After being, ahem, a little bit overused in the 1980s, chorus fell out of fashion.
Outside of a few prolific users like Kurt Cobain, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Billy Howerdel, it was relegated to the status of niche effect. Now, however, it’s very much back. Created by a delay line that pulls part of the signal out of tune, chorus can go from subtle thickening of a tone to a glassy, sharp roar - think the solo in Smells Like Teen Spirit.
By increasing the mix of the effect toward fully wet, a chorus typically crosses the line into vibrato, with an even more pronounced detuned pitch effect. We’ve collected together a few of the best boutique boxes, so let’s get stuck in...
Way Huge Smalls Blue Hippo
It may be simple but the Blue Hippo still ticks all the boxes.
Extreme settings give all the rotary nonsense you could hope for, perfect for that B-side solo you were thinking of. More subtle settings, however, with the speed pulled right back and the depth backed off to around 1 o’clock reveal a lush chorus full of detail.
Switch it into vibrato mode and the effect is more subtle - the opposite of what you’d normally expect. Nevertheless, maxing the controls will result in chaos, though you’d be advised to seek out the gorgeous tones available with the depth maxed and the speed pulled back to about 8-9 o’clock.
4 out of 5
Walrus Audio Julia
Although the front panel of the Julia suggests a complicated pedal, it’s relatively simple.
The mix knob allows you to travel from chorus to vibrato territory, and the wave-form shape control is intuitive; the main complication is the lag control. This controls the centre delay time for the LFO, meaning it can be used to get more unusual sounds.
The classic, spacey chorus for the Würm passage from Yes’s Starship Trooper is easily found, with max depth, a slow rate and the lag set at 2 o’clock. As it’s all analogue, the Julia sounds amazing, a tad noisy - but it’s a small price to pay for great vintage tones.
5 out of 5
MXR EVH 5150 Chorus
The streamlined MXR chorus is a brilliantly intuitive little box, and when run in stereo sounds fantastic.
There’s not a huge amount to the controls, with the intensity pot dealing with the chorus rate, and the volume and tone allowing for tweaking of the guitar signal. For vintage-style tones, pull the tone control back, and vice versa for modern.
The only complexity of the pedal is that there’s a switchable range of input and output levels, which leaves you reaching for the manual. As a vintage-style analogue effect it’s noisy, to the extent that without a noise gate, we’d be concerned recording with it.
3.5 out of 5
Seymour Duncan Catalina
The Catalina has more options than you can shake a stick at.
It markets itself as a dynamic chorus, meaning that when engaged, chorus mix is dependent on picking dynamics. Rest assured, however, that the core chorus sounds are present and correct, and that should you ignore that somewhat gimmicky feature altogether, you’ll still be in possession of a brilliant chorus pedal.
The delay control on the front panel allows you to dip into more of a vibrato-type sound, and is usable even in more subtle applications, with a slow, deep chorus still tolerating the control past 1 o’clock before becoming warbly.
5 out of 5