The first time we heard a wah-wah pedal, or what sounded remotely like one, was on a song by Dave Berry, ‘The Crying Game.’ Whatever they were using, it was not the Best Wah Wah pedal we’ve ever heard. That was in 1964, and the guitar part was played by Big Jim Sullivan. Also, on the sessions was a spotty faced Jimmy Page. Not many took any notice.
The idea of creating that sound had been around a long time. Horn players, especially trumpet players, did it by moving a mute in and out of the bell while playing. It created the effect. Some others experimented with it, Chet Atkins, for one, but it didn’t really happen. It was actually an accident when it finally did arrive, in the mid-60s, caused by Vox, or Jennings Musical Instruments (JMI).
They were trying to build a new ‘Super’ amp for the Beatles to replace the AC30 — sacrilege in itself. The Wha idea developed quickly. So quickly that we heard it for the first time shortly after. Included on an album by Jimi Hendrix, it was there on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” in 1967. Not long after came “Voodoo Chile,” and that was it. We all wanted one.
Hendrix used a Vox wah but soon changed to a pedal designed by his sound engineer.
It has since become one of the most widely known and recognizable sounds in music. Crossing all genres, you will hear it in anything from Rock to Funk to Blues and even in Country. Today there are a wide range of options.
So, let’s take a look at the Best Wah Pedals currently available and find the perfect one for you…
Top 10 Best Wah Pedals In 2021 Reviews
1 Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 Guitar Effects Pedal
Xotic are a US company that started life in the mid-60s producing bass guitars and bass effects. They have moved on a bit since those early days. They developed this wah pedal and used a basic idea from the 60s. Clyde McCoy had been a well-known trumpet player who mastered the mute wah sound on his trumpet.
Vox decided to mimic the tone, and along came the Vox Clyde McCoy wah. He had nothing to do with the development; they just used his name. It proved to be a big success.
The reincarnation of that pedal by Xotic is quite a bit more sophisticated than the original. You are given a lot more control over the completed sound using the frequency and resonance controls. Working with the options for Wah-Q, bass, and treble adjustment, it means you can create just about any sound you want.
The build quality is very good, and it is rugged and built for the road. Its metal casings and strong foot pedal construction allow it to take a few knocks. It has the ability to allow you to vary the tension on the pedal. The action of the pedal in rocking motion is smooth, and there are no stutters or jams.
It runs off a 9-volt battery. It also has true bypass, so it will have no effect on your tone when not in use.
One big asset of this pedal is its size. It is not as big as some, measuring 9.8 by 4.4 by 3.4 inches. It will, therefore, take up just a little less room on a pedalboard. This is a quality pedal and a good strong build and a variety of sounds that can be created, making it a good option. It certainly is not the cheapest pedal on this list, which might put some off.
- Very strong build and good design buy with a slightly smaller footprint.
- Creation of a wide variety of wah sounds.
- Quite expensive.
2 Morley VAI-2
Marley is an American pedal manufacturing company. They are well-known for their ‘treadle’ type pedals like the wah. They do use a different manufacturing process to some others. Instead of using the potentiometer, which is a common design, they control the wah effect using electro-optical circuitry. Founded in 1969, they have become a popular brand amongst guitar players.
This wah pedal is a bit of a monster. Built like a tank with its all-metal construction, it measures 9.25 by 6 by 3.5 inches and weighs three pounds. It is very clear this has been designed for use on the road. To add to its durability, it is a switchless unit that uses optical circuits. The advantage being they won’t wear down like a Potentiometer.
It is set up to Steve Vai’s settings in its basic format, and it has his signature sound. That is the standard sound you get, but then you have the options to change it to suit yourself. Though we would ask the question, why would you want to, but anyway? The first mode is set to Vai’s settings. There is a second mode, Contour mode, that allows you to change the tones and sweep.
The controls do give you a lot of sound options and give you quite a bit of individual creativity. The production of the sound is influenced by the frequencies and levels used. These can be changed in the creative process. The tones and sweep can then be tailored to your own style of playing.
Using it is easy. Simply step on it, and it activates and to cancel just step off. Having no switches, there is no off and on button, which some will see as an advantage. It takes a nine-volt battery, and the battery compartment is easy to use. This pedal is true bypass and also works well with bass guitar.
This pedal is set at a very competitive price, and considering the build quality, easily makes it one of the Best Optical Wah Pedals around. Tough, good sounds, easy and stable to use, and at a great price. What more could you want?
- Rugged build with optical circuits at a very good price point.
- Great sounds with an easy step-on, step-off function.
- It is quite a large pedal.
3 Electro-Harmonix Guitar Wah Effects Pedal
Electro-Harmonix is an effects manufacturing company based in New York. They have been around for a while now, since 1968, and have produced some good pedals in various formats. We have previously reviewed their Soul Food pedal, which was very good. This wah is another good example of their quality products and is a classic sounding wah.
They previously released a wah by the name of the ‘Crying Tone’. This has very similar tones, but the design had been changed to a more popular rack and pinion operation. It is built with a durable Polymer shell as opposed to the usual metal designs, which are quite heavy.
This pedal, despite measuring 11 by 3.5 by 4 inches, is very lightweight at only one and a half pounds. Polymer is a better quality material than just plastic and is able to withstand a few bumps and knocks. Durability then will not be a problem.
Just like the Crying Tone, it has a deep sweep that works well across the whole frequency range. It will, therefore, sound good for anything from rock solos to some bright funk rhythms. It has a really nice effect when the pedal is left half-way down through the sweep, which is very reminiscent of a certain exponent of the sound of a man who originated from Seattle.
It is not flashy in any way and very traditional in its styling emphasized by its rack and pinion movement. It has true bypass, so your natural guitar sound will not be affected when it is not in use. And runs off a 9-volt battery or an AC supply if you prefer.
For the price point, this is really a great option if you are just looking for a simple wah. The controls are very basic, as are the connections. It has just one input and one output socket, but that is all it needs. Basic, simple, and easy to use with a great sound. A very good cost-effective option.
- Well-built with durable Polymer casing.
- Simple use with a great sweep and a Crying Tone like sound at an affordable price.
- Some will want more control options.
4 VOX V847A Wah-Wah
So now we go off to where you could say it all started. Put Vox on a wah pedal, and one name springs to mind. It was a classic sound in the 60s. It still is today.
The Vox V847-A is the newer version of the V847. It has been upgraded with some design changes. A new inductor tries to make this wah sound closer to the original 60s versions and features a buffered design as was common of pedals of the time. It, therefore, does not have true bypass, but too many true bypass pedals can lower the signal strength significantly, so a few buffered pedals in the mix keeps things nice and powerful.
It makes a serious attempt to stay as close to that vintage sound as it possibly can. It goes close but, of course, cannot completely replicate it. Recreating a classic is never easy.
It has a strong build that is all metal and has that vintage-looking chrome surround on the pedal itself. The rocker action of the pedal is smooth and doesn’t have any delays or jams. The move through the sweep is then very effective. It is quite a sizable pedal measuring 12.5 by 3.5 by 5.2 inches and weighs over three pounds. There are four rubber feet on the bottom to aid stability in use.
It runs off a 9-volt battery or through AC power supply. The battery should give you up to about 100 hours of use if you use a manganese battery.
The wah sounds are good though the pedal itself is quite basic in its operation and design. Some will argue that it doesn’t need to be any more than that. We totally agree.
So even though the sound is approaching authenticity, there is a bit more to this pedal than that. The look is totally Vox and totally vintage in its styling. It looks good. A very good near-authentic Vox sound and its Vox styling puts this in the mix for one of the best classic sounding wah pedals.
It is set at a very attractive price point, so if you are looking for a basic pedal that creates a great wah sound, this is worth a look. Even more so as it is so cost-effective.
- Great looking pedal with a great Vox wah sound.
- Very affordable price.
- Some will want a bit more tech built-in
If there was one name inextricably linked with the wah-wah pedal, it is the Cry Baby. Dunlop developed and manufactured it, but it wasn’t their name. It was taken from the original Vox Crybaby from 1966. Vox didn’t register it as a trademark, so Dunlop took it.
This version of the pedal is a multi wah effect that gives you more freedom to develop your own personalized tones. The tone development begins with you choosing a central point where the frequency can be centered. You can then decide how wide the sweep of the frequencies will be from that point.
You can, therefore, set a very narrow cutting sounding wah where there is very little sweep. On to a broader range that has a far more subtle feel to it with great width. To achieve this, all it needs is a turn of the ‘Q’ control.
It also has an adjustable booster function that is switchable. You can, therefore, increase your volume as and when you need to. This will certainly be needed if you are using it with a low sweep where the volume fades away quite a bit. It has true bypass.
They have built-in six guitar wah ranges, a boost of 16dB, and a hard-wired off/on switch. It uses a 9-volt battery, or it can use AC power, but they don’t supply the adapter. It is a fairly standard size at 10.9 by 4.9 by 3.5 inches and weighs 3.84 pounds.
In some ways, this pedal is a little disappointing. Maybe we were just expecting more. But apart from being able to set a center point and adjust the width of the sweep, it offers not much else.
It has got a tough build and is certainly ready for stage work. However, the control knob does protrude quite a way out from the side of the body of the pedal. This is clearly going to be vulnerable and can easily be knocked about. Set at a realistic price point, it will appeal to some users.
- Adjustments of the control parameters are good, and it has six set ranges.
- It has a tough build.
- No AC adapter included, you have to buy it separately or use a pedalboard supply.
6 Jim Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Standard Wah Pedal
For many years the Cry Baby was the wah pedal that others were measured by. It has been used by many musicians over the years and is still alive and kicking today. And it still can sound as good today as it did when it first arrived on the scene.
It was modeled on the early Vox wah like so many others were. But it was the pedal that got closest to the sound. In many ways, it added some extra tonal qualities that set it aside as an iconic pedal.
Push down for treble, back for bass, and all the tones in between. This is improved these days with better rack and pinion fittings. Simple to operate and easy to get that special sound we all know. At its level, it is still a powerful and influential pedal. It has been overtaken these days by other pedals that offer a bit more in tonal variance; it hasn’t got too much in the way of those extra bells and whistles.
But then that was not what this pedal was and still is about. This is a wah pedal pure and simple. That’s what it does. If that is what you are looking for, then it does the job and does it well.
It still has its road-ready exterior and is able to take a few knocks as it has we are sure over the years. And it is built to perform and to last for a long, long time.
It is basic in this day and age but nevertheless is an iconic pedal with a special sound. Set at a price point that makes it very attractive. It runs on a 9-volt battery or by AC power, but no AC adapter is supplied.
- An iconic pedal with a special sound.
- Simple to operate and well-built at an affordable price.
- These days, it is a little lacking in creativity, if that is what you want?
7 Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah
Fulltone makes no excuses about this pedal. This is an attempt to recreate what became known as the Clyde McCoy wah. You can hardly blame them, The Vox pedal was very highly thought of at the time, and the sounds still appreciated today.
It is well-built with a tough workhorse exterior and is ready to take a few knocks. It’s all-metal build, and thick rubber footplate give it the impression of being extremely durable. It is about the standard size for a foot pedal measuring 10.70 by 5.30 by 3.40 inches and weighs in at 3.6 pounds.
Controls are easy to use, and it has a foot pedal action that is smooth and very responsive. When positioned at various midpoints between its extremes, the foot pedal allows the creation of some interesting tones.
In comparison to its original inspiration, Fulltone has made some improvements. You can control the bass sound and the amount of gain through the Resonance control. It hasn’t changed the sound of the pedal, just added a bit more variety. It still has a superb wah sound that has a real retro feel about it.
Fulltone has gone out of their way to recreate a classic, and they have done a decent job. If you are looking for that vintage sound, then this is certainly worth a listen. If only for that authentic wah sound, it has to be considered as one of the better wah pedals in terms of actual sound quality. It has true bypass, so it will not interfere with your basic guitar sound when not in use.
It is not the cheapest pedal you will find, but most will agree it’s worth the extra bit of cash.
If you are looking to have that 60s sound to your wah, with modern performance, this could be the one.
- Warm, vintage sounds, and easy to operate.
- Well-built with a strong build and smooth, responsive pedal action.
- Quite expensive.
8 MXR MC404 CAE Dual Inductor Wah Wah
MXR was founded in 1972 in New York, and very quickly became established as a manufacturer of quality effects pedals. The MXR brand is now owned by Dunlop Manufacturing, who, of course, produces the same things.
There will, therefore, be a certain similarity between their products. The development of this wah pedal under the MXR brand name was assisted by the Dunlop Cry Baby team. It is a versatile pedal offering two different types of sound. One focuses very much on the high frequencies and the other on the lower.
The top-end sound especially carries a lot of attack in the sound. The other selection is much warmer and has a much more familiar wah sound.
It has a boost built-in along with gain control. The boost only works when the pedal is turned on, and there are LED lights that indicate the status of the pedal. It is a standard size wah pedal measuring 10 by 4 by 2-½ inches.
Most of the controls on the pedal can be operated with your foot. However, there is a control knob on one side that looks a little vulnerable. We never think it is a good idea to have controls protruding from the sides of pedals. It’s too easy to accidentally break them off. It has true bypass.
The price point is towards the higher end, which makes it a little less attractive. And there are a number of pedals that are cheaper that perform similar functions. It operates from a 9-volt battery.
- Good build quality.
- There are a range of sounds that can be created.
- We didn’t like the control knob on the side of the pedal.
9 BOSS 6 String, Ambidextrous (PW-3)
You can’t discuss effects pedals in any shape or form without discussing Boss. For years they have been one of the benchmark pedals that others try to equal. It isn’t that they are technologically better than the competitors. They just consistently produce robust, hard-wearing pedals that do the job. And they do that job very well with the least amount of fuss.
They have a very fixed format in their pedal design, and it is easy to spot a Boss pedal. Occasionally though, they step outside their comfort zone, and this pedal is one such example.
This is a wah pedal that Boss has designed to be a little smaller to ease the space pressure on overcrowded pedalboards. In comparison to other similar pedals, it is significantly smaller measuring 7.6 by 3.2 by 2.3 inches and weighing just two pounds.
They might have brought it down in size, but they haven’t compromised on the practical side of the design. It is an easy to use pedal.
There are some things that are standard in the design, the die-cast aluminum pedal chassis, for example. Boss pedals are always tough and ready to go to work. When you rest your foot on the pedal, it feels substantial despite its smaller size. The pedal action is responsive and smooth.
A common problem with wah pedals that are downsized is that sometimes it is not easy to see whether they are on or off. No problems with this pedal as there are LED lights on either side of the foot pedal to tell you the status.
It uses much of the technology of previous Boss wah pedals, which means it is going to sound good. The sweep generated by the foot pedal is more than acceptable, and the all-analog design gives you some good tones. This is especially noticeable at the bottom end.
Sometimes with the lower frequencies, the sound can be a bit lost at the end of a sweep. Not so with this pedal. It retains its full voice.
It is a very good pedal well-made and a great size. And it still retains that typical Boss quality in its sound and for that reason must be considered as one of the Best Wah Pedals around. The price point is set at a very competitive level.
- Great Boss quality of build at a very competitive price.
- Built to a smaller footprint but still retains a great sound.
- None at all.
10 BOSS Dynamic Wah Guitar Pedal (AW-3)
Back to Boss again, but this time with a more typical, classic Boss design. The design we recognize, it’s their standard compact pedal, but Boss has a little trick up its sleeve with this pedal.
Some different features, though, are very apparent by just looking at it. There are separate inputs for guitar and bass guitar. A feature you don’t often see.
The frequency range requirements are different for achieving a wah sound from a guitar to a bass guitar. The separate input allows you to create sounds specifically for the bass. You have a choice of either a fixed wah or an auto. You can also add an expression pedal if you wish. If you attach an expression pedal, then you can control the pedal from that. Alternatively, there is a built-in tempo control.
Boss is a no excess nonsense company when it comes to building their pedals, and so it is with this. Nothing is included in the design without a purpose. That keeps everything simple and easy to use. They don’t build pedals buried in unnecessary tech for the sake of it.
As you might expect, it has a rugged design so typical of so many of their various pedals. It comes with that very recognizable pedal design and action we are all so familiar with.
The overall sound is warm and rich, and there is a good sweep across the frequencies. If we have anything to moan about, it is that being a compact pedal, the controls are quite close together. That doesn’t make for a particularly easy operation if you are in a hurry.
One other issue is that there is no battery status light on the pedal. It runs off a 9-volt battery, but there is no way of telling when it is about to run out. Nevertheless, minor inconveniences really when placed against the plus points that make this one of the best small wah pedals you can buy.
It has what Boss calls a ‘Humanizer’. A clever little idea that mimics the human voice through the pedal. Yes, a little like Joe Walsh sounded a few years back with his Talk Box on ‘Rocky Mountain Way’. We haven’t seen that on a wah pedal before. Set at a realistic price point, it is excellent value for money. It is designed in Japan and made in Taiwan.
- Typically tough Boss pedal with both classic and new sounds.
- It has a separate input for Guitar and Bass guitar.
- Humanizer feature to sound like Peter Frampton!
- Could have used a battery status indicator.
Best Wah Pedals Buyers Guide
Go Ahead, Make My Day, Express Yourself
The wah pedal is one of those effects that cross the musical genre boundaries with ease. You can be hearing Jimi letting loose on the intro to Voodoo Chile one minute and Issac Hayes letting us have the theme from Shaft in the next. Light years apart but the same result. Stunning. If we had to recommend any pedal for the board, it would have to be this, just don’t use it ALL the time!
How Does It Work?
It is a simple operation. The foot pedal just changes the tone of your guitar. Bassier sounds are found at the heel end; the more treble sounds at the toe. The movement between the two creates the ‘wah’. Depending on how fast you move your foot back and forth on the pedal, how many ‘wah’s’ you get in a given space of time.
Another favorite trick which a guitarist we worked with did was to put the pedal half-way down in what is known as a ‘cocked’ position. Depending on your pedal’s responses, that can create an interesting sound you that is difficult to get in any other way.
How Has It Changed?
Over the years, there have been very little changes. It is a simple effect, and who would want to change it anyway? There have been two notable exceptions; some companies now try to produce a smaller, more compact pedal. This to save space on the pedalboard. They are smaller and weigh a lot less.
Along with that, though comes the effect that has. The pedal sweep might not be as wide, thus affecting the depth of the ‘wah’. Also, controls can get a little bit ‘jammed up’ and awkward to use.
Optical vs. Mechanical
One other slight change has been the idea of using optical pots rather than mechanical ones. The mechanical versions with rack and pinion workings can wear out over time. Optics don’t, though they can go wrong as all technology can. We looked at such an option, which is worth considering.
Each manufacturer has their idea of what it should sound like. To be honest, they get close to losing the plot at times in the quest to be ‘different’.
There is no need to be. The wah pedal is it what it is and no more. Some companies, though, do offer some good sound change options with adjustable frequency ranges. Also variations on the amount of and the starting point of the sweep. We looked at some of these. They are good and relevant design options.
You can spend a lot of money on a wah pedal. In some cases, you can spend very little. The key is to decide what you want from it. Do you want to be able to play around with it for hours to get different sounds and try and create something new? Or do you just want it to cry in your solos sometimes?
Once you know what you want it for then, the budget will set it itself. The creative options, though, are going to be more expensive.
Whatever you decide, this is a great pedal that can really influence the way you sound and how you play. It exerts more emotion and expression than just about any other pedal. It’s going to make a difference, so choose wisely and then go and express yourself.
Are You Looking For Some Quality Pedals To Go With Your New Wah?
You’ll need more than just a superb Wha your Best Guitar Pedalboard? So, check out our reviews of the Best Volume Pedals, the Best Flanger Pedal, the Best Reverb Pedal, the Best Fuzz Pedals, the Best Compressor Pedal, and the Best Analog Delay Pedals currently available.
So, What Are The Best Wah Pedals?
For us, the choice is a relatively easy one. We don’t want anything fancy or too much in the way of bells and whistles. Plain and simple. Something that is wah all night. It is so tempting to choose the ‘goto’ pedals – the Cry Baby, the Vox, or anything by Boss. They are all exceptional in their own way. But we want that original sound.
In our eyes, nothing compares. We have therefore chosen the…Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah.
It produces beautiful, warm, vintage sounds and is so easy to operate. This, along with its strong build and smooth, responsive pedal action, makes it the Best Wha Pedal currently on the market.