I have had the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus for a while now and was always very satisfied with it. The sound is very nice, it has controls for intensity, depth and rate, a seperate, 2-knob EQ section and feels very sturdy.
Downside is, it is quite big and takes up quite some room on my pedalboard. I’ve come to like the new wave of mini-pedals lately, and so I wanted to see if there are any other choruses – is that even a word? – out there that would deliver the lush stereo sound of the M134, but maybe in a smaller package.
As I soon realized, unfortunately there are no stereo choruses out there in the mini-format and so I decided to try out the two quite famous Boss chorus pedals, the CH-1 Super Chorus and the CE-5 Chorus Ensemble and while doing so, make a little shootout with them…because why the hell not?
First things first, let me jut quickly state that – contrary to what some people on the web say – the CE-5 is NOT an “upgraded” CH-1, or a CH-1 with “more control over the EQ”! These two pedals have a very different sound, more different than you could adjust with the EQ!
The CH-1 sounds lush and warm, but is only really capable of producing that one sound. The CE-5 on the other hand has quite some tonal range (thanks to it’s dedicated bass and treble controls), but never feels as warm or lush as the CH-1. Also the CH-1 sounds very subtle (maybe too subtle in a band context?), while the CE-5 is more “in your face”. Make no mistake, both of these pedals are 100% digital (although you still may find some older, analogue CH-1s on Ebay), it just seems Boss went for a completely different tonal direction with the newer CE-5.
Here is a video of all 3 pedals:
Now let’s talk about stereo. I really like my modulation-, reverb- and delay effects in stereo, and although it is sometimes a pain in the ass when you record your guitars “old-school-style” with an amp and mics and don’t have room (or double equipment) for a 2-amp setup, imo the end justifies the means! (A simple but effective workaround is to set-up your stereo pedals as if you would record in live stereo, use one output to go into your mic’ed amp, and the other into a DI or your soundcard. Later, when you have recorded and cut your tracks you take the “dry” DI track, internally route it to an output and go back into the amp, so you can basically re-amp your recorded DI-track. Note that if the signal sounds muddy or lacking in treble you will have to use a re-amping box, like the Palmer Dacappo for example)
Now if you watch the video you will see that the Boss pedals actually behave quite strangely when you try to run them in stereo?! As soon as you turn the effect level down, one output qets quiter, and I really mean the whole signal, not just the chorus effect on the guitar! The Boss manuals of both the CH-1 and the CE-5 have this to say about the outputs:
When using the CH-1 in stereo output:
OUTPUT A: Only effect sound (whose pitch is changing) is output. OUTPUT B: Only normal sound is output.
The CH-1 adopts the space compounding stereo system, therefore, the effect will vary depending on the distance between two speakers (L/R). Try playing the instrument to check how it actually sounds like. if you lower the equalizer or effect level, the pan will be moved to Output B
That basically means when you connect your Boss chorus to two amps, one of them is always dry, without any chorus sound, just unmodulated guitar signal! In even simpler words, your precious Boss chorus acts like an Y-cable or splitter box (with integrated volume knob for one side). That is in no way how I imagine stereo sound to work, but to be fair, Boss doesn’t really advertise these pedals as stereo devices. Anyways, that’s one point for the MXR 🙂
Speaking about sound, is has to be said I was quite surpised how good the Boss CH-1 sounded straight out of the box! Comparing the three devices I really liked the warm sound of the Boss Ch-1 the most, with the MXR coming in at a close second. Thing is, the CH-1 is really a one trick pony. It handles one sound, and one sound only! The knobs on the CH-1 work and all, but (apart from the rate of course) they don’t seem to do that much of a difference. I guess all of this is no problem if you like the basic sound the pedal is producing.
Personally though, I like to have a little bit more control over my pedals, and because I liked the sound of the CH-1 the best but didn’t like it’s (let’s face it: non-existing) stereo options, I tried to simulate the sound of the Boss Super Chorus on my MXR Stereo Chorus (in the video starting from XX:XX)
So there you have it. With the sophisticated controls of the MXR you are able to come pretty close to the Boss, don’t you think? So for me, I guess I’ll stick with the MXR for now 🙂
Here are quick pros and cons of the CH-1 and the MXR (I’ll neglect the CE-5, really wasn’t that impressed with that pedal):
+ compact size
+ quality of build
– but one sound only
– which is quite subtle, too
– stereo is a joke
MXR Stereo Chorus:
+ way more control over sound
+ produces every chorus sound you could ever imagine
+ real stereo
+ quality of build
– double the size of a Boss pedal
– double the prize of a Boss pedal
Please leave a message which of these choruses you like best!
The Disclaimer: I don’t do these videos and reviews professionally and only use gear I can afford. The subject of this video/review is the gear reviewed, not my playing, thankyouverymuch. Please let me know what I could do better in future videos or what gear you would like me to review! Thanks for watching and reading!
Used gear: Fender Lonestar Strat MiM and/or Epiphone Les Paul with Seymour Duncan PUs, Fender Blues Jr. III, Sennheiser E906 into Scarlett Focusrite into Windows PC running Reaper. Drums by Toontrack.