Most bass players are used to simple bass, mid and treble tone controls from their amps. Some have pedals with a semi-parametric design. The ParaEq has an almost fullly parametric design. Controlfreak’s delight…
So, what’s so special about a fully parametric EQ design? Well, while it is slightly more complex it offers much more detailed control over your tone. For example, a standard ‘bass’ knob on an amp will typically cut or boost at a certain fixed frequency such as 40 Hz, 80 Hz, 100 Hz, etc. But it will also typically cut or boost with a fixed ‘Q’. Now, the ‘Q’ defines how wide or narrow the EQ cuts or boosts – or how much the frequencies around the center point also gets affected.
As a rule of thumb, a wide Q is ideal for boosting, while a narrow Q can be useful when you want to cut out a certain frequency that for instance makes your sound overly boomy or boxy.
The Empress ParaEq is fully semi-parametric as you have control over the exact frequency center point you want to boost or cut. It is ‘almost’ fully parametric in the sense that you get a 3-way toggle switch for each of the three EQ bands (LO, MID, HI) offering a choice between a very narrow Q, a medium Q and a wide Q. A truly parametric EQ would have this control on a separate rotating knob, letting you adjust the Q ‘fluently’ so to speak.
The Empress ParaEq gives you 7 knobs. 6 of them are paired to control: LOW GAIN / LF (Low Frequency)
MID GAIN / MF (Mid Frequency)
HI GAIN / HF (High Frequency)
The 7th knob is a clean BOOST that offers a staggering 30 dB of extra goodness.
On the top row, you will find 4 3-way toggle switches. As ecplained in the above section, three of these are coupled with the respective EQ bands and offers three different Q settings. The 4th toggle-switch is an INPUT PAD with 0, -12 and -6 settings. For a passive bass, the 0 setting will do just fine, but if you have an active bass with a very hot output, this pad comes in very handy.
Finally, there are 2 footswitches. The right one, BYPASS, punches the pedal in and out, while the one on the left switches the BOOST circuit on and off. Each of the footswitches have an LED – yellow for the BYPASS and blue for the BOOST.
The sound clip section is divided into 7 parts. The first 3 will go through each of the EQ bands one by one, using a fingerstyle clip played on a passive Fender Jazz bass from 1972.
The 4th round demos various flavors of a ‘scooped’ sound on a slap clip. Round 5 is all about the classic ‘Jaco’ tone, isolating the bridge pickup and rolling off the treble on a Jazz bass, and round 6 is just one clip where the clean boost is punched in halfway through.
Finally, this pedal will work with both 9V and 18V power supplies, so round 7 is a quick, direct A/B test.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
It almost goes without saying that this pedal is extremely versatile. With this amount of control, you can tailor almost any tone you could think of – and most often do so rather quickly and with a great result. And add to that the clean BOOST circuit with a dedicated footswitch.
There are some semi-parametric amps and pedals out there, and in most situations, this will solve most tonal sculpting you’d need. However, I must admit that I really loved having the Q switch, and being able to cut certain problematic frequencies in a much more accurate and surgical way is a huge plus. But also the other way around. It was surprisingly useful to create a narrow, focused boost in the very low end (35 Hz), which added a totally different flavor of thickness than what you can do with a wide Q.
The drawback of such versatility and detailed control is of course the level of complexity that follows. However, once you get the concept, it is really not that difficult and the advantages you get easily outweights the potential confusion that may occur when you want to make a little tweak on the fly mid-song.
The quality seems very high, and I had zero issues with crackling knobs while dialing in tones or sloppy jack connectors. Everything about this pedal simply oozes quality.
The design is well laid out and despite the many knobs and toggle-switches all of them are pretty easily accessible. The power supply input is located on the same side as one of the jack connectors, though, and it does conflict a little if you use an angled jack. But not as badly as on a lot of other pedals where the connectors are sitting very closely together.
If there is but one design issue, it would be that there is no universal volume control that allows you to counter adjust in order to match the overall level to the bypassed signal. Sure, the boost knob can do this, but only if you mostly cut the EQ bands, decreasing the overall output. However, often you boost more than you cut and in that case punching in this pedal is likely to increase your overall level. If you use it as a static tone-sculpting tool that is always on, this is obviously no problem, but if you use it for adding, say, a mid boost or scoop in only a part of a song, there is a chance that the overall level will change. As mentioned, the boost circuit can counter adjust, but only in ‘one direction’, and it would almost be a shame to use this brilliant circuit for this purpose when you in fact get a very clean and great-sounding 30 dB boost with a dedicated footswitch.
Having said that, I found this pedal near-perfect for fundamental tone sculpting, which means that it would actually be ‘always-on’ in which case the single drawback has been virtually eliminated.
Today (2015), a new ParaEq is available for $249, which I think is a very fair price for a pedal with this feature set and high quality. Is it a bargain? Maybe not, but it’s pretty close. It depends on how badly you need such a surgical tool, but if you do, this one should be at the top of your wishlist and in that case, Value for Money would be very high indeed.
There can be little doubt that this pedal has earned a permanent spot on my current pedal board (September 2015 edition). While traffic is often dense on that board I foresee that this pedal will hang around for quite a long time…
High build quality
Good value for money
Dedicated boost circuit
9V and 18V compatible
No universal cut/boost volume control