Seymour Duncan has been busy building some new pedals lately. One of the newest offerings is the dynamic new Catalina Chorus, a brand new effect with a few features that have never appeared on any chorus pedal before. The Catalina Chorus is Seymour Duncan’s first chorus pedal, and they went for the gold with this one. It is a true analog pedal that is also true bypass, so it doesn’t affect your signal in any way when it isn’t on. However, when it is on, you might not want it to turn it off! Analog bucket brigade devices (BBDs) provide the sound, while a sine wave* provides the modulation. But this chorus has a few fancy tricks you can’t find in traditional chorus pedals. This article explains the great ideas implemented in the Catalina Chorus, and provides a handful of sound clips to hear it in action.
*To read how a sine wave modulates (changes) a signal, check out this article on what a chorus pedal actually does.
So what is so new here?
The Catalina Chorus is a traditional analog chorus with one amazing feature. Called Dynamic Expression, it controls the depth of the chorus depending on how hard you play. Remember your favorite overdrive or amp, and how you can vary the distortion amount by pick dynamics or using the volume control? Now imagine that idea applied to a chorus pedal. The Catalina Chorus can adjust the depth of the chorus just by varying how you pick. Pick lighter, you can get gooey analog yummy chorus. Hit the guitar harder, and the chorus goes away, and you didn’t have to hover by your pedalboard. And if that wasn’t enough, you can reverse how this acts, so you can increase the depth when you pick harder. Of course, it sounds great even when you don’t use this feature (with just the left switch engaged).
Let’s hear it!
I plugged in the Catalina Chorus to a 9v power supply (not included), and away I went. First, here is the tone of the Catalina Chorus. I used probably the most common setup: an electric guitar into a clean amp (a Fender Twin, in this case). The pickup was a neck Jazz humbucker. I play a phrase, and then turn the pedal on (left switch), then play the same phrase. Watery, shimmery goodness.
Here is a short, clean solo I used with very little on the Rate knob (I like a slow rate), and high depth and mix.
Next, we will hear it with the Dynamic Expression switched to soft. This way, the quiet parts have chorus, and as you play louder, the depth decreases. It is great for intros that are fingerpicked, and when the heavy chords kick in, you don’t have to be near your pedal to tun it off. Here, I demonstrate that you don’t actually hear the chorus ‘switch’ on, it is an infinitely dynamic ‘ramp’ on and off, rather than an on/off switch. You hear the chorus effect get stronger as I dig into the strings more, yet it doesn’t sound like turning the whole pedal on and off. It is an effect we used to only be able to get with overdrive. Dynamic Expression: get it?
Here is the opposite: The Dynamic Expression is switched to hard. The harder I pick, the more chorus you hear. I am impressed how well it tracks dynamics: you never hear it switch on, it follows the playing wonderfully.
The Catalina Chorus works well for acoustic too. Here is an acoustic passage recorded in stereo. I have the Dynamic Expression off, and you can hear how turning the pedal on takes up a huge sonic space.
I can’t forget the bass! I got a bass recently, and decided to see how well the Catalina Chorus handles the low end. I start with it off, then you can hear it come in. This sounds like it would be perfect for ballads or an occasional solo.
The Catalina Chorus is capable of many sounds, and my quick examples here are just a sampling of what you can hear in this box. The Dynamic Expression is the real deal, and sounds like it could be useful for those who like to alter their sound with picking dynamics. It sounds absolutely huge in stereo, and really expands the sound of clean guitars.
Do you like to alter the sound of your guitar with picking dynamics? Have you ever used a chorus pedal before?