Wah Wah Pedals: 10 of the Best

wah-wah1
A wah-wah pedal (or just wah pedal) is a type of guitar effects pedal that alters the tone of the signal to create a distinctive effect, intended to mimic the human voice. The pedal sweeps the peak response of a filter up and down in frequency to create the sound (spectral glide).
Brief History

The Wah-Wah pedal has a very specific and technical circuitry and housing structure. Therefore, all other previous effects circuits and devices, prior to 1966, that share similarities with the wah-wah pedal are not actually affecting the signal in the same manner and cannot be considered early versions of the wah-wah pedal. However, custom experiments from time to time made sounds that approached the formal product, including Chet Atkins’ 1961 recording of “Boo Boo Stick Beat”.

The first pedal ever created was by Warwick Electronics Inc. / Thomas Organ Company in November 1966; this pedal is the original prototype wah-wah pedal made from a transistorized MRB potentiometer bread-boarded circuit and the housing of a Vox Continental Organ volume pedal.

The creation of the Wah-Wah pedal was actually an accident which stemmed from the re-design of the Vox Super Beatle guitar amplifier in 1966. Warwick Electronics Inc. / Thomas Organ Company had bought the Vox name due to the brand name’s popularity and association with the Beatles. Warwick Electronics Inc. also owned Thomas Organ Company and had assigned Thomas Organ Company to create a new product line called the all-electric Vox Amplifonic Orchestra, the project was headed by musician and band-leader Bill Page. While creating the Vox Amplifonic Orchestra, the Thomas Organ Company needed to re-design the Vox amplifier into a transistorized solid state amplifier, rather than tube, which would be less expensive to manufacture. During the re-design of the USA Vox amplifier, Stan Cuttler, head engineer of Thomas Organ Company, assigned Brad J. Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer, to replace the expensive Jennings 3-position MRB (mid-range boost) circuit switch with a transistorized solid state MRB circuit.

Brad Plunkett had lifted and bread-boarded a transistorized tone-circuit from the Thomas Organ (an electric solid state transistorized organ) to duplicate the Jenning 3-position circuit. After adjusting and testing the amplifier with an electronic oscillator and oscilloscope, Plunkett connected the output to the speaker and tested the circuit audibly. At that point, several engineers and technical consultants, including Bill Page and Del Casher, noticed the sound effect caused by the circuit. Bill Page insisted on testing this bread-boarded circuit while he played his saxophone through an amplifier. John Glennon, an assistant junior electronics engineer with the Thomas Organ Company, was summoned to bring a volume control pedal which was used in the Vox Continental Organ so that the ‘transistorized MRB potentiometer bread-boarded circuit’ could be installed in the pedal’s housing. After the installation, Bill Page began playing his saxophone through the pedal and had asked Joe Banaron, CEO of Warwick Electronics Inc. / Thomas Organ Company to listen to the effect. At this point the first electric guitar was plugged into the prototype wah-wah pedal by guitarist Del Casher who suggested to Joe Banaron that this was a guitar effects pedal rather than a wind instrument effects pedal. Joe Banaron, being a fan of the big band style of music, was interested in marketing the wah-wah pedal for wind-instruments as suggested by Bill Page rather than the electric guitar suggested by Del Casher. After a remark by Del Casher to Joe Banaron regarding the Harmon mute style of trumpet playing in the famous recording of “Sugar Blues” from the 1930s, Joe Banaron decided to market the wah-wah pedal using Clyde McCoy’s name for endorsement.

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After the initial invention of the wah-wah pedal, the prototype pedal was then modified by Del Casher and Brad Plunkett to better accommodate the harmonic qualities of the electric guitar. However, since Vox had no intention of marketing the wah-wah pedal for electric guitar players, the prototype wah-wah pedal was given to Del Casher for performances at Vox press conferences and film scores for Universal Pictures. The un-modified version of the Vox Wah-Wah pedal was released to the public in February 1967 with an image of Clyde McCoy on the bottom of the pedal.
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Warwick Electronics Inc. assigned Lester L. Kushner, an engineer with the Thomas Organ Company, and Bradley J. Plunkett to create and submit the documentation for the Wah-Wah pedal patent. The patent was submitted on February 24, 1967 which included technical diagrams of the pedal being connected to a four-stringed “guitar” (as noted from the “Description of the Preferred Embodiment”). Warwick Electronics Inc. was granted US patent 3530224 (Foot controlled continuously variable preference circuit for musical instruments) on September 22, 1970.

Early versions of the Clyde McCoy featured an image of McCoy on the bottom panel, which soon gave way to only his signature before the name of the pedal was changed to Cry Baby. Thomas Organ’s failure to trademark the Cry Baby name soon led to the market being flooded with Cry Baby imitations from various parts of the world, including Italy, where the McCoys were originally made.

Here is our round up of 10 of the best and most interesting Wah’s available at the moment
Dunlop Original Crybaby Wah-Wah
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Dunlop Original Crybaby Wah-Wah

This is the original wah-wah pedal used to create many classic rock sounds. Relied on by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Buddy Guy, Slash, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde and many other greats. A fast-reacting effect for unmistakable tone bending. Who’s Using It: Eric Clapton Joe Perry – Aerosmith Lenny Kravitz …

Ibanez WD7

The most variable and controllable guitar wah.

The Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon Wah Pedal will have your audience screaming for more with its shrieks, cries, wails, and seductive siren songs. Features: spring and normal footboard action selectable wah range fine tuning controls

IK Multimedia StealthPedal

StealthPedal™ is the first USB-powered guitar audio interface/software controller in a compact wah-style pedal, allowing users to record, play and control the included “Powered by Amplitube” software, or any other MIDI controllable software, with the same feel and ease of use as a traditional guitar pedal.

Fender Fuzz-Wah

Set the controls for the heart of the funk! The Fender Fuzz-Wah puts the freak-out at your feet and the fuzz in your beat, all in one rugged, smart-looking pedal. Tilt that baby back and forth for the most groovalicious wah you ever laid ears on; rotate it left to right for fuzz that can easily level large metropolitan…

Dunlop JIMI HENDRIX™ SIGNATURE WAH

The wah-wah pedal was just invented when Hendrix burst on the scene in 1967. And to this day, few players’ names are more synonymous with killer wah leads and wicked, wah-driven syncopated rhythms. The wah pedal that Hendrix used was a 60s design by the Thomas Organ Company and manufactured by JEN in Italy.

Z-Vex Wah Probe

This effect is a natural continuation of the probe series… the fuzz factory probe, the volume control/manual tremolo probe, and now a wah. It’s probably exactly what you think it is: a theremin-style antenna controlling a wah, getting brighter as your foot approaches. It has one extra feature, however.

Behringer Hellbabe

This multi-functional Wah-Wah pedal offers everything you need for virtually all styles and sounds. This Different from most pedals the Hellbabe uses complete optical control for wear-and-tear-free pedal operation (no mechanical pots and switches) plus it features a unique spring-back pedal mechanism with resistance adjustment for the ultimate freedom in playing styles.

Z-Vex Ooh Wah II

This improved version of the Ooh Wah holds at step #1 when in bypass mode, and starts in time when turned on. Z. Vex makes another pedal called a Seek-Wah, but this new one does everything that one does and more. It has a random/seek stomp switch that lets you jump between the seek-wah sound and this new random mode…

VOX Big Bad Wah (Dual Wah Pedal)

Big Bad Wah is one in a series of pedals designed by VOX and guitarist extraordinaire Joe Satriani. Joe contributed numerous ideas that were unheard of in existing wah pedals, endowing the Big Bad Wah with an unparalleled range of sounds from vintage to modern, as well as those that are totally original.

Dunlop BUDDY GUY SIGNATURE CRYBABY WAH

Cited as a major influence by wah-wah masters such as Hendrix, Clapton, and Vaughn—Buddy Guy helped establish the wah-wah as part of the blues vocabulary. To honor his contributions we have created the Crybaby Buddy Guy Signature Wah, featuring the Fasel Inductor for a sweet and singing top end, and two distinct user selectable wah voices—choose “DEEP” for a big…

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~ by itsstecole on February 3, 2009.

3 Responses to “Wah Wah Pedals: 10 of the Best”

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