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More than ever, pedal builders understand that guitarists aren’t the only ones looking for new dimensions in sound. Consequently, the number and variety of effects for low enders grows each year. One long-standing member in this society of pedal builders is MXR. Thanks to their extensive product line, they’ve played a part in some of rock’s most memorable music for decades. And with Jim Dunlop at the helm, MXR Bass Innovations has produced a number of bass pedals that have garnered high praise from players over the years. Looking to continue on that success, they recently introduced their latest effect for bassists—the feature-packed Bass Chorus Deluxe.
Time Tweakers and Stereo Shifters
The Bass Chorus Deluxe is powered by “bucket-brigade” technology, an old-school approach of taking the signal and passing it through a series of capacitors. This methodology to sound transmission is meant to create a unique and musical delay that keeps the original notes up front and shifts the secondary signal into a more supportive role.
Delving into the aqua-blue Bass Chorus Deluxe is simple, as the dials and switches are logically arranged and clearly marked with their function. The standard intensity, rate, and width knobs are there, but MXR also included additional features not found on many chorus pedals.
Attentive to the bassist’s primary role in an ensemble, MXR installed a crossover (x-over) switch. This decreases modulation at 100 Hz—focusing the chorus in the mid to upper ranges—and is meant to preserve the fundamental notes while delivering just the right amount of effect. A sweet little gift sitting to the right of the x-over switch is the flanger button that MXR placed onboard for the occasions when a player wants more intense modulation. And those who like the option of being able to add warmth or top-end edge will certainly find the separate bass- and treble-boost/cut knobs a nice bonus.
For bassists who like to hear and feel their effect, MXR provided a head-swaying feature inside the Bass Chorus Deluxe. It’s an internal switch that toggles between true-bypass and a TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) stereo-hardware-bypass mode. The stereo mode allows a player to plug in a Y-splitter cable to divide the signal and connect to two amplifiers, thereby permitting the modulation effect to shift from left to right.
Dr. Chorus and Mr. Flange
For my initial go, I sent the Bass Chorus Deluxe into a Phil Jones D-600 head connected to a pair of Glockenklang Space Deluxe 112 cabinets. Equipped with a 1966 Fender Jazz, I started out by experimenting with the sample settings provided in the manual. Sting fans can cop that spacey bass sound in “Walking on the Moon” by configuring the controls to the hilariously labeled “The Po Po” mode. The “John Francis” setting is a tribute to everybody’s favorite bridge-pickup bassist, and it creates a clean effect that veers towards Jaco’s chorus heard in many of his live recordings. And “Fixation Blvd.” is MXR’s aptly named tag for the control setting that goes after Simon Gallup’s sound on “Fascination Street.”
As I moved on to concoct some custom choral creations, the Bass Chorus Deluxe delivered a controlled chorus effect with a mild amount of saturation. Variances in the rate and width never seemed to be overpowering, but instead wrapped the bass notes in a swirling sheen. With all of the dials at their fullest, the pedal created a throbbing, quivering timbre that might work well for bassists wanting to capture the vibe of a Hammond B3.
The flanger mode is an awesome addition to the Bass Chorus Deluxe, and it can go from whooshing to wacky pretty easily. I was able to conjure up some very cool tones with the pedal’s responsive knobs, ranging from a Duff McKagan-esque Use Your Illusion era bass sound, all the way to making the neck pickup on my ’66 Jazz sound like Darth Vader. In fact, the latter discovery sparked my inner nerd so much I couldn’t resist plugging a microphone into a Digitech Whammy pedal, setting it to the octave-down mode, and sending that signal into the flanged-out Bass Chorus Deluxe to get me even closer to the voice from the dark side.
Lost in Space, Safe in the Studio
The Bass Chorus Deluxe drew mixed results in a live situation. While performing with an R&B/fusion band, I placed the pedal in between the same Jazz bass and a Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 that was paired with a Glockenklang Quattro 410. While the Bass Chorus Deluxe gave bass lines a delicate, atmospheric texture during quiet moments in jams and slower ballads, the effect seemed to have a tendency to get somewhat lost in the mix at medium to loud volumes. The bass itself stayed present, but the chorus was having trouble doing the same. Engaging the x-over button took away even more and made the effect almost non-existent onstage. Cranking the knobs brought out the expected warbling bass lines, which were audible at higher volumes, but that sound was a little extreme for this particular application. Instead of removing the Bass Chorus Deluxe from the signal chain, however, a press of the flanger button saved the day. It functioned well at all volumes, and I ended up keeping the pedal in that mode for the rest of the show.
Despite some volume issues onstage, the Bass Chorus Deluxe performed quite well in the studio. In both chorus and flanger mode, the controlled environment allowed all of the pedal’s characteristics to come through. It gave a pickup-equipped German upright a smearing, moody vibe, and put a Nash P-style bass on the mothership with some throbbing, flanger-induced funk.
MXR Bass Innovations prides itself on producing products by bass players, for bass players. And the onboard features of the Bass Chorus Deluxe exemplify this ethos. What was most impressive was that no matter where the dials were placed, the Bass Chorus Deluxe still preserved the original signal. Its primary effect could be considered the “white tea” of chorus pedals—clean and smooth with subtle flavor. Some might argue that its chorus effect leaves something to be desired, but either way, the flanger, EQ, and stereo option offer a lot of upside to the Bass Chorus Deluxe. So if you’re seeking a pedal that serves up a clean chorus that preserves your primary bass tone—and offers up some cool extras—the MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe might have a spot on your pedalboard.