Chorus is an effect you should always have in your tool box, whether you’re slamming out riffs, firing off precision-guided arpeggios, or weaving ambient sonic tapestries. You can use chorus to fatten up your sound at lower settings, add depth and fluidity at moderate settings, and go full on space age at extreme settings.

How does it work? Chorus pedals double your signal and then delay the duplicate at a constantly varying rate—usually with an LFO, or low-frequency oscillator—before mixing it back into the original signal. Varying the duplicate signal’s delay time causes pitch shifting thanks to the Doppler effect. This pitch shifting mimics the slightly off-key sound created by a choir of singers—even though they’re singing the same piece of music at the same time, no one person is singing with exactly the same pitch and intonation as any of the others. And that’s why we call it chorus.

Guitar players first got their hands on the chorus effect in 1975 as a feature of Roland’s Jazz Chorus Amp. Pedal versions followed shortly after, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that chorus really found its place in popular music. Since then, artists from all over the stylistic map have embraced the effect, from Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers to Eddie Van Halen and Slash.

The MXR Line

MXR® first entered the chorus market in 1980 with big, yellow, three-knob box simply called the Stereo Chorus. The original Stereo Chorus was all-around great sounding pedal, but its most defining feature was its Manual control. As with the MXR Flanger, the Stereo Chorus’ Manual control allowed players to adjust the effect’s delay time (the Speed control adjusted the oscillation rate).

The Micro Chorus followed the Stereo Chorus in 1981. With a single Speed knob for straightforward operation, this pedal is to chorus what the Phase 90 is to phasing. While compact and easy to use, the Micro Chorus pours out volumes of rich, modulated shimmer with a hint of flange around the edges. A few years back, we re-introduced the Micro Chorus—along with the Micro Flanger—as a faithful reissue of the original circuit.

The Stereo Chorus returned to the MXR line several years ago with a complete circuit overhaul. Today’s version has a very clean, modern sound with a very pronounced pitch shifting quality. Running on 18 volts, the Stereo Chorus now has a ton of headroom. The MXR team swapped out the Manual control for an Intensity control—essentially a wet/dry mix—and added Bass and Treble EQ controls and a Bass Filter switch to remove the effect from low end frequencies.

The Analog Chorus is MXR’s take on the classic “dirty” analog chorus sound. Compared to the Stereo Chorus, its pitch shifting quality is more subtle, but with lower headroom, this pedal breaks up nicely when pushed with a little extra gain. Like the Stereo Chorus, the Analog Chorus has controls to tweak the wet/dry mix and shape the high and low end of the chorus effect. The Analog Chorus is a natural fit for hard rock and metal—just ask Slash and Rise Against’s Zach Blair—but its tweakability makes it an incredibly versatile pedal.

Using the Chorus Effect

How you use a chorus pedal depends on your needs as a guitar player or bass player. Here’s a few tips to get the most out of the effect without overdoing it.

First, have an idea of why you want to add chorus to a song. Adding ambience and movement to a slow piece, making your solo stand out, thickening up strummed passages—these are all good reasons to use a chorus pedal.

When you decide how you want to use your chorus pedal in a song, experiment with different playing styles and control settings. You’ll have to play differently with a subtle tone thickening sound dialed in than you would with a spectral, ambient sound or with an all-out deluge of swirling oscillation.

Finally, try combining chorus with other effects. Experiment. Overdrives, distortions, and delays are a great place to start. If you want to take your modulation game to the next level, try adding a flanger or a phaser to the mix. As for the order of effects, there’s obviously no hard and fast rules, but most guitar players willx tell you to place your chorus pedal after the effect you’re pairing it with. This allows the chorus effect to fully develop and work its magic on the rest of the signal.

Don’t let its small size fool you—the Cry Baby® Mini Wah’s tones are just as powerful and expressive as those of its larger compadres. It’s built like a tank, and at half the size of a standard Cry Baby pedal, the CBM95 is perfect wherever space comes at a premium. Whether you’re trying to make room on a full-sized pedalboard or add authentic Cry Baby tone to your micro travel board, this pedal is a must-have.

Senior Engineer and Cry Baby design veteran Sam McRae sat down to give us a run down of the Cry Baby Mini Wah’s sound, feel, and construction. Read on.

How does the sound and frequency range of the CBM95 compare to the GCB95? Does it use a Fasel® Inductor?

Sam McRae: The Cry Baby Mini Wah is indeed equipped with a classic red Fasel inductor, but it has three different frequency ranges, which you can select by removing the bottom plate and using the internal 3-position switch.

The High setting (H) gives you the same sound as the GCB95. The Mid setting (M) gives you more of a classic or vintage sounding range, and the Low setting (L) gives you a darker sound. Basically, we took our three most popular Cry Baby voicings and put them into a housing that’s half the size. That way, you can get pretty close to the voice of your favorite standard-sized Cry Baby Wah and save pedalboard space at the same time.

Does the CBM95 have the same physical sweep range as a standard-sized Cry Baby Wah?

Sam: Yes, the physical sweep range of this pedal is the same as our standard-sized Cry Baby Wahs. What that means is the rocker can travel just as far in either direction, so you have just as much control over the behavior of the effect.

Is there anything mechanically different about the CBM95?

Sam: The potentiometer is a totally custom design that preserves the historical taper of the original pedal but while being scaled down to fit the smaller space. We employed the latest technology to give it exceptionally long life (greater than 3 million cycles), minimize noise, and retain the iconic Cry Baby sound. We also sealed it to keep out dust and any other particulates that might interfere with the wiper and the resistive element. We further reinforced the longevity of this pedal by designing the rack and pinion gears so as to provide a constant relationship between the rocker rotation and the rotation of the potentiometers shaft without any variation in the interface pressure.

We designed the CBM95 for serious, rigorous performance—it’s not just a cute little afterthought.

Who is the Cry Baby Mini Wah designed for?

Sam: If you already use a Cry Baby Wah as part of your sound but you want to free some space on your board, or you’ve wanted to try a Cry Baby Wah but you were reluctant to do so because of the footprint, then this pedal is definitely for you.

And even if space isn’t an issue on your board, this pedal sounds great in its own right. The three voicings make it very versatile.

When guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll took over the music scene in the mid–1960s, the era’s trailblazers were equipped with Herco’s original nylon pick. By the end of the decade, nearly every guitar player was using them. Their smooth feel and warm sound appealed to the pros who were recording hit records and playing on the world’s biggest stages, while their widespread availability made it an easy choice for anyone wanting to learn to play rock guitar.

The list of greats who have used Herco picks over the years is extensive, and it includes Jimmy Page, Joe Walsh, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy, Pete Townsend, David Gilmour, Don Felder, Tommy Bolin, Rory Gallagher, and Gary Moore. The popularity of those picks endures today, with some artists—such as Keith Urban, Steve Jones, Gene Simmons, Billy Duffy, Troy Van Leeuwen, Don Felder, Eddie Van Halen, Wilco, Queens of the Stone Age, Nikki Sixx, and Madonna–having their own custom molds.

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Dunlop has provided musicians with so many amazing tools for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when that wasn’t the case. It’s also easy to forget that this company doesn’t just have a man’s name—it was actually named after a man. And 50 years ago, that man was perceptive enough to see a need in the marketplace, smart enough to be able to design and build a product to fill that need, and fearless enough to think that he could sell that product to millions of musicians. It was indeed that fearless and adventurous spirit that brought Jim Dunlop to the US from Canada in the 1960s. As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, Jim and his son Jimmy sat down with us to talk about our company’s beginnings and most important milestones.

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The MXR® Custom Shop is all about sonic discovery. In their effort to explore the furthest reaches of tone, the Custom Shop team invites accomplished independent pedal designers from around the world to contribute their unique perspectives and design styles to the cause. The first such collaboration is the Il Torino Overdrive, a highly tweakable overdrive pedal designed with Carlo Sorasio, Italy’s top tone maestro. He works with Italy’s top musical acts, designing amps and pedals to suit their needs on the road and in the studio.

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