Round 1 – Ratio 2:1
First off, I wanted to take the Empress Compressor through my usual comp test, feeding it with a groove that develops from palm muted playing style over fingerstyle to slapping. These playing styles have very different dynamic profiles by nature and they could easily co-exist within the same song where you might find it beneficial to have a pedal smoothening out the dynamics on the go.
I decided to make the RATIO setting the key point, but it could just as well have been the setting of the INPUT knob. Well, I had to choose something…
In this round, let’s listen to the 2:1 RATIO setting, which is the most subtle RATIO on this pedal. But first, give the DRY version a quick listen so we know what baseline (and bass line) the rest of the sound clips build on.
Now, we’re ready to kick in some compression. As already mentioned, the RATIO is set to 2:1. The ATTACK and RELEASE knobs will be set right at the center and the MIX will be 100% wet (so we hear only the compressed signal) throughout the first three rounds.
The INPUT knob determines how hard you drive – or push – the compressor and the ‘profile’ tends to change drastically as you turn this knob. First, let’s hear what it sounds like at 25%.
This is just about as subtle as the Empress Compressor can get. The dynamic jumps in bar 5 and 8 are reduced a tiny bit, but they are still very obvious. The fundamental tone, however, has changed significantly. I guess you could say that this is the ‘tone’ of the Empress Compressor. And I like that tone quite a lot.
Now, let’s increase the INPUT knob to 50% and counter-adjust the OUTPUT to keep the perceived loudness relatively similar. Sounds like this.
Now, the dynamics begin to be evened out, and as an obvious consequence you also get a slightly more squashed tone. This is not something to worry about, though, as I still find the tone natural, pleasant-sounding and very usuable a this setting.
Next, let’s crank the INPUT up a notch to 75%.
Now, we just entered the squashy territory. Right from the first – muted – note you get a pretty hard-squeezed tone, and the sense of squeeing increases as the signal gets hotter towards the end. To me ears, this setting is a little over the top, but just to stay with the concept of these sound clips, let’s hear the last one with the INPUT cranked all the way up to 100%.
Squashing is not even enough to decribe the level of brutal dynamic s control, we’re experiecing here. Set like this, it would have to be to create a very obvious effect in combination with other effects. Or, as we’ll hear in later rounds, the MIX knob all of a sudden makes these more extreme settings usuable again.
Let’s move on to the second round, listening to the same basic bass line and concept, but with the RATIO at the 4:1 medium setting.