CostaLab ChorusLab review

January 13th 2012 | Posted in Reviews | 22 Comments

The chorus effect has been a crucial part of guitarists’ tone since the early 80s. Dismissed by some as cheesy, others can’t play without it. Italian CostaLab has received a lot of praise for their Cornish-inspired pedals and clones of old classics. Here’s my review of the ChorusLab.

I must admit – I’ve never been a chorus kind of guy. Still, I tend to use it quite a lot. It’s one of those effects that, to me at least, sounds better when someone else is using it but I also appreciate how it make a dull overdrive or distortion sound quite sweet. David Gilmour has been using chorus since 1980. Two Boss CE2 pedals were featured in his Wall stage rig assigned to each channel for a wide stereo spread. As most other guitarists in the 80s David featured the CE2 in all of his rigs, either for stereo spread or a single pedal depending on the purpose of the setup.

Gilmourish.Com CostaLab ChorusLab review

The CostaLab ChorusLab is housed in a TRex sized box with true bypass switching, a bright easy to see led and it runs on either 9V battery or Boss-style power supply. The pedal feature controls for depth, speed and mix.

It feels almost sacrilege to not dismiss every Boss CE2 clone but I’ve ways found analog chorus like the CE2, EHX Small Clone and similar to be just a little too dominating with too much mid range. The ChorusLab is quite the opposite. No doubt the pedal is based on the classic CE2 with the same analog flavour but the ChorusLab is much warmer and smoother and blends better with other pedals. A huge improvement in my opinion.

I’m using a Fender Road Worn 60s body with a Warmoth 57 super thin neck and TexMex pickups into the ChorusLab and a Laney Cub12 15w stack. Reverb and delay is added in Logic.

A welcomed bonus is the mix control allowing you to mix the effect signal from 0 to flat to near flanger-ish. This makes it easy to adjust the chorus effect to match the other pedals. Clean tones and mild overdrives could do with a fat chorusy tone, while distortions sounds better with a milder setting. You can also dial in a pretty convincing rotary tone that stays in pitch unlike most chorus pedals, which tend to get all wild and swirly when you increase the rate and depth.

Chorus pedals tend to be a bit noisy. Part because of age but also due to the boosted mid range. The ChorusLab is dead silent and the true bypass switching makes it easy to blend it demanding vintage pedals.

If you’re not really a chorus guy or simply think that other chorus pedals doesn’t sound warm or natural enough then the ChorusLab is highly recommended. Whether you’re seeking the magic ingredient for David’s PULSE tones or just something that will beef up your tones you’ll find that the ChorusLab nails pretty much everything. Check out the CostaLab website for more info and ordering.

22 comments so far

  1. Dylan says:

    Great article Bjorn :)

  2. Euan says:

    Hey. Just wondering if your gonna put your settings section back up?! I always use it as a go too if I’m struggling getting the tone I’m looking for!

    Enjoying the site. Keep it up. Very grateful

    [Here's the link. - Bjorn]

  3. Nate says:

    Woah, new guitar?

    [Yep. Got this custom super thin Warmoth '57 maple last year and bought a Fender Road Worn 60s body for it. All stock at the moment apart from the Callaham bridge system. The TexMex pickups are OK but I'll replace them with 69s or something similar. The guitar plays like a dream! - Bjorn]

  4. Marcus says:

    Nice one, sounds very lush and warm indeed. Have my heart pretty much set on the Diamond Halo Chorus for very much the reasons you describe in the article: warm, silent and not too dominating, but just might need to reconsider that and have a closer look at this one.

    [Highly recommended! - Bjorn]

  5. Alan says:

    Woah, sounds great! Aside from spending too much on other gear, I probably wouldn’t get this just because I’m more of a flanger man myself, what about you Bjorn?

    [I'm definitely more of a flanger and phaser guy but the reason I've never liked chorus is that they're just too dominating and mid boosted. The ChorusLab is quite the opposite. It may not find its way to my boards but I really enjoy it. - Bjorn]

  6. Boidek says:

    Great looking guitar!
    Great review, but for that price I think you can get a Boss CE-2B with a mix knob that will do the same or even a better job for less $$$.
    Although their Custom Stereo Chorus looks much more interesting and so is their Custom Tape Echo Sim.

  7. Hugo Martinez says:

    Great Review Bjorn!! as always a good reading on the net.
    I agree with Boidek regarding the ce-2b..

    [Thanks! I've never tried the CE2b my self... perhaps I should check it out :) - Bjorn]

  8. Daniele says:

    I know Costatino’s (the owner of costalab) pedals quality, i can also do a copy of Cornish TES starting from a dd2

  9. TomM says:

    The pedal sounds pretty good. Not too dominating at all.
    As nice as it is, I don’t think I can justify ever getting a separate chorus pedal because the chorus on my JC-120 sounds too good.
    It works well with clean or dirty sounds (personally I really like the amp with a Big Muff, even if it is solid state), and layers well with a phaser (I will have to get a flanger to try too).
    It gives a nice understated ‘extra dimension’ to everything – very Gilmourish one might say…

    In fact, I can hardly ever find a reason to turn it off!

  10. John says:

    Great review as always. Would like to get your thoughts on the VFE Enterprise… essentially a phase 90 clone with some tweeks. Has the option to switch between 4/3/2 stages and phase/vibe so could probably cover a fair amount of Gilmour tones… Seen it or tried it yet?

    [Haven't tried it yet. Only tried the Fiery Red Horse. Great pedal! - Bjorn]

  11. Nick says:

    Hi Bjorn!
    Happy New Year and I hope all is well with you. Another nice review mate. I picked up that Red Witch Empress Chorus before Christmas and have been really enjoying it, like this pedal it offers great functionality and a big range of useable (and tweakable) tones. I’m particularly interested in your new guitar and remember a post quite some time ago in which you mentioned you had your eyes on one of these Road Worn’s. I also purchased a 60′s Road Worn, in olympic white with rosewood board. Ive loaded in TTS crazy diamond neck/middle pups and the mightly SSL-5 in the bridge and she really sings! Yet to get the Callaham bridge but prob will at some stage.. I played quite a few Strats before I made this purchase and if you can get over the ‘made in Mexico’ thing – for me – nothing came close in that price range in terms of feel, playability and tone. Well done on your new purchase!
    Cheers
    Nick

    [Hi Nick! The guitar could be made in China for all I care as long as it both sound good and plays well :) I've been keen on a road worn since they got introduced some time ago but never really liked the necks. A bitt too worn for my taste and there's also the possibility of serious problems with the frets when the neck dries up. Anyway, the Warmoth neck was initially intended for my Gilmour-inspired Strat but it didn't quite suit the guitar. It's a custom '57 with a really thin contour and nitro finish. Amazing to play! The road worn body goes really well with the neck and balances out the slightly bright maple. It's incredible how warm and smooth sounding these road worn bodies sound! I've loaded it with a Callaham and will be replacing the TexMex pickups with some Dave Allen Voodoos I think. The TexMex has just too much mid range for my taste. Cheers! - Bjorn]

  12. Bigsby says:

    Hey Bjorn!

    I am also absolutely loving this chorus. You inspired me to get one and after I pulled the trigger I couldn’t be happier! Quick question, I’m thinking of swapping my original AVRI 62 strat pickups (they suck imo) and getting either the Crazy Diamond or Dave Allen voodoo set. I’m basically going for a vintage Gilmour tone (Dark Side or the Wall tone) and also John Mayer as well. They’re both my two favorite blues guitarists.

    I’m gonna eventually try both but do you reckon starting with the Dave Allen’s?

    Thanks,
    Bigsby

    [They're very similar but the Dave Allen's are perhaps a bit more scooped, which makes them better for Mayer. The TTS has a hotter bridge pickup though, which I prefer. - Bjorn]

  13. Erik says:

    Great article and sound clip, Bjorn!
    Which one of the ChorusLab and the Waterfall from Jam pedals would you recommend?
    Which one handles overdrive/distortion best? And clean as well?

    [Takk skal du ha :) The Waterfall has a much more dominating tone and a deeper modulation. It does a very good job replicating that classic rotary tone and of the two I think this one's better for the cleans and mild overdrives. The ChorusLab is excellent for dirtier overdrives and distortions as it's more transparent and you have the mix feature. - Bjorn]

  14. Euan says:

    Has anyone tried the jam retrovibe pedal?

  15. Jerome says:

    Bjorn — you always have the best articles! – thank goodness i saw this before i went out and bought a boutique chorus pedal. This thing sounds SUPER transparent… I run in stereo so i will send this to the effects loop of my Rivera with my Carbon Copy Delays… i know it will sound superb… and very gilmour. Im im lucky, since I will only send the chorus signal to only one of my amps, i can slightly mock the rotary effect, and adjust the mix level accordingly. I have tried like 7 rotary pedals. High quality… medium..etc… all are WAY too dominant. and many dont have a mix level. What ends up happening is the true tone is lost and things are way too tinny… so im changing to chorus. My guitar wont sound as watery as gilmours… but it will prob be the closest ill ever get.. thanks so much for this! didnt even know this pedal existed to be honest. it buries all these others… red witch, diamond, retro sonic, etc – they are good.. but this thing sounds fantastic… better than the original TC electronic one i think…

    [Agree! Great sounding pedal! - Bjorn]

  16. Dylan0291 says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    Just wondering if you have ever tried the TC Electronics Corona Chorus? And if you have how does it compare with this?

    [Haven't tried it... sorry. - Bjorn]

  17. Yoel says:

    Saw the price on this thing and almost had a heart attack. I can’t justify the price on that. Any nice alternatives that are available in the US and are a tad cheaper? The Jacques Meistersinger looks good…

    [I haven't tried the Jaques but check out the BYOC Analog Chorus or the CMatMods Analog Chorus with blend control. - Bjorn]

  18. Yoel says:

    How does the Mooer Ensemble King sound compared to this?

    [The Mooer is basically a clone of the Boss CE5. Perhaps not as warm and analog sounding as the ChorusLab or the old CE2 but a nice sounding chorus nevertheless. - BJorn]

  19. Brad Roller says:

    Bjorn can you please explain how to get the stereo effect from a ce2 like David did on pulse, the “left channel” chorus that is on at all times. I don’t understand how to go this or even what it does. Thank you!

    [You need a split from your main signal/pedal board into two amps, which will be your stereo setup. The "left channel" chorus is placed on the left line after the split. This is to create a wider stereo spread as you're actually splitting a mono-signal. - Bjorn]

  20. Brad Roller says:

    Ohh ok. I gotcha. Thanks Bjorn!!

    [ :) - Bjorn]

  21. Craig says:

    Happy New Year Bjorn,

    how does the Costalab Choruslab compare to the Retro-Sonic chorus. Cheers, Craig

    [They're very similar. The Retro-Sonic is based on the Roland/Boss CE1, which has a slightly brighter and more chorusy tone than the CE2. The CE2 has a bit more mids and a slightly darker tone. The CostaLab is an excellent clone of the CE2 but the Retro Sonic will do the job. Depends on what tones you want. - Bjorn]

  22. Marco says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    what do you think about the MXR Analog Chorus that I’ve seen a few times in your pedal board? It’s able to get close the CE2?

    [I guess but it's really a CE5 clone, with a bit more swirl. - Bjorn]

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