December 2016
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Empress Phaser Pedal Review

Empress Phaser Pedal Review

Range of Motion
Twisting the Mode knob clockwise allows you to select from a very expressive set of waveforms. Triangle, asymmetrical sine, swung sine, saw, reverse saw, square, and random waves ranged from subtle to radical depending on how you set the other control parameters.

Each function demonstrated remarkable range and sound shaping potential—especially the Speed/Ratio knob. And I achieved some of my favorite, and most out-there sounds by flipping the Speed Range switch to Fast, and cranking the speed control to generate near-ring modulation tones. The Empress Phaser is capable of doing some great, conventional phasing effects, but the unique, space-age sounds that I was able to coax out of it made me much more enamored with the more extreme potential of this pedal.

The wild sounds weren’t just fun to play with, they were actually very musical, which is something that doesn’t occur very often with wild and wooly guitar effects. Mode 8 was a perfect example of this, in which the phaser was operating in a random step mode. Set up in this manner, the Empress became both a phaser and a sample and hold filter, capable of some of the coolest sounds this side of Adrian Belew.

Automatic for the Player
One of the most unique features on the Empress Phaser is the mode dubbed Auto, which effectively makes the pedal react to your playing. In Auto mode, the phasing effect would get more intense with heavier picking, and subtler with a lighter pick attack. This type of circuitry has been implemented in other effects before, but Empress designed their circuit with the ability to fully customize how the effect is implemented. When the pedal was in Auto mode, the Speed/Ratio, Width and Waveform controls took on secondary functions, controlling sensitivity, release, and submodes, respectively. In addition, the Speed Range switch enabled switches in the amount of attack in the tone.

All of these options let me carve out some really wild, expressive tones from the pedal. It might be too many controls to handle for some, and it was sometimes a challenge to remember a given setting before I’d start playing with another. For this reason I would have liked to have seen a feature to save a preset or two.

The Verdict
The Empress Phaser isn’t just a great phaser, it’s one of the coolest effects that I’ve played in quite a while. While I enjoy a great phase tone, it’s not an effect that I tend to explore too aggressively, as I would a delay for instance. But the Empress Phaser had me sitting in front of my amp for hours, twiddling knobs and exploring the multitude of tones that its lime green enclosure had hidden within. I lost some great sounds because I didn’t write the settings down, but that only gave me an excuse to explore the Empress further—which is fine, because it’s hard to find a lousy sound on the Empress Phaser. Its natural tone and expansive capabilities make it one of the most usable phasers on the market.
Buy if...
you’re looking for an all-in-one phaser that can also push the conventional tonal envelope.
Skip if...
you need a simple phaser with a single waveform.

Street $349 - Empress Effects -
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