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Using the Empress Phaser on synthesizers
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Hjelmevold
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21st July 2013
Old 21st July 2013
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Using the Empress Phaser on synthesizers

Having just listened to an intriguing video of the Empress Phaser, I wonder if anyone here has experience with using this pedal on synthesizers, and can tell me if it sounds good on synths and not just guitars?

I can begin by sharing with you what kind of phaser character that I like on synths, as illustrated by the attatched sawtooth arpeggio. Today, I often use D16's Fazortan to do ITB phasing, and I love how its 2-stage high-feedback mode untangles the overtones while beefing up the fundamental. However, once you switch to a different mode, you get the regular resonant stringsynth/guitar phaser sound that I'm frankly a bit tired of. Setting the feedback to zero takes away the resonant sound, but the waveforms still aren't getting pounded like they were in Fazortan's 2-stage mode. But it can get a bit boring just using Fazortan all the time, so my quest for a tweakable hardware alternative has begun.

My main problem is that most phasers seem nice and sweet, but they don't provide enough "Punch!" in my opinion, since the low-end is usually dampened. The Strymon Mobious sounds about right, but apart from having physical knobs, its phaser has no features that impress me, compared to the Fazortan. That's sad, because I love their Timeline Delay pedal. Do you think I can get the Empress Phaser to have a similar character, in 2-stage mode with high feedback? Keeping the low-end energy intact is absolutely crucial to me.

A less important issue is that the Empress Phaser only outputs one channel, and not stereo. I guess I can either simply accept that, or try running two Empress Phasers in parallel, one Left and the other Right. That will work, but one of the nicer effects of stereo phasers is that they can ensure that Left and Right are always the same amount of degrees out of phase compared to each other. I can achieve this if I run two Empress Phasers in Tap mode and do some well-practiced alternate tapping. But Tap mode is just the tip of the iceberg of what this pedal can do - you can even use CV/Midi to control it. So if anyone has any ideas on how to accomplish a constant L-R phase relationship with two Empress Phasers, I'd be happy to know.
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Hjelmevold
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24th July 2013
Old 24th July 2013
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Today I got an e-mail reply from Dave at Empress Effects, where he basically said the following:

- Tap detection is limited to maximum 3 second intervals, which means that I can't rely on tap mode to keep the left and right channels in sync in situations where I want a slower LFO rate than 0.3Hz.
- For those slow-rate situations, Dave shared an undocumented feature: He recommended that I first set the correct rate in knob mode on both devices, then hit the Tap switch on one of them at the point in time when I wanted that LFO to reset its cycle.

Dave thought that my setup could work well, and I was impressed by the passionate and helpful answer I got from him, even though I'm not yet a customer. If I decide to buy the Empress Phaser, I'll share my findings here.

Meanwhile, I'll spend a little extra time looking for any alternative hardware phasers out there.
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24th July 2013
Old 24th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hjelmevold View Post
Having just listened to an intriguing video of the Empress Phaser, I wonder if anyone here has experience with using this pedal on synthesizers, and can tell me if it sounds good on synths and not just guitars?

I can begin by sharing with you what kind of phaser character that I like on synths, as illustrated by the attatched sawtooth arpeggio. Today, I often use D16's Fazortan to do ITB phasing, and I love how its 2-stage high-feedback mode untangles the overtones while beefing up the fundamental. However, once you switch to a different mode, you get the regular resonant stringsynth/guitar phaser sound that I'm frankly a bit tired of. Setting the feedback to zero takes away the resonant sound, but the waveforms still aren't getting pounded like they were in Fazortan's 2-stage mode. But it can get a bit boring just using Fazortan all the time, so my quest for a tweakable hardware alternative has begun.

My main problem is that most phasers seem nice and sweet, but they don't provide enough "Punch!" in my opinion, since the low-end is usually dampened. The Strymon Mobious sounds about right, but apart from having physical knobs, its phaser has no features that impress me, compared to the Fazortan. That's sad, because I love their Timeline Delay pedal. Do you think I can get the Empress Phaser to have a similar character, in 2-stage mode with high feedback? Keeping the low-end energy intact is absolutely crucial to me.

A less important issue is that the Empress Phaser only outputs one channel, and not stereo. I guess I can either simply accept that, or try running two Empress Phasers in parallel, one Left and the other Right. That will work, but one of the nicer effects of stereo phasers is that they can ensure that Left and Right are always the same amount of degrees out of phase compared to each other. I can achieve this if I run two Empress Phasers in Tap mode and do some well-practiced alternate tapping. But Tap mode is just the tip of the iceberg of what this pedal can do - you can even use CV/Midi to control it. So if anyone has any ideas on how to accomplish a constant L-R phase relationship with two Empress Phasers, I'd be happy to know.
I have only heard one phaser that I ever enjoyed and I only heard it on a guitar - that would be the BOSS PH-2. Deep, aggressive (or gentle, depends on how you tweak it). Can run nice and slow and pretty fast. It was actually so heavy that I often couldn't stand it, if it was sped up too fast. PH-2 remains in the analog realm, and I cannot speak for the PH-3, as I had never heard it. The BOSS PH-2 is very distinct. It's one that I would try to listen to by somebody who owns one.
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25th July 2013
Old 25th July 2013
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Thanks for the input
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26th July 2013
Old 26th July 2013
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It's a cool sounding pedal but not as woosy as I like. I recently got the eventide unit and it sounds really good and very tweakable plus line inputs and no re-amping setup required.
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26th July 2013
Old 26th July 2013
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I'm sorry - which Eventide unit? The ModFactor?
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26th July 2013
Old 26th July 2013
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Yes the moderator, I also have space and timefactor And love them all. The versatility of using them come mix time as well as during guitar tracking is great.
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27th July 2013
Old 27th July 2013
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Thanks, I'll check it out!
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27th July 2013
Old 27th July 2013
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Have you considered linking two Moog Moogerfooger phasers together via CV for parallel processing?
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27th July 2013
Old 27th July 2013
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If you're looking for "Punch", keep looking IMO. I used it for guitar and found it to be sweet sounding but never fat or throaty. Thus I sold it.
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11th August 2013
Old 11th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoundTound View Post
If you're looking for "Punch", keep looking IMO. I used it for guitar and found it to be sweet sounding but never fat or throaty. Thus I sold it.
I feared as much.

So I got to try the Empress Phaser in a guitar shop yesterday, and I was able to record a sample clip based on the same simple saw arpeggio as above. See the attachment below, where I've tried to approximate the same clip as in the first post, even creating a stereo effect by delaying the right channel halfway through the clip.

First impressions: Well-built and user-friendly. I like the creative possibilities you get from the envelope follower and triggering mechanisms. You basically get another filter that you can play with, adding some "quack" to the sound. But therein lies a bit of the problem: It sounds a little too much like a resonant filter with a permanent midrange peak at around 1.5kHz, even with the resonance off. Luckily, I can compensate for the midrange peak with EQ later on, and that helps a bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by asynchro_nous View Post
Have you considered linking two Moog Moogerfooger phasers together via CV for parallel processing?
Yes, but from the examples I've heard of the Moogerfooger phaser, it sounds a little too sweet for me. Very convenient for 1970s Solina-style strings and similar, but not so much for fattening up synths with bass material - they become too tame after processing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattasbob View Post
I recently got the eventide unit and it sounds really good and very tweakable plus line inputs and no re-amping setup required.
I haven't been able to try it yet, but I hope I get the opportunity soon. My initial impressions of it tell me that it doesn't sound like it's a home run, but again that is just based on listening to guitar demos. Also, another board member has said that the ModFactor seems too much tailored for guitars and not for synths, which seems to be the common denominator for all the candidates that I've found so far. I would like something tweakable and fat-sounding that doesn't suffocate synths, but rather gives my patches more space and elasticity. Fazortan has worked pretty well so far, but it doesn't have the same sexiness as tweakable hardware.

I might buy one Empress Phaser later and use it for special applications (perhaps with some inline EQ solution), but probably not two of them like I first imagined. It certainly sounds pleasant and unique, though.
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12th August 2013
Old 12th August 2013
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Oh my god, a 45 minute long review of a guitar pedal? Now that's *thorough*! :D
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12th August 2013
Old 12th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tastyfake View Post
have you tried PhaseMistress?
No, I have not, but I might try it one day. It certainly seems configurable enough to be capable of whatever I desire, but for the moment I'm not looking for any plugins.

It doesn't have to be a stompbox full of sexy knobs and switches, but it needs to be some kind of hardware unit that I can plug in between a synth and a mixer, and one that doesn't just produce sweet midrange phasing. Something that doesn't make the listener go "oh, I hear he's using a phaser right there", and certainly nothing that could be confused with a high-feedback flanger

For all I know, there might be some forgotten 1990's cheap digital FX unit that does exactly the sort of thing I'm after, but that's a bit of a needle in the haystack, as far as I'm concerned.
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12th August 2013
Old 12th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hjelmevold View Post

For all I know, there might be some forgotten 1990's cheap digital FX unit that does exactly the sort of thing I'm after, but that's a bit of a needle in the haystack, as far as I'm concerned.

Not exactly forgotten, but the Ensoniq DP/4 has a really sweet phaser in it, amongst other nice FX.

Obviously, being a fairly complicated rack unit, the user interface is it's weakest point. It's not cryptic or anything, but it's not exactly a knob-per-function type of UI either.
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12th August 2013
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That's not a bad suggestion, Barfunkel. Or maybe even the Ensoniq DP/2? I'll see if I can dig up some more info and/or listening examples.
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13th August 2013
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That was quite an extensive list!

I've now spent some time with listening examples of the pedals on your list. Most of these can be dismissed quickly because they sound too sharp and ringing. At best, the dismissed units sound like a 4-stage phaser without feedback, but not nearly as fat or punchy as the 2-stage Fazortan example in my first post. (Neither does the Empress Phaser, but after trying it out, I kind of like the unique vocal "quack" that it gives off in 3-stage mode)

I'm left with these alternatives from your list:
- Diamond Phase Pedal: Nice sound in 2-stage mode, but the LFO speed doesn't go slower than 0.2Hz.
- Red Witch Deluxe Moon Phaser: Stereo out and a decent sound, but I can't determine if it's able to "tear waveforms apart" and keep the bass energy, judging by guitar examples alone.
- Blackout Effectors Whetstone Analog Phaser: Now we're getting somewhere! The first impression of the sound is appealing, and the pedal has a lot of intriguing features. I only wish that it had some sort of external control options, so it would be easier to sync two of them in stereo.

There are no Norwegian dealers who carry the Blackout Effectors Whetstone, so I doubt that I'll be able to try it out on synths. But it isn't too expensive, so maybe it could be worth the gamble to order one across the Atlantic.

Does anyone here have experience with the Whetstone, preferably on sounds with a wider spectrum than guitars?
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