Empress Phaser Review
Verdict and Review Summary
Empress never seems to disappoint unless you want to fuss about a lack of pedal naming creativity. The "Phaser" is an incredibly well-designed and high-functioning analog modulation box with multiple stages, waveforms, and enough flexibility to keep you busy in perpetuity.
The Empress Phaser is a multi-waveform phaser pedal with selectable stages, eight different waveforms (phase algorithms), and a built-in tap tempo in addition to a speed ratio knob. To test this pedal I used a Boss Katana 50 and my PRS CE 24. The demo video I included was actually filmed about three years before I wrote this review, so this is my second go-round with the Empress phaser.
In that video I used a Mesa Rectoverb combo amp, so I didn't do another video with the Katana.
For our Empress Phaser review I tested all eight waveforms and all stages.
- 2 stage phaser
- 4 stage phaser
- 3 stage phaser
If I were to some up this pedal I'd say it's a very rhythmic style of phaser, with some modes echoing peaks and troughs multiple times (ambient trails). I was also able to smooth things out for a really slow, more traditional phaser tone.
You can get really psychedelic with the faster settings, which aren't as musical as the medium speed setting, though still very usable.
Still, I gravitated towards medium speeds and the 4-stage phaser, which sounded great with all eight waveforms.
Read on for my full Empress Phaser review.
Read more from the manufacturer: Empress Effects
To write this review we tested the Empress Phaser with our own equipment to provide a first-hand account. Also note that we use partner links (our orange buttons) to support Guitar Chalk. If you click through and make a purchase, we might receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
Compare to Other Phaser Pedals
In this section we've compared the Empress Phaser to a handful of other phaser pedals in a similar price range. You can look at live pricing and basic specs for each pedal. We have additional pricing resources for the Empress Phaser below.
Walrus Audio Lillian
MXR Phase 90
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Empress Phaser Pricing Section
We have a more comprehensive pricing section here with multiple vendors and price alerts. Note that if the price hasn't changed (since we published this page), the history section will only have one bullet point.
Prices updated March, 2023.
Pricing from Multiple Vendors
Price Alert Tool (excludes Amazon)
Price History (excludes Amazon)
Price History for Empress Effects Phaser Guitar Effects Pedal
|Current Price||$299.00||March 26, 2023|
|Highest Price||$299.00||December 24, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$299.00||December 24, 2022|
Last price changes
|$299.00||December 24, 2022|
IDEAL FOR: Clean tones, recording, modulation fanatics, layering, modern styles, and rhythmic styles.
Empress Phaser Overall Tone Quality
The Empress Phaser has a lot of flexibility, but the most distinct aspect of its tone is the pulse-like phaser settings, with pronounced peaks and troughs. You can smooth these out, but it definitely has a rhythmic quality, almost like a delay or echo pedal.
Waveform 7 (labels are on the front of the pedal) is the rhythm mode that most exemplifies this aspect of the pedal.
To produce these modes, Empress combines an analog circuit with digital control.
So the tone is fantastic, even before you get to the thorough control scheme (more on that below).
Slower phase patterns, more traditional phaser sounds, showcase the analog circuit really well. It's a full and lush layer of modulation that thickens up your clean tone and sounds good with a little more low-end in your EQ.
Here's a demo that I did about three years before publishing this review.
Exact same pedal.
Heavier Phase Troughs
As the speed of your sweeps increase, you get that more pulsating sound, which can be tempered by the mix control.
These are unique tones and definitely more expansive than something like the MXR Phase 90.
We've gotten similar tones from the Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter.
Though I'd argue the tone in the Empress is better.
Read the full review: Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter
Waveform 8 is another rhythmic pattern. It has an echo that you can control with the tap tempo or make adjustments with the speed/ratio knob.
Here are the ratios you can select:
Trails still sound pretty thick and if you turn up the blend knob to be only the effect, you can hear a lot more of an ethereal, almost ambient-sounding trail. Overall, the combining of rhythmic patterns with modulation produces a lot of unique and addictive sounds.
The Empress Phaser is one of the few phaser pedals we've seen with a timing ratio selector and a tap tempo.
You won't find many bad sounds.
Control and Flexibility
Here is a basic run down of the controls on the Empress Phaser:
- Select tap button or knob tempo control
- Adjust wet/dry mix
- Select phase speed
- Select number of stages (2, 4, or 3)
- Select resonance levels
- Select expression pedal functionality
- Select waveforms
- Set speed/ratio
- Set width of phase sweep
When you add all this up it's a lot of flexibility, especially considering a lot of phaser pedals stop with a speed and depth control. Speed and depth is considered your standard modulation dials, but the Empress Phaser goes way beyond that.
Most of the variance comes from the eight waveforms and stage selection.
From there you can tweak resonance and width.
Once you have the layer you're looking for, adjust "Blend" to mix your dry and wet signal.
Between stage selection and wave forms, you have 24 different sounds from those two controls alone. For those wanting to walk through it, you'll spend a ton of time getting through all the settings.
As far as control goes, the Empress Phaser is one of the best we've seen.
It's definitely for someone who uses a lot of modulation and a lot of clean tones.
There's plenty of genre flexibility for most modulation pedals, even without advanced controls. With the Phaser's lot of dials, it can fit pretty well in most genres of music without limiting you.
Modern Voice and New Age Rock/Metal
It's also a modern-voiced modulation, as opposed to something like the MXR Phase 90 which is designed as a very vintage pedal.
The other-worldly phaser sounds and ethereal swirling you get with the Empress Phaser is more of a modern sound that fits better in new age metal. It's less of a classic rock sound.
Lots of clean tones
Clean tones are another important part of the Empress Phaser's context.
Modulation effects are often more effective when layering over clean tones.
They don't tend to mix well with distortion.
The morale of the story:
If you play a style where you use a lot of clean tones and low gain, the Empress Phaser will be a better fit.
Price and Value
The Empress Phaser is smaller than a lot of pedals that have a similar level of functionality. This might cut some expense from manufacturing costs, but I don't know that for sure.
To be honest, I'm just surprised this pedal doesn't cost more.
For example, the Empress Reverb and Echosystem both retail around $450, while the Phaser is only $300. Check the price tables above for up to date retail, but at the time of publishing this review, 450/300 were the numbers.
Read the full review: Empress Echosystem
Now, the Echosystem and Reverb do provide a lot more algorithms. They also add preset storage and recall options, which is accounting for most of the price difference.
For what it's worth, the Empress Phaser is the same price as the Empress Heavy distortion.
- Empress Phaser: $300
- Empress Heavy: $300
- Empress Reverb: $450
- Empress Echosystem: $450
- Empress Bass Compressor: $250
- Empress Guitar Compressor: $250
These represent some predictable pricing tiers, but the nice thing about the Heavy and Phaser is that they make a strong case for being on the same level as the Reverb and Echosystem.
We don't mind the price of the Phaser at all, even though $300 is a lot to spend on one pedal.
Empress doesn't ever compromise their high quality standard. As phaser pedals go, this is one of the best we've tested, scoring one of the highest ratings on our site. Anything in the 90-100 range is considered an editor's choice, so I'm happy to recommend it at the current price.
Even if it were higher, I'd feel the same way.
If you have questions about our Empress Phaser review or our review process, feel free to reach out via the comments section below.
I'll do what I can to help.
Written by Bobby Kittleberger on Pedals & Roundups
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