Empress EchoSystem Review
Verdict and Review Summary
With meaningful variations to all of the selectable modes, the Echosystem provides 42 total algorithms before you get to any of the control options. It's one of the few delay pedals I've tested that rivals - perhaps even beats - the Strymon TimeLine. For variety and advanced use, the Echosystem is easily one of our top picks.
I got introduced to Empress Effects with their dual channel distortion pedal, which is just called Heavy. You can checkout that demo if you're interested.
Full demo: Empress Heavy
Now, roughly three years later, I finally get my hands on the Echosystem which is Empress's flagship delay pedal and one of the most thorough large-form digital delays I've ever tested. As mentioned in the above summary, there are 42 total algorithms which are grouped with multiple variations of each mode.
These permutations are meaningful and provide substantive variety between each sound.
After getting to spend some time dissecting all those sounds, this is my full Empress Echosystem review.
For questions, hit me up in the comments section below.
This review was conducted after testing the Empress Echosystem in-house. It was not outsourced and not written without hands-on experience. Note that we partner with retailers we trust like Sweetwater to give you a convenient way of buying gear, should you choose to do so. If you click through our links (orange buttons) and make a purchase, we might receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your continued support.
Compare to Other Delay Pedals
We mentioned the Strymon TimeLine, but here are a few other delay pedals we think are good comparisons to the Echosystem. Use the COMPARE buttons to see pricing and basic specs. You can also visit each pedal's product page from that table.
Line 6 DL4 MKII
Walrus Audio Mako D1
For most of our product reviews we take our own photos, in-house. Thank goodness for portrait mode. For those interested in using these photos, that is completely fine with us as long as you give us credit and don't claim the work as your own. Simply linking to guitarchalk.com near the photo is totally fine.
Empress Echosystem Price Guide
This price guide gives you a table for price comparison along with a couple price tracking tools. The Echosystem is, strangely, a bit hard to find. Sweetwater carries Empress pedals but the only other place we could find it was eBay.
Pricing from Multiple Vendors (updates automatically)
Price Alert Tool (lowest price among listed retailers)
Set a price to receive an email if and when the Echosystem reaches that price. Though keep in mind that the price of Empress pedals hasn't changed in years, so if you're buying new you aren't likely to see a precipitous drop.
Price History (lowest price among listed retailers)
The graph below follows the lowest price out of both Sweetwater and eBay. If you see one bullet point below, the price simply has not changed since this graph was posted.
Price History for Empress Echosystem Dual Engine Delay Pedal
|February 20, 2024
|February 16, 2023
|January 5, 2023
Last price changes
|February 16, 2023
|January 12, 2023
|January 5, 2023
|November 2, 2022
IDEAL FOR: Styles with a lot of clean tones, recording, ambient overlays, effects layering, Christian contemporary musical styles, coupling with tube amps, and delay experimentation.
Empress Echosystem Tone Quality
There's so much variety in the Echosystem that it's hard to narrow in on specific tone qualities, though the overall tone quality is easy to grade. It's absolute fantastic.
Particularly on the tape and analog modes, the echoes sound really full and rhythmic. There's also some tonal distance between the digital, tape, and analog modes, whereas we've seen some delay pedals lack a distinction between those three algorithms.
A lot of the modes produce a little bit of breakup in the echoes, which I liked for palm muting.
There's good balance between dry and wet signal with the mix knob at 12 o'clock.
I didn't find myself wanting to move it much.
Each core delay sound has multiple variations to cycle through with a total of 42 sounds to explore. It takes a significant amount of time to get through even just one of those variations, with the wide range of control and the timing division selector.
As I've alluded to, the variety isn't just for a flashy specs sheets, but actually provides a lot of distinction between each sound, and it's hard to say exactly what that distinction is for each core mode. The core modes sound different from each other while the variations within those modes sound different as well.
It provides the most variety of any delay pedal we've ever tested.
Other pedals that come close would be the Strymon TimeLine and the Line 6 DL4 MKII.
The trails can be more ethereal or more defined, depending on the mode you're working with. Overall I found them to be punctuated with a staccato sound in each repeat, so there's less of an ambiguous trail unless you intentionally dial it in. Out of the box this pedal or more rhythm-heavy.
Again, this all depends on which mode you select and how you have everything set, but I think it's accurate to say that the trails lean to the rhythm side.
More on rhythm
Timing can easily be set with the tap tempo button, though I found myself using the time division knob, which is extremely detailed. There are also more rhythmic variations for most of the algorithms.
I was able to get good rhythm patterns from single note picking, palm muted notes, and even open chords.
On the demo (embedded earlier in this review) you can also hear some strumming with muted pick scrapes.
Open string picking rhythms sound nice and full and echoes follow the dry tone pretty faithfully, even with the mix set at a wetter level.
Control and Versatility
I want to mention that I did not fool with the dual engines or the multiple output options, in favor of a far more basic algorithm demo and control testing. By control, I'm referring to the knobs on the front panel.
Here's what I had to work with:
- Delay time/ratio/divisions
- Thing 1
- Thing 2
Thing 1 and Thing 2 change depending on the mode you've selected. In some cases it sounded like these didn't do much of anything, though it's possible I just needed to read the manual more carefully.
All of the other functions were pretty straightforward and easy to use. The timing division knob turns like a volume knob (no clicking into place) and gradually eases from one division to another. That's the control I fooled with the most.
Tone and feedback knobs control the wet signal which is helpful if you want to get more distinction between what your amp is producing and what the effect sounds like.
I really liked how the timing division knob was labeled with sheet music markers. If you know those divisions, it's easy to dial in the ratio you want. Outside of that number there's no specific speed or rate control.
Aside from tones and controls, there are a handful of notable features that add value to the Echosystem, though you may or may not use them all. Let's start by listing the big ones:
- 35 onboard presets
- Option to stack two delays together in parallel
- L/R stereo connection
- True or buffered bypass (switchable according to preference)
- MIDI via control port
- 3 cab sims
I prefer buffered bypass switching so that option was helpful to me. The others were mostly utility, like the presets, and MIDI control. The parallel feature might be interesting to some, but that just wasn't something that mattered much to me. In my view the Echosystem is pretty good with or without it.
Price and Value of the Echosystem and the Ideal Buyer
Given what the Empress Echosystem can do, the asking price is pretty reasonable. It's always hard to pull the trigger on a pedal that eclipses $400, but if you're prioritizing delay in your rig than the Echosystem will be worth it.
Keep in mind, it's definitely a tinkering pedal and not a set and forget type of thing. If you think you'll explore and use the modes, it'll be a good fit.
For simpler ambience or just basic delay functionality, there are plenty of cheaper options we'd recommend.
The MXR Carbon Copy or the Boss DM-2w Waza craft would be good fits.
Read more: Best delay pedals overall
I should also add that the Echosystem will be most useful where there are a lot of clean tones to decorate. It's great for layering and creating more interesting clean melodies or picking patterns.
Empress Effects is all about functionality and comprehensive solutions.
If you buy a pedal like the Echosystem, you won't need anything else delay-related for a long time. This is the same story we see with the Empress Heavy and Empress Phaser. Pedals that provide all that functionality give you a lot of value, even if they are priced higher than a lot of other delay pedals.
If you have questions about our Empress Echosystem review or even our review process, please let me know in the comments section below.
I'm happy to help out as much as I can.