It’s been interesting to watch Seymour Duncan’s effects line grow. Pedals like the Vapor Trail Analog Delay strike a nice balance between practicality, simplicity, and thoughtful, performance-centric extra features. The new Catalina analog chorus fits the same mold—thanks in large part to the inclusion of the intriguing “expression” mode, which enables a player to shape the chorus effect with picking dynamics.
Spinning Knobs, Swirling Modes
The Catalina’s blue-sparkle finish makes it look a little like your Uncle Rick’s vintage jet boat—which is awesome. The nameplate’s font also looks like a badge from an early-’60s Pontiac Catalina, enhancing the unit’s personality. Once the effect becomes active, the top LED lights up bright blue. Engaging the expression feature illuminates the threshold knob. It glows blue if you select soft mode, which increases chorus level in response to a softer pick attack, or green for hard mode, which has an inverse response to pick dynamics. The single toggle switch allows you to change between hard and soft modes, and turning the threshold knob clockwise increases the sensitivity to pick dynamics. The remaining four knobs control rate, depth, delay, mix, and tone. Catalina can only be powered with a 9–18V barrel adaptor.
Express Yo’ Self!
It’s easy to get really satisfying chorus sounds from the Catalina. With delay, mix, depth, and rate controls at around 2 o’clock, the Catalina takes on rich, deep, and fluttery rotary speaker characteristics. Some chorus effects do the Leslie trick less well than others. But Catalina is a more authentic-sounding stand-in than most. The tone control also proved invaluable for giving the chorus more presence, which was useful when I was using my dark and bassy Les Paul/Fender Twin combination. At higher tone settings, the Catalina also took on many of the bright and detailed characteristics of my favorite Boss CE-2. At darker settings, the Catalina does a great job of adding deep undulating movement to low frequencies, which can also be used, to some extent, to mimic microphone emphasis on the lower horn of a Leslie.
The expression mode adds real value to the Catalina and is a great solution to the problem of chorus effects that can bury picking nuance and sound all-enveloping. The soft mode will be especially appealing to players that like Pixies- or Nirvana-style quiet-to-loud dynamics—among many other potential applications. I used the effect in a song that moved from light picking to chunky, heavy rhythms, and the responsiveness and smooth transition between more- and less-present chorus was impressive. The threshold control helps tailor the dynamic response to your sense of touch. But there’s another benefit: The threshold control can also be used to make the pedal more responsive to particular pickup types. The single-coils from my Fenders benefitted from higher threshold settings. And my preferred dynamics stayed consistent as I moved from single-coils to humbuckers, as long as I set the threshold control accordingly.
The expression control also helps fine tune the Catalina’s compatibility with other effects and enables more extreme settings on the pedal itself. My favorite? A choppy, heavy fuzz mated to the Catalina with all controls (save for threshold) at maximum settings, which resulted in a lightly bubbling and fuzzy picking pattern punctuated by a dementedly undulating lead tone. It’s hard to overstate how nice it is to have this control over a modulation effect just through pick attack.
Classic chorus tones are easy to get from Catalina. But it’s the pedal’s dynamic capacity that makes it special and more practical and appealing for stage use. The $229 tag is on the higher end of the spectrum for a mass-produced chorus. But for a lot of gigging chorus users, the expressive flexibility will be worth every penny.
Watch the Review Demo: