Review: Fender Hammertone Chorus

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Review: Fender Hammertone Chorus

hammertone chorus
Words by James Callanan

Fender Australia | Price: $199

A whole lot has changed since the 1930s, in global, cultural, and musical contexts. One constant from this time that remains true today though, is the pleasure that comes from a tastefully intentional detuning of a musical instrument’s electric output signal.

From the engineering within early electric organs, to automatic double-tracking at Abbey Road Studios in the 1960s, popular musicians and producers have continuously sought for ways to thicken their sound through modulation and manipulation. As a result, the introduction of chorus effect pedals culminated in their boom in the ‘70s and ‘80s, where the effect was seemingly present on every song that hit the radio waves, from synthpop through to hair metal.

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The Fender Hammertone Chorus effect pedal presents a modern take on these classic chorus effects, providing a high-quality, wide-ranging, and versatile monophonic chorus effect. As part of the new Hammertone range, this is designed to be a more budget-friendly option compared to previous offerings, without compromising on the build or sound quality that we have come to expect from Fender.

The pedal’s sturdy aluminium housing is coated with a hammered finish – emphasising the workhorse image and function of this range of pedals. Three stylistically classic, custom colour ‘F Logo’ control knobs allow for the smooth adjustment of three key parameters; the depth of the chorus effect, the chorus rate, and the level – which mixes more of the wet chorus signal in as the dial is turned up. A three-way toggle switch enables the selection of chorus type, and this is neighboured by an adjacent two-way toggle, to switch between two tonal settings.

With a sturdy selector switch, true bypass switching, and a brightly lit LED, it is clear that Fender have designed the Hammertone Chorus as one for the modern player, to put to use in any which musical environment. The ¼” in and out audio jacks, and the 9V DC power supply input are located on the pedal’s top surface, facilitating a more compact arrangement of adjacent pedals, and as a result, enabling more effects pedals to fit onto the pedalboard. Overall, the Hammertone Chorus is a simple and ergonomic effects pedal that manages to pack a punch in its smooth modulation and sonic versatility.

To boil it down to its very basics, a chorus effect is designed to simulate the effect of multiple musical musicians or performances, with slight variances in the pitch and timing of each source. This results in what is described as a ‘larger’ or ‘wider’ sound, such as listening to a choir compared to a solo vocalist. In a chorus guitar effects pedal, the guitar signal’s frequency and wavelength are manipulated, and these signals or voices may also be duplicated, leading to a warble in the output sound. The Fender Hammertone Chorus’ ‘type’ switch provides the player with their choice of a few different flavours of this effect; single-voice mode, two-voice mode, and four-voice mode.

Setting the ‘type’ switch up selects the single-voice mode, most reminiscent of a traditional analogue chorus. This is perhaps the thinnest-sounding effect type on this pedal, and by nature, it nails the iconic jangle that one might expect to find on a psych-rock record from the latter part of the ‘70s. With the tone switch deactivated, no high end is rolled off, further emphasising the brightness within this effect setting. This position brought out some real sparkle while playing chords, particularly on the higher strings, and it did a great job of making a six-string electric guitar nearly simulate the rich harmonic tone of a twelve-string.

The middle and down positions of the ‘type’ switch select the two-voice and four-voice modes, respectively, and it’s here that we reach the delightful sweetness of a more modern chorus sound. While this is a monophonic effects pedal, the Hammertone Chorus produced a deceptively wide spatial sound, closer to what one might expect from a stereophonic chorus. These two modes are highly practical for both rhythm guitar work, but they were found to particularly excel in providing dimension to single-note patterns and arpeggios.

While the various modes bring out different elements of the Hammertone Chorus, the personality of the chorus itself remains fairly consistent throughout. With an overall flavour that can be described as velvety and resonant, there was a silky character to the sweep of the modulation, which, while wide-ranging, never felt as if it ‘bottled’ the sound.

A major standout when testing the Hammertone Chorus was the brilliantly vast range contained within the depth and rate parameters. With depth kept low, a beautifully subtle detuning provided just a touch of additional dimension to the dry sound, which was juxtaposed to the much more obvious spatial difference that occurred with depth turned up. The rate dial provided some incredible versatility to the sound in all three voice types, from slow and woozy washes, right through to the feverish pinging of the warble that came out with the rate increased. With the level dial enabling dry to drenched outputs, and no obvious gain or reduction in output volume with switching, this seemingly simple pedal contains some tremendous versatility to the working guitarist.

Bearing a robust construction, three different chorus voice options, and incredible ranges in the rate and depth available on tap, the Fender Hammertone Chorus is a highly dependable and versatile modulation pedal that punches well above its weight when it comes to value. This is an ideal selection for the guitarist looking to add a simple-to-use chorus pedal, with a plethora of sonic variety under the hood.

Head to Fender for more information.