Choosing the Best Chorus PedalBuying Guide

A chorus pedal is a great way to add texture or depth to your guitar tone. When set right, it can sound like there are multiple guitars playing the same part, or it can lend some of the mojo you get with a 12-string guitar.

Chorus pedals can offer everything from light and subtle texture—something that you always leave switched on—to manic and extreme, for when you really want to grab the listener’s attention. Many players also look to chorus pedals to emulate the whirling sound of a classic Leslie speaker.

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What Is a Chorus Pedal?

A chorus pedal takes the signal from your guitar and splits it in two: One part is left untouched (that’s the dry signal), and the other part is sent to an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator), which adds a bit of delay and some pitch-modulation. So, what you hear through your amp is your original guitar sound, mixed with the sound of a slightly delayed and detuned version.

You can control different parameters, depending on the pedal, but you will often see depth (how deep the modulation is) and rate or speed (how quickly it moves). General consensus suggests placing chorus pedals in the middle of your chain, after drives and distortions, but before delays and reverbs. However, to really get the sound that you want, it’s best to experiment with different orders.

Whilst chorus pedals are largely associated with the '80s, due to their prolific use in that decade, they’ve never really gone out of style. It’s true that songs by likes of Prince, Guns ’N’ Roses, U2, Nirvana, Metallica, The Police, and many more wouldn’t quite sound the same if it weren’t for the careful use of a chorus pedal, but you’ll also hear the effect permeating modern guitar music too. Regardless of what style of music you play, and whether you favor clean or distorted tones, buying a chorus pedal could unlock a key part of your sound.

There are a multitude of chorus pedals out there. All of them will either be analog or digital (or a hybrid of the two) so we’ll highlight some of our favorites from the two camps. Given the ongoing shift towards smaller pedals, we will also take a look at some of the best micro chorus pedals out there, as well as checking out some multi-effect chorus pedals.

Analog Chorus Pedals

Analog chorus pedals feature an electrical circuit, containing many tiny components that take your guitar signal and manipulate it to create the desired effect. Many guitarists claim that analog pedals have a certain warmth to their sound, and there’s certainly some truth to that.

Having a warm, mellow tone pairs nicely with the chorus effect, as it helps deliver that deep, full, lush sound that’s so desirable. You do get some slight imperfections with the sound of analog pedals, but that’s a big part of their charm.

More Excellent Analog Chorus Pedals

Digital Chorus Pedals

Digital chorus pedals are known for their clear, crisp sound. Some players prefer the sound of a digital chorus pedal on clean tones. Like with other digital pedals, your guitar’s signal is sampled, then processed in real time using algorithms to alter the sound—though, some pedals (such as the TC Electronic Corona Chorus) allow your dry signal to flow through completely untouched.

It’s often said that digital chorus pedals lack the warmth of their analog counterparts. However, with today's modern technology, many digital pedals can replicate that mellow tone incredibly well while also tending to offer more flexibility. What’s also handy is that some digital pedals allow you to dial in and recall presets so you can quickly access your favorite settings at the flip of a switch. As with anything music-related, it’s down to personal taste, so let your ears decide what works best for you.

More Excellent Digital Chorus Pedals

Micro Chorus Pedals

Nowadays, size is more important than ever when it comes to your guitar pedals. Whilst throwing all your gear in the back of a van and hitting the road is undeniably fun, it’s not always practical, or indeed possible. Now, with PA systems, guitar amps, and effects pedals all packing the same punch in smaller packages, it’s easy to just jump on the train or the bus to your gig without leaving anything behind. There are also more compact pedalboards on offer now, so, the smaller your pedals are, the more you can fit on!

There are some great micro chorus pedals on offer—many of which are just scaled down versions of time-tested classics. With the unit being smaller, there’s less room for controls, so you’ll usually find that micro chorus pedals have fewer knobs. This can mean potentially less flexibility, or that controls are just a little more squashed together, making changes on the fly with your foot harder. However, if pedalboard real estate is of paramount importance, then here are some of our favorite smaller chorus pedals.

More Micro Chorus Pedals

Multi-Effect Chorus Pedals (Chorus vs Vibrato)

You’ll often see chorus paired with vibrato, and there’s a good reason for that. Chorus and vibrato are very similar, but there is a difference. Put very simply, chorus runs your wet signal (pitch-modulation and some very subtle delay) alongside your dry signal, whereas vibrato is just the modulated signal, without any dry signal. Vibrato can make for a more intense effect and can sound more "wobbly," as it doesn’t have that dry signal lending it stability. You will also see some chorus pedals feature other modulation-based effects, as well as delays and reverbs.

Multi-effect chorus pedals such as the below are great utility pedals—incredibly useful and take up less room on your board. If you need a compact travel rig and have only space for one or two pedals, then having chorus alongside one or two other effects in one pedal can help bring depth and texture to your tone, while remaining incredibly practical.

More Excellent Multi-Effect Chorus Pedals

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Editorial content by Richard Blenkinsop

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