How to Embrace the Stunning Popularity of Chorus Pedals

They say history is cyclical. Nowhere is that more apparent than in guitar tone. From the roar of high-gain stacks to the cleans of pedal-friendly combos, the prominence of Big Muffs to the classic Tube Screamer, tonal trends come and go, then come and go again.

But no effect’s on again-off again popularity is as polarizing as the chorus pedal. Once used on every guitar tone throughout its 1980s heyday, the 1990s seemed to ban the effect overnight. From then until recently, it was the most ‘uncool’ effect on the market. At least that’s what people thought. Here’s a quick history of what really happened.

1970s

Chorus got its start as a guitar effect in the 1970s when Boss released one of their first floor-based effects, the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. Though bulky, even for the time, it allowed players to achieve the bubble-like tones, shimmer, and thickening that was previously reserved to studio trickery. Throughout the decade, the CE-1, electro-harmonix’s Electric Mistress flanger (it makes a killer chorus. Just ask Andy Summers), and the Roland JC-120 amp combo inspired tones as iconic as Alex Lifeson’s “La Villa Strangiato,” intro and Jaco Pastorius’s fretless bass tones on “Continuum.”

1980s

Chorus was everywhere in the ‘80s. It was on every overly polished pop hit. Rock and metal embraced it for everything from 80s rock power ballads to the clean tones of Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” And, thanks to John Scofield, even jazz wasn’t immune. It was the age of the Dytronics Tri-Stereo-Chorus, Arion SCH-1, the evolving Boss CE-2, and more.

1990s

After a decade of dominance, chorus’s time had come to a quick and harsh end. Overnight, Players around the world relegated their pedals to closets, drawers, and pawn shops. It was a change in taste that lasted up until very recently. But it is worth noting, while no self-respecting rock guitarist would admit to liking the effect, it still made its way on to some of the most legendary songs. A perfect example is the Small Clone-laced intro and leads of Nirvana’s seminal hit, “Come as You Are.”

2000s

Like the ‘90s, chorus remained mostly out of the picture throughout the 2000s. But – also like the ‘90s – it still managed to fight its way to the top of the charts from time to time. Nu metal players such as Head (Korn) and Incubus’s Mike Einziger, found use in the forgotten pedals by cranking them into uncharted territory.

Throughout the 2010s, chorus pedals have come back in a big way. Thanks to players’ heavy reliance on clean, pedal-platform amps and highly involved pedalboards, they are being used for everything from recreating the classic ‘70s and ‘80s tones to powering the reinvigorated alternative and indie rock scenes. That also means there has been a groundswell in new chorus pedals designs.

Insanely powerful multi-effects and even top-of-the-line amp modeling hardware have integrated powerful modulation options. Onboard these units, you’ll find chorus tones that run the gamut of crystal-like digital clarity to warmer analog simulations. It’s truly remarkable what many of these units offer.

But if you like your modern pedals to retain the authentic warm, rich tones of an analog, bucket-brigade circuit, we think you’ll love the Seymour Duncan Catalina Chorus. Within this pedalboard-friendly enclosure are a vast array of easily accessible modulated tones. Controls for Depth, Rate (the speed of the modulation), Mix, and Tone are all you need to add addictive movement, shimmer, and depth to your playing. But we didn’t stop there.

catalina beauty shot

The heart and soul of the Catalina Chorus is its Dynamic Expression mode. Once activated, you can determine the depth of the pedal’s chorus effect with how hard you hit the strings. Switch the pedal into ‘Hard’ mode and bring in the modulation by digging in. Flip to ‘Soft’ mode, and you’ll find your lighter-picked passages take on the pedal’s affected voice.

Catalina knob details

Catalina features

Want even more control? We also added an intuitive ‘Delay’ knob, which manipulates the chorus effect’s intensity.

If you’re thinking, “Delay? I thought this was a chorus pedal.” you wouldn’t be alone.

The most common form of pedal chorusing is actually created by utilizing delay. The circuit generates a copy of your signal then modulates the copy’s delay time back and forth. It’s very similar to what you find in phaser and flanger pedals. But those effects manipulate the copied signal differently.

That Pedal Show did a terrific segment explaining the process. You can check it out here.

Classically, chorus effects were placed either after everything but your time-based effects on your pedalboard or in your amp’s effects loop. This allows them to blanket your entire tone without interfering with tone/filter-based pedals. But thanks to the Catalina’s Dynamic Expression, you might find a perfect spot at the front, middle, or end of your chain. Want lush cleans but dry distortion? Put it after your overdrive pedal and set the effect to turn off when boosted. Flip to ‘Hard’ mode and enjoy chorus-drenched leads every time you hit that same OD or boost.

The Catalina Chorus is also true bypass. With the line-driving abilities of buffered and hardwired-bypass pedals, we want the Catalina to be out of your way when you don’t need it. So no matter where you place it in your chain (assuming you have a good-quality buffer in there somewhere) your tone remains intact.

With chorus returning to pedalboards everywhere and technology screaming forward at the speed of light, we are all enjoying a boom in incredible digital pedals with astounding power. But there are still many among us who dodge the DSP and prefer the authentic, true analog tones of yesteryear. We say why not have both? Put a Catalina Chorus on your board and start swimming in classic shimmer and futuristic sonic exploration, all while maintaining a new level of touch-responsive control.

Want to know more about the Catalina Chorus? Check out the Catalina Chorus product page, or shoot us an email. We’d love to give you all the details on what Catalina can do.

Catalina front

Catalina Chorus Product Page

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