It was the 1960s and guitars had changed forever with the arrival of the humbucker. But, just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, the wild man from Seattle now resident in London (that’s Hendrix for those of you who should know better!), had other ideas and there was still a lot of new advances to come, one of which was that…
…the wah had arrived.
Since then there has been much development of this vital and classic piece of kit. So, let’s have a look at some of the best Wah pedals around and see what’s what and which one you should be adding to your pedal board.
- Top 10 Best Wah Pedals In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Xotic Wah Pedal
- 2 Fender FWP-1 Wah Pedal
- 3 Morley VAI-1
- 4 Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah Pedal
- 5 MXR MC404 CAE Dual Inductor Wah Wah
- 6 Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon Wah Pedal
- 7 Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah
- 8 Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby
- 9 Morley PFW Cliff Burton Tribute Power Fuzz Wah
- 10 Jim Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Signature Cry Baby Wah Pedal
- So Let’s Give Your Sound The Wah Effect…
- And Our Choice Of The Best Wah Pedal Would Be…
Top 10 Best Wah Pedals In 2021 Reviews
1 Xotic Wah Pedal
This pedal is based on the design of a model from the 1960s, the Clyde McCoy wah. The difference is that this pedal is far more versatile in its output. Using the resonance and frequency controls it is possible to create any shade of wah that you want.
Further controls for Q, bias, treble, and bass mean this pedal will create and reproduce some great sounds.
The pedal is constructed to allow you to vary the tension and a convenient LED light lets you know when the pedal is active. Featuring True bypass, this wah will ensure it does not affect other pedals you may be using whether it is on or off.
One issue in the past with some wah pedals is that they have often been rather large and cumbersome. This pedal is a lot smaller than the norm coming in at just 4 inches wide and therefore easier to manage. The rocker is smooth and comfortable.
This is a quality wah pedal. It does have some good design plus points but the real test is with the sound creation. This pedal excels in the sounds it makes and offers so many options. One important issue is the inclusion of a control to adjust the bass which allows you to control the bottom end a little more.
It is well made and rugged and operates from one 9v battery.
Not the cheapest pedal you will find, nor may it be the easiest to operate but it certainly gives out great sounds.
2 Fender FWP-1 Wah Pedal
If it’s something to do with music then Fender will be in there somewhere and here is their wah offering.
A well designed, sturdy pedal made from cast metal with a non-slip footplate. Delivering classic wah tones this is a nice pedal, though possibly a bit limited in its tonal options. It wasn’t designed to give a wide range of voice options, concentrating mainly on a more recognizable sound, but it performs well.
If you are looking for a wah pedal that will create a variety of tones and variables to the sound then you probably won’t find it with this pedal. The sound is stable and easy to produce and whilst it may lack some of the finer points other pedals enjoy, the FWP-1 does its job admirably.
The sound is warm and rich and the pedal responsive. If you are looking for a pedal to produce a clean classic sound with no frills attached then this pedal is certainly worth consideration.
Because it is basic in its design, it is very easy to use and manage in a live environment.
It has an on/off LED indication and comes with a one year warranty.
It operates on a 9v battery, but there is an option for an AC supply which is not included.
The realistic price makes this a good option for a buyer wishing to acquire a simple wah sound.
3 Morley VAI-1
The Morley VAI-1 is a well-designed pedal that is robust and capable of putting in some hard work. It is though, a pedal that allows some creativity with the sound.
It has switchable modes that give you the option of changing frequencies and levels which have an impact on the overall sound produced. This provides the chance to alter the tones and sweep to create a sound that is unique for your playing style.
Morley claim that the pedal has been set to Steve Vai’s exact specifications which is what you will have as standard before any attempt is made to adopt a more personalized sound.
It benefits from having ease of use, simply stepping on the pedal will activate it and stepping off cancel. Being switchless has some advantages in its operation and certainly saves you having to struggle to find an on/off button.
It has an LED indicator light and an easy to locate battery compartment which takes a 9v.
It will also work well with a bass guitar. This pedal comes with a 2-year warranty.
4 Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah Pedal
This pedal is an attempt at recreating the Clyde McCoy wah. Much of the design goes back to the original Vox pedals that were so highly thought of at the time. Of course, there have been improvements. Bass and gain can now be controlled via a resonance control that helps to develop the sound.
It is a rugged, tried and tested design that has been made for working hard, and it will take its share of knocks.
The sounds are exceptional and with the amount of variety at your disposal, it is a respected pedal. Controls are easy and the foot pedal responsive. The position of the foot pedal itself will create interesting sounds and will have an effect on sustain levels.
If you are looking for a pedal that creates a classic retro wah sound, then this will certainly be on your list. It was designed to do just that and does the job very well.
The original pedals had some problems with noise levels etc., but these are long since eradicated, and you are left with a rich, warm and pure wah sound. It has True bypass.
It will take you back to the late ’60s with its feel and overall sound, and if that is what you are looking for, then this pedal does the job.
A classic sound that is easy to use and produces a great wah effect.
5 MXR MC404 CAE Dual Inductor Wah Wah
This pedal has been designed by Bob Bradshaw, Dunlop, and the Cry Baby development team. That should be enough to give you some idea of the innovation and technical quality of this pedal.
Versatility is the name of the game with this wah pedal. It has two distinct ‘voices’ controlled by one switch that offer two distinct sounds, one emphasizing the mid and bottom end, the other the top end.
It has great tones throughout its range from the warmth of the middle to the attack at the top end and doesn’t suffer from a lack of boost when kicked in, maintaining its power output.
LED lights show the status of the effects, boost and inductor position. And all the operating controls can be managed with your foot.
One thing that is very apparent with this pedal is that all the original principles of producing a quality wah have been utilized, using quality components, but they have also addressed some of the common problems other pedals have suffered. It is, therefore, an improvement on previous models.
Fits into the top end of the middle price range, so it’s good value for money given the variety of sounds it produces.
It comes with True Bypass ensuring your basic tones and settings are not disrupted.
Takes one 9v battery.
6 Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon Wah Pedal
The Weeping Demon pedal comes with a reputation for quality and innovative ideas. It is loaded with options for creativity and is somewhat unique amongst wah pedals in that respect.
It is rather a complex pedal to get to understand as are all pedals that have a wide range of options for sound quality.
A new user will have to spend some time getting used to the operation of all the levers and switches, which engages the wah, what disconnects it etc.
It is possible to use the pedal as just a wah and sidestep many of the settings, but then that rather defeats the object of having it. If you want a pure, no fuss wah this pedal might not be suitable. If you are willing to spend some time appreciating its capability and what it can offer you through its range of settings, then it is worth consideration.
Some controls are buried on spring locks so that after setting they can be pushed and located below the level of the pedal to avoid changing them by mistake.
It will produce great sounds across the spectrum but is especially powerful at the top end when you start to push it to its limits.
It is tough and sturdy, and the foot pedal has a smooth action and operates on a 9v battery located in an easy to reach compartment.
A very good pedal for being creative and having the option of a variety of sounds and is well worth consideration.
The price is set in the mid-range, so it is not expensive.
7 Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah
Boss, of course. Reviews of the best pedals of any description would not be complete without having a look at what Boss is doing.
The AW-3 is a classic but innovative wah pedal. Built in the classic shape and style of years gone by it gives a range of dynamic and classic tones.
Interestingly, it also has what Boss call a humanizer.
This is an innovative effect that duplicates the human voice tone. To our knowledge, this is the first time a pedal can produce this effect.
It carries a separate input for a bass guitar allowing wah bass effects to be created especially for that instrument.
As you would expect from Boss, it has a rugged, no-nonsense design that is built for use and a few knocks which pedals receive when used live.
It is designed for the classic wah tone and provides it very well, but it also leaves room for creativity.
The tones are warm, yet powerful and are delivered with clarity at the bottom and top. Some of the controls are a little bunched together which won’t make the operation that easy, and with the many options onboard it is going to take a little work to appreciate all that it offers. Time well spent we think as it is a great little pedal.
It operates on a 9v battery, but there is no LED indicator showing remaining battery life which could be a problem.
Realistically priced, it is good value for money.
8 Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby
If ever there was a name synonymous with wah effects it is the Cry Baby. At one time the standard by which all other pedals were measured. And it’s still around.
Without wishing to be confrontational, this was the pedal we saw Jimi use in practice and live.
We are not saying it is all he used to get his wah effects, but it was there. How about we drop in another name, Dave Gilmour.
Not surprisingly it brings classic tones and sound and is still a master of its genre. Even its design is heavy, and it is built to last.
If you are in the market for a wah pedal and what you want is just that, maybe there is no need to look further. The Cry Baby does all you need and is a remarkable pedal.
Introduced in the late 1960’s it soon became the wah of choice on much of the iconic music produced then and since.
It is still constructed in the same way, push down with your toes more treble, back on your heels more bass. In between a great sound. Simple but so effective operation that allows you to feel the sound as you create it.
There are no bells and whistles. This is a classic wah pedal that has stood the test of time and is still used by many.
And the price for such an iconic piece of kit? Very, very competitive to say the least.
It operates on a 9v battery or on an AC adaptor which is not supplied.
9 Morley PFW Cliff Burton Tribute Power Fuzz Wah
This pedal is a little different in that it combines its wah effect with a fuzz tone which was used successfully by Metallica’s Cliff Burton. This is a reproduction of that sound.
It combines the wah and fuzz to create a different sound. The Wah and Fuzz can be used together or individually so effectively it is two pedals in one. It can also be used with guitar and keyboards.
It requires a 9v battery, though there is an option for an AC adaptor, and the battery compartment is designed with a simple click door to make battery change quick and easy.
Aside from its wah and fuzz effects, there are controls that allow further tonal development of the sound.
Make no mistake, this pedal is loud and raucous and offers shattering effects so if what you are looking for is a standard wah pedal this might be a touch too far in the sound possibilities.
Having said that, for those that want to be creative with their sounds, the addition of the fuzz and other options will allow a lot of opportunities to do that.
The Metallica sound, on which this pedal is based, had a definite style to it and this pedal fits into that genre very well.
It is constructed with a metal casing that is rugged yet quite aesthetic in its look.
The controls are a little awkward to reach, especially in a live situation which may mean setup before playing as later adjustment might prove problematic.
It won’t produce the best wah sound, neither will it give you a great fuzz – as stand-alone modules. But together they are powerful and effective.
Not particularly cheap.
10 Jim Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Signature Cry Baby Wah Pedal
The JP95 by Jim Dunlop is another attempt at creating a signature sound. This time it is John Petrucci’s Cry Baby and the basic sound is based on the settings he uses.
It certainly has a life all of its own and has a big sound, whether you are playing single notes or chords, it has a lot of attack.
It has controls for Q, a six band equalizer and volume which give it a wide range of sound creation possibilities and total control over the production of what you want to hear.
One thing that is immediately apparent is the width of the sweep. This allows those extra sounds to be created that most pedals would not utilize.
It has a sturdy build and has an attractive chrome finish.
The sounds can be further fine-tuned by removing the bottom plate which may seem like an inconvenience to some. Whether you will ever need to do this is debatable.
The factory settings of the JP95 give you lift off from the first note and providing you with a growling monster of a wah. If you like the Petrucci sound, this is going to impress.
We see this pedal as being aimed, as some are, at a specific sound and therefore at a particular kind of user. If you tweak it too much, then you may find you move away from its signature sound which may have been the reason you bought it in the first place.
It is a powerful pedal which will excel in the environment for which it was designed.
The JP95 is powered by a 9v battery or the optional AC adaptor.
So Let’s Give Your Sound The Wah Effect…
Of all the various pedals on the market, the wah is perhaps the most recognizable for what it does. What it actually does is provide an alternative sound for your guitar, bass or keyboard, that will affect not only how you sound but also possibly the sound of the band you are working with.
It is vital therefore that you pick a pedal that will compliment what you and everybody else is doing.
So, let’s try and help you make the decision for what is the best wah pedal for you.
What Are You Actually Looking For?
Back in the day, you could just say ‘I want a wah,’ pop down to the music shop and get one. Not so easy these days as there are so many varieties, all of them quality products, that do different things and make a variety of sounds.
The pedals we have reviewed here are a good example. All fantastic pedals in their own right, producing great sounds, but really quite different from each other.
What Are You Looking For From The Pedal?
The choices are wide-ranging.
There are the signature wahs, those that try and re-create the sound of well-known exponents of the wah, and produce those sounds very well if that is what you are looking for. In buying one of these you should perhaps consider that tastes, even your own musical taste, may change.
These pedals all have tonal options but are set up for the signature sound it re-creates. What happens if you just want a change from that sound in the future as your own sound develops?
Other pedals are set up for total individuality, but these are often a little more complex to operate to get the best out of them. If you are willing to invest the time, they are a good option.
We have even looked at a pedal that will humanize its sound to recreate the voice. A technology that we are sure will feature more in years to come.
Then there are the purist wah pedals. Simple to operate, some tonal inflections but essentially just a wah pedal, albeit a great sounding pedal, but that’s it.
Prices are wide-ranging as well and how much cash you are willing to invest in this pedal might sway your thinking.
Finally, how is it built? Will it stand up to being stamped on a couple of dozen times a night. Is it robust and tough and ‘gig-proof? It will need to be.
Ease Of Use
The ease of operation might become an issue if you need to constantly change tones during a performance. Some pedals are not so good in that respect. With the ability to create a vast range of sounds will come an array of controls. Is that what you want, or are the simpler versions more to your liking?
How you consider these basic questions will determine which pedal is the best wah pedal for you.
Also read: Top 10 Best Vocal Harmonizer Pedals
And Our Choice Of The Best Wah Pedal Would Be…
This is a difficult one. In reviewing these pedals, we have looked at some remarkable pieces of technology, produced by quality manufacturers, with every single pedal having its place and doing its job brilliantly.
We applied our considerations and logic to find the answer. What do we want from a wah pedal? Do we want a pedal with all the bells and whistles or do we already have enough tech on our pedalboard to create what we want? Did we want someone’s sound and maybe tweak that a bit?
No, we wanted a wah pedal. We wanted a great sounding wah pedal, and that was it.
For that reason, our winner is the…
For so many years the standard by which other pedals were judged and still producing that great sound for such an incredible price. It is a classic wah pedal pure and simple and for us, the real deal which is why we highly recommend it.