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The perfect tremolo stompbox is an elusive beast. Analog tremolo pedals sound great, but lack features. Digital tremolo pedals have plenty of features, but sound like crap. Can a space-rocker get a trem that has the best of both worlds?
Ask, and Empress Effects shall provide. The Empress Tremolo is about as multi-dimensional as stompboxes get. By combining an analog audio signal path with digital controls, this pedal delivers retro tone with some impressive features.
Whether you’re getting your tremolo from your amp or a pedal, setting the rate just right can be a hassle. The Empress Tremolo is one of the few trem pedals with tap tempo, so you can set your modulation rate in time with your drummer. There’s even a two-speed feature that allows you to set two different tempos and switch between them Leslie-style.
The rhythm knob adds even more range to the tap tempo. With this feature, you can switch between eight different tremolo rhythms. This is especially helpful for playing in different time signatures – there’s even a 5/4 setting!
To go along with the rhythm knob, you also have gain and rate knobs. The gain knob is helpful as the pedal seems to cut volume a bit, and the rate knob has a couple of uses. In normal mode, it controls the speed of your tremolo, and in tap tempo mode, it changes the ratio of taps to pulses (1:1 up to 1:4).
Tone & Sound
The Empress Tremolo has plenty of tonal options, as well. You can switch between triangle, square or “tube” waves. The triangle wave is nice and smooth, the square wave has more of a bite to it, and the tube setting emulates the vintage goodness of tube amp tremolo.
These options are great, but if I have a complaint with this pedal, it’s the sound quality. The triangle and square waves are crisp and clear, but they tend to have a slightly cold, digital quality. The tube setting, while plenty warm, doesn’t come close to the classic Vox or Fender tremolo that it seeks to imitate.
[rating:5] – Build Quality: 5
[rating:4] – Sound Quality: 4
[rating:5] – Features: 5
[rating: 4.5] – Ease of Use: 4.5
[rating:overall] Overall 4.62
Finding the right tremolo is a frustrating endeavor, but the Empress Tremolo comes closer than any pedal I’ve tried. The breadth of features is enough to make any effects guru’s mouth water, and the rhythm knob guarantees hours of fun. If its tone is slightly lacking, that’s only because I expect perfection from a $250 pedal. Nitpicking aside, the Empress Tremolo comes pretty close.