Empress Effects is well-known in the boutique guitar world, and gaining attention in the mainstream world of guitar. The Superdelay can be considered their first true gem in the boutique pedal world, offering up an incredible array of useful delay tones in a relatively small enclosure. They more recently made a splash in the market with the release of the Multidrive, which built a lot of hype prior to its release and has been making its way onto pedalboards and into studios ever since. We take a moment to sit down with these black and grey pedals, to explore…the darker side of Empress Effects.
Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay
Building on the popularity of the original Superdelay, Empress teamed up with Pro Guitar Shop to release the Vintage Modified Superdelay. Designed to offer tape delay tones truer to real tape delays, this pedal not only offers more realistic tape delay tones, but also a cooler design (at least in our opinion!). The black enclosure with gold lettering is beyond classy, and does a good job of inviting you to explore its sounds.
All the Delay Tones You Could Want
While this is a digital delay with presets, there is no LED or banks to get lost in. Simply turn the mode dial to select your preferred mode, tweak to your desired settings, and save it to one of the 8 available presets (even the Looper can be saved to a preset, although an extra delay cannot be used while in loop mode). Here’s a list of the 8 modes:
In each mode, there are also 3 sub-modes, offering up variations depending on your preference. For a full explanation of all of the modes and sub-modes, it’s advised that you reference the manual.
Versatility of the VMSD
With the Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay he presets can be banked through in one direction only, using the “presets” foots witch. While some guitarists become concerned with having to bank through 8 presets, there is a simple solution: Copy presets 1-4 to 5-8. Most of us won’t use 8 different delay settings in a show, so you can essentially “mirror” your first 4 presets on the remaining four, and only ever be a maximum of 3 clicks away from your next preset. Not bad considering other digital delay pedals will require you to click just as many (if not more) times through various banks, and then each bank’s presets.
Everyone’s going to love something different about the VMSD, but the modes that stood out to us were Tape, Auto-Set mode, Rhythm and Reverse modes. The Tape mode offers up a lot of the acclaimed warble and warmth of the original tape delays (for a digital delay); the Auto-Set mode spawned creativity in your rhythmic patterns (delay time is set to the rhythm of your playing); the rhythm mode allows you to tap in your own delay rhythms; and the reverse mode takes you from subtle reverse swells (underneath the unaffected signal) to all-out reverse lead guitar. Outside of these more elaborate delay tones, the Tap mode is incredibly easy to use and allows guitarists to always have delays in time with the tempo of their songs.
The toggles on the top of the pedal offer even further versatility:
- Expression pedal – use an expression pedal to control either the mix or feedback
- Filter – choose between an low-pass filter, high-pass filter, or no filter and save on any preset
- Modulation – choose between slow, fast, or no modulation and save on any preset
- Mode Specific – choose between 3 sub-modes on any mode, and save on any preset
Is this enough versatility for your needs? If so, then give the Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay a try. We promise, you’ll never get bored!
The Multidrive offers exactly what the name implies, but more. Not only does this pedal deliver multiple types of drive (fuzz, overdrive, and distortion), but it allows you to mix them in parallel to allow for unusually smooth blend of the tones. It’s highly advised that you set the pedal to the suggested settings in the “Quick Start” section of the manual, in order to immediately realize the potential of this pedal. We’ve never heard a fuzz, overdrive, and a distortion blended so smoothly before. It really is a fascinating tone that offers all the goods of each dirt type. Clarity is heard from the low E to the high E string. That’sthe impression this default setting gives right out of the gate.
The “select” foot switch will allow you to select between any two preset combinations of the 3 channels (using the internal dip switches). Here’s all the potential combinations for simply using the overdrive alone on one setting:
- Overdrive on one setting, and fuzz on another
- Overdrive on one setting, and distortion on another
- Overdrive on one setting, and overdrive + fuzz on another
- Overdrive on one setting, and overdrive + distortion on another
- Overdrive on one setting, and distortion + fuzz on another
- Overdrive on one setting, and distortion + fuzz + overdrive on another
You’re not limited to using only one channel on one of the settings. For example, you could have overdrive + fuzz on one channel, and overdrive + distortion on another, giving you two distinct lead tones.
Shades of the Multidrive (Overdrive, Fuzz, and Distortion)
The fuzz portion of the Multidrive offers very usable fuzz tones at low gain. Single note lines bloom, and intervallic playing blooms even more. As the gain is increased, the fuzz becomes more abrasive, almost like a distortion. Perhaps there’s more fuzz on tap with the Multidrive than fuzz pedals that we’re used to (Analogman Sunface, London Fuzz, etc.), so we weren’t used to this. Some will make good use of this, and some not.
The overdrive portion of the Multidrive is rather tweed-like in nature, and has a subtle sag effect that makes it very amp-like. Again, the lower gain settings were more to our liking than the higher gain settings, as they were more natural…sounding like an amp mildly breaking up.
The distortion side has a wide array of distortion levels, available with a flip of the toggle switch to take you from mild, to crunch, to lead tones. Very heavy distortion is possible with the Multidrive, so this pedal could for tones ranging from classic rock tones to heavy metal.
EQ’ing the Multidrive
The real beauty of the Multidrive is in the equalization capabilities. Each channel (fuzz, overdrive, and distortion) has a normal, low-pass filter, and high-pass filter setting.
Most guitarists will keep the channels in the normal position for live gigs to cover their typical dirt tones, but this “tweakability” would be a dream in the studio. While the low-pass filter was very obvious, and perhaps a bit more tricky to find uses for. One would assume it could be a helpful too for running other instruments through it that are very bright in nature (or perhaps for using with a bright amp). It could also be useful for ambiant, lo-fidelity effects. The high-pass filter would serve as a nice effect to place on a guitar intro that needs to have that “telephone” tone, before the rest of the band comes in. We’re sure there are other creative uses for it (perhaps with a bass, to sound more guitar-like?), so you’ll have to dig into these possibilities yourself.
The final output section has a 3-band EQ section, with high, midrange, and bass controls, as well as an output control. This can be very helpful for shaping the final blended tone of the Multidrive’s multiple channels. The midrange section has a 3-position toggle switch, allowing you to select the center frequency of the mid band of the master EQ. Moving this toggle only produces a noticeable difference when the midrange knob is set anywhere except the noon position, but can have a dramatic effect when turned clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Is this the swiss army knife of dirt pedals? It might very well be. This pedal would be perfect for the studio guitarist, especially when needing to play through various guitars and amps. The multitude of controls will allow you to dial in just the right dirt tone for your particular track. The pedal can certainly be used for more simple applications, if you’re willing to get your feet wet and unlock the the full capabilities of the Multidrive before deciding on your base settings.
*Reminder: We’re giving away a Multidrive in a matter of days. Be sure to visit the Guitar Giveaway page and subscribe to the blog to enter!
This pedal was just released at the time of this writing, and the dark blue qualifies it to be squeezed in here.
The Empress Compressor boasts studio grade control of compression effects that can fill out your guitar sound with transparent sustain, and even get that “country quack” according to EmpressEffects.com.
Two very cool features include a “mix” knob that allows the original (unaffected) guitar signal to be blended with the compression, and a “gain reduction meter” offering a visible representation of how much compression the device is adding to your signal. For fans of the Barber Tone Press, this “mix” knob will be a welcome feature.
Visit the Features & Specifications page for more details.