Ease of Use — 9
This boy's size is most likely as small as MXR Phase 90, so it takes a little room on my pedalboard. It has 4 controls (level, treble, bass, gain) which is a piece of cake to control, and that's why it doesn't come with manuals since you can set it up by your own! It can be powered only by a 9V adapter and cannot use batteries (I think this what makes this pedal considered "boutique") which is not a big deal for such great pedal, since I only use adapters at gigs or home. I give the score 9 just because I think most guitarist out there will use batteries to supply the power of their stompboxes. Other than that, this pedal is very easy to use.
Sound — 8
I play blues rock, hard rock, and sometimes metal and this pedal sounds great for my playing style. You can control the gain to get the crunchy blues rhythm tone, soaring Hendrix-style solos, or even chugging metal sound. It sounds awesome when using neck pickup (I'm using a Fender Strat), set the gain and treble at 12 o'clock, bass at 10 o'clock, put it in front of your wah pedal, and play some Hendrix lead!
The EQs are awesome if you can match the settings with the gain. You can roll the treble down to get the stoner metal style rhythm, put the bass a little bit about 11 o'clock for thick, raw distorted tone, or crank the treble up and get the sweet lead tone. However, just prepare your noise gate when you're cranking the gain up, since this pedal is noisy as hell when the gain goes over 3 o'clock. I give the score 8 since the noise on the hi-gain setting. Other that that, it's awesome.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's made of hard rugged steel, the yellow paint is thick and you can compare it's toughness with boss pedals IMO. I use this boy either at home practicing sessions, cafe gigs, or stage concert and everything goes fine for this pedal, the sound is still as good as when I get it. Another good matter is, I dropped it infinite times, and even my guitar fell down accidentally, smashing it hard, and it has neither dings or cracks on the paint! I guess it can withstand any nightmare you can imagine on a stompbox, which is nice.
Overall Impression — 9
I got this pedal by trading it with 3 cheap stompboxes, and I think it's more than just worth it, because it can handle almost all of my playing style perfectly. I've been playing for about 5 years, and this boutique pedal is versatile, simple-to-use, and durable IMO. I have 2 other fuzz, they are MXR Fuzz Face and EHX Big Muff, and I think this empress fuzz deserves a special place in my pedalboard than the other 2. What makes it special than any other fuzz pedals in the market is the versatility of controlling the EQ to suit your playing style. The only thing I'm not satisfied with is only the hi-gain noise, which I think should be easy to deal with if you got some nice noise gate. Just the noise. Nothing else. Everything else is awesome. If this boy is stolen, I'll get a 4x12 Mesa cab, search for the thief, knock him out with the cab, and of course retrieve my pedal back!