||Download Example 1
Gibson SG bridge pickup into first generation Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier rackmount into Emperor cabinet and close-mic'ed with an SM57 at high volumes.
||Download Example 2
Same clip as above with extensive digital multiband compression, saturation and limiting to make room for bass guitar.
||Download Example 3
Fender Strat bridge pickup into Diamond's 22-watt Class A "Positron" in Emperor cabinet and close-mic'ed with an SM57.
||Download Example 4
Fender Strat neck pickup into Diamond's 22-watt Class A "Positron" in Emperor cabinet and close-mic'ed with an SM57.
||Download Example 5
Gibson SG neck pickup into Diamond's 22-watt Class A "Positron" in Emperor cabinet and close-mic'ed with an SM57.
Recently, I had the pleasure of watching a
performance by Chicago-based instrumental
post-rock/metal trio Russian Circles. On
the night I took in the show, the band’s
guitarist Mike Sullivan was concocting
his tone cocktail with a Gibson Les Paul
Custom, a slew of effects pedals, two Sunn
Model T heads, and Emperor 4x12 and
1x15 cabinets. The way Sullivan’s rig simultaneously
blisters and punches is always a
surprise and a treat, and I’ve suspected his
cabinets are no small part of the equation.
So I was psyched when I had the chance to
begin my evaluation of an Emperor 4x12
the very next day.
Based in Chicago, Emperor is a crafty
bunch. In addition to guitar cabinets, the
company also makes bass cabinets, drums,
and road cases for rackmount gear, guitars,
speaker cabinets, amp heads, and
anything else you’d want a case for. They’ll
make cabinets using any size speakers in
several configurations including staggered
speakers, ported or non-ported, and open
or closed backs.
Emperor makes completely custom cabinets
and cases, so they do not have a standard
pricing system. A few standards do
exist, though. Cabinets are constructed
out of premium 13-ply birch using super-strong,
long lasting, and cool looking
dovetail joints. One of the most visible
differences between Emperor’s cabs and
your average aftermarket cabinet is that
Emperor does not use Tolex. Instead they
stain the birch using anything from naturally
glowing, classic wood hues to stark,
modern tones of blue, red, and bright
orange. The sections of birch that make
up the cabinet exterior are selected by the
wood’s visual potential. Numerous grille
cloth choices are available as well.
We reviewed a 4x12 closed-back guitar cab
with a finished Baltic birch shell that was
stained to bring out lush, three-dimensional
patterns in the birch, the veins of which varied
in hue from blonde to rich brunette.
Furnish the Stage
The Emperor 4x12 looks more like a
piece of antique furniture than a piece of
guitar gear. It rests on two wooden runners
and features black metal corners and
recessed handles. The cab’s grille cloth is a
lovely weave of light and dark browns, and
Emperor’s very cool, ’70s-inspired black-and-
silver logo is centered among a quartet
of Weber C1265 12" speakers. Made
of poplar and constructed to reduce sound
diffraction problems, a rounded front
baffle demonstrates Emperor’s dedication
to tone as well as aesthetics.
Exploring the Lows
After carrying this monstrosity to my
upstairs studio by myself, I tested the cab
using Diamond Positron and 1969 Fender
Super Bassman heads, and a Gibson SG
and Fender Stratocaster.
There’s a simple reason why Emperor cabs
have been widely adopted by artists working
in the modern post-rock/metal scene,
and that’s the cabinet’s extremely capable
low end. The 22-watt class A Diamond
Positron sounded positively ballsy with a
throaty Marshall-like low-mid punch. The
Strat’s neck pickup generated a remarkably
smooth low end that the Emperor distributed
with authority. Next I wired up my
Gibson SG and the vintage, non-master volume
Super Bassman, an amp that’s famous
for its extended low end and smooth
overdrive. Normally, I run this rig through
an Avatar 2x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s
or a generic 4x12 with Celestion Seventy
80s. And it didn’t take long before it was
apparent how much low-end clarity I’d been
missing. Indeed, the Emperor cab seems to
not only boost, but also clarify the low end
through more efficient projection. And the
result is a lot of headroom.
Reflecting on Highs
Built around a ceramic magnet, this
Emperor’s C1265 speakers are 65-watt
units from Weber’s British series that are
well suited for a wide range of styles. In the
very transparent Emperor, they are even
more so. Mid frequencies are very present,
though not overbearing and can be
tuned depending on the flexibility of your
head. The combination of the Emperor and
Webers also give the high frequencies a
natural feel that’s never brash or abrasive.
The poplar front baffle seems to enhance
the pristine high frequencies thrown from
the C1265s. In theory, sharp edges on
the front of a cabinet will cause sound
waves to diffract at sharp angles, causing
the waves to arrive at your ears with
unnatural timing, resulting in a sound that
is subtly garbled by confusing artifacts.
High and mid frequencies are particularly
vulnerable to the horrors of diffraction
and, though the problem goes unnoticed
to most, Emperor’s efforts to address the
issue seems to make their cabs perfect for
conveying the detail of complex chords
and capturing the full-spectrum voice of a
good pickup/guitar/amp combination.
The Emperor could well be the best sounding
guitar cabinet I’ve ever played through.
It’s also drop-dead gorgeous and it might
be the heaviest I’ve played through as
well. It is sometimes difficult to accurately
judge the sound of a cabinet because it
really stands apart in high-volume environments
where a sub-standard cab creates
a muck of confused, clashing frequencies.
When I heard unprocessed tracks that
featured an Emperor cab played back on a
professional monitor system, I noticed an
inherent studio quality and dynamic punch
that’s hard to achieve without EQ and
Overall there is a solid clarity to the
Emperor sound that seems tied to expert
woodworking and construction. The aural
experience reminded me how easy it is
to forget a cabinet’s enormous role in the
tone equation, and it demonstrates just
how well Emperor understands this piece
of the sonic puzzle.
you want a beautiful, boutique
cabinet designed to your specs
that truly captures the voice of your
guitar and amp.
light weight is more important than