presence and treble controls along with the bass, mid level/shift, warmth and parametric EQ gives the amp a powerful suite of adjustments. I did try each and every effects preset and surprisingly a lot of them are usable for steel guitar and the unit is easy to program. For C6 and extended E9th there is a ton of well damped clean bass available. The total system weight is around 94 pounds but it's easy to transport as three individual pieces. I didn't try this amp out with fiddle or guitar as I have other amps which are a perfect fit for those. I also did not try out the DI interface but I understand from others that it does not have amp modeling built into it and is a very generic but usable function. Having the rack lights available makes all the controls visible in a dimly lit room. If I was starting from scratch I would pursue built in LED rack lighting instead of the incandescent lights provided by the Furman unit. I can't imagine anyone not being pleased with the variety of sounds that the Walker Stereo Steel produces. It has a lot of unique features that set it apart from the average combo amp but that comes at a price of more weight and more time to setup the system (well worth the effort in my opinion). The base tone with the JBL cabinets sounds a lot like my old Peavey Session 400 amp on steroids but with more power, stereo imaging, sound dispersion and better effects.

Effects Update

It turns out that my TC Electronics M-OneXL while having great sounds in it did not have the latest factory settings. Mr Walker graciously supplied me with the latest effects programs. The Excel and pdf versions of the settings are linked below. As time permits I'm going to add them to my effects unit!

The effects include

  • Hall Reverbs
  • Plate Reverbs
  • Spring Reverbs
  • Reverbs with delay
  • Leslie sims
  • Dobro Sim
  • Stereo Delay

Sound Samples

All sound samples recorded in stereo with two Shure SM-57 microphones as described above.

Recording Method
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL
Shure SM57
TC Electronics M-OneXL

There are quite a few pictures below. Click on them to see them full size or at least sized to a browser window. Click on the picture again if needed to zoom in even more!

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