I never know what I want chorus to sound like. Do I want a transparent shimmer with a hint of warble, or do I want my riffs fully-submerged in aquatic 80’s audacity? A good chorus pedal can do both, and in doing so makes for a versatile addition to your arsenal. As an effect it is sadly often overlooked nowadays, forever shackled to the sound of decades past. Nevertheless, it’s an expected staple of any manufacturer’s line up and CKK Electronics are no different, dipping their toe into the chorus corral with the CKK Water Drop. Even if you don’t enjoy the article you can at least keep count of the water puns.
As the Water Drop is a chorus pedal, it comes with the pre-requisite muted baby blue enclosure, and name-appropriate splash graphics. The build quality is solid and absolutely acceptable for the price. Here we have Rate, Depth and low pass Filter as sweepable controls and a three-way Width switch. According to the official website they’ve modelled it on the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble from 1976 which had a charismatically thick and overdriven chorus. It’s not a comparison I would have made based on my time with it, but then the CE-1 is notoriously hard to emulate. The Water Drop, to the credit of CKK, is very much its own beast.
Extremes are this pedal’s forte – whether it’s intense, engulfing vibrato that comes with the depth at full and the low pass filter off or the most faint, transparent shimmer on top of your signal with the depth and rate both fairly low. There’s character on tap for those who want psychedelic and eclectic sounds, but what I did struggle with was achieving a stock, ‘every day’ chorus sound. Constricting the depth to a three way switch and omitting a high pass filter are both limitations that contribute to this, particularly the former. This is where the MXR M234 Analog Chorus comes in.
For me, the MXR M234 is the chorus pedal for £100 and arguably above as well (I’d hope so, since I own it). Professional level build quality and components, fantastic sound with all the usable controls you’d want at a very reasonable price. The MXR rescued me and my unmodulated-and-thoroughly-vanilla-clean tones – I’d previously dabbled with chorus years ago with cheaper products and wrote it off as a noisy and unusable effect, but it brought me back from the brink, the well of chorus-less despair. Now I’m a believer.
Melodrama and hyperbole aside, it’s a nuanced and under-appreciated effect, and the flexibility and reliability of the MXR really contribute to its Swiss army knife nature. The Water Drop, on the other hand, doesn’t provide a wide range of sounds as much as several off-kilter chorus varieties. Is a bread and butter chorus necessary? No, but as an already divisive effect there’s a benefit to having a wide spectrum of sounds and flavours available.
Suffice to say there are better pedals in the CKK Electronics line up, which is easy to say with store and customer favourites such as the Lunar Drive and Gears Compressor to compare to. The Water Drop is by no means a bad pedal, and maybe I’m just a difficult guitarist judging a fish by its ability to walk, but it’s not replacing my MXR any time soon.