036 | BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble: A Closer Look at this Timeless Original | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello, and welcome to episode 36 of the Sonic Renegades podcast, where we're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. And today, definitely, this pedal fits that bill. Today, we're going to be talking about the Boss CE-1 Chorus pedal. This thing is a legend. It's a beauty. I think you're going to love it when we get to the demo section of this episode. Can't wait to share it with you guys, and we will see you on the other side.

Hey, everybody, Scott Schwertly and Eric Wilson of Siren Pedals with you guys today. Well, man, we have got a fun pedal today. In fact, this is such a legendary pedal. Today, we're going to be talking about the Boss CE-1 Chorus pedal. This thing goes all the way back to 1976, so it indeed captures this essence of pedals that have changed the music landscape. There's so many things that have been inspired by this one, and we sure can't wait to unpack it today. Now, Eric, I know you actually got a steal on the one that you have. These things typically run on Reverb for about anywhere from 500 to $750. I think you mentioned you got this thing for around 350. Man, what a deal. That's amazing.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, so, I knew enough about it to, when I saw it on Facebook marketplace, to go get it and to go pick it up. But I didn't really, until I started really looking into the history of it, and kind of what this pedal did as far as paving the way for pedals moving forward, I just, I guess, I didn't know, how much of an impact this one really had on kind of the course of pedal history and things like that.

Scott Schwertly:
Oh, indeed. I mean, this thing, I mean, I knew a little bit about it when we were talking about it when you first got it, but then as I've really dug into the history, it's, yeah, like you said, it's made a tremendous impact on all chorus pedals to follow. So, any of your modern favorites that you may like to have on your board, at some point in time, those circuits were inspired by this one. It is truly made an impact just, yeah, in the world of pedals and music altogether. So, really excited to share with you guys more about this pedal. On that note, let's actually just jump into some of the history behind this pedal.

So, the Boss CE-1 actually goes all the way back to June, 1976, and it was actually inspired, really, by the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus Amplifier. I know that sounds like a mouthful, but back in the day when Roland acquired or founded Boss, this was one of the first pedals that came out, and again, it was inspired by that classic JC-120 amp. And they thought it would be a good idea to take that amp sound and put it into a pedal format. That's exactly what they did. So, they really wanted to get that sort of 3D experience that would come with sort of a chorus sound. And in that case, the Boss CE-1 Chorus pedal was essentially born, and it's beautiful. It's actually noted as being really the first ever pedal to feature the bucket brigade circuits. Because I want to get into all the technicality of all that, but just know that it's just basically a legendary analog circuit, which again, just gives you that warm tones, which this pedal is really all about.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I actually, when I first picked this up, I didn't realize that it was inspired by the JC-120, which I mean, if I would have known that, I would have drove even faster to go pick it up because I love that amp. But yeah, it was really cool to find out this was the first chorus pedal. So, it was originally, when it was built, it was actually mainly aimed at keyboards, but it eventually, sales started slow because the price tag, even back in the '70s was really high. It was the equivalent of $600 or something like that today. And so, it was really slow at first, but then guitarists really started getting a hold of it, and then the popularity of this thing just took off, but then they cut production after like three years.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, which is crazy. And again, it's just part of that element that gives it that rich history and again, kind of that legendary status. And as you mentioned, it is one of the very first sort of chorus pedal. It's known as sort of the mother of chorus. I know it's often coined as that and really, this pedal should be given a lot of credit because it actually kind of catapulted Boss into being really just a serious player in just the guitar pedal world. In fact, musicians like Andy Summers of the Police and Jeff Baxter of The Doobie Brothers really helped with them embracing this pedal. It really helped kind of put them on the scene. And then a number of other famous artists, even more modern-day players have been seen with having this pedal on their board, and rightfully so. It's great. So, a couple of those folks, if you're thinking, "Well, what are some more modern-day players?" Well, actually, even some historic players here, but like Eric Clapton, Brian May, John Frusciante.

Eric Wilson:
I found Ryan Adams, who's one of my favorite songwriters, he uses it. Kevin Parker who plays for Tame Impala. So, the list kind of goes on. It's one of those things where it's like, when you have a pedal that's this legendary and really, I mean, this was the first pedal for Boss. So, when you have a pedal that's this legendary, your artist list is going to be very long. There's obviously a lot of names that we haven't mentioned.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, it's... Yeah, it's impacted so many musicians and so many ears over the years that, yeah. I mean, it just speaks volumes to the legacy and the history of this pedal. Now, obviously, with a pedal like this, it's not the most practical pedal to have on your board. I mean, it's heavy. It's big. Eric, I know you've had it around for the last maybe week, two weeks or so. It's kind of cumbersome, right? I mean, it's a tank.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Well, I recently wired up a little Pedaltrain Metro 16 that I had laying around, and this thing's the size of the entire board that I wired up. As far as practicality and taking it with you, it is not, and you need an AC outlet to power it. So, it's kind of a pain, but that's one of those things where it's like, it was the first of its kind. Nobody ever thought of, "Oh, we should use nine-volt power to power this thing." That just, there was no reason to have that thought.

Scott Schwertly:
So, a big question for you is, I know you play big and on your worship team and all that. And I know you own pedals, let's say a modern-day chorus like the Walrus, Julia, would you... I guess, two questions. So, do you typically prefer, would you, do you prefer the Boss CE-1 over the Julia from a sound perspective? And then, if you were to go gig somewhere, which one would you actually take?

Eric Wilson:
So, from a sound perspective, I would prefer the CE-1. It's a little bit warmer. It just has some specific characteristics to it. And it's just kind of like, it's the original thing. Then the other thing is, it's stereo. So, I like that. But from a practical standpoint, like taking it to a gig, I would not do. Number one, it's 40 years old. And number two, it's huge, and you need a second power run just for this pedal. So, it is just not a good idea.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. No, no, that makes absolute sense. But yeah, so I won't sacrifice those conveniences for that extra bit of warm tone, right?

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. Anything you're going to gain from using it, it's just going to get lost running through any system.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well then, that makes perfect sense. And I guess it kind of puts it in that category of, if you're into the world of collecting pedals. I know we sure like to collect our pedals over here at Siren. Just from a historic standpoint, it's good to have around if you just want that sort of historic sound, but yeah, for everyday convenience is probably not the best option for you, but not a big deal. I mean, obviously, it comes with the territory when dealing with a historic pedal like this one.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. Well, and it's cool to see how far things have come in kind of the train of thought of how things have changed over the years from a giant box like this to even a little bit later after this, the Boss CE-2, that was in the compact series. That was such a... Because I would say that was just as much if not more of a game-changer than this was because this was their gateway into pedals, but that was really cemented that form factor for them and kind of set them on the trajectory that they've been on for 40 years now.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, for sure. And I know, I saw an article earlier today about even some of the top chorus pedals of 2020, and the Boss CE-2W, the Waza Craft version is always a contender in that space. Again, just speaks to the volume of, again, the rich history and legacy behind this whole Boss line of chorus pedals, like you mentioned.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I mean, honestly, that whole Waza Craft series is great. I think they sound really good, so I've gotten to try a couple of them. But I want to get my hands on that CE-2, just to see if I could pull the tone from the CE-1, get it in a CE-2 enclosure. That way, I could put that on my board.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, right? I mean, you can kind of get everything in that smaller size, which would be awesome. Well, since you've had time to play with this one a lot, anything that you've noticed that I guess you would consider sort of a flaws? I know it's been noted to be obviously a little bit noisy, which tends to come with bucket brigade circuits. Anything else on that front?

Eric Wilson:
I mean, not really, that's worth mention. There's quirks with it. There's vintage quirks, like there is with anything. You have a vintage guitar, it's going to have weird things about it. You have a vintage amp, it's going to have weird things about it. So, with that, I mean, for your input, you have a high and low switch, which for a guitar is not as necessary, I guess. But then you also have an overall level control, which is kind of cool, because you can also use it as a boost. So, it actually sounds really great if you kind of push it into overdrive a little bit, and use it as an overdrive with your chorus or vibrato or whatever you want to use it for.

Scott Schwertly:
Nice. Yeah. I mean, kind of expected obviously, with a pedal of this age, but with that said, it's vintage, it's historic. So, definitely a lot more likes, a lot more pluses over some of the negative stuff. And as we've mentioned already, I mean, obviously, the warmth that you get with this whole analog effect is awesome. You've got that wood knob with the chorus intensity. How's your experience been with that?

Eric Wilson:
I mean, I like simplified pedals. I like things where it's like, give me one knob, give me two knobs and just show me what it does. I don't need 10 knobs of four-band EQ and all this kind of stuff. Just get that out of here. Give me one knob, tell me what you want it to sound like, and I'm either going to like it or I'm not. So, I love the fact that it only has one knob, because it just sounds good, no matter where you have it. But yeah, I enjoyed the simplicity of it.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean it definitely, yeah, it definitely is simple in form factor for sure. A great video too, by the way, guys, if you want to see just how simple it is and actually see it in use beyond the demo that we're going to play for you guys today, Andy Martin has a great video on Reverb. It's actually a part of his own personal collection, which again, just speaks to the... I mean, Andy's pretty specific about what pedals he chooses and what he likes, but yeah, he does actually provide a great demo and run-through of this entire pedal, which is fantastic. It's definitely a kind of nice followup item to this episode, if you wanted to, guys, if you want to take a look at that.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, definitely. I've seen that and it sounds great. He does a really great job of covering it.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I think Josh Scott, too of JHS pedals has a video on YouTube too of, I think maybe the top 12 legendary chorus pedals. And he actually kickstarts that episode with this pedal. So, lots of great stuff out there if you want to get additional information on this pedal and what it's all about. So-

Eric Wilson:
Yeah, he also has a whole history of Boss episode that's my personal favorite because it really helps figure out how we got to where we are.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Boss has to truly be one of my favorite guitar pedal companies. In fact, I think we actually just did a blog post of five reasons why we love Boss pedals. It's just such an iconic company, which has made such a huge impact on everything that exists today. I mean, you just can't go wrong with a Boss pedal. It doesn't matter what category, you just can't go wrong with a Boss pedal. They're solid. Well, awesome. Let's go ahead and actually get into the demo. I mean, actually before we do that, anything you wanted to highlight as far as just controls? And we've kind of already noted the simple one knob, for chorus intensity. Obviously, it has depth and rate. Anything worth noting there before we get into the demo?

Eric Wilson:
Not really. I mean the only weird thing worth noting is, I thought it was broken for like the first two hours I had it because the left LED just kept blinking as I was playing. I'm like, what the heck? Isn't that like a bypass facility? And it's not. It's a clipping indicator, which I didn't know. So, another weird quirk about it.

Scott Schwertly:
That's right. I've actually seen that mentioned on a couple of videos. So, yeah, good reminder for anybody that plans to buy this thing. Well, good deal. Let's go and get everything plugged in. I'm curious, what guitar are you going to go with today for some chorus?

Eric Wilson:
I'm going to go ahead and use my Les Paul for this one. So, Les Paul with Lollar El Rayos in it and go straight into the Iridium.

Scott Schwertly:
Perfect. Interestingly enough, I think on that video with Andy Martin, he actually kickstarts with a Les Paul. So, I guess there must be something magical about those two things together.

Awesome. Well, we're going to get everything plugged in and we will see you guys on the other side.

Eric Wilson:
That was the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. It's a great-sounding pedal. It's a very old pedal. It's got a lot of weird quirks, but I love it. And really glad that I got my hands on one.

Scott Schwertly:
I know, I'm kind of sad that we actually did this episode today because now, I feel like I'm going to be $700 poorer in the days ahead. It makes me want one so bad. I wish I had this pedal, so. But glad we were able to cover it today. I mean, it's fantastic. I love covering historic pedals like this one. It just warms my heart.

Eric Wilson:
Yeah. I've loved getting the chance to play this thing. And honestly, I'll just put it on my floor, just plug straight into this, and go straight into my AC30 and turn it up really loud when my roommates aren't home, and it sounds great.

Scott Schwertly:
It does. I mean, it sounds amazing. So, yeah, glad we were able to cover this one. All right, well, join us next time. We're going to actually switch gears and go from chorus land into fuzz land. We're going to be talking about the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof. This pedal has, for the short time period that it's been around, it's got a nice following, and just kind of fun storyline with it. We're going to cover that one in our next episode, going back into the world of fuzz, which makes me happy. So, we'll be talking about that one. Until then, have a great day, have a great week, and we will see you guys next time.

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