Best Wah Pedal Review – Top Rated Models in 2019 with Buying Guide
This quick guide will help you find the best wah pedal for you. And because we know you might be short on time, we kept the guide short and simple for you. Our team carefully examined what the most sought-after wah wah pedal models had to offer, and after checking the experts’ opinion too, we concluded that the Jim Dunlop 535Q is the one that will work great in almost all cases. It’s such a compact pedal when compared to others and it still offers a great sound in that shape. You can step on it as much as you like because the exterior is rugged and the pedal will work for years. It offers enough variation by bringing you the possibility to choose between 6 sweeper positions that affect the sound. Sometimes you won’t be able to find our first recommendation for sale, and if that’s the case, you should look for the VOX V846HW pedal.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
If you don’t have the time to check all the wah pedal reviews out there and read all the forums about the pedals, we’re here to help with some quick reviews of our own. You should know that we did our research, we read what experts had to say about each pedal, and we also had a look at what people thought about each device.
Jim Dunlop 535Q
Recently, manufacturers have been putting a lot of emphasis on making pedals as small as possible, and that hasn’t really happened with wah pedals too. But this mini wah pedal from Jim Dunlop manages to pack a good wah effect in a small format. And if there is something that defines Jim Dunlop products, it’s the build quality that they have.
You can control the effect using the rocker on top and you also have a switch that lets you select between 6 positions that influence the wah’s sweeps.
There is also a Variable Q knob that you can use to further refine the voice of the pedal. An impressive amount of 16dB can be added using the boost function. The resulting sound is one with a lot of gain in it.
In terms of sound, because the pedal allows you to voice it so it matches your guitar, you can make it sound great with bright or mellow guitar tones too.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($149.99)
Those with more experience will probably know that the original model of this pedal was used by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969 and that is why it’s considered to have a legendary sound. With this new model, VOX tried to add a modern touch to that classic pedal, making it an interesting mix between vintage and modern.
It’s important to note that the pedal offers true bypass, a function that is not common for this kind of pedal. And that means there is no more tone sapping when the pedal is off. There isn’t much to do in terms of controls, however, as the pedal sounds good from the start, so you won’t need that.
The frame is strong and the tonality offered is a good one; also, the pedal itself feels smooth to use. If you prefer using single-coil pickups on your guitar, you’ll be pleased to find out that when the sound is clean, this pedal sounds great.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
Jim Dunlop MXR MC404
This is a versatile guitar pedal that separates itself from the competition by employing two different Fasel inductors. Such an inductor is the key to every wah pedal and having two of them, each designed to offer an awesome tone, is something that adds to the uniqueness of this pedal.
The first of the inductors is made to offer a deep, lush, and warm wah tone, while the second brings a more classic tone that doesn’t excel in the low frequencies but does a great job in those high notes. It’s like you have two wah pedals in one and with the help of a switch on the pedal, you can choose which one of them you want to use.
There is also a small boost knob that can deliver up to 18 more dB, and the pedal also incorporates a true bypass function that will make sure you won’t hear any noise when the device is not in function.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($169.99)
Jim Dunlop KH95
Being a signature pedal of Metallica’s guitarist Kirk Hammett, this wah pedal gives you the feeling of a true professional.
Jim Dunlop created this pedal following Kirk Hammett’s preferences so you will get some good metal tonality from it. When putting together this pedal with other signature devices, you obtain the Kirk Hammett sound.
It’s a great pedal for lead guitarists as it gives some extra boost in their volume. A wah pedal filters the sounds and tends to cut the midrange, and this one is well suited for metal music as it doesn’t produce high-frequency sounds and emphasizes those low notes better. When you rock the pedal the response is an even one, there are no frequencies that stand out too much.
The pedal also has a true bypass switch, meaning that when you don’t use it you won’t hear its humming in the end sound.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($159.99)
Jim Dunlop JP95
This is another signature pedal from Jim Dunlop and this time the manufacturers teamed up with Dream Theater’s John Petrucci for a unique design and sound. It follows the guitarists’ custom sound, but it can also be tuned to offer you a personalized tonality. Coming in a rugged shape, this pedal looks elegant too, sporting a beautiful smoked chromed finish.
The design is simple, with only two small knobs; nothing will get in your way, and it also has an LED that lights up when the pedal is active. All the tuning needs to be done off-stage, as the controls are located underneath the bottom plate.
You can change the volume, adding gain in the process, and you can also adjust the band-pass width of the wah sweep and shape the overall frequencies. The default setting offers you a Petrucci tonality, with intense low-end growl sounds but also comes with enough strength in the mids and highs.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
Voodoo Lab Wahzoo
This is one of the most versatile wah pedals out there. It accomplishes what such a standard pedal should do and additionally it offers more controls and extra tonal options. First of all, it has the traditional wah mode that has a wide sweep and a sound that resembles a professional singer’s voice.
You control this effect using the pedal itself, much like in classic models. What’s great is that you can adjust the pedal to be more or less responsive. You can even adjust it to set how high you want the treble position to be in. That’s great if you want to achieve a warmer tone, or an edgier one.
This can also be an auto wah pedal that is active at all times, without you being required to press the pedal. It’s a great feature to have when you play live and want to wander the stage.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($189)
Morley Bad Horsie 2
Usually, signature devices are not for the general public as they most often produce a sound that’s only suitable for a certain music style. But this is not the case with this signature Morley wah pedal. It’s a model made in collaboration with Steve Vai and while it offers a unique tone and design, it’s great for all purposes.
One nice element of this pedal is that it’s a “step on, step off” device, meaning that it’s only active when you step on it. Thus, there is no need for engaging switches or anything like that. The Clear Tone buffer found in this pedal is capable of maintaining a clear guitar sound whether the pedal is activated or in bypass mode.
Since this pedal was clearly made for rockers, it’s an aggressive one in terms of sound. It’s quite a modern tone that it offers and it allows you to experiment with different music styles too.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($145)
Carl Martin Wah Wah
The Wah Wah (or 2Wah as it’s known) pedal includes a total of six different wah effects and out of these, you can access two of them at any time. With all these effects, there is potential for a ton of versatility and there is also a wide range of tones available. The pedal offers two main modes, a high and a low one and each of these two has a trio of choices.
To make it easier to fine-tune the pedal, the manufacturers included an attack control button. Additionally, you have great control over the sound through the use of the treadle. Pushing on it turns the effect on or off and there is not much pressure needed to activate the switch.
In terms of the sounds produced, they are mainly recreations of classic or vintage wah sounds. Carl Martin recommends using a certain wah effect for the rhythm part and another one for the solos.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($115.93)
This pedal is covered in a tough, all-black finish case; however, it doesn’t have a battery compartment. In order to change the battery, you need to remove the bottom part, but you can use a power adapter too. Compared to other models, it’s a lightweight pedal.
Its great advantage is that it offers a classic wah sound with no unpleasant noise or humming and with no extremes. And it manages to do that in a small format. It’s the kind of pedal that works well with clean tones and single-coil pickups. The sound is one that reminds you of the classic VOX pedals from the 1960s.
That is also because the design of this pedal is based upon the original VOX models. That’s an impressive feat, considering that VOX first emulated the sound of a muted trumpet and implemented that into a wah effect.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($68.13)
Behringer Hellbabe HB01
Although it’s a plastic pedal, it’s a very sturdy one and it will withstand your stompings. To make it more sturdy, the pedal has a metal foundation and a rubber grip on top and in general, it doesn’t feel like some of those cheap wah pedals. It rather has a vintage feel to it.
When discussing functionality, we should say that the pedal uses a step on, step off control, meaning that it’s activated when stepped on only. That’s great because you don’t need to use a switch to activate it. The low-noise circuitry makes sure you won’t hear it humming for no reason. There are two LEDs that indicate the Effect Status and the Boost status respectively.
Once you step on the pedal you feel how smooth it operates. Also, the sound is a smooth and swirly one and you can use the boost knob to add 10 more dB to the volume.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($49.99)
Yearly Guide & Report
Wah pedals are popular today due to the color and articulation that they can bring in a song. Offering you the possibility to control the effect with fine movements of your foot, a nice wah-wah pedal is one that sounds good even if it’s been used for many years. Here are some things that we consider to be essential when choosing such a pedal.
Two important aspects
Because wah pedals aren’t too complicated, there are just a few things that are really important when choosing such a pedal. The first consideration when buying a wah pedal is its reliability. Wah pedals function by mechanically allowing you to shift the position of a potentiometer with your foot.
And if that potentiometer gets damaged, rusty or dirty, or even stops working at all, you will need to replace it. But that’s a hard thing to do and you will thus have to change the pedal altogether. That’s why you need a sturdy pedal that can hold for years.
The second aspect that you should consider when choosing a wah pedal is its sweet spot. This term is used to represent the variety of sound that can be heard between the two extremes of the pedal, between the bass frequencies and the treble ones. A good wah pedal lets you vary the sound a lot between those extremes and doesn’t force you to adopt a sound that doesn’t suit your style.
Mechanical or optical?
Wah pedals provide almost the same effect, but they sometimes do that using totally different methods. Mechanical devices use potentiometers and gears to respond to the user’s foot pressing on the pedal and thus creating a change in the sound. When the player steps on the pedal, the motion transforms the signal, which is sent to the amp and the end result is a wah effect.
There isn’t much difference in the sound between optical and mechanical pedals because the effect takes so little time to manifest. Instead of potentiometers, optical pedals use lasers to sense the movement and produce the signal. But they do the same thing.
However, there is a big difference between the two types in terms of reliability. Because optical machines don’t have any parts that are constantly stomped, they last longer. Furthermore, potentiometers and gears can rust or get dirty, while lasers don’t.
But just because a technology is newer, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. There are plenty of mechanical pedals that do a better job than optical ones. You might feel that an optical model represents the best wah wah pedal, but the secret lies in the quality construction, the good circuitry, and the attention to details.
Furthermore, those that have used mechanical pedals for years are now experienced in how to repair them too. So they won’t really like optical pedals that are too complicated and need to be returned to the manufacturer for repairs.
Simple vs flexible wah
The comparison between a simple wah pedal and one that offers more options is somewhat unjust. And that is because, although having the same general purpose, these kinds of pedals are destined for two different types of players.
A simple pedal is meant for those beginners that need to understand how the basics of a wah pedal work. For that purpose, a pedal for aspiring guitarists should offer few options to play with and a quality effect, one that sounds good no matter what. Such a simple pedal is also useful for those more experienced players that don’t want to alter their sound too much.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are flexible wah pedals that let you change most of the settings. These pedals come with a great number of features including the ability to control the volume, the frequency range, or offering equalizer settings. Experienced players clearly benefit from such pedals because they have the possibility to achieve the precise sound they want.
As expected, flexible wah pedals require a bigger investment. Furthermore, because they are more complicated, they tend to break easier, especially in the hands of an inexperienced player.
Since simplicity defines wah pedals, there isn’t much difference between them. However, there are certain pedals that provide more than just a wah effect, and they can be considered combo pedals.
Some of these pedals combine the wah function with a volume one, becoming a wah volume pedal, while others combine an expression pedal with a wah one in a single device. While pedals that offer two or even more effects can be good for those that like to occupy less space on their pedalboard, most often, such a pedal is the jack of all trades, master of none.
Frequently asked questions about wah pedals
How to use a wah pedal?
The main idea of a wah pedal is to rock it back and forth on every single note. This is a fun way to play it, it’s easy, and it also sounds good. You first start with the pedal in its normal, open position. As soon as you hit the note on your guitar you step on the pedal all the way up then all the way back, making it open again.
This way, every time you press the pedal, the note will get a wah sound. Start slowly, picking a string, then pressing the pedal and getting it back. After that, gradually increase the tempo until you reach about 200bpm.
What does a wah-wah pedal do?
The wah-wah pedal is a type of electric guitar effects pedal that uses mechanical or optical technology to alter the tone and frequency of a guitar’s tone in order to make it sound like a human voice saying a “wah-wah”.
In the case of mechanical wah pedals, the device uses a potentiometer that is actioned using the player’s foot. Every time that potentiometer moves, the signal is altered and the result is the effect itself. Optic wah pedals do the same thing but instead of potentiometers, they use lasers to detect the changes and thus produce a different sound.
How to fix a wah pedal?
The answer to this question is really – it depends. It is a matter of what gets broken in the pedal. In mechanical wah pedals, the thing that breaks most often is the potentiometer. That is because it’s intensely used.
If the potentiometer doesn’t work anymore it’s hard to change it, and that is because when you put a new one in the pedal, you need to pay attention to getting the sweep right. It’s better if you send the pedal to an expert. If you don’t know what the problem is, check all the wiring and make sure everything is soldered well.
Can you use a guitar wah pedal for bass?
Yes, you can use a guitar wah pedal for a bass guitar, as the pedal itself doesn’t know where the signal is coming from. The pedal is only tasked with processing the signal. While there are special wah pedals for bass, this is because these pedals produce a much richer sound in the low frequencies.
A guitar wah pedal can sound great on a bass, but it can also provide a muffled sound, a dumped one. A bass wah pedal can give you more control over the low frequencies and it can also offer features like a Low Filter knob that can be used to filter out certain frequencies.
What wah pedal did Hendrix use?
In his career, Jimi Hendrix was known for using VOX pedals. Certain newer models from the company are made to reproduce the sounds of those original wah pedals that helped make Hendrix famous. Among these pedals is the VOX V846HW model that gives a classic vibe to the guitar’s output.
One of the most iconic intros in music history is the start of the ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ song, where Hendrix scratches the strings and uses a VOX wah pedal at the same time. That sound and others can also be mimicked with a Crybaby Dunlop wah pedal or the Jimi Hendrix signature wah pedal.
What wah pedal does Slash use?
Although Slash’s pedalboard is filled with effect pedals, he doesn’t rely on them as much as one would expect. He focuses more on the sound that the amp can provide in terms of reverb, delay, and he also uses a graphic equalizer to make his solos stand out.
However, he sometimes uses a Cry Baby wah pedal to make things more interesting. Most often you can see him using the 535Q model, but in 2006 Jim Dunlop released the Cry Baby SW95, which is a signature pedal for Slash. This pedal has a three-band EQ and a distortion boost.
Who invented the wah wah pedal?
The history of the wah-wah pedal is a complicated one. It first appeared in the form that we know today in November 1966 and it was then made by Bradley J. Plunkett for the Thomas Organ Company.
Plunkett, who was a junior electronics engineer at the time, was tasked with producing a new type of amplifier and while trying to do that he accidentally discovered how to add a wah-wah effect to something small like a pedal.
However, the idea was not a new one and many others created similar things before that. Chet Atkins used a pedal that had a similar format in his recordings in the 1950s.