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, this time the Tap Tremolo. Check out my reviews for the ParaEQ and Superdelay as well.
The Empress Tremolo is the pedal that put them on the map and for good reason as it packs a LOT of options. It's an analog pedal but the tremolo effect is controlled digitally. Build in a standard size box in stand-out-in-a-crowd orange, it has a bunch of tricks up its sleeve. Next to the bypass switch, you find a tap button. Excellent idea, makes it very easy to sync the trem with the beat. There are 2 little 3-way switches that determine how the pedal works. On the right you select the waveform, (triangle/tube/square) and on the left there's the mode switch (tap tempo/normal/two speed). Then there are 4 dials to tweak the effect. Depth sets the amount of effect, Rate/Ratio sets the speed, Gain is your output with a possible 6dB of increase. The Rhythm control gives you 8 different rhythm patterns to choose from. There's obviously a lot going on here, check the manual for more info. I almost forgot to add that it works equally well in the loop, post or pre gain effects, it all depends on what you want!
There's so much to tweak with what is basically a very simple effect, this pedal might seem too much for some people. However, turn to page 3 of the manual and follow the Quickstart instructions. This will give you a standard tremolo sound and let me tell you this is BANG ON. Just this setting with the option of tapping the speed sounds killer, a very nice deep sounding trem. You can take it from there and discover a wealth of outstanding trem tones you wouldn't even know existed without this pedal.
After you are done messing around with this ‘standard sound’, trust me it will take you a while, you start to look into the other options and there are some real treats here. The 8 rhythm patters are a fantastic addition to a trem pedal. Very inspiring to play with this, you can make it sound like no other tremolo pedal and this is where the Tap Tremolo really shines. It takes the basic effect of tremolo to a whole new level and then some.
Here are a couple of my personal highlights with this pedal. The tap function being there is very cool but coupling that with a 2 speed option is genius. Having the pedal ramp up and down between 2 trem speeds sounds FANTASTIC. It's like a leslie but different, it doesn't have that phasey, chorusey tone of a leslie. Try this, set the rate low, set it for tube and in normal mode, keep the depth really low, almost off, run the gain flat out and put it in front of an already overdriven amp. You get this sense of movement in your tone but it doesn't get in the way of your playing. Lovely lovely lovely!
It's clear to see why this is a hit and can be found on many pedalboards. It packs an amazing amount of great tremolo tones. Having played the Superdelay with its presets, I would like to say to the Empress guys: “Please add the presets option to the trem”. That would make it perfect because you WILL want to use more than 1 setting on this magnificent box.
- More info: Empress Effects Tremolo