Any electric guitarist who desires to express themselves to their best ability must have the iconic wah pedals. The best wah pedal creates that unique tone you hear from the recordings of your favorite guitar players. A good example is the Voodo Child intro by Jimi Hendrix. To one guitarist, the best wah pedal may differ from what others claim to be the top model. This is because different artists are looking for different things from wah pedals. Before choosing one, it is important to determine the purpose for using it.
If you are seeking a guitar wah pedals for the first time, this is the guide has all the information you need.
- What Is a Wah Wah Pedal Used For?
- Where Should a Wah Pedal Go in Your Signal Chain?
- Are All Wah Pedals The Same?
- Our Recommendations
- Best All Around Wah Pedal – Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby Standard
- Best Bass Wah Pedal – Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass
- Best Wah Pedal For Blues – VOX V847A Wah
- Best Auto Wah Pedal – Mooer Audio @Wah Digital Auto Wah
- Best Mini Wah Pedal – Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah
- Best Volume Wah Combo Pedal – Hotone Soul Press Wah
- Best Wah Pedal For Funk – Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah Pedal
- Best Wah Pedal For Hard Rock – Dunlop Dimebag Signature Wah Crybaby
- Best Switchless Wah Pedal – Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2
- Best Boutique Wah Pedal – Keeler Designs Stretch Wah Pedal
What Is a Wah Wah Pedal Used For?
Wah pedals are an electric guitar effect pedal that changes the frequencies of the sound signal as well as the tone to create a distinctive melody that goes like a human voice saying wah wah sound. Basically, it filters the tone when pressed by feet, hence its name envelope filter or tone filter. Depending on the position of the tone knob, the electric guitar may create a treble-focused tone like that of funk and country music or a bass-heavy timbre that is common in jazz. The tone control of the guitar instantly changes into the signature cry as soon as the switch is engaged.
Where Should a Wah Pedal Go in Your Signal Chain?
There are no hard or fast rules for wah-wah pedal placement in the signal chain. What matters is the intention of the musician. Typically, a wah sound should be placed early in the signal chain after the tuner and before the overdrive. This allows the pedal to change the sound signal before it is altered by the distortion, stomp boxes, and the overdrive. It also gives the most natural harmonic for such classics as Joe Satriani and Jimi Hendrix tones. Otherwise, it can give an exaggerated wah-wah tone that filters too much the sound of the gain pedals. But this may be a good thing for psychedelic artists who are looking for experimental sounds and modulation effects like phasers and flangers.
Are All Wah Pedals The Same?
Traditional wah-wah pedals have a standard foot switch that users press down to engage the sweep. Whereas modern wah pedals come with a Q knob for adjusting the width of the sweep and the pedal’s peak frequency. Still, there are wah pedals with inbuilt functions that can raise the output once engaged. These are particularly important when playing lead parts in which case an extra punch allows the solos to cut through seamlessly. Standard Wah pedals are not just used in rock music. They are also for other music genres and styles like funk where guitarists want to attain a ‘wacka-wacka’ wah sound to intensify parts of the fast staccato rhythm.
Here is our top 10 list to help you pick your best wah pedal on the market.
Best All Around Wah Pedal – Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby Standard
The Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby Standard is loved for its classic wah tone and definitely one of the best all around wah pedal options. Regarded as the original Crybaby, it is probably the simplest wah pedals you would come across. It doesn’t have additional features like some of the sophisticated models and so it’s not the wah pedals for every guitarist. While it brings forth a classic wah sound, it does not come with flexibility features for the tone and wah sound. The basic Dunlop Cry Baby wah features include:
- Pedal rubber grip
- Uses AC adapter or 9V power
- Metal chassis
- Toe switch
Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby Standard is meant to be basic and has no True Bypass. As such, it can influence the tone when bypassed. As for the sound, the original Crybaby is quite versatile and works well with most musical styles. However, it comes to life in rock music. It allows incredible sweeps through the signal frequencies, be it clean sound or with overdrive. Ideally, its best wah-wah is at the beginning of the pedal chain. With a tube amplifier and a nice overdrive, this pedal brings the Hendrix or Eric Clapton mood with an authentic and classic rock experience. Due to a limited number of features, many GCB-95 Dunlop Cry baby owners add mods from LED indicator lights to Tue Bypass. The metallic construction gives it a long-lasting quality and it is very unlikely for anything to break during normal usage. Actually, it is possible to gig with Dunlop GCB-95 for decades. Overall, users enjoy using it as it delivers the all around wah pedal promise of a classic wah-wah. Plus, it is very easy to use.
Best Bass Wah Pedal – Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass
Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass is the first wah-wah pedal to be created by bass artists and for bass artists and our pick for best bass wah pedal. It has been a popular bass wah, praised for its deep expressive tones that add texture and groove to the bass lines. Featuring separate Q dial and volume controls, it puts the wah effects on midrange and high frequency signals. It offers a completely unique effect on the bass sound, adding that growling and funky dynamic. For decades, it has been a number one choice by renowned bassists such as Robert Trujillo and Doug Wimbish. Since it is manufactured by a reputable company, you can expect high-quality and durable service. The main Jim Dunlop Cry Baby wah features are as follows:
- Die-cast body
- Separate volume knobs and Q dial
- 100kOhm Hot Potz potentiometer
- Auto-off switch
- Customized bass circuit
- 9V powered or Dunlop ECB03 AC adapter
Specifically optimized for bass frequencies, the 105Q Dunlop Cry Baby bass wah pedals provide new ways to groove, leaving the low tones intact while focusing on mid and top end tones to keep a thick and powerful sound. The Q control helps to adjust the precision of the wah effects. With Dunlop 105Q, it is easier to get these functionalities without the need for a bigger space. Furthermore, the aluminum chassis enhances the portability of the equipment. By sight, it may be small but its thunderous effect is undeniable. Tactfully designed, this Dunlop Cry Baby Pedal complements and retains the low-end with volume knob and Q controls. It can also be a great choice for players of extended range and down-tuned guitars thanks to an auto-return switch and small footprint.
Best Wah Pedal For Blues – VOX V847A Wah
Vox V847A is a beautiful best wah pedal for blues and one of the most trusted models by Vox. It comes in a professional-grade and durable enclosure that houses a very responsive unit for elite guitarists. It produces a dynamic range of tones that are available instantly. While the battery access can be an issue, users love Vox V847A for its:
- Inbuilt Inductor
- Brick pedal
- Simple functionality
- Stylish look
- Reasonable price
- Uses 9V DC battery with 100 hours of up time
- Awesome wah sound!
It may be one of the simplest designs but does not compromise performance. There are no superfluous features on Vox V847A and its main aim is to give that pure classic wah experience to anyone who loves simplicity. What’s more, it comes at an affordable price hence highly recommended for beginners. The mechanism of these wah pedals is smoother than most of its counterparts. A redesigned inductor aims to mimic the original model that was used by Hendrix and Page while the buffer jack helps to keep the tone in check. It not only maintains constant and clean tones but also enriches the sound. The buffered input eliminates any kind of interference when not in use. Anyone looking for a start-up wah should get the Vox V847A because this one beats any model of its price range with sound quality and variety. Somewhat, it could be better than Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby by virtue of built-in controls for customizing the tone, plus is almost half the price. While it is not a classic choice, Vox V847A blues wah pedal certainly gives the tone you prefer.
Best Auto Wah Pedal – Mooer Audio @Wah Digital Auto Wah
The Mooer Audio @Wah combines 4 different wah tones and a cool Talk effect. As the name suggests and our choice for best auto wah pedal, the Auto Wah pedal does not need additional controls on foot. The digital auto-wah pedal has two operational modes: Touch mode that responds to the instrument’s dynamics and Auto which is time-based. With its micro size, Mooer @ Wah is not only portable but durable as well. The features include:
- 5 filter modes are: Vocal, Standard pass, High pass, Band pass, Low pass
- 3 knob controls
- Digital envelop filter
- 100 Ohms output impedance
- True Bypass footswitch
- LED indicator
- Full metal shell
Due to its small size, Mooer @ Wah cannot hold a 9V battery so it requires a source of power with AC adapter. There are three controls namely MODE, SPEED/GAIN, and RANGE. The MODE knob allows the user to choose a filter mode and at the same time adjust the ‘attack’ and ‘mix’ of the filter. The SPEED/GAIN modifies the auto-wah rate or the Touch-wah’s input response. The GAIN knob thus controls the volume that goes into the pedal just like a sensitivity button you would normally find in other Mooer pedals. Then there is the RANGE knob which is used to change the tonality of the filter. That is, it adjusts the frequency emphasized by the wah effect. Despite its miniature size, the affordable Auto Wah pedals doesn’t shirk in the slightest when it comes to features. Moreover, the sound it produces is pretty decent. It is the best wah pedals for those who are looking to experiment with different sound effects without going high on budget.
Best Mini Wah Pedal – Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah
If you need a small wah pedal fully fledged with all the wacka wacka hits of standard-sized counterpart, then Dunlop CBM95 is a sure bet for best mini wah pedal. It has a compact housing, making it travel-friendly equipment. It gives the fantastic Dunlop tunes in a trio. Almost half the original size, this CBM95 Cry Baby Mini is ideal for crowded gigs where the stage room is inadequate. Here are the features to expect from a versatile wah-wah and a great size for any rig.
- True Bypass switch
- Italian Fasel inductors
- Hot Potz potentiometer
- Sturdy die-cast construction
- 3 tonal flavors: modern GCB95, vintage, and low
- Uses AC adapter or 9-volt battery
- A trio of wah tones
Thanks to an internally adjustable voicing mechanism with 3 choices, you can have the full tonal control just like you would from a full-size wah-wah pedal. The three tonal palettes cover a whole range of wah pedals from the same manufacturer. Add this to the legendary Fasel inductors to get classic tones and smooth sweeps. The inductors are the signature sound of the pedal that had been missing for years. Luckily, Dunlop Cry Baby brought them to life through CBM95 Cry Baby Mini to give the rich vocal sweeps and original lush harmonics that have long defined many timeless recordings. With heavy die cast casing, rest assured that this Cry Baby mini will stand up any form of abuse. The True Bypass switching comes in when the pedal is off to give a pure tone. It is like a heavy-duty Jim Dunlop Cry Baby pedal but in a smaller mini wah pedal package.
Best Volume Wah Combo Pedal – Hotone Soul Press Wah
The Hotone Soul Press Wah is an incredibly small but intelligent mix of expression pedal, wah tone, and volume – definitely our pick for best volume wah combo pedal. It is indeed a three-in-one pedal and a perfect option for guitarists who want to get something extra from the volume pedal. Very compact in size, the Hotone Soul Press comes with:
- Adjustable control range
- True Bypass
- Cool LED lights
- Passive expression mode
- Active volume mode
- 9V DC power supply
- Red metal casing
It is important for a wah pedal to secure a lossless tone, and this is where the active volume feature comes to play. So, expect zero loss of the sonic aspect of volume. The passive expression mode allows the wah pedal to function even when there is no external supply of power of a battery. The red metal housing is not only attractive but also strong enough to prevent minor external damages. Note that this is a mono wah pedalso you can only connect it to a single instrument or plug one amplifier to the output domain. The device is a True-Bypass pedal so it is very convenient to use with other instruments. The other standout feature in Hotone Soul Press Wah is the Bottom Value or minimum volume control which facilitates the adjustment of sound volume when the pedal is at the highest or lowest point. The additional knobs and 3-way switch are ways for tweaking between a wah, expression, or volume pedal. But the switch cannot be reached by foot during the actual performance. Overall, this is a wonderful volume wah combo pedal for beginners who prefer smaller devices.
Best Wah Pedal For Funk – Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah Pedal
Considered one of the best wah pedals for funk, Fulltone Clyde Standard is a reflection of the manufacturer’s passion for sound effects and adaptability. It is said to be Jimi’s favorite and Clyde McCoy signature pedal. The pedal was thoroughly tested before it was released to make sure that it lasts a lifetime. The sturdy material is almost unbreakable under normal usage. Prominent features include:
- Tuned-core hand-made inductor
- Internal Resonance Control
The handmade inductor is a tuned-core that uses a similar mechanism as the 1960 Vox and features a metallic cover that removes any hum. One of the additions to the original Vox is the internal resonance control, a durable trimmer for adjusting gain and bass without any tools. The ease of use is a huge plus and there’s a user manual to make everything clear. It is worth noting that the pedal uses a carbon zinc battery and not an alkaline battery. When it comes to performance, the wonderful classic offers a broad sweep range so it gives the user a wide spectrum of customization options unlike other pedals with smaller sweeps. For the record, Fulltone which guarantees warm and clean sounds. It only takes a short period of time to figure out a sweet spot for those who prefer more-to-the-point kinds of pedals. The default settings produce a higher gain but since there’s internal volume control, you can easily tune down the sound according to your taste. These Clyde McCoy funk wah pedals augur well with other pedal effects.
Best Wah Pedal For Hard Rock – Dunlop Dimebag Signature Wah Crybaby
The Dunlop Dimebag Signature Wah offers endless tonal possibilities and a great choice for best wah pedal for hard rock. It has an eye-catching design in black camouflage finish. A six-position selector knob is used to control the wah effects frequency, a quality that lacks in many basic wah pedals. This is a convenient way to change the default wah settings. From there, you can apply the fine tuners to make necessary adjustments. Here are the features that make Jim Dunlop Dimebag Signature Wah Crybaby worth a purchase.
- Slide-proof pedal covered in skid tape
- Back LED indicators
- Internal switching for jack function
- Extended frequency range
- 15 DB Boost switch (foot accessible)
- Adjustable Q control
- 6-way frequency sweep knob
A Crybaby with a load of tone options could be all you need for your playing style. With an extended frequency sweep, it produces deeper and higher melodies. Moreover, when you need to cut through, the Dimebag promises a dedicated boost switch. The pedal area is covered with skateboard skid-tape so you have nothing to worry about a wet foot sliding off. On the left side is a convenient output jack for a variety of signal routing. The overall design has everything you would ask for in the best hard rock wah pedal. The best feature being the ability to control the whole sweep. No way can you add a wah effect only for it to flatten at the bottom or top of the sweep. This means you can figure out your best settings as you try to hit the top or bottom.
Best Switchless Wah Pedal – Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2
The Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 is the type of wah pedal you step on and instantly works which makes it the best switchless wah pedal in our eyes. Coming at a small size, it is one of the best wah pedals that save space on a pedalboard. It has a superior buffer circuit that eliminates any loss of tone. There are two control knobs and one button. One of its modes (Bad Horsie Wah mode) echoes the wah-soaked tones by Steve Vai. A striking feature on the exterior is the sleek and futuristic pedal that is also durable, giving Morley kudos for a spectacular design. Thanks to an electro-optical design, it can escape the problem of scratchy pots. With a switchless operation, all you need to engage is step on the treadle. Simply step off to bypass. Beyond that, Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie features:
- Dual LED indicators
- Quick-clip battery door
- Two modes- Contour wah and Bad Horsie Wah
- Custom MQ2 inductor
- Glow-in-the-dark treadle
- Powered by 9V battery or 9V adapter
- Clear Tone Buffer Circuit for pure output
Expect super-clean tones from Bad Horsie which are yielded by the MQ2 inductor. To change the output or wah frequency, use the Contour Wah mode. This is the mode to use to match a sound you have always envisioned. Not only does the device features a high-end circuitry but it also works with Bass, Guitar, and Keys. As for the performance, Morley Bad Horsie switchless wah pedal is aggressive. It is specifically designed for rockers and so it packs that extra sonic edge. Apart from using the sonic space to experiment, you can use it for clean playing.
Best Boutique Wah Pedal – Keeler Designs Stretch Wah Pedal
When Rob Keeler created Designs Stretch, his aim was to come up with the best boutique wah pedal featuring the best qualities of his favorite music. He played around filthy and clean tones; humbuckers and single coils and realized that it worked equally well. For any quality you could think of in a modern guitar, the Keeler Designs Stretch has it all. The handmade wah pedal has a distinctive throaty voice that can color your sound if you want to. It can also remain transparent if that is your desire. When placed on a neat pedalboard with LED lights on, it becomes the easiest wah pedal for mastering the guitar. Prominent features of Keeler Designs Stretch are:
- Silent foot switches
- Heavy-duty True Bypass
- Bright LED light
- Turning knobs
- 9V center negative power source
The super bright LED allows you to see whether the wah pedal has been switched on or off especially when playing outdoors during the day. With top-notch components such as military spec wires and inbuilt inductor, it takes 9V from a battery of an external source of power. This is a limited-run wah pedal that yields vintage-voiced tones, fine-tuned to the ultimate tonal perfection. With exceptional build quality, the Keeler Stretch delivers what other wah pedals have missed. It can get on with any fuzz pedals, distortion, overdrive, and still maintain the punch and clarity of your tone whenever you are working out your best boutique wah. Switch from bumpy fuzz to a pristine wah with the Keeler Designs Stretch.
The wah wah pedals are indispensable tools for adding a variety of sounds to any style. It is important to know how each model works if you want to create your own unique tones. Since there are countless wah pedals for sale today, it can be a bit hectic to choose the right one. Top brands such as Dunlop, Morley, and Vox are exceptional and you can feel their filtering qualities and how they work on different frequencies of sound. It is okay to try a few models because wah pedals are not created equal. Also, one model might sound totally different if used by a different guitarist playing the same song. So, it boils down to how you move the instrument and how you work your foot in harmony with the guitar.