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JHS Emperor Chorus V2

 Does this stompbox give others the big freeze?


by Chris Loeffler




JHS has recently been unleashing consistently high-quality upgraded takes on sought after vintage classics, and their JHS Emperor V2 Chorus/Vibrato sees them making their mark on the world of analog modulation with a true-to-spec recreation of the Arion SCH-1 Stereo Chorus, a recently “rediscovered” effect on forums that has become something of a cult classic thanks to its use by Michael Landau and Steve Lukather for thick, swirly sounds that tend to fall on either side of the more mid-heavy, subtler Boss CE-2. The JHS Emperor V2 features Volume, Speed, Depth, and EQ controls as well as selectable Chorus/Vibrato modes and three different wave forms. The JHS Emperor V2 is an upgrade from their original version in that it comes in nearly half the footprint and replaces the original true-to-spec Tone control with the infinitely more musical active EQ tilt control.


What You Need to Know


The JHS Emperor V2 features two modes, Chorus and Vibrato, that adjust the amount of wet signal that is fed against the direct signal. In Chorus mode, the blend is about 50/50 between wet and dry signals, giving a nice, spacious delay accompaniment to the original signal that can get dark or even add a little sparkle to the top end. Vibrato mode, by contrast, takes the signal 100% wet to accommodate true pitch bending and creates a thick but less expansive tone.


The three waveforms (sine, square, and triangle) do quite a bit more to change the sound and utility of the effect than I expected. The sine wave is your typical undulating chorus sound, with soft shoulders to the LFO that flow smoothly at all depth levels. The square wave, by contrast, step-jumps between the low and high points of the depth setting for dramatic leaps (especially in Vibrato mode with the depth up, where it almost sounds like infinite hammer-ons). The triangle wave falls somewhere in between the two with hard starts and stops to the ramp direction but no abrupt “skips”.


The Speed control goes from nearly five seconds to reach a crescendo in the wave form to stuttering glitches at the highest settings, and the Depth control thickens the wet effect up until noon and then starts introducing pitch shifts that peel away from the direct signal. At the highest depth setting there is a little over a half-step bend to the pitch.  Tap tempo overrides the Speed setting and perfectly matches the rate of the modulation to the tap. I didn't attempt using an external tap tempo device to test it as I already have with the JHS Lucky Cat and JHS Unicorn and found them to work flawlessly (even if the feature seems unnecessary given the inclusion of the tap-tempo stomp switch). 


In general, the wet effect is chewy and rather full-range, occupying a bigger sonic space than some of its vintage contemporaries, and the unique tilt EQ makes it the most versatile-voiced chorus effect I’ve played through outside of the (now discontinued) Red Witch Empress Chorus, although I would say it is a bit more refined in the high-end. One of the sonic signatures of the original SCH-1 was the Leslie-like extreme end of the effect, which was more dimensional and convincing that the competition at that time. I can say that, paired next to my original Arion SCH-1, it nails the sound but strips away some of the white noise of the original until (how much of that is due to tolerance drift over the last couple of decades I can’t say). Yes, there are dedicated effects now that better capture the sound (the Electro-Harmonix Lester G comes to mind), but there is a breath to the Emperor that is richer than simple “swirling”.


I found in the subtler settings in the Chorus setting on sine way mode that I was able to coax out a pretty convincing Boss Dimension C “matrix” sound as well.


A bonus feature to the Emperor V2 is that it can be chained to their other tap-tempo effects (Unicorn, Panther Cub, etc) to control the rate of all the effects at once.




No true stereo without a TRS splitter cable.




The JHS Emperor V2 removes all the negatives of the original Arion SCH-1 (cheap plastic casing, flimsy knobs and parts, terrible buffered bypass) and adds a few new options (tap tempo, additional wave modes) to create an infinitely more versatile chorus pedal than its inspiration. Leslie-style doppler effects, glassy crisp chorus, and grungy lo-fi are all attainable and the ability to select between Chorus and Vibrato effects takes the pedal even further. There are some many different sounds hidden in that pastel purple/pink box that I doubt any player will find every setting perfect, but I am positive every player would find their perfect setting.   -HC-




JHS Emperor V2 Product Page


Buy the JHS Emperor V2 at Sweetwater (MSRP $229.99, Street $199.99)




Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 


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TallTone  |  January 10, 2019 at 8:23 am
I just got one of these and I have to ask if you have tried using the vibrato setting on a high gain situation. The reason I ask is because the chorus part of the pedal is to die for! No signal loss or loss of highs. As soon as I turn the vibrato switch I can hear everything above 900Hz go bye bye. Not just a little, we're talking the muddiest telephone studio effect I've ever heard. I am hoping it is broke or something because the chorus is to die for and it seems like the vibrato should be too. Thoughts?
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