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Guitars & Accessories

Best Wah Pedal

Asking a guitarist to pick the best effect pedal is going to result in a wide variety of answers, but there’s one thing that is for certain, there are few effects pedals as fun (and as involving) to play than a wah pedal. By moving the pedal up and down with one’s foot, the unit sweeps the peak response of a filter up and down in frequency, creating a “wah” like sound that is similar to that of the human voice. There are multiple ways that this pedal can be used for expression, whether it’s applied to scorching guitar solos, funky rhythms, or anywhere in between. Here are the best wah pedals. with each selection giving players the flexibility of choosing between a battery or AC adapter power source, durable case builds to ensure that these devices won’t break under the type of heavy use that wah pedals typically receive, and specific tonal settings entirely unique to that pedal and not found anywhere else.

Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah Pedal

6-string assassin Steve Vai is a legend to guitarists worldwide, having played with a range of artists including Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, and Whitesnake, to say nothing of his own solo work. A huge part of Vai’s sound has been his expressive use of the wah pedal. Morely teamed with Vai on their last collaborative pedal, but the Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah steps things up a notch, providing players with the ability to dial in Vai’s exact tones or make their own. One unique element of the Bad Horsie 2 is its switchless design; activating this effect is as easy as simply stepping on it, and deactivates just by removing your foot from the pedal.

This feature is also helpful in that it bypasses the typical wah design involving pedal pots which are usually the first things to start to wear down and detrimentally affect the tone of the pedal. If you’re looking for Vai’s wah tone, the Bad Horsie 2 has got you covered. It also features a foot switchable second mode that gives players the ability to craft their own tone, with adjustable Q and wah levels. Whatever you opt for, this pedal is definitely a welcome addition to any player looking for an in-your-face wah tone.

Dunlop JC95 Jerry Cantrell Signature Crybaby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal

There were a lot of factors contributing to the meteoric rise of 90s grunge band Alice in Chains, not the least of which was the smoldering guitar heroics of lead axeman Jerry Cantrell. A significant part of the guitarist’s identity could be found in his use of wah wah for songs like “The Rooster” and “Man in the Box". Jim Dunlop paired with the AiC guitarist for their Jerry Cantrell Signature Cry Baby Wah Wah, a pedal that emulates his preference for wider, darker frequency sweep response.
A key factor in emulating Cantrell’s sound with this pedal is its narrow band, which results in a tighter and punchier sound as you’re getting a far more pronounced wah. Alternately, the range of frequencies that this Cry Baby can sweep through is quite wide, diving down to 350 Hz and peaking all the way up to roughly 2000 Hz. As a result, you’re able to get deep and dark tones or reach up to the higher frequencies to really make your tone sing. This pedal also has some great visual character, thanks to its oxidized “road worn” brass casting; it truly looks like it has been sitting in “the box” for quite some time.

CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah Pedal

CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah Pedal

Truth be told, Jim Dunlop’s original Cry Baby Wah Wah GCB95 is synonymous with what most people hear and imagine when they think of the wah effect. This unit has been used by legends like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, forever shaping the sounds of musicians that would follow in their footsteps. And while there have definitely been some amazing wah pedals that have been introduced since the introduction of the GCB95, the grandaddy of them all still has a rightful seat at the head of the table.

The Cry Baby’s build makes for a highly durable unit designed to withstand the wear-and-tear something like a wah pedal is going to endure; after all, it’s a much more involved experience than just tapping on a button. The heavy-duty diecast build can handle any amount of pressure and rocking that you give it with a 100K ohm Hot Potz potentiometer being the driving force behind this pedal’s quick wah sound. And this unit is able to be powered by a single 9 volt battery or by Dunlop’s AC Adapter, providing versatility for players when considering how they want to provide juice for their Cry Baby.

Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah Guitar and Bass Wah Effects Pedal

There’s nothing conventional about the BOSS AW-3 Dynamic Wah pedal, but that isn’t necessarily bad thing. The first thing you’ll notice that distinguishes it from its wah brethren is the units design; you won’t be rocking back and forth on this unit to get the wah sound, but instead using a single stomp to activate both fixed and auto wah settings. These settings can be adjusted using an onboard manual control knob, or by using an optional pedal to set the tempo. The AW-3 can also work with an optional expression pedal in order to trigger Pedal Wah effects. The dynamic wah sounds in the AW-3 are actually affected by the strength with which your pick attacks the guitar strings, which puts more control into the player’s hands (as opposed to their feet). A Humanizer mode incorporates human voice sounds to create a “talking” effect while the AW-3 also offers a dedicated input for bass, which gives this unit further versatility in providing sound to both bass and electric guitars.

VOX V847a Wah Pedal

Vox originally introduced their wah pedal in the 1960s and it was an instant smash hit among guitarists everywhere. With their V847A, Vox has preserved the classic sound of the original but also updated the pedal with some modern flourishes; they’re not reinventing the wheel here, but they certainly have improved the functionality of the pedal in ways that guitarists will definitely appreciate So what exactly has changed?

For one, this unit has the ability to be powered by AC, and a buffered input jack maintains the unprocessed guitar tone when the pedal is not in use. The dynamics and tone of the pedal have also been improved thanks to the inductor which has been redesigned in order to closer fit the specifications of the original Vox wah inductors. This makes for a sound that's instantly reminiscent of the classic rock wah sounds which have shaped generations over the last few decades. In the end, this wah pedal may not have much flash to it, but when you’re basing your design and approach around such a flawless formula, there’s not too much that can be improved upon.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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