5 Old School Chorus Pedals Worthy of a Second Look

Over the past few years, chorus pedals have come back into the fold in a major way as throwback '80s sounds seep into more and more genres of popular music. But for guitar players, it remains an ever–polarizing effect, with some fully embracing the joys of chorus and others dismissing the warbly effect altogether.

If you stand on the former side of that divide, it’s easy to be sucked in by the newest and flashiest designs coming from every corner of the boutique market. But tread carefully: sometimes these pedals are needlessly complicated copies and clones of chorus pedals that already exist.

There are many exciting and worthwhile modern chorus pedals, to be sure, but if you're simply seeking the original sounds of yesteryear, you'd do well to consider one of the many vintage stompboxes from the revolutionary pedal era of the ‘70s and ‘80s. These specimens remain extremely underutilized and thus, are consistently affordable today.

So before you start hauling around your Roland JC–120 amp for those delicious jangle tones, check out a couple of these lost treasures. You won’t be disappointed.

Pearl CH–02 Chorus

Perhaps one of the most popular choruses of the ‘80s is also one of the least common you see in use today: the analog Pearl CH–02.

Pearl CH–02 Chorus

Internally, it shares similarities with the popular Boss CE–2, but it’s markedly more diverse. The Pearl CH–02 was a four–knob chorus pedal as opposed to a two–knobber, and more than anything, it was known for its tonal versatility.

While the CE–2 was a largely one trick “set it and forget it” pedal, the Pearl could be sculpted to achieve slow, warm waves of chorus and then quickly reshaped into razor–sharp, sea–sickening warbles.

As vintage choruses go, this pedal is possibly the biggest steal around. They can be found consistently between $60–$120 in various conditions. It’s only a matter of time before people see why the CH–02 was so beloved.

Morley MOD–SCV Stereo Chorus Vibrato

Perhaps the rarest pedal on this list is the Morley MOD–SCV. Like a lot of early Morley pedals, this thing is a spectacular combination of effects in one design. These pedals were all hand–wired/soldered in the USA and used premium components of the time packed into heavy duty chassis.

Morley MOD–SCV Stereo Chorus Vibrato

As a two–knobber, it’s extremely simple to use and features some of the smoothest, water–like chorus tones ever put into a pedal. When run stereo, this pedal breaks away from the mix with an overwhelming and unbeatable warmth.

Besides its accolades as a chorus effect, the Morley MOD–SCV Vibrato effect itself is highly regarded among users.

Overall, for the quality of the pedal and the workmanship, it’s hard to find a better analog chorus — especially at its current price point of about $125–$200.

Maxon CS–505 Insta–chorus/Ibanez CS–505 Stereo Chorus

There are few stompboxes that sound more natural and nail what your mind likely hears when you think of a chorus better than a Maxon/Ibanez CS–505. Given that Maxon manufactured Ibanez’s pedal for years, there are versions of both the Maxon CS–505 and the Ibanez CS–505 on the market.

Maxon CS–505 Insta–chorus

A two–knob sister to Boss CE–2, this player nails the chorus sound and arguably does it better than the ever–popular CE–2.

Back in the ‘80s, there were few pedal makers more beloved by professional players than Ibanez/Maxon. The pedals those manufacturers were putting out were made using some of the finer components at the time, and sonically, it showed.

The CS–505 is a elegant take on the chorus effect that keeps it simple and blends easily with distortion/overdrive. If I had to describe it, it’s a like a warm and transparent blanket for your chilly guitar tone.

What differentiates it from some of the other choruses on this list is that there are no outrageous warble freakouts to be had with the CS–505. At anywhere from $110–160, it’s also slightly cheaper than its main competitor — the CE–2 — and a mighty alternative, to say the least.

Ibanez TC–10 Twin Cam Stereo Chorus Pedal

This might be the most unappreciated and least commonly used chorus on the list, but it’s quite possibly the most interesting.

The TC–10 was a part of Ibanez’s MIJ analog 10–series of pedals, which debuted in 1986. While the 8 and 9 series were (and still are) popular with players, scores of players ignored and continue to ignore the 10–series — possibly because of the change in casing.

Ibanez TC–10 Twin Cam Stereo Chorus Pedal

But the Ibanez 10–series was packed with some outstanding pedals, and the TC–10 is a prime example.

The TC–10 was unusual in that it had two choruses built into one that you could set at different speeds and widths. When set to the same setting in the lower range, you’ll get gigantic, spot–on, CE–2–like tones and hints of Purple Rain.

However, when set to counter each other, the TC–10 opens up sonic possibilities that few other choruses offer.

This pedal runs the gamut from soft, subtle early ‘80s analog chorus to drenched, stuttering polyrhythmic chops. It can also hit that nasally, thinned out chorus sound that some players love.

The key to unlocking the diversity of tones within this pedal is to run it stereo — only then do you hear the magic and range it’s truly capable of.

These pedals come up a fair amount for sale nowadays, and depending on the condition, they tend to stay between $60–$110. Be advised that most of the demos online just do not do this pedal justice, so pick one up and try it out for yourself.

Boss DC–3 Digital Dimension Chorus

Last but not least is the lone digital entry to our vintage chorus list. Released in 1988, the Digital Dimension was Boss’s first Digital chorus and has become a cult favorite among jazz players and shoegazers alike.

Boss DC–3 Digital Dimension Chorus

This pedal almost doesn’t belong on this list because even though it’s still underappreciated, people are starting to rediscover what it’s capable of.

Unlike most digital choruses, the DC–3 is exceedingly understated and sparkles on clean tones like the best analog choruses. This is the digital chorus for analog players who want something similar to a CE–2/CS–505 but with more options for dialing in the right sound.

Though, for as epic as this can sound on cleans, it doesn’t blend very well with distortion. But that’s relatively unsurprising, being that it’s an early digital chorus pedal.

With that said, almost 30 years later, an old DC–3 in good condition still competes with some of today’s better digital chorus pedals. If you keep your eyes open, they tend to pop up for a completely reasonable $100–$150.

Learn more about effects pedals on our Effects Pedals: What Do They Do? | The Basics homepage.

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