Best Chorus Pedals: Ultimate Guide to Chorus - Guitar Gear Finder

Best Chorus Pedals: Ultimate Guide to Chorus

How to Find The Best Chorus Pedal For YouKurt Cobain

Chorus is an effect that can thicken and color your tone when used properly. It can turn a dry and sterile tone into something full of life and energy. When used improperly, it can give your tone a cheesy 80s sound. Chorus was abused by guitarists in the 80s to the point where some guitarists avoid using it at all. But a subtle hint of chorus might be just what you need.

If you want to learn the technical details on what chorus is and how it is created, check out my Guitar Effects Course. You’ll hear audio clips of different chorus settings as well as detailed explanations of the effect.

Finding the right chorus pedal for you depends on how you want to use it, your budget, and how much control you want out of it. Some chorus pedals keep the controls simple and offer a basic effect. Other pedals allow you to really dig into the settings and dial in the exact sound you’re after.

Best Chorus Pedals Shortlist

While there are plenty of chorus pedals out there, some pedals tend to stand out from the rest. Here is the shortlist of the best chorus pedals from lowest price to highest:

Each of the above pedals will be covered in detail below.

Songs Using a Chorus Pedal

Before you buy a chorus pedal, it’s a good idea to check out how other guitarists use them. The below songs are good examples of chorus pedals in action. As you listen to the songs, you’ll notice that chorus tends to be used on clean guitar tones. While you can definitely use chorus on your drive tone, it really shines through on a clean tone.

For a subtle example of chorus, listen to the clean guitar parts in Welcome Home (Sanitarium) by Metallica:

Like the above song, most of Metallica’s clean guitar parts make use of chorus. If you’ve heard Metallica live, it’s the chorus that makes those clean tones sound so good. If you listen to any Metallica guitar covers on YouTube, you’ll instantly notice when the guitarist is using chorus and when it’s missing. The covers that miss chorus just don’t sound quite right.

Here are some good examples of a chorus pedal in action:

  • Come As You Are – Nirvana
  • Pull Me Under – Dream Theater
  • Message In The Bottle – The Police
  • Welcome Home (Sanitarium) – Metallica
  • Purple Rain – Prince
  • Paradise City – Guns ‘n’ Roses

To really get an idea how chorus enhances these songs, try playing the parts without a chorus pedal. The intro to Come As You Are just doesn’t have the same energy when played without a chorus pedal. Check out this guide to hear some of the above songs and more details on how chorus is used in those songs.

Best Chorus Pedals Under $50

If you don’t plan on using chorus much, or you just want to experiment with it, one of these budget chorus pedals might suit your needs.

Danelectro D5 FAB Chorus

The Danelectro D5 FAB Chorus is about as cheap as they get. It’s a good way to experiment with chorus without spending too much. Don’t expect amazing tones, but it does a good job at giving you a basic chorus sound. Having three knobs for Mix, Speed, Depth actually gives you more control than some of the other pedals in this guide.

Here are the basic details on the D5 FAB Chorus (check out the price and full details here):

  • Mix, Speed, Depth control knobs
  • Powered by 9V battery or external power
  • Digital Chorus
  • Buffered Bypass

While the style of Danelectro’s pedals definitely doesn’t suit everybody, the D5 FAB Chorus is a very cheap way to try something new.

Donner Tutti Love

The Donner Tutti Love is a tiny pedal that only costs slightly more than the Danelectro D5 FAB Chorus. While the D5 is a digital pedal, the Tutti Love is analog. The solid construction and True Bypass makes this a surprisingly high-quality pedal for the price.

The below video does a good job at showing you the different sounds possible from this pedal:

As you can hear, the three knobs (Level, Depth, Rate) give you plenty to play around with to dial in the right chorus sound.

Here are the basic details on the Tutti Love (full details here):

  • Level, Depth, Rate control knobs
  • External power only
  • Analog Chorus
  • True Bypass

If you don’t like the idea of a chorus pedal taking up too much space on your pedalboard, this is a good option to consider.

Check out the current price and full details of the Tutti Love here.

Best Chorus Pedals Under $100

The above pedals are fine if you just want to play around with chorus from time to time. If you plan on using chorus regularly during gigs, you might want to consider a higher tier chorus pedal for extra reliability and quality. While the Donner pedal might be perfectly reliable, the below pedals are more likely to last over time.

Electro-Harmonix Small Clone

The Electro-Harmonix Small Clone is an odd pedal. It regularly appears in best chorus pedal lists, yet it gives you less control than any other pedal on this list. With one big Rate knob and a tuggle switch for Depth, you’re not going to be able to fine-tune your chorus exactly as you want it.

For some guitarists that might be a positive as it means less to think about. Flick the Depth switch to what sounds good to you and adjust the Rate knob. After all, one of the most popular phaser pedals only has one knob (MXR Phase 90). So if you like simple pedals, this one might suit you.

This pedal is well known for giving us the sound we hear in Nirvana’s Come as You Are. The below video shows that while the controls are limited, you can still produce a nice variety of tones:

Here are the basic details of the EHX Small Clone:

  • Rate knob and Depth switch (with two positions)
  • Powered by 9V battery or external power
  • Analog Chorus
  • True Bypass

If you want a simple chorus pedal and don’t mind the larger pedal size (compared to the Tutti), the Small Clone has stood the test of time.

Check out the current price and full details of the EHX Small Clone here.

Best Chorus Pedals Over $100

As we move up to this tier, you can expect more control over the effect. Chorus is a fairly basic effect, so unlike other effects, there’s very little need to look at high-end pedals. The pedals priced around $100 can sound just as good as any $200+ chorus pedals you find. It’s not a difficult effect, so don’t feel you have to spend a lot on a chorus pedal.Corona Chorus Pedal

TC Electronic Corona Chorus

The big advantage with TC Electronic’s Corona Chorus (and their other pedals) is TonePrint. TonePrint allows you to use an app or software to tweak every aspect of the effect as you like. If you like the idea of digging in and finding the perfect chorus sound, then this is a good option to consider. If you prefer something quick and easy to use, you might prefer a different option. Chorus is a pretty simple effect, so TonePrint may not be as useful here compared to other effects.

If we ignore the mode switch, which allows you to select a TonePrint preset or two other modes, you have four knobs to control the effect. That’s more control than any of the above pedals.

It’s also worth pointing out that this is the first stereo chorus pedal covered so far in this list. If you use a stereo rig or might use one in the future, I highly recommend getting a stereo chorus pedal. Once you hear chorus in stereo, it’s hard to go back to mono. While some of the other pedals below are also chorus, this is the only one to have stereo inputs. This gives you far more freedom over where you place your chorus pedal in your rig. You can place other stereo pedals before or after this one without any problems. The other stereo pedals in this list only have a mono input, so it forces you to place it before any other stereo pedals.

Here are the basic details of the Corona Chorus (price and full details here):

  • Four knobs: Speed, Depth, FX Level, Tone
  • Mode toggle switch for Chorus, TonePrint, Tri-Chorus modes
  • Powered by 9V battery or external power
  • Stereo input and outputs
  • Digital Chorus
  • True Bypass
  • USB for TonePrint software (or use your smartphone)

The Corona Chorus is one of the best chorus pedals you can get. Unlike other pedals on this list, it gives you full control over the effect. If you use TonePrint, you can dial in the exact sounds you want with precision. It’s also a stereo pedal, so if you ever decide to experiment with a stereo rig (highly recommended), you’ll be able to put this pedal to great use.

If you want full control over your chorus sound, this is a solid choice. If you don’t feel the need for that level of control, you might find one of the other pedals suits your needs more.

Check out the price and full details of the Corona Chorus here.

MXR M134 Stereo Chorus

Let’s look at another stereo chorus pedal, the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus. While the MXR M234 is a very popular chorus pedal, I feel the M134 is a bit more interesting. It’s an analog stereo pedal with some interesting controls. The five knobs and button on the far left side make this pedal a bit confusing at first. The rate and width knobs are pretty straight-forward, but instead of a mix/level knob, we have an intensity knob. The two knobs on the left control give you some basic EQ control. Adjust the bass or treble knobs to cut or boost those frequencies.

The button on the left allows you to change the way the chorus is applied to your tone. This ‘Bass Filter’ button reduces the amount of chorus applied to the bass frequencies. This is a good way to keep your regular low end nice and punchy.

 

As you can see, you have a lot of control over the chorus. While the controls may be confusing at first, in the time I spent with the pedal I found it quite easy to dial in some nice tones.

Take note that this pedal requires either 2x 9V batteries or an 18V power supply.

Here are the basic details of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus (price and full details here):

  • Five knobs: Bass, Treble, Intensity, Width, Rate
  • Toggle button for bass filter
  • Mono input and stereo output
  • Powered by 2x 9V batteries or 18v external power
  • Analog Chorus
  • Buffered Bypass

If you’re looking for a great quality chorus pedal with plenty of ways to dial in the tone you want, the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus is seriously impressive.

Best Chorus Pedal of All Time

The ‘best of all time’ is a bit of a stretch, but when it comes to chorus BOSS deserve a lot of credit. The BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus and the BOSS CE-5 Chorus Ensemble have both stood the test of time and are still very popular today. While there are plenty of newer pedals that boast better features and arguably better tone, many guitarists still prefer one of these two pedals.

Some guitarists love the CH-1 and feel it is superior, while others say the same about the CE-5 and say it gives a better tone. It’s all personal preference.

The BOSS CE-5 Chorus Ensemble can produce some bright tones, which is common with digital chorus pedals. But the filter knob gives you a nice way to control how the chorus sounds. If you feel the tone is too bright, you can cut the high end and adjust the low end at the same time. Some nice warm tones are still very possible with digital chorus pedals like this one.

Unlike other pedals that can completely overhwhelm your tone when the level knob is cranked, the CE-5 is a bit more subtle. In the below video, you can see that the E. LEVEL knob is cranked for all the demos, while still having a fairly subtle chorus sound. So if you like cranking your effects for some out-there tones, the CE-5 might not be enough for you.

Here are the basic details of the BOSS CE-5 Chorus Ensemble:

  • Four knobs: Effect Level, Rate, Depth, Filter (with two controls for high or low frequencies)
  • Mono input and stereo output
  • Powered by 9V battery or 9v external power
  • Digital Chorus
  • Buffered Bypass

It’s interesting to note that the CE-5 wasn’t always digital. They were initially analog chorus pedals until around 2000-2001 when they switched to digital. While I couldn’t find any videos comparing an analog and digital CE-5 against each other, it would be interesting to hear an A/B test to hear the actual differences between the two.

Check out the price and full details of the CE-5 here.

The BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus is very similar to the CE-5. It has stereo outputs like the CE-5 as well as effect level, rate, and depth knobs. What is different here is the EQ knob. The CE-5 has a dual-knob that allows you to adjust the filter on the bass and treble independently. The CH-1’s EQ knob only gives you one control over the entire EQ curve. It’s still more control than many other chorus pedals, but seems a bit limited compared to the filter on the CE-5.

Here’s another video from BOSS showcasing some of the different tones available with the CH-1. As you can hear, it’s still a fairly subtle effect compared to other chorus pedals. It’s not as subtle as the CE-5, but even with the effect level knob cranked, the chorus doesn’t get overwhelming.

Here are the basic details of the BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus:

  • Four knobs: Effect Level, EQ, Rate, Depth
  • Mono input and stereo output
  • Powered by 9V battery or 9v external power
  • Digital Chorus
  • Buffered Bypass

Check out the price and full details of the BOSS CH-1 here.

If you’re after a BOSS chorus pedal, the two pedals above are both very solid choices. But BOSS does have another chorus pedal worth checking out. The BOSS Waza Craft CE-2W recreates the sounds from BOSS’ earlier CE-1 and CE-2 chorus pedals. With only two knobs (rate and depth) and a selector switch for the different modes, the CE-2W is very different in how you control it. Sadly, it’s quite a step up in price compared to the above two pedals.

How to Use A Chorus Pedal

The songs mentioned earlier give good examples of how to get good results out of a chorus pedal (check out this guide for more details on songs using a chorus pedal). But there are plenty of ways you can make great use of chorus. Here are some starting points:

  • Clean tone: instead of having a dry clean tone, add some subtle chorus into the mix. If your pedal has a level or mix knob, keep that fairly low so it doesn’t overpower your tone. The chorus will add some slight saturation to your tone which can sound great during live performances.
  • Solos: an interesting way of getting your lead sections to stand out from your rhythm parts is to add some chorus. This is very effective when you play in a band with two guitarists. The chorus adds a bit of color to the lead parts, which makes them stand out from the rhythm guitars. Chorus can also thicken up your tone, so if you feel your lead tone is a bit thin and weak, some chorus can improve it.
  • Cranked chorus: if you’re looking for some inspiration for songwriting or jamming, try cranking the chorus (experiment with cranking depth or rate). A cranked chorus pedal often sounds great with single note riffs, or for atmospheric tones.
  • Acoustic guitar: Chorus sounds surprisingly good with an acoustic guitar. If you have a pickup in an acoustic guitar, play around with your chorus pedal. It’s not often that acoustic guitar sounds good with effects, but chorus does help in adding a lush quality to acoustic parts.

Use the three points above as a starting point and learn how to get the most out of your chorus pedal.

It’s also a good idea to experiment with the placement of your chorus pedal in your rig. If you already have one or more pedals, experiment with switching the order of the pedals up. While you’ve probably heard ‘rules’ on where each pedal should go, the examples in my Guitar Effects Course shows that you often get better results when you break those rules. See how your chorus pedal works with your other pedals and figure out the idea pedal placement.

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