Although the standalone chorus pedal first came into existence in the mid-'70s, it wasn't until the following decade that the famous watery, shimmery, tone-thickening effect really hit its stride and inspired many of the best chorus pedals in this list.
It's true, guitarists and producers tended to overuse the chorus effect throughout the '80s – Prince's Purple Rain being one of its most iconic uses – but you'd be missing out on one of guitar's sweetest tones if you pigeonhole chorus as being little more than a relic of that era.
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In fact, a quick look at popular music since then demonstrates that chorus never went out of style. It's since assisted in molding some of the guitar's most iconic moments, notably the intro to Nirvana’s '90s mega-hit, Come As You Are.
These days, chorus sounds can be heard in all manner of genres, with a particular rise on mainstream pop and neo-soul tracks. As a result, the variety and breadth of offerings – analog, digital, subtle and shimmery – is huge. That's why we've taken it upon ourselves to research all of the many options out there to present this definitive list of top chorus pedals for guitarists.
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on picking up a new chorus pedal until the Black Friday guitar deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
What is the best chorus pedal right now?
If you’re looking for the industry standard in chorus sounds, your search ends with Boss’s enhanced reissue of the classic CE-2. The CE-2W features a standard mode to recreate the thick, lush shimmer of the compact original, but adds a CE-1 mode to deliver another set of iconic Boss sounds, including vibrato.
The addition of stereo outputs and variable depth for the CE-1 sounds makes this not only the best chorus pedal Boss has produced, but the best chorus pedal you can buy, full-stop.
The best chorus pedals: buying advice
Today’s chorus pedals deliver a wealth of sonic options that assist with anything from power ballads to subtle tonal thickeners and grungy warbles. Many can do a decent rotary speaker (aka Leslie) simulation, too (think Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun).
Tonal purists will swear by analog offerings, which output the syrupy Bucket Brigade Device swirl that for many defined the chorus sound, especially in the '80s – see Boss’s CE-2W for a prime example.
These old-school sounds have been taken into new territory by more recent efforts from the likes of Fender and Walrus Audio, who have served up additional waveforms to adjust how angular the chorus sounds.
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There are certain advantages afforded by digital chorus pedals, however: these contemporary stompboxes can not only emulate their analog forebears, but veer into flanger territory, too – accordingly, TC Electronic’s unfortunately named Corona Chorus is one of the most versatile chorus pedals on the market.
For those of you lucky enough to be running dual-amp rigs, we’d recommend investing in a chorus pedal with dual outputs, too – the 3D effect of a chorus running in stereo is simply stunning.
Also make sure to check out the speed range on these pedals – if you’re after Leslie-style rotating speaker tones, you’ll want a pedal that can go real fast for those rotary warbles.
The best chorus pedals you can buy today
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 '70s and '80s.
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.
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.
One of the most-requested reissues in Boss’s history, the DC-2W recreates the DC-2 Dimension C, which strikes the balance between a chorus and 3D audio expander.
The DC-2W provides a relatively subtle effect via its four push-buttons, but can make any signal sound bigger and richer – especially in stereo. This reissue also adds a model of Roland’s SDD-320 Dimension D rack effect, which lends its own flavor of spatial widening.
If you’ve liked the sonic effect and tonal thickening – but not the warble – of traditional chorus pedals, the DC-2W could well be the best choice for you.
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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.
There’s also 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.
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.
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 – and it’s now available in EHX’s more compact Nano enclosure.
Its rich, spacey and fully analog tones offer tons of an 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 Neo Clone’s tools are easy to master: one rate dial and a depth switch. Like most EHX effects, it will take you way, way out of the effect's comfort zone. But it’s capable of some nice subtle warbles and modulations as well. Explore away.
There are lots of controls to work with on the Sea Machine, with plenty of turning and tweaking available at your fingertips – 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.
The Bubbler Chorus is a smart analog design that offers switchable Slow and Fast speeds with independent Rate and Depth controls. It's similar to ramping between speeds on a Leslie rotating speaker in that respect.
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.
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.