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Wah pedals have always been a secret weapon that bring some flavor to guitar solos.

When shopping for a wah pedal that's best for you, it's best to ask experienced guitarists and check out some demos online of the ones that stood out to you the most.

We put together this post to make it easier for you to find your next wah pedal.

To do this, we interviewed 5 guitarists. For each guitarist we interviewed, we asked the following...

  • What's the best wah pedal?
  • What makes it awesome?

The responses we gathered from these 5 guitarists are provided below.

Just to clarify, this article covers wah pedals that are meant to be used for physical wah manipulation, not auto-wah pedals.

Before we dive into what the top wah pedals are, let's go over a few things.

How does a wah pedal work?

Wah pedals are one of the most common pedals used today - found in genres that span from punk, to funk, to metal. Once engaged, wah pedals deliver a signature cry to your guitar tone instantly.

So, how do they work? How exactly do they change your signal to deliver this effect to your tone?

Essentially what a wah pedal does is change your tone from bassy to trebly sound as you rock your foot back and fourth on the pedal. During the motion, the wah pedal is acting as a filter that emphasizes certain frequencies while cutting others, similar to the tone control knobs you might find on other guitar effects pedals.

The wah pedal achieves it's signature sound by changing frequency response in a quick and dramatic way. This works by engaging a bandpass filter that has a resonant peak at its low-pass roll-off frequency. The foot pedal allows a guitarist to move the frequency of this up and down by rocking their foot, which is what gives it the crying sound.

While the most common use of a wah pedal is to quickly shift the frequency response as you play by rocking your foot back and fourth, another possible use of the wah pedal is to leave it in a certain position to act as a sort of EQ - giving the guitar either a more nasally and sharp tone or a smoother sound, depending on the directional position of the pedal.

Check out this video that explains a bit more on how wah pedals work. It shows how the wah affects your guitars frequency range with visual examples.

Optical vs Mechanical connection

Usually, these pedals have a mechanical connection, where the pedal's tone is shifted using a gear or toothed mechanism. Other pedals use an optical design, where the pedal uses light sensors to detect positional changes and shift the tone.

Both do the job, but the optical design is marketed as making use of less parts, which can become less worn over time.

Optical wah is a newer technology, but sometimes older technology does the job. Many guitarists, for example, are still using tube amps in a time where digital tones are available.

Newer technology can provide a better initial experience, but it may be difficult to fix the newer technology if it breaks. On mechanical wah pedals, if the gear becomes to worn, it's an easy fix - just replace the part. For optical wah pedals, if something breaks, it isn't a simple DIY fix - you'll most likely have to send it back to the manufacturer.

One isn't necessarily objectively better than the other, it's just important to keep this in mind when shopping for the wah that matches your preferences.

What to look for in a wah pedal

Based on our conversations with multiple guitarists, there are a few things you should look for in a wah pedal.

Reliability: Generally, wah pedals work by shifting your foot, and the pedals use potentiometer to assist with this. If your potentiometer becomes worn, it may need to be replaced, and if your wah is using a cheaply made potentiometer that wears easily, this can be problematic.

Tonal Variety: When looking for wah pedals, look for one that gets you the tonal variety between bassy and trebly that you need for your style of music.

How to use a wah pedal

The simple explanation of this is that wah pedals shift your tone by adjusting the frequency between a bassy and trebly sound when you rock your foot back and fourth, but what we're going to talk about here is more about the types of sounds you can get when you use a wah.

The standard wah sound

This is the most common technique used with wah pedals, and what you probably hear on most songs that feature a wah pedal at all. To achieve a standard wah sound, just rock the pedal back and forth on every note you play. Start with the pedal in the open (upward) position, then play a note. As soon as you hit the note, adjust the wah pedal into the downward position, then back up again on the next note. This way, every note will get that 'wah-wah' sound. You can experiment with different starting and ending positions on the notes you play, but this is the basic idea of how a wah is most commonly used.

Funk rhythm sounds

If you're into funk guitar style, this might be something to consider trying out. The motion here is similar where you rock your foot back and fourth consistently, but instead of rocking it for each note, you rock the pedal on each beat - regardless of what you're playing. Start the beat in the open position, move to the closed position, then back to the open position for the next beat.

Wah filter

As previously mentioned, this is where rather than using the wah to produce the crying, frequency changing sound it's known for, you leave it in a desired spot to produce a more bassy or trebly tone from your guitar.

Wah sweep

Instead of rocking back and fourth in a quick motion, you can slowly adjust the position of the wah pedal to give it a sweeping sound.

Emphasize specific notes

Another interesting way to use the wah is to emphasize specific notes in what you're playing by adjusting it to the opened position on specific notes during, for example, a guitar solo.

For some examples of these and other wah techniques, check out this video.


Now that we've gone over some wah pedal basics, let's dive in to the top wah pedals recommended by guitarists.

Top 5 Wah Pedals - According to Guitarists


Miguel Sequeira

YouTube


What's the best wah pedal?

Morley Bad Horsie 2 Steve Vai Contour Wah Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I love this pedal! * *Have a second foot controller that lets you alter the frequency and level of the wah with its two-knob contour mode for a variety of sonic possibilities. *Have a electro-optical design that means this pedal's entirely switchless - you don't have to worry about wearing out any pots as you engage and bypass the Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah effect. *Contour Mode lets you alter wah frequency and level with two knobs. * The "Clear-Tone" buffer circuit ensures pure guitar tone and maintains signal level in bypass and Wah mode.


Chan Maurice Evans from YOUPEOPL

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube


What's the best wah pedal?

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I like the range of sweep this pedal has. The Crybaby has been an industry standard for generations now, and doesn't seem to be letting up. I have used Morely and Vox wah pedals in the past, but none compare to the tone of the Crybaby. I did, at one time, have a Crybaby chassis with Vox guts. It sounded pretty incredible, but I ultimately returned to the Dunlop circuits.


Jacob Hoffman from Drop the Act

Website | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook


What's the best wah pedal?

Jim Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Signature Cry Baby Wah Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I usually don’t play signature models of anything, but I got to give it my man JP for having me make an exception.This wah pedal is a dream come true for wah enthusiast. It has deep lows and sweet/smooth highs that are just plain tasty. The range of use for this pedal is high and has a big sound. It can have a bit of added noise, but if you do some tinkering around with the the eq and maybe throw in a compression pedal, that should do the trick. Do not not expect to get the classic, “Waka Waka” sound though right off the rip, but it can be achieved by tweaking the eq a bit to your taste.


Jeremy Aitken

Bandcamp


What's the best wah pedal?

Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I was a Vox wah devotee forever (still a fan!) but on a cramped pedalboard it became hard to eat up so much space for a pedal I don't use a ton. The mini dunlop is not only small but also has an internal dip switch if you're not a fan of the factory setting. It fits perfectly right in the middle of my board and sounds just as good as its full sized brethren. The sweep took some getting used to but honestly it isn't that hard to get comfortable with the shorter sweep after about 5 minutes.


Brice Winschel from Coffin Fit

Facebook


What's the best wah pedal?

Dunlop Crybaby from Hell

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

Versatility and power on this guy is out of control! You can adjust different frequencies, shape, volume boost control, sweep control, and god knows what else. Takes a sec to dial in but it's totally worth it. Getchya pull!



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