The wah-wah pedal is an essential part of any electric guitarist’s rig. Popularized by such artists as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, the iconic sound is still used today in many genres.
Although the wah is most associated with funky grooves, the sheer versatility of the pedal allows it to fit into almost any ensemble. From its namesake “waaah” sound to the immensely satisfying “wacka-wacka” rhythm, the wah-wah pedal has a huge range of uses that is limited only by the player’s imagination.
How does a wah-wah pedal work? In short, it modulates the peak response of a frequency up and down along a sliding scale. This allows for smooth transitions as the foot rocks on the pedal’s “potentiometer”.
Even though the “wah” sound effect was created by brass players moving a mute in and out of the instrument’s bell, the ¬wah-wah was honed and perfected by guitarists. Here is a roundup of the best wah-wah pedals so you can add some funk to your jams!
Morley VAI-2 Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah
In addition to the guitar legends mentioned above, Steve Vai is another famous name attached to wah pedals.
In order to facilitate his unique sound, he co-engineered the Bad Horsie with Morley. This pedal is solid all-around, but has one unique feature that makes it stand out amongst the crowd:
The Contour/Bad Horsie mode toggle.
Have you ever wanted to sound like Vai? Here’s your chance.
This Vox is a pedal for the purists.
The sleek, simple design belies a dynamic range that can satisfy the full spectrum of wah desires. Don’t let the elegance fool you, though. The Vox is incredibly sturdy and up to the task of being stomped often and repeatedly.
Note that there are no special bells or whistles. This pedal simply wahs. It does that very well, too.
Perhaps the best part is the accommodating price tag that puts this professional-grade wah wah pedal in reach of amateur guitarists.
Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon
The Weeping Demon is certainly not a traditional wah wah pedal; that much is apparent by the appearance.
What is less obvious is that, behind the slightly intimidating exterior, this pedal is actually one of the most flexible and highly customizable wah pedals on the market.
A useful feature of the Weeping Demon is the range switch. It allows you to select the register at which the pitch is modulated – an interesting, if somewhat niche, ability.
Combined with the full range of tone configuration knobs, dials, and switches that you might expect on an amp, this Ibanez is not one to overlook.
Hotone SP-10 Soul Press
The Hotone Soul Press is a pedal that strives to harken back to the early days of wah. It achieves this goal in both form and function.
If you’re looking for a nostalgia trip back to the golden age of electrics, this is your pedal. If you want a barebones wah wah pedal just to test the water, this is your pedal.
If you want anything more, you might be best served elsewhere. Pedal technology and design has come a long way since then, but the Soul Press didn’t incorporate too much of either.
Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Pedal
When you close your eyes and imagine the keening pitches of a wah wah pedal, the sound you’re actually hearing in your mind is this pedal.
It’s not very fancy. It doesn’t have lots of controls to adjust. It doesn’t even have true bypass. It does have that Jimi Hendrix soul, though, and that’s enough.
If the standard sound doesn’t do it for you, there is a sizeable community of pedal modders who have taken this wah to the next level. It is surprisingly amenable to being fiddled with.
Dunlop 95Q Cry Baby Wah Wah
Yes, two Dunlop Crybaby pedals in a row. What can we say? They make great gear. You’ll notice that the ‘wah’ has been upgraded in this pedal (literally – check out the names). As the older brother of the GCB95, this Crybaby has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
Namely, they stuck all the effects onto this pedal instead of the other one. There’s volume boost, Q control, and a fascinating Auto-Return function. It’s got a range that could make Freddie Mercury jealous.
Xotic Effects Wah Effect Pedal
The Xotic Effects pedal wins the award for “Most Well Rounded.”
It’s a massively popular pedal for a few reasons. First, it’s indestructible for all intents and purposes. Second, the simple, clean aesthetic fits into any pedal board. Third, it has a warm, full sound that is unlike any other pedal.
How does it achieve all these feats? Does it use some advanced, proprietary tech? No. As a matter of fact, it uses the same technology that ran pedals in the days of old.
You know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Fender FWP-1 Wah Pedal
The Fender FWP-1 is not an extraordinary pedal in anyway, really. It does get the job done, however, with little fuss.
It isn’t the first pedal we would recommend to someone. It’s definitely not the last either. It has a strong tone, solid range, and good tactile feedback with the cast-metal chassis. It won’t break easily, either.
The only trick it has up its sleeve is the ability to switch between “Classic” and “Buffered” modes, ostensibly to allow you more choice in pedal order when hooking it up in a busy pedal board.
If you’re a Fender fanboy, take a good long look. It does fit in nicely with your Fender guitar, Fender amp, Fender picks, Fender guitar strap, etc.
Morley PFW Cliff Burton Tribute Power Fuzz Wah
This pedal was designed as a tribute to Cliff Burton, the bassist of Metallica. You’ll recognize the classic sound of the era while you rock your foot on this pedal.
Aside from the unique shape of the pedal (trapezoids are the new rectangles), the Cliff Burton Tribute is a combination wah wah-fuzz pedal. There are multiple sound configurations for both the wah and the fuzz separately, so when you put the two together you’ve got a dizzying range of possible effects.
It's a little pricey considering it’s not the greatest pedal of all time, but then again – so are Metallica tickets.
Dunlop Dimebag Signature Wah Crybaby Pedal
Yet another Crybaby pedal, because we just can’t get enough.
The Dimebag has earned its place on this list not just because of its blasé name and wicked camo coat. It’s here because it is a true performer’s pedal. It was created to be on stage in front of thousands.
That much is evident from the anti-slip treadle, double input jacks, rock-solid construction, and (of course) the cool camo exterior. It doesn’t hurt that its range is equal to some of the most expensive pedals.
To achieve that range it uses features such as volume boost, Q control, and the ever-popular Auto-Return. Take your customization to the next level with its 6-position frequency selector.
Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah Pedal
This is a pedal made in the classic style. It’s a faithful recreation of Clyde McCoy’s original wah wah pedal, and has the same voice and tone you would expect of a pedal from the 20s. You’ll be surprised at how the sound takes you right back to the age of Eric Clapton.
If the original sound doesn’t do it for you, there’s a volume knob to adjust it. The only truly unique thing about this pedal is the odd sweep range not often found in modern day pedals – that’s how they get the signature old-timey sound.
Fulltone Clyde Deluxe Wah Pedal
Of course, the next step is to check out the upgraded version of the Fulltone Clyde. The Deluxe version takes everything you liked about the Standard pedal and amps it up a notch. The best part, though, is the three sound settings: Jimi, Shaft, and Wacked. There are no illusions as to what sound you are emulating.
On top of that, you can open up the pedal to adjust the internal resonance to your liking, so you never have an excuse not to be in that sweet spot.
Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah Pedal
This is stretching the definition of wah wah pedal a little bit. The Boss AW-3 is a lot more than that.
In addition to the wah effect, it is also a harmonizer with the full suite of tone configuration knobs and dials. The idea is that you set up the exact sound you want before a gig then just stomp it.
Does it sound as good as a regular wah pedal? Yes, it absolutely does. And it also has the extreme durability that is the hallmark of Boss.
MXR MC404 CAE Dual Inductor
Although the iconic wah wah sound has been built upon the backs of guitar legends going back decades, this pedal seeks to spice things up a bit.
Sure, it has a “Vintage” setting for when you want that sound that is so ingrained into our psyche. If you want a modern take on the wah, choose the “Wide” setting. Users report it feeling warm and brassy, but totally organic.
MXR is a Dunlop brand, so you know you’re getting sturdy, solid reliability in any piece of gear with the MXR label.
Behringer Hellbabe HB01 Wah Pedal
In classic Behringer fashion, this pedal is both affordable and diverse in functionality.
The range of sounds you can get out of this piece is no joke. The sound is undeniably good. So how do they build such a great pedal and sell it at such a great price? There’s gotta be compromise somewhere.
You are correct. The tradeoff is in the quality of the materials. While most of the other pedals we mentioned are road-worthy, this is one stompbox you’ll want to tread lightly on.
But hey, if you’re careful with your gear you can’t go wrong.
That’s our roundup of the best wah pedals on the market today! It’s a crucial part of any guitarist’s repertoire, whether you’re playing oldies or more contemporary jams. Throw a wah wah pedal on your board today!
What’s your favorite wah sound like? Tell us in the comments below!