A Guide to the Best Wah Pedals on the Market
The Wah Pedal burst into the rock scene in the late ’60s and quite literally changed the sound of Rock’n’Roll almost overnight, through the records of early adopters such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton’s Cream.
The wah effect is, in essence, a resonant bypass filter whose boosted frequency is linked to a pedal treadle that can be swept up and down the frequency spectrum. This produces a nasal tone similar to the one human voice makes when slowly moving from a “w” to an “a” sound (or vice-versa) – hence the name “wah.” The first wah pedal was inspired by this trumpet effect.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WAH PEDAL
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When Vox subsequently marketed the pedal in 1967, it was called the Clyde McCoy Wah-Wah. Odd as it seems, the American-born McCoy was not a guitarist but a then-64-year-old trumpeter who was famous for creating a distinctive vocal-like sound with his instrument by cupping his hand over a mute that he stuck in its bell. In the U.S., Thomas went a different route and named the pedal the Cry Baby, which is how the wah pedal was largely known among guitarists. (If you want to know more, read here).
Here’s how the original pedal from the late ’60s sounded – not the audible hiss when the filter is fully open.
A VARIETY OF TONAL OPTIONS
While the original Wah Wah pedals didn’t offer any room for fine-tuning, today several companies have developed their own take on the original model and there are a lot of options on offer, from single-voiced to fully tweakable. The tone of a wah pedal can vary substantially depending on how each one of these variables is set up:
Inductor: The inductor is the component of the wah that gives it its character. See this other article for a more in-depth look at what the inductor does and list of Wah pedals organized by inductor.
Central Frequency (aka Q): This is the frequency that’s boosted when the treadle is in center position.
Boost: This is the amount of gain applied to the resonant frequency
Q Curve: This defines how wide or narrow the boost’s bandwidth is (wider Qs produce a less nasal sound).
LIST OF CATEGORIES
We decided to organize our list of best wah pedals on the market according to the functionality offered by each unit, here’s our list, click on the category that interest you to jump directly to the relevant interactive gallery.
• BEST MASS PRODUCED, SINGLE VOICED WAH PEDALS
• BEST HIGH-END, HAND-WIRED WAH WAHS
• BEST MULTI-VOICED WAH PEDALS
• BEST WAH PEDALS WITH ADVANCED CONTROLS
• BEST WAH PEDALS WITH A CREATIVE ANGLE
• BEST MINI WAH PEDALS (Separate Page)
• BEST FUZZ FRIENDLY WAH PEDALS (Separate Page)
BEST AFFORDABLE, SINGLE-VOICED WAH PEDALS
The pedals in this list stick to the classic Wah sound without offering any options for fine-tuning, and are not hand-wired, like the ones in the following category. This makes them affordable and very popular.
- Dunlop Cry Baby Wah GCB95
- Vox V845 Classic Wah
- Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah
- Electro-Harmonix Crying Tone Wah
- Morley 20/20 Classic Switchless Wah
BEST HIGH-END, HAND-WIRED WAHS
For those who value human craftsmanship, here’s a list of hand-wired pedals featuring top-notch components. The time-consuming effort of building them by hand and above-average quality of the parts make them decidedly more expensive than the average. They are all single voice pedals apart from the Jam Wahcko and the RMC3, and they are considered among the best wah pedals on the market.
- VOX V846HW
- Real McCoy RMC10 Wah
- Real McCoy RMC1 Wah
- JAM Pedals Wahcko+
- Real McCoy RMC4 Picture Wah
- Arteffect Bonnie Wah
BEST MULTI-VOICED WAH PEDALS
Some modern Wahs offer different voicings that are useful for different sonic situations – most commonly, a beefier tone for solos and a lighter one for rhythmic parts, like the ones played in funk music. Here’s a selection of the best wah pedals on the market with more than one voicing.
- Boss PW-3 Wah
- JAM Pedals Wahcko+
- MXR MC404 CAE
- Morley 20/20 Lock Wah
- T-Rex SHAFTER
- Carl Martin 2Wah
- Friedman Gold 72 Wah
- Rocktron Tri Wah Pedal
BEST WAHS WITH ADVANCED CONTROLS
The wah pedals in this list, rather than offering pre-defined settings like the ones in the previous list, let the user free to set their preferences through a series of controls affecting the various parameter like Q, Range, and Boost.
- Behringer Hellbabe HB01-Wah
- Dunlop 535Q Multi Wah
- Fulltone Clyde
- Xotic XW-1 Wah
- Morley 20/20 Lock Wah
- Mission Engineering ReWah Pro
- Real McCoy RMC3 Wah
- Wilson Effects Freaker Wah V2
- Joyo Multimode Wah-II
- BBE Ben Wah
BEST WAH PEDALS WITH A CREATIVE ANGLE
These wahs are recommended for the “out of the box” guitarist, since they offer, on top of classic functionality, also a series of unique effect features.
Here are a few popular videos on wah tips and tricks.