Following on from Chase Bliss Audio’s recent Thermae announcement via Knobs, we now have the Knobs promo for the amazing looking new pedal from Canada’s Empress Effects. I already hold them in very high esteem and have 3 of their pedals as permanent fixtures of my pedal-chain. The Multidrive, Heavy and EchoSystem. In fact I awarded the EchoSystem Delay my pedal of the year last year.
With Zoia though, Empress are onto a whole different sort of thing - allowing you to combine effects in sequence and parallel in any order - using a sort of Ableton Live Push -style interface with LED-lit soft-touch semi-transparent buttons. The main control consists of 5 banks of 8 buttons, with 4 further control buttons along with a scroll wheel / selector - and a first for Empress - an actual digital display window.
The footswitch layout looks very familiar to Empress users, and I would imagine the preset scrolling and selection works very similarly to the Reverb and EchoSystem pedals. I’ve still to get fully to grips with the vast scope of what this offers. It’s a whole new category of pedal, and a little more towards the digital side of things than Empress typically stray into. It’s kind of more in a similar category to the Hologram Electronics Sample Synthesizer pedals to a degree.
The demo mentions oscillation and LFO sequencing, modulated reverb, envelope filter modulation, looping, phasing etc. The legend reads that the Zoia contains all of Empress’s proven algorithms and is akin to an entire pedalboard in one pedal.
It is for sure the neatest of medium-sized pedals to date, without knowing too much about it at the moment, it looks to me like a cross between an Eventide H9 and an Ableton Live Push / MPC -style interface. It’s a whole different sort of Line 6 Helix type of device - and it will be fascinating to see more practical demonstrations next and the full NAMM reveal.
I would expect this unit to be fairly pricey (£600+?), and I imagine there is quite a lot of fine-tuning still to be done - so a release towards the latter part of the year most likely - but we will hopefully find out more at NAMM!