Two things I must confess before starting this review. For once, I’m not a particular fan of chorus pedals. Not because I dislike the chorus effect (well… it is not among my favourites either), but because I find myself spending more and more time playing with reverbs and delays. These latter effects just seem more pleasing for me when sculpting sound and making music. Another confession I need to make is that I was quite reluctant about buying this pedal from a friend.
That being said, my friend convinced me on taking the pedal home earlier this year. A few weeks later, one of my gear suppliers was having a sale with a lot of pedals at 10, 15 or 20 euro. So I now I have quite a few chorus pedals. Indeed, the Behringer UC200 I reviewed last month came from that lot. As you may have read it, I was not impressed with the UC200, but the Ashton SF50CH is a whole different matter.
The first thing to notice about this pedal is that it is a solid (and heavy) metal case. It is smaller than my Berhinger pedals, yet it carries a substantial amount of weight (specially when compared against the X200 series). It is a mono pedal, with only one input and one output, so you won’t have those autopanning and stereo-widening effects you can do on other chorus pedals. The front panel only has the stomp switch and three knobs, labeled SPEED, WIDTH and D-TIME.
What excited me the most about this pedal is that it is a genuine analogue chorus effect that uses a Bucket Brigade type of delay with very short delay time to create the effect. This undoubtedly colours the sound in a very pleasing manner I was not able to find neither on the UC200, nor in the FX600 or even on most chorus plugins I’m used to. Indeed, in order to understand what each knob does, one must know a little bit on how a chorus effect works. The basic idea of the chorus effect is that the original sound is mixed with a number of delayed copies of itself. How much these copies are delayed is controlled by the D-TIME knob. But a chorus effect using only these delayed lines would be a little bit dull. This is why the time delay of each copy is usually modulated by and LFO, in order to create some pitch fluctuation. This modulation is accessible in the front panel via the SPEED knob (which controls the speed of the LFO), and the WIDTH knob, which controls the intensity of the modulation. This latter label can be misleading and confusing since WIDTH is usually associated with stereo width, and this is a mono device.
Now, for the sound. For the first time, I enjoyed playing the Volca Keys with a chorus effect. The Ashton SF50CH really thickens the sound and allows me to create lush pads, and more expressive leads. This is very remarkable, as the Volca Keys can sometimes sound thin and noisy. There are plenty of sweet spots in the combination of SPEED WIDTH and D-TIME, ranging from vibrato-like modulation, to some very inspiring thick chorus that somewhat reminds me of the classical Roland chorus. I encourage you to watch the video demo on my youTube channel (linked above).
Now for the bad news. This pedal has been discontinued a long time ago. They are usually cheap, and you can fetch one for less than 30 euro on e-bay. On most websites such as Tohman, Reverb, and amazon this pedal is either not listed, or listed as out-of-stock. So if you would like a nice mono chorus pedal that sounds great but is not too expensive, you might want to check up e-bay.