The Emperor penguin is perhaps the most majestic of the flightless birds, and its rotund body and waddling gait have delighted both children and adults. The folks at JHS Pedals must’ve had these charms in mind when designing the company’s new Emperor chorus and vibrato pedal. Like its namesake bird, the Emperor pedal is majestic in its own ways, and just as amusing. The Emperor will waddle and burble playfully in Vibrato mode, but it will just as easily slide across the surface of sound into a shimmering, icy pool of analog chorus.
The Emperor is a reproduction of the Arion SCH-1 chorus, a pedal produced in the ‘80s and favored by guitarists such as Eric Clapton. The Emperor offers the same “bucket brigade” analog chorus as the SCH-1, but with an added vibrato circuit that replicates the tones of the Boss VB-2. Moreover, JHS’s pedal comes with a tap-tempo switch and its circuitry is housed in a much sturdier enclosure than was the old SCH-1, which was housed in an inferior plastic body.
In the three waveform settings for the chorus mode (sine, square, and sawtooth), the Emperor produces the sort of slightly metallic, ‘80s-style chorus that might easily be called “contemplative” if that sort of label made sense. The chorus mode retains just enough analog warmth to keep the sonic waters from freezing over entirely. Perhaps the pedal’s sturdy housing acts like the Emperor penguin’s layer of blubber, as insulation from the bitter cold of the Antarctic.
In the sine wave chorus setting, the Emperor can create the sort of long, gracefully slow sweep that would be at home in a Dead Can Dance song. The sine setting worked particularly well with the bridge pickup, in which case the more metallic, twangy, and trebly tones put out by the guitar’s pickups percolated through the Emperor’s bucket brigade circuit for a pleasingly analog-metallic sound.
The Emperor’s square and sawtooth chorus modes will tend to create pitch-bending tones that recall the sounds of Digitech’s Whammy pedal. The shift is akin to a “burble,” something that fades in and out depending on one’s settings. It’s easy to ride the burble-wave in the middle-to-high depth and speed ranges—just click in a tempo with the Emperor’s tap tempo switch and slide along the sound waves.
The Vibrato setting will add to one’s sound anything from a bit of shimmer to a full-on drunken sway. The sine and sawtooth modes will produce a soundstage-widening vibrato that subtly choruses and pulses in a somewhat “warmer” and less metallic way than in the chorus mode. It was as if the Emperor had taken a swim a little farther north of the Antarctic Circle.
In the square wave mode, the Emperor will produce a fun percolating noise. As in the chorus square wave mode, one can also ride this burbling waveform by tapping in a tempo. When playing in time with the effect, the subtle shift in pitch of the vibrato waveform will be more noticeable.
JHS Pedals’ Emperor measures up to the dignity and grace of its eponymous bird. Yet the Emperor is also playful in its Vibrato mode. It will surely delight and charm users who, lacking the gift of birdhood, can nevertheless slip into the cool waters of chorusy sound.
What we like: Cool, metallic chorus modeled on the sought after Arion SCH-1. Now it’s available in a modern enclosure and has a built-in vibrato circuit based on the Boss VB-2.