Stay in Touch
Enter your email address to stay up to date with news from AllAxess
Of all the effects pedals present on the market, there is one type of effect that you will most certainly find in almost every guitar players pedalboard. The famous wah pedal. Whether we are talking about the irresistible funky rhythms or the screaming metal guitar leads, there is nothing more appropriate to use in order to spice up your guitar sound.
Originally thought up in the 20s, its early purpose was to imitate the “crying” that the brass players were capable of doing. Nowadays (at least since the 60s) the wah wah effect is something that has taken a life of its own and that is mostly associated with the sounds of a guitar. If used in excess though, it can turn your entire career into a big meme.
Now that we have garnered some knowledge about the history and the mere nature of the effect, here is our top 10 list of the best wah pedals of all price ranges currently available on the market:
What can be said about the legendary Dunlop GCB95 CryBaby wah pedal that hasn’t been said before? As an industry standard, since days of its inception, this right here is the pedal arguably responsible for most of the favorite wah wah tones you’ve heard. This treadle is a very solid, sturdy piece of gear weighing in at 3.7 pounds. One thing worth noticing though is that this is a modern-day iteration of the 60s classic which makes it quite versatile in a way that it produces both vintage and more contemporary wah sounds. Although quite legendary for its recognizable tones, it is also a quite simple stompbox to use, since its features are very basic and easy to use, making it an ultimate pedal in a way, since it can be used by both industry professionals and the beginner types.
However, if you find the simplicity of this pedal somewhat claustrophobic, you can find hefty literature on the web on how to fiddle with it and create your own unique sounds, since the pedal is surprisingly quite welcoming to being fiddled with. Another cool feature of this updated version is the bypass option which prevents any signal loss, associated with the traditional version. The pedal is powered by Dunlop’s very own AC adapter in a form of ECB-03, but the downside is that the adapter does not come with the pedal and it is meant to be purchased separately. The adapter can be powered with more portable means in the form of a 9-volt battery.
All in all, a pedal that was made famous by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour as well as Eric Clapton among others is a legendary piece of gear that holds relevance even to this day! Highly recommended for any level guitar player!
We don’t even know where to start with this thing of beauty…Modeled after the Holy Grail wah pedal, its white outer coat can easily seduce you into thinking that this is an innocent-sounding stomper with a fragile construction. But don’t let its appearance fool you. This one is built to survive nuclear warfare. Definitely, the most well-rounded piece of gear on this list, its main forte lies in its versatility and flexibility.
With its full bass control, this pedal can help you create the almost-infinite amounts of sonic textures. Powered by one 9V battery, it also has a LED indicator which tells you if the pedal is engaged or not. It weighs around 2.4 pounds with a very handy size, making it a stompbox that is very comfortable to use. Another very cool option is its true bypass unit, which protects your signal by making sure there are no buffering interferences or latencies. When it comes to the sounds you will get with this one, it produces a rich variety of classic warm wah tones, associated with the vintage models of this pedal. That is achieved by ditching the superabundant technological riches of today and staying with the old school wiring that made these pedals so near and dear to most of the guitar players out there.
Although it comes with a hefty price tag, this gets our highest seal of approval since it is sturdy, versatile and one of the most adjustable models out on the market!
Another obvious offender on this list, this pedal is made by a company that is actually responsible for inventing the wah wah effect back in the 60s. Its black outer casing does exactly what it says on the tin. It is made to withstand the road fury and the years of stomping abuse. This one is the exact replica of the original models from the 60s, providing you with such tones that will immediately transport you to the golden age of the wah effect.
This is as handy of a pedal as they come, with its lightweight and small size. A perfect fit for all of you guitar players with overcrowded pedalboards. Although a budget-friendly model, you will definitely not hear the cheapness in the sound. It produces a very warm and clear tone, without any undesired humming noises, even with added distortion. The only downside is that it does not have the battery compartment, so you will have to remove the bottom part in order to change the battery, or simply skip that whole step by using the power adapter.
If there would be a name Behringer in a dictionary, underneath it would say affordability and versatility. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true, as many of you Behringer junkies would already know. This pedal is no exception to the rule. It is a classic example of them cutting down on the quality of the materials used and the design aesthetics, but maintaining the high-end effect sound, while managing to make a durable piece of gear. How do they do it time and time again? Only people at Behringer know.
The pedal possesses a spring-back treadle mechanism, which is the option that allows you to control the resistance pressure. The range control allows you to control the frequency range oscillation, while the fine tune control allows you to adjust the cleanliness of your output tone. It is powered by a 9V battery or Behringer PSU-SB DC adapter. It also has dual-LED markers for both effects and boost.
An unbelievable stompbox which would be a perfect fit for any beginner level guitar player, as well as some of the more advanced crowd.
It is not very typical to recommend signature devices for the general public, but in this case, this pedal is so well done that it is right up there with the legends of this stompbox niche.
One of its best attributes is its simplicity. In order to start the effect, you just step on the treadle and the opposite goes for ending the effect, meaning that there is no switch. The two modes of use that are available here are Bad Horsie and Contour wah. The Contour wah mode allows you to change the frequencies around the spectrum and also to pick the wah level you need. It also comes packed with the Clear Tone circuitry which maintains the signal level in both bypass and wah modes. The compartment with the 9V batteries by which the treadle is powered is quite accessible, which is always a plus. It also contains the LED indicators which signify the mode you are in.
If you want to sound like Steve Vai, the Bad Horsie mode is a dream come true. However, if you want variety and the freedom to create your own sound while using a well-designed machine, free of all the unnecessary complications, the Contour wah is exactly what you need. At a mid-range price, we think we have the pedal that is just right for you.
At first glance, you know that there is something different about this pedal. But it’s not just the looks that stand out. Namely, this pedal allows you to change the range of frequencies that you are using. But not only that – you can also do some fine tuning within the ranges. Another cool option is that you can set up the pace at which high and low frequencies change and then make it loop automatically. But if you are not into that kind of ‘’cheating’’, there is always a good old fashioned footswitch.
Although this pedal is heavier as well as bigger than the average treadle, it is also made of solid metal which makes it highly durable and reliable. Another downside is that there is no true bypass unit, but with all the options available at a very reasonable price, this is one of the top picks currently available on the market!
The upgraded version of the standard Clyde wah pedal brings you some of the truly unique features that can only be seen and therefore heard here. Those unique features would be the three sound settings that you have available: Jimi, Shaft and Wacked. It really is pretty self-explanatory what do these three modes do and all of them lead the line in their respective fields of expertise. The construction of the pedal is second to none and built to withstand the years of stomping abuse. It also comes equipped with LED indicators that signal the mode in which you are in.
The pricing is very well justified with all of the options available! Highly recommended for all guitar aficionados!
MXR is a brand owned by Dunlop and if you know anything about wah wah pedals, you know that you can rely on Dunlop when it comes to producing high-quality equipment.
Powered by a 9V battery and weighing around 3.5 pounds in terms of its dimensions, it is a bit smaller than most other wah pedals. There are two distinct modes in which this pedal can be used. The first one provides you with a traditional wah sound that is ingrained in our DNA. But once you engage the ‘’Wide’’ setting, it gives you a completely different palette of colors. It can make your effect sound quite contemporary, making this pedal a truly flexible option with all of the vintage and contemporary options available at a click of a button. Equipped with a true bypass unit, this pedal will not make any signal interferences or buffering delays.
Built like a tank, capable of sounding vintage as well as modern, this is one of the finest pieces of equipment currently available. Strongly recommended!
It’s not just about the cool camo cover…It is also co-designed by the deceased guitar god himself! This pedal will instantly attract all of the guitar-playing Pantera and Damageplan fans, but, let’s just make this clear…This one can be useful to a lot of people outside Dime’s fanbase. That just goes to show how good this pedal is.
First of all, it is built to be taken out on the road, especially with its anti-slip treadle. The customization options are in abundance with this one. It includes the volume boost, Q control, and the famous Auto-Return. The 6 position frequency selector is among its main fortes as well.A highly recommended piece of gear, which has an unbelievable number of modes and options at this price range. Also one of Mike’s favorite wah pedals.
When it comes to pricing, Wah pedals are less complicated than most pedals out there. Of course, as with any gear, you can find a ridiculously high priced pro-level stompbox that’s better suited for a studio. For any beginner, intermediate or even more advanced players out there, you can find a very decent wah pedal in the $60 – $170 range.
I wouldn’t recommend going below this price range since even high-quality wah stompers suffer from hissing sounds when you don’t set them up right – you can imagine the noise that you’d get from cheaper pedals.
Most wah pedals are standalone effects and in this regard, you don’t have different types – wah is wah. However, some wah pedals can have combo functions – they can serve as an expression pedal or a volume pedal next to the original effect.
Though not necessarily bad, combos are generally not as good as the standard stuff. The potential for encountering issues is much higher, and the quality is rarely worth it in the long run.
Now that you fully understand what compression is and what it does to your sound, you’d want to know what to do with the actual pedal. Also known as “limit pedals” and “sustain pedals”, they’re used by rock, blues, jazz, and country musicians.
The main knobs you’ll see on a compressor pedal will be some of the following – sustain, volume, sensitivity – all acting as a threshold or ratio that we already mentioned when we talked about compression. With these knobs you’ll be able to control the threshold when compression is applied, the ratio under which the same compression is activated, as well as the level of sustain you want to get out of your sound, which is most often the main reason why guitarists buy compressor pedals – for sustain. Another knob usually present is the attack knob – it controls how quickly compression starts doing its magic after the threshold is hit – as well as a release knob, used for stopping the compression after the signal goes below the threshold. Both the attack and release functions are applied in milliseconds.
For those of you who like to play around with your sound and mix it up a bit we recommend you look for a compression pedal with a blend knob. It can also be found as dry, or mix knob. What blend basically does is, it mixes your highly compressed sound with dry sound, giving you more detail and body to your overall sound, which is really important considering the dynamics you lose by using high compression. This kind of compression that you can achieve with the blend function is well-known in studios, also known as Parallel Compression, or New York Compression.
Wah pedals are essentially manual bandpass filters. The wah effect is created by modulating the peak frequency response up and down along a sliding scale. The smooth effect of sliding is executed by a player’s foot which controls the expression pedal.
Ok, now in English – just say the word wahhh out loud. You’ll notice that your lips start close together and then expand towards the end of the word. This is exactly what happens to your guitar sound when you’re stomping on that pedal.
The effect itself was created by accident in the 60s when a Vox engineer tried to improve mid range boosters that were common in amps of the era. In trying to make it cheaper, he added a potentiometer instead of a regular switch. He realized nobody has spare hands to move the potentiometer while playing, so he added an expression option by macgyvering an old volume pedal and voila – the first rudimentary wah pedal was made.
Other than some very basic pedals like overdrive [insert distortion pedal link at bolded text] or distortion [insert distortion pedal link at bolded text], and perhaps delay [insert delay pedal link at bolded text] – there’s always a discussion on whether or not you really need all those pedals to be an effective guitar player. After all, it would first and foremost be useful to actually know how to play.
Well, a wah pedal can help you with that. It’s one of the most popular guitar effect ever made, a staple in pretty much any type of guitar music from jazz to heavy metal. It can help you out if you’re not that great of a player (looking at you, Kirk), or take your guitar mastery to a whole new level like it did for Jimmy Hendrix.
It can be used with clean tones, as well as thick distortions. Also helps is that wah pedals are inexpensive in general, quick to learn and simple enough to use.
This won’t be a long guide since we’re talking about a simple effect here – so let’s start off with where you put your wah pedal in the effects chain.
Wahs are very straightforward when it comes to pedal placement. Since it’s essentially a filter, it should go to the very start of your signal chain, preceded only by a tuner if you have one. As you know by now, each additional pedal degrades the signal somewhat, so you want to place it where the signal is still very crisp. Some people insist on placing it at the very end of the chain.
But, as we always like to say, making music is an art form – not math, so when you’re doing the unexpected, sometimes you get an unexpected result. Ok, it’s mostly bad but sometimes it can be so bad it’s good. You can find more on that in our guitar pedal order article [insert article at bolded text].
As for actually using the pedal, well – it’s all about the rhythm really. You can use the pedal for the effect with your toes up or down the entire time but that kinda misses the point of the effect. Think about tapping your foot to a rhythm as you would with a looper pedal [insert looper article at bolded text] – you start off clean tapping your foot on the floor, and then you swap to pushing down the expression pedal on the wah to the same rhythm. When playing solos, you want to push down on the notes you want to emphasize the most.
There’s a great video explaining the basics of how to use your wah pedal, as well as some beginner tricks on how to combine them with other pedal effects. You can find the link here.
Jason Swartz is CEO of Alliance Talent, he’s helped stars like 2 Chainz, Lil Jon, and Ludacris earn anywhere from $150 to $500K a year in passive income through this proven methodology.
Both guitars have been played by guitar legends such as Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Root, and Keith Richards.