Written by Bobby
Updated by Sadie
Recently updated on August 28th, 2020
Checked each product link for availability and made minor changes to article formatting. No pedals were added or removed.
Best Cheap Chorus PedaL
Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble
Though pricing can fluctuate, the CE-5 is your best shot at getting a high-end chorus pedal at less than $100. Even for digital modulation, it doesn't get much cheaper unless you go really budget-friendly, which I don't necessarily recommend.
I think chorus pedals are one type of effect you can afford to cheap out on.
They're a simple sound that uses digital processing (or analog circuits) to create a slightly off-pitch layer of your tone (or multiple layers) that gives your guitar a shimmering sound quality.
Here's a demo from one of the chorus pedals we'll highlight:
Buying Low on a Chorus Pedal
Chorus involves less algorithmic complexity and tends to be a more subtly-used effect, meaning it doesn't need to have a central role in your sound.
This means we can afford to pinch pennies and pick from only cheap chorus pedals.
I've provided three recommendations in the above table comprised of chorus pedals I've actually used or someone I have direct contact with has used. While they're not the top guitar pedals of their particular category, they do provide exceptionally good value and have notably good sound quality for what you pay.
We'll start with the Boss CE-5 then work our way down.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments section and I'll do my best to help out.
Best Cheap Chorus Pedals
Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble
MXR Micro Chorus
Donner Tutti Love Chorus
1. Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble
The Boss CE-5 chorus ensemble is great for electric guitar players that want a pedal that can layer their clean signal.
With all the knobs at 12 o'clock, the CE-5 provides a nuanced layer of modulation that can give your clean playing that extra bit of "pop."
It also works really well as an acoustic guitar pedal.
Where should I put the CE-5 in my signal chain?
The CE-5 is a type of modulation effect, which means it should be placed after your distortion or gain pedals but before your ambient effects like delay and reverb.
If you aren't sure about where it should go, leave a note in the comments section describing your pedalboard and I'll see if I can help out.
What does the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble sound like?
Despite being a fairly cheap chorus pedal, the Boss CE-5 has a shimmering, relaxed tone that does a great job of layering your clean signal without covering it up. I've covered all the settings in this demo:
Turning up the rate and/or the depth knob to their higher settings gives you a much deeper cut into the effect, which I don't like as much as the more subtle settings.
Yet with the added flexibility of the two Filter controls, there are a lot of different sounds to help "flavor" your clean tone.
Who is the CE-5 most ideal for?
The CE-5 is a great chorus pedal for beginners.
It's also one that you'll likely keep as you progress into more advanced stages of playing. In other words, it's not a cheap chorus pedal that you'll need to replace as you get more "serious" about using the effect.
Priced for beginners, it can hold its own on professional rigs as well.
Any kind of live performance, recording, or just bedroom jamming situation will be a good fit for it.
IDEAL FOR: Subtle layering of a clean electric guitar
2. MXR Micro Chorus
Where the MXR Micro chorus falls short is control.
It only has one knob that controls the chorus rate, which leaves depth at a static setting. Having rate and depth is a pretty standard requirement for chorus pedals, so it's disappointing to see that omitted.
However, like the MXR Phase 90, the Micro Chorus sounds really good out of the box and doesn't make you feel like much needs to be changed.
Like the Phase 90, it uses an entirely analog circuit.
It's a great "set-and-forget" type of effect.
Who is the Micro Chorus ideal for?
The Micro Chorus is an old-school chorus pedal designed with an entirely analog bucket brigade circuit, which makes it a good fit for fans of vintage guitar styles and classic rock.
Those who keep their pedals in a rack unit and just want a simple on-off modulation might also enjoy the simplicity.
In the MXR Micro Chorus, you're paying for better tone quality as opposed to extended control.
IDEAL FOR: Small pedalboards, set and forget
3. Donner Tutti Love Chorus
Donner is firmly an "economy" brand of guitar pedal.
However, some of their offerings sound quite good and do cross off our control-scheme needs.
The Tutti Love chorus pedal has a level, depth, and rate control and is also true bypass, which is rare in pedals this cheap. I'm fairly certain that part of the reason they're able to offer them as true bypass is because the pedal itself is so small.
As a result, connection between the two cable ends is more easily preserved.
Who is the Tutti Love ideal for?
I'd recommend this pedal primarily based on price, but the size is convenient as well for saving pedalboard space.
It's great for beginners, or those who want to use the chorus effect sparingly.
From a pure sound-quality perspective, the Tutti Love is surprisingly decent.
It's a digital emulation, but the warmth and "shimmer" you expect from a good chorus pedal is there.
This is a steal at less than $40.
IDEAL FOR: Budget pedalboards
Finding Value: Cost VS Price
Though it's not as clear with only three products, we can still use our ratings systems to plot quality against the cost of each cheap chorus pedal. This gives us a visual of how the pedals compare against one another. Further down and to the right is better.
Keep in mind, this doesn't take into account the fluctuation of used pricing, which can be really good with the CE-5 and Micro Chorus. It's not uncommon to see the CE-5 drop into the high $70 or low $80 range.
Other Cheap Chorus Pedals for Different Situations
There are a lot of cheap chorus pedals that I didn't include here, largely because I believe these three are the best that come under our salary cap.
However, there are probably differing opinions on what would be considered "cheap."
There are also different situations that can be helped by different pedals.
I'll try and cover a few quick recommendations here, while still staying in a lower price range:
With Analog Circuits
Lots of Knobs (control)
For Pros Who Still Want a Deal
Conclusion and Questions
Buying a cheap chorus pedal is fairly easy. And, depending on how cheap, you might even be able to get some higher-end features like true bypass and analog circuits.
As I researched these, it appeared to me that there is a pretty significant cut off point at $100.
Once you go under that price range, quality and brand recognition take a hit.
But even then, it's possible to find some decent options.
Check on these recommendations and see if you can find something on the cheap side. If not, move up your price range a little more until you find what you're looking for.
Keep in mind:
As I mentioned before, chorus pedals are a pretty straightforward effect, which means even the cheaper pedals tend to sound really good.
You can afford to buy low on them.
If you have questions about the pedals listed here or about chorus pedals in general, feel free to leave those in the comments section below and I'll respond there.
Thanks for reading.