Chorus Pedals – Are They Cool Again?

Chris Toft

Chris Toft

The chorus effect has been around since the 1970s, but it is perhaps most commonly associated with the ‘80s. From New Wave to Shoegaze, Pop to Glam Rock, the humble chorus pedal became a staple of ‘80s pedalboards everywhere. However, the overuse of chorus in the ’80s meant that it went out of fashion for many years after. In recent years though, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of chorus which raises the question, are chorus pedals cool again?

What is Chorus?

Chorus is a type of modulation effect that can thicken your sound and give it a shimmery “dream-like” quality. Chorus works by splitting your guitar signal into multiple “voices” and then modulating them slightly. Each “voice” is delayed from the original signal and then mixed back in, creating a sense of depth and movement. This effect is similar to an ensemble of voices singing in unison, hence the name “chorus”. Some classic examples of the chorus effect can be heard on “Purple Rain” by Prince and “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica.

Guitar Chorus Pedals

Chorus pedals come in all shapes and sizes but for the most part, they share many of the same features. Most chorus pedals have controls for rate (speed), depth (intensity) and EQ. These controls allow you to dial in anything from a slow shimmery chorus to a fast, pseudo-Leslie effect. Many chorus pedals have a mix control which determines how much of the dry, unaffected signal is blended in with the chorus effect. Other pedals feature independent controls for treble and bass giving you more control over how bright or dark the chorus effect is.

Stereo chorus pedals take the effect one step further by allowing to you split your signal to two separate amplifiers. In doing so, your tone has a lush, wide stereo spread, giving it a much larger presence in a band situation. When combined with a stereo reverb or delay pedal, you can create beautifully complex soundscapes, reminiscent of a synthesiser pad effect.

Whatever pedal you use, the chorus effect is a great way to add colour and depth to your sound and can be used to thicken your tone, giving the illusion of multiple guitars playing in unison.

Analogue Chorus

Before the huge digital rack-mounted chorus effects that became popular in the ‘80s, analogue chorus was all the rage! Analogue chorus pedals typically use a fixed delay line with a variable sample rate to create thick, lush chorusing effects. Loved for their warm, smooth characteristics, analogue chorus pedals such as the Boss CE-2W Waza Craft and Walrus Audio Julianna Stereo Analogue Chorus and Vibrato can be used to add a subtle, natural sounding warble to your tone.

Digital Chorus

Digital chorus is the sound that defined the ‘80s! It was used, and arguably overused, on pretty much every guitar track laid to tape. Instantly recognisable for its bright, shimmery sound, digital chorus was used so heavily that is has since become an 80’s cliché, like perms and shell suits! Most digital chorus pedals use a fixed sample rate with a variable delay line, producing a much brighter, more obvious chorusing effect than analogue pedals. The TC Electronic Corona Chorus and Strymon Ola DBucket Chorus are great examples of digital chorus pedals, perfect for making you sound, well, more ‘80s!

Who Uses Chorus?

The chances are, you’re already very familiar with the sound of a chorus pedal as it has been used on some of the most popular songs of the last fifty years. For those of you who aren’t so familiar, let’s take a look at some of the most famous examples.

Nirvana – Come as You Are

Whilst most people wouldn’t typically associate chorus with grunge music, Kurt Cobain was a frequent user of the effect, with the Electro Harmonix Small Clone being a mainstay in his rig. You can hear it used on the opening riff to their ‘90s hit “Come as You Are”.

Guns N Roses – Paradise City

According to Slash, the opening riff to this Guns N Roses classic was recorded not with a chorus pedal, but rather a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifier. When performing live, Slash has been known to use the MXR M234 Analogue Chorus to replicate the tones from the recording.

Bryan Adams – Run to You

The main guitar riff in Bryan Adam’s hit song features the distinct sound of a chorus. Whilst it is unclear whether the guitar was recorded with chorus or the effect was added in post-production, there’s no denying that the riff just wouldn’t be the same without that lush sparkle!

Def Leppard – Hysteria

‘80s rockers Def Leppard were no strangers to the chorus effect and it featured heavily on their 1987 behemoth album “Hysteria”. The opening riff to the title track features a lush, heavily modulated guitar tone, which was recorded with a Tom Scholz Rockman headphone amp of all things!

Ozzy Osbourne – Miracle Man

“Miracle Man” is great example of how chorus can be used to enhance an overdriven guitar tone. Guitarist Zakk Wylde’s tone here is huge, thanks to the wide stereo spread created by the chorus effect.

John Mayer – Last Train Home

John Mayer’s “Last Train Home” has played a big part in getting people excited about chorus pedals again! The hugely popular song features a heavily ‘80s inspired guitar tone, reminiscent of ‘80s Eric Clapton. It certainly had us all reaching for our chorus pedals again upon its release! Click here to watch our video of The Captain and Danish Pete attempting to recreate John’s tone from “Last Train Home”.

Our Favourite Chorus Pedals

There are so many great chorus pedals on the market today but we’ve picked out a few of our favourites!

Boss DC-2W Waza Craft Dimension C Chorus

A recreation of the legendary and highly sought after Boss DC-2 Dimension pedal. This unconventional chorus doesn’t have any control knobs, rather four preset buttons which can be used independently or paired together. As the name suggests, the DC-2W adds a whole different dimension to your tone!

Eventide TriceraChorus Stereo Tri-Chorus

Inspired by ’70s and ’80s rackmount tri-choruses and analogue pedals, the TriceraChorus pairs bucket brigade-style chorusing with Eventide’s legendary MicroPitch detuning. The result is an abundance of rich modulated tones — all from a compact, easy-to-use stompbox!

MXR EVH 5150 Chorus

Based on the classic rack mounted Roland DC-30 unit, the 5150 chorus delivers huge stereo chorus tones with simple controls. With no rate knob, the 5150 has a slow, fixed rate as per Eddie’s tone on Van Halen’s “Diver Down” album. It’s hard not to love the cool striped paint job too!

Tone City Angel Wing Chorus

Massive, lush chorus tones in a tiny, pedalboard friendly box! The Tone City Angle Wing is proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get great tones. This budget friendly pedal boasts controls for level, rate and depth and offers incredible bang for your buck!

Landlord FX Brewers Droop Analogue Chorus

Another example of an inexpensive pedal that sounds fantastic! The Brewers Droop adds subtle width or head-spinning momentum to your tone at the flick of a switch, without leaving a hole in your wallet!

Strymon Mobius Multi-Modulation

Strymon’s all singing, all dancing modulation pedal! Whilst not a stand alone chorus, the Mobius features five different chorus “machines” including dBucket, Multi, Vibrato, Detune and Digital. The Mobius is not cheap, but you would be hard pushed to find a another pedal that offers so much and sounds so good!

Featured Products

Conclusion

Whether you’re a fan of chorus or not, there’s no denying it’s impact on popular music, particularly in the 1980s. As with most things music related, trends often go full circle. It certainly seems like guitarists are rediscovering their love of chorus again. With chorus pedals available for less than £30, there’s never been a better time to add some sparkle to your tone!

So, are chorus pedals cool again? We certainly think so, but let us know what you think on our social media channels!

Enjoyed this article?

Why not read some of our other Learn articles below:

Gibson Les Paul Vs Gibson SG

Boost, Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz: A Beginner’s Guide to Gain Pedals

The Best 5 Guitar Effects Pedals for Synths (2021)

Best Guitar Pedals of 2021… so far!

5 Weird & Wonderful Guitar Brands

 

Chris Toft
Chris Toft
Chris is a Senior Digital Product Marketer at Andertons and a self confessed guitar nerd. With a love of all things 80s Rock and Hair Metal, Chris favours humbucker equipped guitars, high gain amps and plenty of chorus and reverb! Clean tones and spandex leggings are optional!

Responses & Questions

Leave a Reply