What is a chorus pedal and how does it work?

wat is een chorus pedaal

Few effects are as tied to a particular era as the chorus effect. If the 80s were a movie, the chorus would be the official soundtrack.

Chorus is a very recognizable sound and it has many admirers . Think of the sound of The Police, The Cure, Duran Duran and INXS, but also of the bass parts of Pino Palladino in the music of Paul Young and of fusion guitarist Mike Stern.There is also a small group who hate the effect from the bottom of their hearts.

Introduction of the pedal

The term ‘chorus’ was first used to indicate a higher speed of a Leslie cabinet. In 1975 Roland released the JC-120 Jazz Chorus. This amplifier contained the first stereo chorus that made maximum use of the two speakers. The same circuit was incorporated into a pedal in 1976 and was named Boss CE-1. Although the pedal was designed for keyboard players, it eventually became particularly popular among guitarists. One of the first users was Andy Summers of The Police. The CE-1 was the first pedal with a Bucket Brigade Device and it gave birth to many other famous pedals based on a BBD.

Development of the chorus pedal

In 1979 Boss released the CE-2. It was a mono chorus designed specifically for guitarists. This pedal is still seen by many as the ultimate chorus pedal. In 1976 TC Electronic released the stereo chorus+. An extensive pedal that, in addition to chorus, also had a flanger and pitch modulation on board. At about the same time, the Electro Harmonix Clone Theory was released, which in 1979 was transformed into the famous Electro Harmonix Small Clone. Listen to the guitar intro to “Come as you are” by Nirvana to get an impression of this pedal.

Catalinbread Callisto, JAM Pedals Waterfall, VS Audio Alchemy, Walrus Audio Julia V2 and Earthquaker Devices Sea Machine

What is a chorus pedal?

The chorus effect occurs when different sounds of approximately the same time and similar pitches come together and sound as one. So it concerns different sources with small variation in length and pitch. In a chorus pedal, the guitar signal is duplicated and the pitch changes slightly. In addition, the signal is often also slightly delayed and then mixed back into the original guitar signal. This makes it sound as if several guitars are being played simultaneously and a wider, thicker and richer sound is created.

Effects Pedal Operation

Almost all pedals have buttons that control speed and depth. This last knob is called intensity or “width” on some pedals. With the speed knob you set the speed at which the pitch changes. If this speed is too slow you will not recognize the effect. The depth knob controls the degree to which the effect changes the pitch. Turn this knob all the way to the right and you’ll hear a distinct variation in pitch. This creates an effect that makes you seasick, especially at low speeds. In addition, some pedals have a mix knob that allows you to set the ratio between the processed and unprocessed signal. And it sometimes happens that a pedal has a knob with which you set the delay. This knob is often referred to as lag or delay.

Placing the effect in your signal chain

It’s a modulation effect and the general rule is to connect it after your overdrives. This creates the clearest sound. If you connect the effect before your overdrives, a muddy and unclear effect is created. But also for this, try it out for yourself. It’s always good to experiment and let your own ears decide.

Modern chorus pedals

Although the heyday of the chorus pedal is behind us, every self-respecting pedal manufacturer has one or more chorus pedals in their range. The table below lists some well-known and lesser-known pedals with the most important features for each pedal.

NameDepthSpeedLag/DelayMixVibratoPresetsStereoMidiPrice* (eur)
Catalinbread Callistoyesyesyesyesnononono239
Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl MKIIyesyesyesyesyesyesnoyes409
EHX Small Cloneyesyesnononononono92
Earthquaker Devices Sea Machineyesyesnoyesnononono219
Foxgear Balladeyesyesnoyesnononono109
JAM pedals Waterfallyesyesnonoyesnonono249
JHS Pedals Emperor V2yesyesyesnoyesnonono229
Keeley Seefoamyesyesnoyesnononono225
Neunaber Inspire Tri Chorusyesyesyesyesyesnoyesno349
Seymour Duncan Catalinayesyesyesyesnonoyesno259
VS Audio Alchemyyesyesyesyesnoyesyesno249
Walrus Audio Julia V2yesyesyesyesyesnonono209
Walrus Audio Juliannayesyesyesyesyesnoyes
* these prices are as of May 24, 2020 and may differ from current prices
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