Often unfairly maligned as ‘the ‘80s effect’ owing to its use on just about every guitar track during that decade, chorus is designed to imitate the shimmer-y sound of a chorus of singers trying to pitch the same note, and judging by the wealth of pedals available today, it's very much back in vogue.
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.
Essentially, chorus splits your guitar signal into a ‘dry’ half and a duplicate ‘wet’ signal, which adds a series of short delays and pitch variations. The wobbled signal is then blended back with the dry signal. 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.
The original choruses, such as Boss’s much-lauded CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, were based around analogue ‘bucket-brigade’ delay chips and are famed for their deep, syrupy tones. Modern digital units offer increased clarity and versatility, including multiple choruses at once, as well as stereo outputs and increased EQ options.
Here, we've rounded up 10 of the best chorus pedals available on the market today - whatever sound you're after, one of them is sure to be the best chorus pedal for you. Don't bore us, get to the chorus...
1. Boss CE-2W Chorus
The best analogue chorus pedal, revived
Launch price: $299/£199 | Controls: Rate, depth, standard/CE-1 mode switch | Sockets: Input, 2x output, power | Bypass: Buffered | Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Ask any wizened effects buff to name the best chorus pedal of all time, and they'll likely cite the first one ever, Boss's iconic 1976 CE-1 Chorus Ensemble unit, or perhaps its later compact-sized incarnation, the CE-2 Chorus. It's a savvy move, then, that Boss has combined these two classic effects for the latest addition to its high-end Waza Craft series, while adding a few new features along the way. A tiny slider switch holds the key to the CE-2W's versatility. On the left is the standard position for smooth CE-2 sounds, but shift it over to the middle and you get the CE-1's definitive swirl, while the right engages its full-on vibrato mode for proper pitch-bending goodness. The sounds are as authentic as can be, too, thanks to an all-analogue circuit, complete with all-important bucket brigade delay chips.
Read the full review: Boss CE-2W Chorus
2. Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone
Kurt Cobain's favourite chorus, reissued for a new generation
Launch price: $91/£65 | Controls: Rate, depth switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply only
Thanks to Kurt Cobain, the Small Clone chorus has long been one of E-HX's most revered stompboxes. The Neo Clone employs the same basic circuitry as the Small Clone, and EHX states that the electronics have also been "massaged and tweaked to improve accuracy and offer superior sonic qualities". Some EHX units have a well-earned reputation as being over-the-top sound generators, but it's possible to obtain more subtle tones. That's certainly the case here - if you set the rate to 10 o'clock with a light depth, any clean tone will reap the benefit. The heavier depth setting is more in Andy Summers and vintage Alex Lifeson territory, with plenty of warm vintage shimmer on tap. It's as close to the original Small Clone as makes no difference and, best of all, should fit snugly onto your existing pedalboard.
Read the full review: Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone
3. DigiTech Nautila
Chorus and flanger in one pedal
Launch price: $149/£129 | Controls: Mix, drift, speed, depth, emphasis, voices, chorus/flange switch | Sockets: 2x input, 2x output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply only
This sea-worthy offering from DigiTech delivers chorus and flange effects via an armada of controls. It offers up to eight chorus and four flange voices at once, as well as a drift knob, which transitions between waveforms. It's a lot to get your head round, but it sounds excellent, packing one of the richest flangers we've heard, as well as a hugely flexible chorus, which you can set to emphasise highs or lows via the appropriate knob. The drift control is most apparent on slow flange sweeps, but can deliver vibrato sounds and almost uni-vibe textures at faster chorus rates.
Read the full review: DigiTech Nautila
4. Ibanez Chorus Mini
The best mini chorus pedal you can buy
Launch price: $99/£65 | Controls: Depth, level, speed | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply only
Where many mini pedals end up going down the pristine Boss CE-2 route, the Chorus Mini takes the denser path of Ibanez's CS9. It's a sweet, syrupy chorus that's very '80s (think Prince, Metallica), but the level control – a new addition for this mini version – affords extra versatility, with near-vibrato wobbles at higher levels and speeds, while you can nab a decent flanger approximation down the other end of the rate knob. All in all, that makes it one of the best mini chorus pedals on the market.
Read the full review: Ibanez Chorus Mini
5. MXR M234 Analog Chorus
Need comprehensive EQ control over your chorus? Look no further
Launch price: $142/£134 | Controls: Low, high, level, rate, depth | Sockets: Input, output, thru, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Somewhere between the minimalist Micro Chorus and the larger format Stereo Chorus, MXR's Analog Chorus combines a pedalboard-friendly compactness with the control provided by five knobs. With true analogue bucket brigade technology onboard, juxtaposition of the rate and depth controls gives a wide range of familiar classy chorus tones. But it's the other three knobs that sweeten the deal, with the two EQ knobs putting the tone in the zone and the level knob adding in as little or as much effect as you want, from a subtle shift in your tone to a full-on ensemble sound.
Read the full review: MXR M234 Analog Chorus
6. TC Electronic Corona Chorus
The most versatile compact chorus pedal on the market
Launch price: $177/£105 | Controls: Speed, depth, FX level, tone, chorus/TonePrint/tri-chorus switch | Sockets: 2x input, 2x output, USB, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
The Corona delivers a standard chorus effect inspired by the vintage TC Stereo Chorus Flanger plus a Tri Chorus, a variation of the regular chorus that uses three stereo choruses with various offsets for both depth, speed, phase and chorus delay time to produce what TC describes as a unique, very broad and lush chorus. The key differentiator from its rivals is the company's TonePrint feature: via a phone app or USB connection, you can import a new sound, a custom 'tuning' of the pedal, and store it in a special onboard memory slot called up by the TonePrint position of the pedal's three-way switch. That makes the Corona seriously versatile and almost endlessly updatable.
Read the full review: TC Electronic Corona Chorus
7. Walrus Audio Julia
A seriously versatile all-analogue chorus/vibrato
Launch price: $199/£192 | Controls: Rate, depth, lag, Dry-Chorus-Vibrato blend, wave shape switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply
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 waveform shape control is intuitive as you like; the main complication is the lag control. The lag controls the centre delay time for the LFO, meaning it can be used to get more unusual sounds. As it's all analogue, the Julia sounds amazing, but it is a tad noisy - that said, it's a small price to pay for great vintage tones.
8. Way Huge Smalls Blue Hippo Analog Chorus
Old-school, no-nonsense analogue chorus tones
Launch price: $214/£129 | Controls: Speed, depth, vibe/chorus switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Simple as can be, this downsized Blue Hippo nevertheless ticks all the required 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 somehow 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 best advised to seek out the gorgeous tones available with the depth maxed and the speed pulled back to about 8-9 o' clock.
9. EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine V2
One of the most versatile chorus pedals on the market
Launch price: $199/£179 | Controls: Animate, dimension, intensity, depth, shape, rate | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply only
The basic architecture of a chorus pedal is a delay line that is modulated by an LFO, and the bottom three knobs here (Depth, Dimension, Animate) relate to the digital delay line at the Sea Machine's heart, while the top three (Shape, Rate, Intensity) concern the actions of the analogue LFO. The juxtapositions available with all six knobs deliver a wide range of effects that could broadly be described as chorus, but go further than many units. More variation is provided by the Shape knob, which changes the wave shape of the LFO between a soft triangle and a square wave for on/off action that's harder-edged. With six knobs to get into position relative to each other, it may take a bit of work to find the sweet spots, but it's worth the extra effort because there are plenty of them to be found, from a slight otherworldly shift in the sound, through lush rotary speaker styles to full-on pitch-wavering warbles.
Read the full review: EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine V2
10. Seymour Duncan Catalina Chorus
A modulation pedal you can control with your picking dynamics
Launch price: $325/£289 | Controls: Delay, mix, depth, rate, tone, threshold, hard/soft switch, expression footswitch | Sockets: Input, 2x output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V power supply
Clearly subscribing to the 'more is more' mindset, 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.