This was submitted for the reviews, but trimmed down to the basics. The following is the review in full for those interested.

Empress Effects ‘Multidrive’ Review by Brian D. Johnston

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of art and defines the standards by which a creation should be judged. What we find beautiful or disturbing (ugly) is highly individual and personal, but certain aspects do hold true among most of the population. But it is ironic that visually we can be as attracted to the beauty of a person’s face, and yet we cannot turn away when repulsed. Perhaps it is the stark contrast between beautiful and ugly (good and evil?) that draws us in either direction. A good example is the mass marketing of beautiful people on television and in magazines, deemed ‘beautiful’ due to ideal symmetry of facial features, e.g., the size of the nose, the placement and shape of the eyes, etc., and how they coordinate as a whole. And then we have Joseph (John) Merrick, the Elephant Man, who suffered from horrendous physical deformities; he worked for a short time as a side-show curiosity and later when in hospital received visits from the wealthy of London society, including Alexandra, The Princess of Wales (pity may have served as part reason for the visits, but certainly the desire to lay eyes upon his strangeness was a governing factor).

Like physical art and human beauty, elements of music are under constant scrutiny of standards. Some songs have lasting capacity because of the chosen notes – the melody is strong and it resonates well within the brain. Other songs attract far fewer listeners, but not always because of a weak melody. The human ear is capable of hearing a wide range of frequencies, and it is the quality of the ‘mix’ and how instruments sound and coordinate as a whole that will garner attention. In fact, a song may not have a lot going for it in terms of composition, but with the right instrumental tones and production value, it will capture our attention for a short while at least.

How instruments sound is an interesting area to explore. The human ear enjoys the tranquility and smoothness (and beauty) of a soprano, flute and cello drifting slowly over the air waves. And yet, it is drawn to the (ugly) characteristics of an electric guitar – fuzz, distortion, and overdrive. Perhaps it is the pure contrast that these aspects have to what we consider ‘velvety’ to the ears, but I believe it has more to do with this: that which is ‘soft’ puts us at ease and relaxes us, whereas that which is ‘intense’ stimulates the senses, and more particularly excitement, adrenaline, and testosterone (is it any wonder that the Alpha Male has a penchant for hard rock and metal music?).

If we consider non-modern music, compare something like Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring to that of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries – serenity versus arousal at its finest! It just so happens that the fuzz/distortion/overdrive propels the arousal factor even more in today’s electrified music. (However, what should be noted is that the resonances and transient effects of the violin, viola, cello and bass have a certain ‘graininess’ to their tones, due to the friction of bow rubbing on strings, and when played with vigour and with several stringed instruments simultaneously, orchestrated music certainly has an element of fuzz or distortion.)

It comes as little surprise that guitarists strive to find that ideal amplifier that allows for some type of gain or drive, in order to ‘break up’ or distort the sound. And with the cost of amplifiers, and the space they consume, it again is of little surprise that the most purchased guitar pedals are associated with fuzz, distortion and overdrive – something to affect the characteristics of an amp. And as we acquire all these pedals, we still need to limit the usable collection for good reasons: 1) there is only so much room on the pedal board/floor; 2) you can have only so many pedals in a chain before the original tonal elements/signal of a guitar is lost and becomes over-processed; and 3) who wants to constantly switch up pedals to achieve different tones, a situation not at all practical for concert musicians.

As a consequence, we try to limit pedal usage and search for those that offer the best tone and the most flexibility to serve our needs. But when trying to combine a pedal that delivers fuzz, then one for distortion, and one for overdrive/gain, we are placed in the same quandary of weakening the true signal/tone of the guitar and, as important, getting these to mix properly. Even when purchased from the same company, I found there to be a clash when mixing distortion with overdrive – usually you use one or the other, but not both. And then, attempting to ‘fuzz’ up the tone can complicate matters even more.

The question may be why we want to blend all three in the first place? There is something to be said about a simple and pure sound, but conversely complexity in tone can be exciting as well! Consider the use of harmonizers, phasers, wah pedals, flangers, etc., and you get the idea. To be able to integrate various quantities of fuzz, distortion and overdrive thickens up the tone and adds dimension.

This concept is similar to the idea of blending amps during studio recording. Miking different speaker cones involves finding the best speakers within a cabinet or multiple cabinets and mixing the characteristics of two different speakers. Tony Platt, music producer and engineer, did this with AC/DC’s Back in Black, miking different speaker cones to achieve wider more open-sounding guitars. Then, when the same chords (but different inversions) are layered from two different guitars, it gives the effect of a very big unison guitar sound. A somewhat different approach was taken by Hugh Padgham when he worked with the Police. He would mike two speakers, one of which produced a straight signal, whereas the other would be chorused with a slightly out-of-tune sound to produce a wider stereo picture. As well, using different mikes on the speakers can give subtle color or tone differences that can create a unique blend.
In effect, the idea behind blending is to focus on the strengths of certain amps and speakers, and then to fill in any weaknesses with other gear. And so, you may be achieving a nice searing mid-tone, but the amp lacks a bit of crunch or bottom end. To fix the problem, you add an amp with those characteristics for a more diverse tonal palette. The problem with this scenario for most musicians is the accumulation of all that big hardware, storing it and hauling it around to gigs, as well as the buying and selling of the gear until you get it right.

It is because any amp can do only so much that we invest in pedals, and more particularly those that give an edgy quality, such as the thickening of fuzz, the grinding crunch of distortion, and sharpness and definition when overdriven. To have all these things work simultaneously is a bit of crap-shoot. I’ve been down that road, even when purchasing pedal units from the same company (thinking each would complement the other), but often there was a clash between the overdrive and distortion – you could use one or the other, but when combined it sounded a bit messy. And then when you add fuzz to some distortions or overdrives, there can be even more mess going on, depending on the quality and characteristics of any of the elements.

A further issue I have experienced with many non-tube driven fuzz, distortion or overdrive pedals is that they have a thin, obvious digital or metallic sound, as opposed to the warmth given off by tube amps. I did like one tube-based distortion in general, but it wasn’t as diverse as the company suggested – the range of tones was somewhat limited and it became noisy when the ‘drive’ was turned up too much. There goes $200. And then I tried a multi-distortion/overdrive pedal by a leading manufacturer, but the tones sounded thin. The overall sound or tone of each selection was passable in one sense, but overall they were weak or artificial in quality, even when working with high-end guitars and tube amps. That pedal now sits in the corner collecting dust, $225 later.

It was recently, in early 2011, that I saw an Internet advertisement for an Empress Multidrive pedal. I think it was all the shiny knobs that first caught my attention, suggesting a lot of diversity in this little grey-sparkle metal box (it only measures 4.5” x 3.5” x 1.5&rdquo. And then I noticed it integrated all three of the favourites – fuzz, distortion, and overdrive. Now, that was interesting because for all three to be under one hood, they must be complimentary, which they are.

The overall sound is the best I have heard coming from a pedal of this type, and having a four-year warranty tells you something about the durability and company standards. Most notable, it sounds natural and flattering to a tube amp, as though it is part of the amp. Selecting a good tone is somewhat complicated, but worth the time experimenting with this all-analog pedal, only because there are so many options at your disposal. Each element (fuzz, distortion and overdrive) has a separate volume knob, so that you can mix a little, a lot or none of any of the three. And besides controlling the mix, you can adjust the gain for each; and so, imagine having the fuzz turned up to the max, but its volume/mix output being low. Or you can put a lot of distortion into the mix, but keep its bite to a minimum. And when you do turn up the volume and gain on all three, for a maximum tonal experience, the notes still ring clear!
The fuzz truly is a classic fuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, giving plenty of sustain, gain and fatness to your tone. You can hear Toni Iommi as you crank it up. The overdrive is very vintage sounding and actually sounds like a tube amp breaking up; very smooth and not at all cheap or digital sounding. The degree of effect from this overdrive is sensitive to guitar dynamics, thus making it sound very natural to the ear. Distortion often can add mess to a mix, but this one does not. Whether using a little or a lot, the notes and sound coming from the amp remain tight, even on the heavy end. Usually playing low notes can sound muddy with too much distortion, but not with this pedal.

The quality of each aspect can be controlled with an optional high or low pass filter, to give a bit more definition or creaminess if desired. The distortion has an added feature of how the element is delivered by way of mild (flat), crunch or lead options. The crunch option thickens up the tone, but maintains a tight low end, whereas the lead setting compresses the signal and offers a nice bite in the high end.

Which of the three aspects are on or off is controlled by a select footswitch, which means, for example, you can have fuzz and overdrive without distortion, and without having to turn the volume down on the distortion. What aspects are on and which are off (visible by way of bright multi-colored LEDs) can be customized via a dip-switch panel inside the unit. This allows you to select two preset combinations:

• only fuzz
• only distortion
• only overdrive
• fuzz + distortion
• fuzz + overdrive
• overdrive + distortion
• fuzz + distortion + overdrive

Another way to think about it is: what do you want applied to rhythm and what do you want for lead? Or if you play only rhythm or only lead, what one or two elements do you want in the mix? Of course, you can have all three switched on simultaneously and mixed according to your specs for a super fat tone.

All the above is further controlled through a master section on the pedal. One area allows you to control the mid-range frequency (since the guitar is a mid-range instrument that produces its best sound between 100Hz and 8kHz, give or take), with a 500Hz, 250Hz, and 2kHz option. This means getting a bit more punch by way of adding ‘body/thickness,’ or by adding ‘clarity/brightness.’ This ties nicely into a second area, the main EQ, which allows further control over the hi, mid and low ends for added tonal shaping.

Many companies claim ‘true bypass,’ but a lot of the times you can hear how your tone is affected in the bypass mode – it’s not quite the same as if you were to remove the pedal from the chain completely. This pedal truly does have a true bypass, as though nothing is there. And when in use, the pedal is super quiet – with all elements turned up full (both volume and gain), the degree of hiss or hum is the lowest I have heard... almost negligible.

For the price you are getting a heck of a pedal, and it’s like having three pedals, but with a few differences: 1) with fuzz/distortion/drive combined it takes up little room on the pedal board and no more space than most pedals with far fewer options and control; 2) most importantly, all three aspects are complimentary – no worries if a fuzz you buy will mix well with the overdrive, or the overdrive with the distortion.

One other point of interest: if you have access to an amp simulator pedal/device (I have the Line6 Pod X3 Live), your tonal possibilities have just increased. Amp simulators come close to emulating amps from Fender, Mesa, Marshall, and many others, but one of the problems is that they sound digital (which they are) and thin, not warm and full like the real deal. What I do is select an amp/speaker combo I like, but turn down the gain/drive completely. I then use my Empress Multidrive for a superior sound, but in combination with my preferred amp characteristics. No need to invest in numerous amps for diverse sounds (or as you get bored with your gear); select the amp head and cabinet you want from the amp simulator, turn down any drive or gain so that it’s clean, then hear the far more natural nuances being delivered through the Multidrive. I can testify there is a big difference in doing this as opposed to using the drive and distortion/fuzz options that come with a digital amp simulator.

So far, so good, but there are few negatives with this pedal (hardly worth mentioning, but review readers always are looking for an Achilles Heel). One, you have to buy an adapter if you prefer powering it up that way, rather than using battery juice (and getting access to the battery requires the unscrewing of the bottom plate). Two, it would be nice if you could save pre-sets, but really that is non sequitur with this pedal. The Empress Multidrive is an analog pedal, and to re-engineer it to save presets means changing its nature to digital. And when you do that you no longer get the great tones that are possible as they currently exists. And so, many consumers may unknowingly be giving up superior sound for a pre-set saving option, or to have a pedal that has numerous pre-sets to ‘emulate’ different types of fuzzes, overdrives and distortions. I’ll make the effort to turn a few knobs to retain the quality of the Multidrive.
I explained it clearly... soft vs. hard music... Bach vs. Wagner... clean vs. distorted and how the ear appreciated both, although one sounds pleasant and the other harsh, one is comforting and the other intense. Maybe read it carefully rather than rushing through and saying 'tl'
Quote by logicbdj
I explained it clearly... soft vs. hard music... Bach vs. Wagner... clean vs. distorted and how the ear appreciated both, although one sounds pleasant and the other harsh, one is comforting and the other intense. Maybe read it carefully rather than rushing through and saying 'tl'

you went over the character limit on a full post and probably got very close to it on the second... its most definitley TL.

A review should catch the attention of the reader and make them want to read it because its short snappy and to the point... but if its a small novel you arent going to get much love
How about you do reviews the way you want to, and I'll do them the way I want to. Or are you hiring me and editing my work in the future? If I wanted to do short and snappy then I would have done so, and if people don't want to read something longer, then why invest the time telling me it's too long? Move onto a different thread.
Call me Dom
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well if lbj pokes his head in here and there's no nuts shit's gonna go doooooooowwwwwwwwwn.

{Pedalboard Thread Native: The Muffin Man}
Actually the level of detail is quite extensive... and while I generally enjoy reading the more comprehensive reviews, your's comes across as droning on and on about your hypothesis of why guitarist buy pedals and what your ideal OD is.

Things that could help make the review more readable include:

1. Headings to indicate the sections,
2. Review your paragraphing so its all one point per paragraph
3. Checking the flow of your review, right now I just can't follow your train of thought because I don't know where you are and where you're going to next.
4. Pictures or clips
5. Focusing on the pedal instead of the background and history. At best, background and history of the pedal should not exceed 10% of the entire review. Right now your background and theories of an ideal overdrive comes to 60% of the review.

I write and read research reports all day for a living, and I have difficulty following your review.

I think you might want to rethink your review. You're not focusing on the matter at hand, which is "the pedal". You're floating a lot of background about yourself rather than the pedal.
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Last edited by ragingkitty at Jun 9, 2011,
the beginning seemed a bit too wanky for my liking so i just stopped reading.

I'm one of those blokes who can write an awesome economics essay because i can get right to the point but a terrible english essay because i can't bring myself to be...well...wanky.

you my good sir have mastered the art of wank.
"It comes as no surprise" begins the actual support of the pedal, when it deals with distortion pedal purchase and then onto blending sounds (which this pedal does). Thus, 60% is not indirectly related to the review. 80% of the review has a direct bearing, whereas the introduction merely sets up the reader for the review or main subject. If you cannot follow it, that I cannot help. Each paragraph leads into the next. It amazes me that people will comment on 'too long' and things like "I can't follow it." Why even bother saying anything at all? I think it's the nature of the Internet; it allows anyone to be heard, and heard they shall be.
I read your review. Read my review of your review and respond constructively.

Consider your audience. This is a review, not a thesis. Economy is quintessential. The vast majority of the people on here haven't received a master's or doctorate from Sarah Lawrence, and those who have are unlikely to be willing to parse someone else's thesis. You're simultaneously expecting any potential reader to both slog through your masturbatory exposition and set aside time while you painstakingly pore over the finer points of a basic argument (your personal experiences with this product compared to other products). The people who have thus responded should be canonized and await sainthood (at least those who have fully read through your opus magnum).

However, you only seem to respond to the most trenchant of critiques. I suggest you lose the purple prose. Is this really an extra-terse truncation of the submitted draft? Then I pity anyone not holding a doctorate degree who has to place a rubric to the unabridged version of this text. Honestly, that's what it is: text. It isn't a review. It isn't something to enthrall readers or elucidate the product. You are Loki with a decimated function.

Are you happy you've squandered the time of both the plebeian and the patrician?

Economize and edit.
I am a fake mountain.
Last edited by DanTheHobbit at Jun 10, 2011,
I'll be blunt and to the point (relatively speaking). I'm 46, and my education background is different from those younger than I (and someone 60 would say the same about me). Education today is nothing like it was 30 years ago, and nothing like it was 100 years ago (I have older clients who had to learn Latin in grade school!). When I was in grade school, it was not uncommon having to write 1000 word essays, and even upward of 5,000 words. That was before high school. Today the younger generation, even in college, has difficulty even reading that much, let alone writing it. When I write, I write just enough for my purposes and relative to my background and skills... it is MY review. I develop these for my purposes and because I enjoy writing, not for the approval of others, many of whom have to short-form everything when they write and are limited to texting on a cellphone. I am certain there is an audience on this board capable of reading my reviews without drifting off to sleep; those who are used to reading several entire books over the course of a year, and not just magazine sidebars. And considering the dimension of your post and the wording/terms you use, look who's calling the kettle black, lol. Post away if you wish, I've had enough of this bantering.
Don't pat yourself on the back. You have two decades on me. Congratulations. My brother is 40. My father is retiring this year. You're turning this personal, which is a ploy commonly used by the youth that you claim as inferior.

What I gather from your response (which is an utter lack thereof) is that you want the academically-minded members of this forum to slather praise upon your insight. That isn't going to happen, and you rallying against indifference won't make your initial effort any less futile.

Honestly, if you're developing these reviews for your purposes, why do you insist on sharing it with others in search of approval? You submitted a review for a product that is needlessly verbose and storied. I'd call you a troll if it weren't so evident that you had something to prove.

But to appease the lurkers, you REALLY need 15 Devi Ever pedals, an OCD, a modded HM-2, and a Klon Centaur.
I am a fake mountain.
so let me get this straight? you post a 2616 word "review" on a pedal on a forum, And dont want ANY feedback whatsoever other than "wow you are amazing"

Quote by logicbdj
How about you do reviews the way you want to, and I'll do them the way I want to. Or are you hiring me and editing my work in the future? If I wanted to do short and snappy then I would have done so, and if people don't want to read something longer, then why invest the time telling me it's too long? Move onto a different thread.

Hey if you want to write an essay on a single pedal thats great, you just need to ask yourself if this is the best medium to share that gargantuan wall of text through?
The problem is not that "education isn't what it used to be." Don't patronize us by saying nobody on this site can read long-form writing. Even the longest thread on here is shorter than any book a high school student will read for class.

The problem is that you claimed to be reviewing a pedal, but a large portion of the "review" was completely useless to someone looking for information on the pedal. It's like stapling a phone book to the front of a novel; the problem isn't that it adds too much extra material, it's that the material provided is useless in this context. Your review contains barely any information on what the pedal sounds like, how it compares to others, what its strengths and weaknesses are, or anything that person could reasonably expect from a review. Your review of the pedal, regardless of length, is useless.

If you want to discuss why people buy certain pedals, that would be another discussion - one that perhaps you can start a thread on. I think you've written a poor review and then ignored critiques of it by insulting the intelligence and education of your readers.
That's the point, age on the Internet has no bearing. That's one of the fundamental foundations of the current dynamics of forums. It is taken that everyone is lowered to the same lowest common denominator.

On UG (or any forum), it doesn't matter whether you are 13, 35 or 53. Whether you hold a PhD or just left secondary school, on the Internet, everyone is at the same level. Hence any content should be easily understood by anyone.

You can write a 1000 word thesis or a 100,000 thesis, but its all a waste of time if no one understands.

In the same vein. I understand your wish to share your thoughts on the abstract nature of music, but GG&A is not the right forum or the right audience. I don't come here for a lecture on the fundamentals of music. I came here to know a few things:

1. What is the Multidrive like?
2. What can I do with it?
3. Is it worth the money?

I don't make it a point to point out problems with reivew. God knows I've got a long review or 2 here. However, if it is hard to follow like the others mention, its no good.

Say in as few words as possible what you want to say.

Just because someone educated 60 years ago can hammer out a 10,000 thesis expounding the different between an overdrive and distortion, doesn't mean he is better than a person who can explain it just as clearly in less than 100.

Old =/= better.
Old = different mindset.

In this context, I'd rather hear the one the person that said things straight to the point, because he wasn't wallowing in the attention his audience was forced to give.

Just a point I think everyone will agree:

"If I can make decision based on a review that has 100 words. Why should I read a 10,000 thesis that tells me the exact same thing?"

Nevertheless, its your review your choice. I'm not trying to say our opinion is right or better, but I think you can see the reception it got.
Quote by Blompcube
it's so cool to hate Gibson, even the federal Department of Justice hates them.

( )( )
( . .) This is Bunny. Copy and paste Bunny into your
C('')('') signature to help him gain world domination.
Last edited by ragingkitty at Jun 10, 2011,
TS, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this thread is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

But seriously. If you want to jerk off this is the wrong part of the internet.
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...and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.

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