[review] Empress Effects ParaEq w/ Boost (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’ll be reviewing 3 of their pedals starting with the ParaEQ. Check out my reviews for the Tap Tremolo and Superdelay as well.

ParaEQ w/ Boost

The ParaEQ is built in a nice blue enclosure and opening the box shows excellent build quality. There’s so much going on with this pedal, I’m not even going to mention the 9v DC input, the fact it’s TB etc.  The ParaEQ has controls for 3 EQ-bands: lo, mid and hi. Each band has 3 controls. There’s a Q control that sets the frequency range of each band (narrow/medium/wide).  Then there’s a dial to set the center frequency of the band and finally a gain control for the band. The Gain control has a range from -15dB to +15dB. In the upper right hand corner there are 2 more controls that need attention: an input pad switch (0dB/-6dB/-12dB) and a Boost control that gives you 30dB of boost at the output ON TOP of whatever boost you might have dialed in for each band. Looking at the Empress Effects website, I realized that this is an older version as it does not have the separate boost switch (very good addition!). The only thing that I can think of that would make this pedal even better is presets.

The pedal in use

With the excellent layout and tweaking options, it should be clear by now that this is a very powerful pedal.  If you are not used to EQ pedals, there’s a learning curve but the manual has some good starters and excellent info on EQ frequencies.  My advice would be to start with small adjustments to get a feel of what the ParaEQ can do for your tone. Then you can learn the differences between a smaller and a wider EQ range etc.

So what can you do with this? Well, you can totally change your tone with it, even turn it into complete garbage if you want to. I have never owned an EQ pedal myself but after testing the ParaEQ, I’m considering getting one because I have discovered how useful it can be. There are several ways of using this pedal and it all depends on what you want to achieve. Part of that decision will be how you intend to use the overall boost.  Put it in front of your amp and the boost will get you more gain. Put the pedal in your loop and you will get more volume (unless you are overdriving the output tubes!). Even without the output boost, the gain control for each frequency range can already boost your signal.

I’m not going to describe all the ways you can use this but here are a couple of highlights for me. I loved using it in front of my Marshall to dial out a bit of muddiness you often get from neck humbuckers. And likewise, it was really easy to fatten up the bridge single coil of my telecaster.  Putting it between a distortion pedal with a limited tone control (SD9) and a crunchy amp worked wonders to tailor the sound. Finally, the ParaEQ also worked great in the loop. The input pad comes in handy here. You can fine tune your tone, this works particularly well with overdrive tone. Additionally, it’s an excellent solo boost because you can add some level and boost the right frequencies in the mid range to really cut through the mix.

Like I said, I am considering picking one up because it such a powerful tool. Even with only 1 setting, it's an invaluable pedal, if they could add presets as on the Superdelay, this would be a complete homerun.

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