When is a reverb pedal not just a reverb pedal? When it’s the new Reverb by Empress Effects. I say this not to be confusing, but because Empress’s pedal has the potential to grow and change in interesting ways. Although the current model features nearly all of the reverb variations a person might need, and although it sounds excellent as it is, the pedal has an even brighter future because Empress intends to introduce more reverb algorithms which can be uploaded to the unit. All hail Empress!
The Reverb has an almost overwhelming variety of options, but they are nested within 12 labeled modes. Each mode contains up to three sub-modes which are variations on a theme. For example, the Spring mode features three different spring reverb sounds. One is bright, one is dark, and one is overdriven. Each of these sub-modes is meant to emulate (respectively) a Fender Twin Reverb, a Fender Deluxe, and that famous, hard-driving ‘60s surf tone. And each mode provided a slightly different tone. It was clear that subtlety mattered to Empress’s engineers, because these details pushed the pedal into a higher echelon of quality.
The Reverb performed admirably in the Spring reverb mode. I mention this because I tend to be a bit critical of spring reverb emulations. What can I say other than that it’s my favorite form of reverb? I really liked the Overdriven Spring sound, which I thought was perfect for those Link Wray-style numbers. The characteristic “pluckiness,” the slight compression—it was all there. I half expected to hear the springs bounce around when I knocked on the Reverb’s housing. This thing could probably fool Dick Dale himself.
The Reverb features an interesting set of controls which allows the user to adjust the tone in sometimes surprising ways. Figuring out just what parameters each knob controlled proved to be an adventure because, depending on the pedal’s current reverb mode, the control knobs (Things 1 and 2) will alter different settings. In other words, Things 1 and 2 aren’t necessarily going to control the same settings in each reverb mode.
Some modes, such as Sparkle and Modulation, assigned to Things 1 and 2 modulation controls. The scariest mode—the one perfect for a Halloween soundtrack—assigns to Thing 2 the resonance, which Empress describes as “spookiness.” It’s about as good of a name as any, because when the spookiness level is boosted, and a chord is strummed, an ethereal whisper trails the main signal. It sounds as if a spirit is trying to make contact in a truly horrifying manner.
Because the Reverb allows for a 100 percent wet mix, and because the Decay can be temporarily set to infinite, the pedal proved to be perfect for lots of ambient swells and atmospheric work. Adding to the excellent-sounding algorithms is the fact that the pedal supports both stereo in and out (two quarter-inch TRS jacks for the left and right channel for both in and out), and the Empress’s pedal would make for an excellent all-around reverb unit in the studio.
Although some people might find the Empress Reverb’s price a bit steep, they should also consider that the pedal is really an investment. Empress intends to release new algorithms in the future. Moreover, the pedal provides an astonishing depth of control, since not only are most of its modes controllable with an external footswitch, but the pedal also accepts MIDI via the Empress Midibox. The Empress Reverb is truly a pedal for the serious tone hound, and one which ought to please anyone.
What We Like:
An overwhelming number of reverb options; deep parameter control via an expression pedal and even via MIDI; future reverb algorithms can be added via SIM card.