The standalone chorus pedal first came into existence in the mid-Seventies—think of the classic Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble—but it was in the following decade that the watery, shimmery effect really came into its own. In fact, chorus-heavy sounds were so prominent in the Eighties that the effect is sometimes pigeonholed as being little more than a relic of that era.
However, a quick survey of all types of music that have risen to prominence since then demonstrates that chorus never went out of style, and has also helped to create some of rock’s most iconic moments, such as the intro to Nirvana’s “Come As You Are" (and to get that exact effect, just check out the list below).
These days, chorus sounds continue to be heard in all manner of genres, and the variety and breadth of offerings—analog, digital, subtle and shimmery—is likewise immense. That's why Guitar World has combed through the many designs on the market to present this list of the 10 best chorus pedals for guitarists.
1. Boss CE-2W Waza Craft
Two killer chorus effects in one—plus vibrato
Price: $199.99 | Type: Chorus, vibrato | Controls: Rate, depth, CE-1 switch | Sockets: Input, 2 x output, power | Bypass: Buffered bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
The Boss CE-2 Chorus, and its big brother predecessor the CE-1 (along with the same effect built into the Roland Jazz Chorus amp), defined the sound of chorus during the late Seventies and Eighties. So when Boss announced that it was offering a Waza Craft version of the beloved CE-2 called the CE-2W, we were certainly intrigued, given the stellar track record of Boss' previous Waza Craft offerings.
The CE-2W Waza Craft combines two Boss effects in one—the CE-2 and the mother of all chorus effects, the CE-1, complete with its chorus and vibrato sections. With the exception of the mini three-way toggle switch for selecting the CE-2, CE-1 chorus or CE-1 vibrato modes, a second 1/4-inch output jack (direct-only) that delivers stereo chorus/vibrato effects and the Waza Craft logo embedded in the rubber on/off switch pad, the CE-2W looks identical to the original CE-2. Sound-wise, it’s the most perfect match we’ve ever experienced between an original product and its reissue—that unmistakable thick, lush, shimmering Boss chorus that we’ve all heard on a million classic recordings from the likes of Rush, the Pretenders and even Metallica.
The CE-2W might have slightly clearer treble, but the textures, tones and character are otherwise identical. The CE-2W’s CE-1 chorus setting produces an even deeper chorus effect with slightly more noticeable modulation and more sense of space and depth. The CE-1 vibrato setting is exceptionally cool and useful, producing a warm warble without the seasick side effects. Combining the chorus and vibrato effects of both the legendary Boss CE-2 and CE-1 pedals, the Boss Waza Craft CE-2W definitively nails the sounds of both to provide chorus connoisseurs with the effects of their dreams.
2. Way Huge Smalls Blue Hippo Analog Chorus
Same big blue sounds, but in a smaller box
Price: $149.99 | Type: Chorus, vibrato | Controls: Speed, depth, vibe/chorus switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
The Way Huge Smalls Blue Hippo Analog Chorus is a miniaturized doppelganger of the original, preserving the same features and sweet tones in a compact pedal footprint. Though it’s not sized as a typical mini-pedal, it’s still small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and is less boxy than its original counterpart, making it super pedalboard-friendly.
Design-wise, the Smalls Blue Hippo has controls for Speed and Depth with a Vibe/Chorus switch to toggle between the two settings. The circuit puts out a thicker and gooier chorus with less shimmer that clearly eschews other, cleaner-sounding chorus units that tend to go for dimensional purity. It's reminiscent of early Andy Summers and Permanent Waves-era Alex Lifeson with its compressed chorus tones (think “Freewill”). If swirl is your thing, setting the switch to Vibe offers some serious pulsating textures that can get downright wobbly and liquid. Overall, this Smalls puts out a big, thick chorus and swirling vibrato that are incredibly vintage sounding.
3. MXR EVH 5150 Chorus
A pristine-sounding chorus optimized for high-gain rigs
Price: $199.99 | Type: Chorus | Controls: Intensity, tone, volume, input and output level switches | Sockets: Input, 2 x output, power | Bypass: Switchable true/buffered bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
For Van Halen fanatics, the EVH 5150 Chorus firmly nails the “Little Guitars,” “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and “Summer Nights” tones right out of the box with almost no fiddling. It’s so eerily close that you have to admire MXR for being able to recreate this kind of cleanly wet-chorusing in a pedal without sounding warbly, and with a simple control set. The EVH 5150 Chorus excels when used with distortion or high-gain amplifiers, without sounding digital. Setting the Intensity knob roughly between 10 and 12 o’clock will pretty much get you EVH’s tone.
The tone knob is a nice addition for sharpening the attack or dulling the chorus for more warmth, and the volume knob has two flashing LEDs to indicate where to set the best signal-to-noise ratio. The EVH 5150 Chorus also sounds beautiful on a clean setting, so you really do get the best of both worlds. It’s a pristine-sounding chorus optimized for high-gain rigs and totally nails EVH’s wide-range, stereo-chorused “Diver Down/5150 sound” in a stompbox.
4. TC Electronic Corona Chorus
A small pedal offering multiple chorus effects and TonePrint technology
Price: $129.99 | Type: Stereo chorus | Controls: Speed, depth, FX level, tone, three-way switch | Sockets: 2 x input, 2 x output, power, USB | Bypass: Switchable true/buffered bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
If you want a straight-up, easy-to-operate and, most of all, great-sounding chorus pedal, look no further than TC Electronic’s Corona. A pared-down (at least in its looks) take on the company’s legendary—and considerably more expensive and involved—Stereo Chorus Flanger unit, the Corona is a compact digital pedal boasting just four knobs—Speed, Depth, FX Level and Tone, as well as stereo and mono ins/outs. Additionally, there’s a three-way toggle that lets the user choose between three chorus types, including TriChorus (which uses three stereo choruses with various offsets to produce what TC describes as a unique, very broad and lush chorus) and, yes, Stereo Chorus Flanger-style effects.
The third option utilizes TC’s TonePrint technology—via a USB connection, users can import “custom pedal-tweaks made by top-performing guitarists” into the pedal, or design their own customized chorus effects from scratch with the free TonePrint Editor. Other features include an optional buffered bypass mode that prevents high frequency loss from long cable runs, Analog-Dry-Through for maintaining the integrity of the analog dry signal path—even when the chorus effect is engaged—and a Kill-Dry feature that removes the dry signal path for use with a parallel effects loop. All in all, a first-class chorus machine.
5. Walrus Audio Julia Analog Chorus/Vibrato
An all-analog chorus/vibrato with extended control features
Price: $199 | Type: Chorus, vibrato | Controls: Rate, depth, lag, d-c-v, waveform switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply
The Julia is a fully analog, feature-rich pedal with a wealth of chorus sounds packed inside. In addition to the standard Rate and Depth controls, the pedal boasts a Lag knob—which lets the user set the center delay time that the LFO effect modulates from—for various amounts of “swing.” An additional cool feature is the d-c-v (Dry, Chorus, Vibrato) knob, a blend control that changes the ratio of dry to wet signal sent to the output. Keep it at zero for no effect, at low levels for subtle variations or cranked for all manner of crazed chorus/vibrato combinations.
Additionally, there’s a waveform switch that toggles between sine and triangle wave shapes—offering incredible control over the sweep of the effect—as well as fully analog circuitry, an LFO LED that blinks in time for visual feedback and true bypass switching. It’s all enclosed in a lavender-hued box with a design as surreal as the sounds contained inside.
6. Electro-Harmonix Small Clone
Get that classic “Come As You Are” warble—and so much more
Price: $82.20 | Type: Analog chorus | Controls: Rate, depth switch | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
Best known for the shimmery warble that opens Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” the Small Clone is much more than just the preferred chorus unit of Kurt Cobain. Its rich, spacey and fully analog tones offer tons of otherworldly vibe, and in a straightforward, easy-to-use design. What’s more, it’s got an easy-on-the-wallet price as well.
The Small Clone’s tools are easy to master—one Rate dial and a Depth switch. There’s input and output jacks, a true bypass footswitch and a 9V power socket. From there, you’re free to travel as far into the ether as you please. The Small Clone, like most EHX effects, will take you way, way out. But it’s capable of some nice subtle warbles and modulations as well. Explore away.
7. EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine V3
A hybrid digital-analog pedal with plenty of fine-tuning capability
Price: $199 | Type: Chorus | Controls: Animate, dimension, intensity, depth, shape, rate | Sockets: Input, output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply
There are lots of controls to work with on the Sea Machine, with plenty of turning and tweaking available at your fingertips in order to craft the perfect chorus sound for your needs. This can be a positive or a negative depending on how deep you want to go in search of that sound. Rest assured though, if there’s a particular chorus warble you’re looking for, the Sea Machine can likely produce it.
Boasting EarthQuaker’s proprietary digital-analog hybrid circuitry, the pedal is based around a short digital delay line, with controls for Animate, Dimension and Intensity. The LFO section features knobs for Depth, Shape and Rate, and allows for crafting and fine-tuning the chorus effect. The third-gen version of the pedal also sports improved circuitry for better sonic performance, more range on almost every knob and silent, relay-based switching. The result is a pedal that runs the gamut of chorus sounds, but like many EarthQuaker boxes, really shines when you push it to the max, twisting and turning the knobs to conjure woozy chorus tones worthy of the sea-faring name.
8. Fender Bubbler Chorus
Fender’s new circuit boasts switchable speeds with independent Rate and Depth controls
Price: $149.99 | Type: Chorus | Controls: Rate 1, depth 1, rate 2, depth 2, level, sensitivity, waveform switch | Sockets: Input, 2 x output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply, 9V battery
Fender’s initial 2018 rollout of effect pedals included standards like overdrive, distortion, delay and reverb. Earlier this year though, the company added six more circuits, including the Bubbler Chorus, an analog design that offers switchable Slow and Fast speeds with independent Rate and Depth controls. There’s also a Wave toggle for selecting between traditional Sine and Triangle waveforms. A Sensitivity control, meanwhile, works as a sort of dynamic expression function, changing the modulation rate based on how hard or soft you pick.
Additionally, there’s true bypass switching, stereo outputs and the cool features that come built-in to all Fender pedals, including magnetic battery access compartments at the front of the unit and backlit LEDs. All in all, a worthy addition to the chorus pedal market, from a company that knows a thing or two about creating legendary sounds.
9. Seymour Duncan Catalina
A dynamic pedal where your picking controls the effect
Price: $229 | Type: Dynamic chorus | Controls: Delay, mix, depth, rate, tone, threshold, hard/soft switch, expression footswitch | Sockets: Input, 2 x output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply
The Catalina is an incredibly versatile analog chorus that boasts a Dynamic Expression mode, which allows the user to control the depth of the effect by altering their picking attack. Flip the Dynamic switch to “Hard” and the chorus depth will increase as you play with more intensity; flip it to “Soft” and you receive more effects the lighter you pick. There’s also a Threshold control to dial in the sensitivity of the Dynamic feature.
It’s a cool tool to be sure, but even without the Dynamic mode the Catalina is a top-notch chorus box, with controls for Mix, Rate, Depth and Delay (which will get you toward a vibrato-esque sound), as well as a treble-attenuating Tone control for dialing in the clarity or warmth of the wet signal. The result is plenty of versatility and a wide variety of sounds, from subtle and shimmery to a full-on bold warble.
10. DigiTech Nautila
A dual-voiced chorus and flanger pedal with tons of versatility
Price: $169.95 | Type: Chorus, flanger | Controls: Mix, drift, speed, depth, emphasis, voices, chorus/flange switch | Sockets: 2 x input, 2 x output, power | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V DC power supply
The Nautila offers up an impressive amount of variety, allowing users to dial in up to four chorus or eight flange voices simultaneously. Additionally, there’s a drift knob to morph between different modulation waveforms in real time. Other features include true bypass, stereo inputs and outputs and silent switching.
It’s a lot of technology, but the results are worth the effort—the flangers are rich and full, and the chorus is hugely flexible. The drift control is particularly useful on slow flange sweeps, and can also call up vibrato sounds and quasi-uni-vibe textures at faster chorus rates.
There’s also an unusual secondary function for the on/off footswitch—when the effect is active and the footswitch is held, the modulation speed will “ramp” to the maximum speed wherever the effect sweep is in its cycle. When released, the modulation will fall back to the rate determined by the speed knob’s setting. All in all, a cool and extremely versatile pedal.