10 Best Wah-Wah Pedals Buyers Guide
You’ve heard that sound, in funk music, in Hendrix’ guitar solos, in other sounds of the 60s like Cream’s Disraeli Gears album, in The Stone Roses’ Waterfall… How easy is it to get that sound?
Well, good news: really easy. All you need is a wah pedal, and they’re now available in a lot more shapes and sizes than they were in the 60s.
This article will guide you through the different kinds of wah pedals and help you to find which one’s right for you, as well as explain what a wah pedal is, how it works and things to look out for when you’re shopping for one.
- 1 Top 10 Wah Pedals
- 2 1) Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon
- 3 2) Morley VAI-1 Steve Vai Bad Horsie
- 4 3) SONICAKE Wah/Volume Pedal
- 5 4) Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah
- 6 5) MXR MC404 Wah Wah
- 7 6) Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Multi Wah
- 8 7) Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95 Classic Wah
- 9 8) VOX V847A Wah Wah Effects Pedal
- 10 9) Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah
- 11 10) Boss PW3 Wah/h2>
- 12 Summary
What is a Wah Pedal?
A wah pedal is a guitar effects pedal that works to alter the tone and frequencies of the guitar signal.
When you shift through low to high frequencies quite quickly, it’s called a ‘sweep’, which is what creates that ‘cry baby’ sound, known as wah.
They’ve been around since the 1920s, after guitarists heard trombone and trumpet players creating a similar effect by moving a mute in and out of the end of their instruments. An electric circuitry was created which produced the same effect, but worked for electric guitars.
Top 10 Wah Pedals
1) Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon
The Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon is a feature-heavy pedal that’s designed with the pro in mind. As well as the pedal itself, there are three dials: allowing you to adjust the lows, highs and Q control and there’s a switch to shift instantly between a low and high frequency response. It’s sturdily built and substantial in size. The tension of the pedal is adjustable, which is a unique feature and despite its amazing amount of features, it isn’t ridiculously expensive. The Weeping Demon is still pretty highly priced, putting it in the pro market and it’s quite big, so you’ll need to make sure you have the space for it in your pedal board. It might not suit those who are looking for something simple.
- Range switch lets you switch between a low and high frequency response.
- Level, Q and Lo knobs give you excellent controllability of the output’s tone.
- The pedal itself is made of sturdy metal, and is highly intuitive.
- It’s quite bulky.
- It can take some getting used to.
- It’s expensive.
2) Morley VAI-1 Steve Vai Bad Horsie
This Steve Vai signature pedal has a switchless design, meaning that you don’t need to stamp hard to turn it on. As soon as you step off the pedal, the effects are bypassed, so it’s an easy and noiseless option. It’s suitable for bass guitar as well as guitar, making it incredibly versatile and it can be powered off a battery as well as a DC adapter. There’s even an LED fitted to warn you when your battery’s low. It’s fitted to Steve Vai’s specifications, so will suit any super fan, though it might not suit those who are looking for a more classic, vintage wah sound.
- Switchless design removes the awkwardness of stamping hard enough for your wah to turn on.
- Can be powered off a battery and has an LED to indicate when it’s running low.
- Works with bass guitar too.
- Wah is set to Steve Vai’s specifications, which won’t suit everyone.
- The switchless design won’t suit everyone, either.
3) SONICAKE Wah/Volume Pedal
The Sonicake wah/volume pedal is a budget-friendly option that’s also minute. It’s a lightweight pedal, made of plastic casing but don’t panic: it’s still pretty robust and will work fine for practising at home. There are LEDs fitted to show the status of the pedal and a switch to take you between the two different modes. This pedal will suit intermediate players who are looking to start experimenting with wah or volume pedals. It will be less suited to the professional or gigging musician, due to its plastic casing. This pedal’s powered by a DC adapter.
- Very small: will fit snugly into the most packed of pedal boards.
- Budget friendly and doubles up as a volume pedal.
- Lightweight yet robust.
- Although the plastic casing is robust, it’s still plastic and not comparable to the quality of metal casing.
- The small size can feel strange against larger feet.
4) Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah
Dunlop’s Mini Wah is another tiny pedal. It works just like a bigger one of its kind, but takes up less space and of course weighs less. It remains durable and made of strong metal, and includes a true bypass feature, so you can rest assured that your tone will not be muddied and the pedal won’t affect your sound when it’s not in use. The Mini Wah, impressively includes adjustable voicings: low, vintage and modern. This gives you an amazing versatility and makes it suited to bass as well as guitar. It will be perfect for those musicians using mini boards, who don’t mind spending a bit more for something that will decrease their load. It can be powered via DC adapter.
- Tiny but works like a larger pedal of its kind and is as ruggedly built.
- Switchable modes.
- True bypass ensures that it doesn’t muddy your signal whilst not in use.
- It’s very small, which won’t suit everyone.
- It’s quite expensive.
5) MXR MC404 Wah Wah
The MXR MC404 also has switchable conductors, allowing you to choose your frequency response. There are status LEDs on either side of the pedal, so you and your band mates know what’s going on, and there’s true bypass to ensure that your signal won’t be affected when the pedal’s switched off. The MC404 is built just like a standard wah, but with a boost switch on the side, giving you even more options. The boost switch does stick out quite a bit, making it a little bulky, but it will suit those who want something large, controllable and stage-friendly.
- Switchable conductors mean you can choose your frequency response.
- Status LEDs on both sides of the pedal.
- True bypass means that your signal will remain unaffected when the wah’s not in use.
- It’s expensive.
- It’s very bulky.
6) Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Multi Wah
Dunlop’s 535Q Multi Wah is a modern pedal that uses new, custom circuitry to reduce power usage and eliminate distortion. There’s a Q dial, so you can adjust the shape of your tone, whilst the design remains classic and robust. Like the MXR404, it has a knob sticking out the side that makes the already substantially sized pedal a little bulky, but it’s a pedal you can trust with a huge amount of controllability. It will suit the gigging musician who wants a lot of tonal control over the shape of the wah and is keen to have a full-sized pedal.
- New, custom circuitry uses minimal power and eliminates distortion.
- Q dial allows you to adjust the shape of your wah.
- Classic, robust design that’s easy to use.
- It’s pricey.
- The knob sticking out the side makes it a bit bulky.
7) Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95 Classic Wah
I bet you were wondering when we were going to include this. The Dunlop Cry Baby classic wah is what most people will go to first when looking for a wah. Its classic, simple design is easy to understand and use and it’s a robust, durable piece of kit. There are not additional controls: just the wah and the on/off switch, but it’s a classic model that you know you can rely on. It will suit those who are looking for a traditional wah pedal with a vintage sound. It might not suit those looking for something more modern or innovative. The Classic Wah can be powered off either a 9V adapter or a single battery.
- Classic, simple design that’s easy to use.
- Reasonably priced.
- Very robust and substantial.
- There are no additional volume or shaping controls.
- It’s pretty heavy.
8) VOX V847A Wah Wah Effects Pedal
Just like the classic Dunlop, this VOX is a no-frills, classic wah pedal. It’s rugged and robust yet still remains stylish with a silver metal border. The pedal’s easy to use and understand, with no additional features and it remains reasonably priced. It’s a pretty heavy pedal, but will suit those who have space in their pedalboards and want something that they can fit the bulk of their foot over. It will be less suited to those looking for something more controllable in terms of tonal shaping.
- Classic design and features make it easy to use and understand.
- It’s rugged yet stylish.
- It’s reasonably priced.
- There are no additional volume or shaping controls.
- It’s quite heavy.
9) Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah
The Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah is pretty budget-friendly and it’s also lightweight. Like the two classics above, there are no additional features, but that makes this pedal intuitive and easy to use. It lacks the sturdiness of heavier wah pedals, but it still decently built. It has a large, classic design whilst weighing a lot less than those that look very similar. This pedal will suit those who are looking for something simple and budget-friendly, who will welcome the bonus of it being lightweight! It will be less suited to those who would benefit from advanced extra features.
- Very budget-friendly for a wah pedal.
- Lightweight despite its large, classic design.
- Intuitive and easy to use.
- There are no additional features.
- It doesn’t feel as sturdy as heavier wah pedals.
10) Boss PW3 Wah/h2>
The Boss PW3 Wah is a high-end pedal with a ‘vintage’ mode as well as a ‘rich’, more modern, wide-range mode. It’s made of rugged, die-cast aluminium, making it ready for the road and there are LEDs on either side, so you and your band mates can tell whether the wah’s on or off. It’s smaller than a classic wah pedal, making it more pedal-board-friendly, whilst still being long enough to make smooth wah movements manageable.The PW3 wah will suit those who are looking for something reasonably simple, for gigging with to achieve both modern and vintage wah sounds. It will be less suited for those looking for something either more classic or advanced.
- LEDs on either side, so you always know when the wah is on or off.
- Rugged, die-cast aluminium makes it durable and gig-worthy.
- Includes ‘vintage’ mode to emulate classic wah sounds.
- It’s pretty expensive.
- The small design might be less easy to control for those with larger feet.
How does a Wah Pedal Work?
Wah pedals use a filter to adjust the frequencies you hear from the guitar. Generally, when it’s in its ‘open’ position, you will hear predominantly bassy sounds, when it’s ‘closed’, your guitar will sound more trebly. As your foot moves, the tone of your guitar is adjusted, which creates that ‘wah’ sound as it goes from low to high.
Who Uses a Wah Pedal?
Hendrix is often the first guitarist to come to mind when you think about wah pedals. It’s impossible to imagine ‘Voodoo Chile’ without one.
However, as well as 60s guitarists, John Squire from The Stone Roses, as well as guitar legends Steve Vai and Joe Satriani all make use of the expressive qualities of the wah.
Buyers Guide – Things to Look for when Buying a Wah Pedal
So, now you have a basic grasp of what a wah pedal is, it’s time to consider some things to look out for when you’re shopping for one.
Size of Pedal
Traditionally, wah pedals are pretty bulky. This is great, because it means that they’re durable and easy to control with your foot. However, what if you (or your pedal board) is short on space?
These days, you can also get mini wahs that are around half the size of traditional wahs. If you can get used to controlling it, this might be a better option for those who are looking for something compact.
Anything that you’re repeatedly stamping on needs to be made out of decent material. Although you can get some cheap, plastic wahs, they’re not really worth getting as they’re likely to break as soon as you take them on the road.
Look for something with strong, metal housing around the base and the pedal if you want it to last!
Most wahs feature battery power, with an impressive battery life. Is this something you need?
If it’s not, and size isn’t either, you might prefer to go for one of the mini-wahs. These often save space by removing the battery option.
Any Additional Features?
High-end wahs can include features like EQ controls, Q controls and multiple modes. If you’re looking for the ultimate in tonal shaping, these features are worth prioritizing. Shiftable EQ settings make your wah pedal much more versatile, and the ability to switch between vintage and more modern modes can be extremely beneficial to session musicians or others who need to shift between multiple styles.
A downside to wahs with extra features is that they often end up being bulkier as a result.
As you can see, there are many wah pedals out there!
Which one you choose will largely depend on your budget, where you plan to use it and the styles of music you play.
If you’re looking for classic, vintage tones, the Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95 Classic Wah or the VOX V847A Wah Wah are the most traditional pedals. Both of these offer simple wah features which are easy to use and understand and they both promise quality and durability. The Electro Harmonix Wailer Wah is similar to a classic wah, but a budget-friendly option that also lighter in weight.
The Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah and Boss PW3 Wah also produce vintage sounds, with the added option of switching setting to a wider range of frequencies. Both of these are also smaller than classic wahs, with the mini wah being minute, and the Boss PW3 being somewhere in between small and bulky.
Another small pedal is the Sonicake wah/volume. As the name suggests, this doubles up as a volume pedal. It’s designed with the intermediate player in mind, and due to its plastic casing is best used as a practice pedal.
Those who are looking for something modern and feature-heavy have the Ibanez D7 Weeping Demon or the Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Multi-Wah to choose from. The Weeping Demon includes a Q control as well as EQ controls, whilst the Multi-Wah has just a Q, but also benefits from distortion-depleting circuitry.
Any Steve Vai fans need look no further than the Morley Bad Horsey, which, as well as being set to his custom settings, has a unique switchless design, making it extra noiseless and easy to use.
Whichever of these wah pedals suits you the best, we hope that you have a blast with it and that it helps to take your guitar playing to the next level. Whether you’re getting funky or wailing out Hendrix-style solos, using the wah is what will make it ten times more authentic. Enjoy!