[review] Empress Effects Compressor (by LordRiffenstein)

LordRiffenstein, all-around tone freak and purveyor of great tone.

Empress Effects

This Ottawa, Ontario based company has been around for some time now. They are building a nice range of pedals that started off with delay and modulation but got recently expanded with drive and compressor pedals. They have a knack for building pedals with a twist and then some and pack a lot of options and tweakability in them. I’ve already reviewed 3 of their pedals before so here’s another one! Check out my reviews for the Tap Tremolo, ParaEQ and Super Delay as well.Empress Effects Compressor


The Empress Effects Compressor comes in a fantastic looking package and that’s even before you have plugged in. I’m a sucker for a nice color scheme.  As with all Empress pedals, the build quality is great and even the way it gets shipped is totally cool. There’s a lot going on in this pedal so let’s take a look at the controls. There are 5 dials so let’s look at them from left to right.  Input controls the input level into the compressor circuit. More input means more compression, this is also very useful to dial the pedal in for single coils or humbuckers. Attack controls how fast the compressor reacts to the signal and Release controls how fast it goes back to original level.  These 3 controls already give you a lot of tweakability. Then there’s the mix control, it gives you anything from totally dry to full wet and everything in between. This control lets you dial back dynamics.  Finally there’s the output control, this can also get you a boost if you want to. In the upper left corner is a little ratio switch that offers 3 settings (2:1-4:1-10:1). Top right we find another 3-way switches that lets you select what you want to see on the meter. This meter is awesome to fine tune your settings. The pedal can be run between 9 and 18 volt. Finally there’s a sidechain in/out that allows you to control the signal going to the compressor circuit.

The pedal in use

As you can see from the amount of controls, this is not the most straightforward compressor pedal out there. But this is part of what makes the Empress Effects pedals as good as they are. You really get what you pay for AND you can nail the tones in your head.

When I received this pedal, it went straight onto my board and it is in a loop of a switcher. Before I ordered it, I had a little conversation with Steve at Empress Effects because I wanted to put the Compressor on top of my power supply.  He was kind enough to test it for me and reported back there was no additional noise. And he was right, even using it as a boost, there is no noise from the compressor.

I don’t use compression a lot, usually a bit on some clean tones or more heavy compression for funky stuff.  The different dials allow you to really tweak it but you can also start with the suggestions in the manual. My basic setting is a light compression with the mix below 12:00.  This gives me some extra sustain and a hint of compression without losing dynamics. I love this for clean chords and volume swells. Dialing heavier compression is easy. I love this for funk but I hate to lose all dynamics and that is where the mix control comes in.  You can get that kinda sound and then dial back the mix to get it just right. I never would have thought a compressor would be so much fun to play with!

I normally never use a compressor with humbuckers but the Empress Effects Compressor has changed this.  It’s only a small tweak away from my standard setting so it gives me another purpose and I really like this with an amp with a hint of breakup.  With a Les Paul or ES335, it gives you a great smooth and fat tone. And we’re not done yet because this pedal can also work really well as a booster.  Between the input and output controls, there is sufficient level to give your signal chain a good kick and I really love this with low gain to crunch settings. Dial in a good amount of boost and the compressor ratio on 4:1 and fine tune with the mix below 12:00 and the fun can start!!

I was in the market for a compressor for a new pedalboard. The Empress Compressor was already on my list of possible candidates. After testing the 3 other pedals and being very impressed, I decided to buy this one without testing nor hearing it.  It hasn’t disappointed me AT ALL. When it comes to compressor pedals, this is the top of the food chain.  In another rig, I have been using a different compressor that has been my favorite for the past 5-6 years.  Plenty have come by but none have succeeded to kick it out the #1 position. The Empress Compressor did exactly that, it is THAT good!

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