We Review And Compare The Best Chorus Effects Pedals on the market today
Looking for the perfect pedalboard setup sometimes requires re-visiting classic aspects of your sound. A Chorus effect is one of those traditional effects that everyone has to have at some point, but it can be easy to forget the significance of such a pedal in your rig. After losing my pedal during a recent gig I took to the market to take another look at what a Chorus device is, how it works, and which ones are the most suitable. In this article, I’ll be sharing my findings with you, providing you with a Buyer’s Guide and reviews of the market’s Top 10 Best Chorus Pedals!
The top 10 Chorus Pedals discussed here
Our top-rated Chorus Pedals
- Top Choice: MXR M134 Stereo Chorus
- Best Value: SONICAKE Cloud Chorus
- Best Budget Product with Plenty of Effects: MXR M234 Analog Chorus Pedal
The best of the rest
MXR M134 Stereo Chorus
|Effects||Good amount of effects that work well||4/5|
|Sound||Gives you a tremendously clear sound||5/5|
|Build||Very durable, strong design||5/5|
|Controls||Easy to use and adjust on the fly||5/5|
|Value||Great value for what you pay||5/5|
As a company, MXR has made a name for themselves through focusing on high-end devices that allow users to have incredibly flexible setups without having to necessarily shell out a ton of money. I think the reason why this product is so successful is because of how it combines excellently the very digital sound of processing and the natural sound of an effective Chorus. The end result feels very warm, fitting, and intuitive to feel out.
If you’re not happy with the way that the effect sounds out of the box, no problem—you can easily adjust any of the 5 different knobs to get it to the specific sound that you want. With these knobs you can adjust Bass, Treble, Intensity, Width, and Rate, giving you a real solid way to make your Chorus effect truly your own. However, it’s worth noting that the product could have more customization options when compared to more complex pedals, but what it has works well.
It’s important to also note that the original Chorus effect that comes out of this pedal is remarkably high quality. It’s warm and thorough without being dense, a truly wonderful addition to any guitarist’s rig. This device is also one of the most professional ones you will find available on the market, allowing you to instantly tap into a very authentic sound that mirrors many professional albums (i.e. it’s believed that Guns and Roses’ song “Paradise City” used this product for the intro).
On top of all of this, the design is quite wonderful as well. The knobs are designed to have impressions along the sides so you can easily grab into them to twist, something that I think makes the overall form highly intuitive. The bright yellow color of the device also makes it stand out in the dark, a unique aspect to this product.
EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine V3
|Effects||The most effects you’ll find on a pedal of its kind||5/5|
|Sound||Amazing sound quality||5/5|
|Build||Very compact and well-designed||5/5|
|Controls||Controls included are good, but could have more nuance||3/5|
|Value||A bit pricey for what you get||4/5|
As the most expensive item on this list, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that the price of the EarthQuaker Devices Sea Machine v3 Super Chorus Guitar Effects Pedal might be the main reason as to why people don’t invest in it. For a Chorus device, this is admittedly pricey, but I still think you should give it a chance. I say this because I do think it’s an incredible product, regardless of pricing disputes. You see, the EarthQuaker Sea Machine v3 comes with 6 different knobs you can adjust: Shape, Rate, Intensity, Depth, Dimension, Animate. Because this is more knobs than any other high-end product in the market, it’s a no-brainer for those who want to have control over all forms of nuance in their sound.
One of the slightly detrimental aspects of using this pedal, though, is that upon combining all 6 of the sounds to various settings, sometimes the sound can get muddled. This seems to be the result of over processing the input sound, making the overall balance not as consistent. Because of this, I recommend those who are more familiar with how to customize a Chorus effect to purchase this pedal. It will give experienced users enough nuance to be in control of their sound, but the learning curve might be too intimidating for complete beginners. That being said, you don’t have to be an expert to use this product—it’s a great way for amateurs to further their understanding of instrument tones.
The design of this product is also very compact, allowing you to quickly adjust and access each knob on the fly. The overall presentation is certainly geared towards a fluid workflow, having incredibly sensitive knobs that can significantly change the sound with little motion. One gripe that I have with this product, though, is the placement of the input/output jacks: why are they on the top of the device as opposed to the sides? This makes it a bit weird to incorporate into a pedal, making it slightly not intuitive. However, if you’re looking for a truly complex and high-end product, this is the pedal for you.
Azor AP-309 Analog Mini Chorus
|Effects||Not many effects, but effective||3/5|
|Sound||Sound quality is not as good as other models||3/5|
|Build||Wonky design with hard to use knobs, but very durable||3/5|
|Controls||Knobs work well, but overall difficult design||4/5|
|Value||Very worth the affordable price||5/5|
If you’re somebody who needs a good Chorus device in a pinch, this Azor Chorus Guitar Effect Mini Pedal Pure Analog True Bypass Blue is just the thing you need. As the cheapest product on this list (and remarkably cheap as far as effects devices go in general), this device gives you just what it offers to do: provide a basic Chorus effect with some customization. Under this pretense, it does the job well, allowing you a basic effect while also being able to adjust the Level, Depth, and Rate of the sound.
However, the benefits of this product essentially end here. Though it’s an incredible value for the money, you’re not going to find more than a basic sound. Even the effects that give you a good deal of nuance suffer from a very poor knob design, with the Rate knob being unreasonably larger than the Level or Depth ones, making it difficult to grab onto the latter two while in the middle of a performance.
Despite all of this, though, it’s a cheap fix, nothing more, nothing less. I’m including it on this list because it is a great example of how a Chorus effect can be achieved with little means, adding a boost to anyone’s sound. Just don’t go expecting your instrument’s tone to turn into Slash’s overnight.
Boss CE-5 Stereo Chorus Ensemble
|Effects||Decent variety of effects that work well||3/5|
|Sound||Good sound quality for a moderately-priced product||4/5|
|Build||Great overall design, but poorly designed knobs||4/5|
|Controls||Emphasizes a fluid workflow||4/5|
|Value||Well worth the money||4/5|
BOSS is a company that usually dominates the other brands with their unique and durable designs. However, it’s worth noting right off-the-bat that this product actually suffers from part of its unique design. In this case, I’m referring to the knobs, which are incredibly small and don’t provide much grip. On top of this, they blend right into the colors of the pedal, making it difficult to see them in the dark and difficult to adjust the Chorus effect with nuance. Despite this, though, the rest of the pedal is well-designed and exactly what you would expect from a BOSS product: great shape, incredibly compact, and firm. On top of this, the foot button is large and accommodating, being able to handle a good deal of pressure without loosening up at all.
The sound quality on this product is also exactly what you’d expect, offering a very solid sound that places it in a distinctly moderate range. Though it doesn’t have the professional twinge that makes it a studio-grade product, it is a noticeable step up from a beginner’s device and ideal for those looking for a more serious sound.
Andoer LEF-604 Chorus Pedal Mini
|Effects||Few effects, but effective||4/5|
|Sound||Surprisingly fantastic sound quality||5/5|
|Build||Great design, but pretty poor knob design||3/5|
|Controls||Good amount of controls, easy to use||4/5|
|Value||Great value for what you pay||4/5|
Upon taking the Andoer LEF-604 out of the box, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, it seemed like just another budget product that wouldn’t sport as hefty a sound quality as the more high-end products on the market. However, upon plugging it in and using it, I was incredibly surprised to find out that this device is possibly the highest quality budget product available on the market. In fact, when first using the product, I forgot that I was even using a budget product and had assumed I plugged in the aforementioned MXR device by accident. Truly a surprise and a worthwhile product for anyone looking for a high quality, built-in Chorus effect.
However, it’s also important to say that the benefits of this product slump after the sound quality. The design is alright, giving you a slim, compact finish, but the design of the knobs is truly subpar. I shouldn’t have to strain my eyes to read the text on a pedal and I certainly shouldn’t have to grab the Level and Depth knobs in a distinctly different way than I do the Rate one.
The design of the unit itself is pretty solid. I especially like the pieces of rubber placed underneath the device to make sure it doesn’t move when being used, something that many other product designers could learn a good deal from.
Those who are interested in a cheap, high quality device should definitely look into this, as there is something to be said for a product that gives you great flexibility once you overcome the learning curve. Though the poor knob design might be in the way at first, you’ll soon be able to create some pretty cool sounds with a device that ultimately does allow for a nice workflow.
Dunlop M148 MXR Micro Chorus
|Effects||Not many effects, but that’s the point||4/5|
|Sound||Alright sound quality, strong Chorus effect||4/5|
|Build||Solid, mini design with great color||5/5|
|Controls||Foot switch can be awkard, but other controls work well||4/5|
|Value||A bit expensive for a budget product, but still affordable and worth it||4/5|
Those on the search for a product that gives you all of the benefits of a good Chorus product without the burden of having to customize your specific sound will appreciate this device. I say this because the Dunlop M148 MXR Micro Chorus is a good example of a concise product, offering an affordable way to get a simple, but very strong Chorus effect without having to look far.
In terms of design, this is another great example of the effectiveness of the MXR brand’s design. It does not feel at all bulky, fitting the micro description of a concise and compact product. Though you’re only able to toggle the Rate knob, you can get a good amount of variety in your Chorus through using it wisely. A gripe I have with the product is that the metallic foot switch would be better off if it were a similar size to the Rate knob, providing an overall consistency with the product.
Ibanez Chorus Mini Pedal
|Effects||Basic, little nuance with effects knobs, but easily adjustable||4/5|
|Sound||Great sound quality||5/5|
|Build||Alright design, but poorly built knobs||3/5|
|Controls||Simple and intuitive||5/5|
|Value||A bit overpriced for what you get||3/5|
On the other side of mini products, with this Ibanez Chorus Mini Pedal the company tries to give you another option for a device that can get the job done while not requiring too much nuance. Upon taking this out of the box, you’ll quickly realize that it does live up to its title. It’s not only an incredibly mini device, but it also sounds great, delivering a very solid Chorus sound without taking up much space on your pedalboard.
However, those who want to customize their sound will be disappointed to find out that not only are the knobs poorly designed, making it difficult to adjust them effectively, but that the Depth knob also doesn’t even change the sound that noticeably. This was incredibly disappointing to find out, but the product worked incredibly well aside from the initial letdown. The footswitch on this thing is also pretty killer, giving you a tight, confident sense of firmness that never made me think the device was going to tip over at any point. Because of how flimsy some mini devices can be, this gave me an extra boost of confidence when using the product.
If you’re interested in this product, though, it’s likely because of the size. It’s a bit pricey for a device of its power, but can be incredibly worth it if you’re looking for a reliable product that won’t take up too much presence in your overall rig.
TC Electronic Corona
|Effects||Basic, little nuance with effects knobs, but easily adjustable||5/5|
|Sound||Great sound quality||4/5|
|Build||Alright design, but poorly built knobs||4/5|
|Controls||Simple and intuitive||5/5|
|Value||A bit overpriced for what you get||5/5|
As a device that gives you a great deal of customization, the TC Electronic Corona distinguishes itself from the competition with a lush sound that also sports 3 different types of Chorus effects to customize. I especially appreciate the amount of flexibility you get with this product without sacrificing any sound quality. If you employ all of the effects with a high FX Level, you might be able to hear the digital aspect of the processing too much, but this is a very small grip for what is overall a great product.
This is also a true bypass product for those who want to connect directly to the natural sound of your instrument. The price is also right, going neck-and-neck with some of the industry’s most high-end products while staying a fraction of the price. Those who are interested in very detailed sounds that don’t take up a lot of space on your pedalboard should definitely invest in this product.
|Effects||Many effects included, high-quality||5/5|
|Sound||Great, pure analog sound||4/5|
|Build||Unusually sturdy, very unique design||5/5|
|Controls||Good amount of controls, easy to use||5/5|
|Value||Well worth the money||5/5|
Out of all of the products I looked at for this list, the SONICAKE Cloud Chorus Guitar Effects Pedal is possibly the one that surprised me the most. The reason why I say this is because it doesn’t look like a product that will necessarily have an elegant sound—it looks confusing and inconsistent. However, some of the parts that I was skeptical about at first quickly became some of my favorite elements this device has to offer. For example, the Level and Depth knobs are incredibly small, but they have this unique layer of plastic around them that has deep enough impressions to let you grip them effectively. This also makes adjusting them to specific degrees easy, as they make full use of their available angles. On top of all of this, the unique green LEDs at the center of each knob make them incredibly visible in all situations, making this a truly unique product.
Possibly the most surprising part of this device is how thorough the sound is. Using the large Speed knob will give you access to a huge amount of different types of Chorus effects that are all conveniently laid out in this device. The sounds you get out of each option are also incredibly smooth, warm, and natural. If you’re up for trying this unique analog device, you just might love it too.
MXR M234 Analog Chorus Pedal
|Effects||5 different aspects to toggle, all effective||5/5|
|Sound||Nice sound quality||4/5|
|Build||Knobs / foot switch could be larger, but overall design is good||5/5|
|Controls||Very easy to adjust||5/5|
|Value||Worth the money for a detailed sound||5/5|
If you haven’t already noticed by the 3 different MXR products that are all in my Top 10 of products on the market, I think this company can do little wrong with making effective Chorus devices. They maintain this reputation with the MXR M234 Analog Chorus Pedal which allows you to customize a great deal of your Chorus effect without having to spend too much money on the product itself.
I really love the amount of variety you can squeeze out of this product—with 5 different knobs (Low, High, Level, Rate, and Depth) you can adjust different aspects of your Chorus so you get the exact effect you want. When I first began using Chorus devices again to do research, I felt a little in the dark with regards to learning how to use them effectively, but this product made it incredibly easy to learn the ropes again.
One might wish that the knobs were designed better, as they’re all quite small and don’t have much grip to them, but the device is so well-designed overall that you quickly forget this. I recommend this product to anyone looking for a budget buy that can also give you reliable textures.
How to Choose the Best Chorus pedal for You
Knowing which Chorus device is for you depends on what exactly it is you’re searching for. If you’re somebody who wants a very strong Chorus sound, it might be best to look for a product that doesn’t focus as much on customization. This will help you find the most natural, strong Chorus sound, as processing the effect can sometimes make it quieter overall. See here for a more general guide to choosing a guitar pedal.
You can tell these types of products apart by which ones prioritize having Rate knobs over other types, as the former is what makes any Chorus sound so powerful.
If you want a good amount of detail in your sound and be able to choose from a variety of different Chorus effects, it’s best to invest in a product that has a multitude of knobs. These knobs often include Highs, Lows, Depth, and Level of the Chorus effect.
If you are somebody who is more interested in the natural sound of your instrument, though, you should be more focused on analog and true bypass products. These will allow you to directly connect the natural sound of your instrument to the pedal and subsequently your amplifier.
Price will also affect the quality of the device, so if you’re looking for a sound that is specifically geared towards higher fidelity types of music, you should expect to also invest more money in your ideal Chorus pedal.
What is a Chorus Pedal Used For?
Chorus devices are typically used to thicken one’s sound through modulation. They are used in a variety of situations and are not limited to music specifically involving electric or acoustic guitars. In fact, there are many different artists that use Chorus effects on their acoustic guitars, with some artists even going so far as to use a Chorus effect on a bass guitar.
There are many different uses for Chorus devices, but here are two of the most basic contexts:
Chorus and Distortion
Chorus effects aren’t limited only to certain styles of music. For example, metal music is a great place to use them, with artists often combining Chorus with more gritty distortion aesthetics. This is a very 80s sound, giving a very retro feel to any artists that use it effectively. Possibly one of the most notable examples is the famous metal band Iron Maiden using distortion with Chorus devices in their song “Caught Somewhere in Time”. The album this is on, Somewhere in Time, is also notable for using this effect a lot. Sometimes the bass player Steve Harris even uses Chorus on his bass guitar, like in the song “Blood On the World’s Hands”.
Chorus and Clean Channels
Chorus effects work incredibly well with clean channels to emphasize the modulation aspect of the music to give it a warm, open feeling. Many artists that use acoustic guitars with Chorus often keep the channel clean, but there are some good examples of clean channels being used in conjunction with Chorus effects. For example, the introduction to the Guns n’ Roses song “Paradise City” is a famous example of a Chorus effect in popular music.
What Types of Chorus Are There?
Different types of Chorus are mainly determined by how you adjust the effect itself, but the most distinguishable categories are between Digital and Analog.
Digital vs. Analog Chorus Pedals
Analog Chorus devices are typically for those who are looking to retain a more natural sound. Because of the traditional and retro nature of their technology, they are more expensive to make and sometimes cost more than digital devices. However, I have reviewed some budget analog products above for anyone looking to increase the warmth of their sound and not have to spend a lot of money.
On the other hand, digital devices are cheaper to produce and also easier to modify, leading to these types of Chorus products having more options than their analog counterparts.
How Do Chorus Pedals Work?
Chorus devices work by creating clones of the signal (input sound) to put a slight delay on the second signal, creating a wobbly sound. The goal is to emulate what happens when a choir of people sing together, creating more space without actually having it, hence the name of Chorus.
Chorus vs. Flanger
A Chorus device is very similar to a flanger device in the sense that they both juxtapose two copies of the same input sound with the latter on a slight delay. The difference, though, is that the latter sound in Chorus effects is played at a slower delay, creating a more drastic effect.
Chorus vs. Delay
Chorus effects sometimes use the principles of delay effects, juxtaposing two tracks of the same input sound while putting the second on a slight delay. This is different from a normal delay sound, though, as the delay with those is more noticeable and not as subtle.
Chorus vs. Reverb
Though they can sound very similar, reverb effects create space behind the sound by adding a longer sustain, while Chorus effects give the illusion of space by juxtaposing two different versions of the same track.
Chorus vs. Tremolo
Chorus effects are different from tremolo ones in the sense that Chorus effects are made from two versions of the same input, while tremolo effects just modify one input by applying a vibrato type of effect.
Chorus vs. Phaser
Phasers are similar to Chorus and flanger effects, creating a copy of a specific input sound to play it alongside at a show delay. However, phasers don’t simply slow down the sound, but rather shift it a notch back, creating a type of round effect (where one musical phrase is started after the other has already begun).
Chorus vs. Vibrato
Vibrato is an effect taken from a physical gesture. String players often create vibrato by rapidly tilting their finger back-and-forth while playing a note, creating a wobble effect. As a result, vibrato effects for guitars are meant to create this wobble through a device. Chorus is different from vibrato as it is the sound created when mixing a vibrato track with a dry one, creating a wider gap between the two tracks.
A Brief History of Chorus Pedal
Like many effects that are now guitar devices now, Chorus wasn’t always on purpose. Historically, it was the result of a signal being out of tune, something that wouldn’t be utilized until Hammond organs became more popular in the 1930s. These unique instruments would purposefully detune certain signals, giving a Chorus effect that we know today.
This experimentation wouldn’t hit any significant strides until 30 years later when The Beatles requested in 1966 that a Chorus sound be added to their album Abbey Road. At the time, this meant using a duplicate of any given track and slightly delaying it, making the sounds feel wobbly. In some ways, this could be disorienting, but when done properly it gave the associated track more strength.
Though it was used by string ensembles after this to create fuller, larger orchestral sounds, the Chorus device as we know it today would not be pioneered until the mid-1970s when Roland would develop the technology into creating a Roland Jazz Chorus amp. From there, the technology was improved upon by other companies, eventually leading to the large market of Chorus devices available today.
How to Use Your Chorus Pedal
Using your Chorus device is typically just a matter of turning it on and then adjusting to which sound you like best. If you really enjoy the intense sound that can happen where there is harsh modulation, turn the Rate up really loud. If you want a more subtle effect, turn the Rate. Some products will list Depth instead of Rate, but they’re very similar options on a Chorus product. The other knobs included with Chorus devices are for more nuances related to frequency ranges, but the Depth and Rate will help you most effectively control the effect itself.
Where Should Chorus Pedals Sit in the Signal Chain?
Generally speaking, modulation effects such as Chorus pedals are placed after dynamics (compressors, filters, etc.) and gain/distortion, but ahead of delays and reverbs. This helps you keep your tone intact, as placing your Chorus after your distortion can muddy/smear your sound. As I highlighted in the “What is a Chorus Pedal Used For?” section, Chorus devices go very well with distortion pedals, but need to be placed after it in your signal chain to be effective.
Do I Really Need a Chorus Pedal and Are They Worth It?
Like with many effects devices, whether or not it’s worth it depends on if you will be using it in your sound. If you’re a punk guitarist that is more interested in gritty, natural sounds, then perhaps it’s not ideal to utilize a Chorus device. It should be noted, though, that many guitarists underestimate the power of Chorus products and often assume that they bring on a cheesy effect. This is exactly what I thought when my Chorus device was stolen, as I believed I wouldn’t need another. However, when used sparingly, I realized it could be used to effectively thicken my sound.
Out of all of the Chorus products I’ve written reviews for, the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus by far is the most well-rounded product. Whereas some devices might have too much of an artificial effect or rely too much on a natural-sounding Chorus, the MXR M134 gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to customize while also feeling powered by the natural sound of your instrument. On top of this, the sound is just incredibly crisp, something that is often masked by processing in other products that have similar levels of customization. The price might be a bit much for some looking for an easy, cheap fix, but it isn’t that much money to sacrifice for a truly amazing product. This is why I think the MXR M134 is not just a wonderful product, but the Best Chorus pedal available—you can sound like a professional without having to be.