If you want a bit of a fuller, richer sound for your guitar then a chorus pedal could well be what you need. In its crudest terms it simulates the sound of more than one guitar playing at once.
What is a chorus pedal and how does it work?
The principle is very simple. The guitar signal is split in two, one of these is then delayed before they are both combined again. What really adds the sparkle is the delayed signal is also subjected to pitch modulation using low frequency oscillator (LFO) causing a vibrato effect.
So, what does it sound like?
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In its most basic form a chorus pedal will feature both a Depth and Rate control. Depth controls the intensity of the modulation with the Rate altering the amount of delay. Setting either of these two too high will result in an unnatural and over-the-top sound.
Some pedals may include extra controls such as effect level and tone adjustment.
Chorus Pedal Buying Guide
Durability - like any pedal you want them to be able to stand up to a certain amount of abuse if you are taking them out on the road with you.
All the pedals we mention below should serve you well.
Should you go for Digital or Analog?
The main difference is the technology used to process the sound. In the good old days everything was analog. Your guitar outputs analog sound and an analog pedal can act directly on that outputted signal keeping the soundwaves smooth and continuous. Digitally produced sound takes your guitar’s analog soundwave, samples it, does its magic then converts the sound back to analog. It’s this conversion into a sequence of discrete values that can change the original sound.
It’s obviously subjective to the listener but as a general rule analog sounds warmer with digital coming across a bit brighter and thinner sounding.
Stereo vs Mono
If you are just playing live with one amp then obviously stereo isn’t going to be on the must have list for you. However, when used for recording (or more complex live setups running two amps in stereo) a stereo chorus can sound really nice and add something to the overall sound especially with the effect panning across the speakers.
Below is our list of some of the best chorus pedals on the market today:
Note: There's a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
Boss CH-1 Stereo Super Chorus
Reliability and durability you’d expect from a Boss pedal - it’s built like a tank. It’s got a long history too and has been around since 1989. The older versions were analog but since 2001 the pedal was updated to digital. Although some purists will prefer the analog version this pedal still produces those classic tones albeit a bit brighter. It performs equally well with or without distortion.
Can be used as a mono chorus using just one output (A) and the pedal excels when using the stereo effect. Just connect up to dual amps or use when recording for some great sounds.
The CH-1 makes particular use of high-frequencies (bright sounding) and as such some guitarists will prefer this pedal for solo playing rather than chord use. If you like the Boss sound one of the CE pedals would be perfect for chord work. Some guitarists will use both the CH-1 and a CE-5 on their board.
MXR M234 Analog Chorus Pedal
A brilliant analog, retro sounding, pedal. If you want vintage sounding then the MXR M234 certainly has it. The added low and high cut really enable you to get a variety of extra sounds.
MXR are well known for their simple yet “effective” pedals. They are well constructed with jacks and switches that are well suited to life on the road.
The side mounted power in isn’t popular with everyone though as it can make it more difficult when daisy chaining several units on a board.
In short this is a fantastic chorus pedal that will give you fantastic vintage sounds with a little more range of sound.
TC Electronic Corona
This is another compact pedal that is road-ready and packs a great sound.
Something that stands out with this pedal is TC Electronic's TonePrint. Loaded to the pedal via USB you can upload different tones via software (and USB connection). Not only can you design your own sounds but there are various presets available by top guitarists. These signature tones are available for free.
You don’t need to use those features if you don’t want to. The Corona Chorus has its own great standard sounds and, at the flick of a switch, the Tri-Chorus sound which consists of three different choruses working in tandem (which sounds particularly good when working in stereo).
The Corona produces a much more modern chorus sound especially when you consider the Tri-Chorus and the amount of things you can do with the software.
Behringer UC200 Ultra Chorus
The UC200 is from Behringer’s line of affordable pedals. Aimed at bedroom guitarists it is one of several pedals at pocket money prices.
For a budget unit the UC200 Ultra Chorus has a pretty good sound although it does seem to be lacking something particularly in mono. It comes alive a little more when used in stereo. However, as a budget pedal you’ll be surprised what it does achieve at the price.
It’s great if you want an introduction to chorus pedals and you aren’t expecting to do heaving gigging with it. The plastic casing lets the pedal down a little bit but at the low end of the price scale something has to be cut. But don’t worry too much as it’s not going to break on the first stomp. It’s relatively thick and durable but just won’t have the life of some of the metal cased pedals here.
Electro-Harmonix Small Clone
The Small Clone is probably the most basic and distinctive looking pedal in our roundup with one large control knob on the top center. Somewhat unusually the depth is controlled by a switch.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you. This is one mighty pedal. It sounds great and built to take some heavy road use. It’s made of thinner sheet metal and perhaps susceptible to a few dents so not as strong as a Boss. Don’t abuse it and you have got a pedal that may well last your lifetime.
Did you know that this was the pedal that Kurt Cobain used for the riff in Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”? But don’t worry, this isn’t a one trick pony. It’ll produce a variety of lush sounds but probably not as big a range as the MXR M234. What you’ll like the most is that it is so easy to dial in some great sounds.
Boss CE-5 Stereo Chorus Ensemble
This is another Boss pedal that started life as an analog pedal but since 2001 has been digital.
There are a few similarities between the CH-1 and the CE-5 with the Chorus Ensemble offering more tonal control. Cut out those high’s and you’ll find the CE-5 can replicate those old analog tones quite well. Boosting the highs will give you that modern shimmer. Overall the CE-5 is probably a little warmer of the two and is ideally suited for a clean sound.
All of these pedals are good value. If you are on a tight budget then you won’t go far wrong with the Behringer UC200 Ultra Chorus. It’s perfect for bedroom playing although the plastic casing might let it down with heavy stage use.
For a more modern chorus with plenty of flexibility then the TC Electronic offers some great sounds but is a very different beast to the analog MXR M234 which is the winner for us in the old school category.
Who uses a chorus pedal?
A very good example of a huge commercial song that features a chorus is Nirvana’s “Come as you are”
Where do I put the chorus pedal in a chain?
As a general rule you’d put anything with gain first, then pitch and then echo. So, a basic setup might be Distortion - Chorus - Echo
How do I use a chorus pedal with distortion?
See above. You’ll get better results by placing it after the distortion pedal.