Best Wah Pedals [2020] Top 5 Options and Which to Buy

By Jodie Chiffey | Pedals

1The flavor and impact of a wah pedal rivals none. It elevates music to another level by dramatically changing the tone of a guitar. The resulting distinct wah-wah sound effect creates emotions in listeners that few modulation effects are able to duplicate.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that the  wah pedal has been used by the likes of Jimmy Hendrix and Richie Sambora.

Not all pedals are created equal, however. This guide unveils some of the best wah pedals that could provide your music the kick it needs. We’ll look at the different options available on the market, their differences and, moreover, which one is right for you.

But, before diving into our favorites, let’s run down a few considerations and details you should keep in mind.

Our Favorite: BOSS PW-3 6 String PW-3
$129.99

The Boss PW-3 is an all-analog, dynamic wah pedal that produces rich and bright sound packed with great features for better customization. Moreover, the Boss PW-3 comes at a very good price for value which makes it a low risk-buy that many guitarists would appreciate.

Buy Now Learn More
We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:24 am GMT

5 Best Wah Pedals – an Overview

Model Dimensions Color Included Price range
Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal 10 x 2.5 x 4 inches / 2.64 pounds Black Wah pedal, uses 9V battery or AC adapter (not included) $
Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah Pedal  11 x 3.5 x 4 inches / 1.54 pounds Black Wah pedal, uses 9V battery or AC adapter (included) $
Morley VAI-2 Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah Pedal 9.25 x 6 x 3.5 inches / 3 pounds Black Wah pedal, uses 9V battery or AC adapter (not included) $$
Boss PW-3 Wah Pedal 7.6 x 3.2 x 2.3 inches / 2 pounds Black Wah pedal, uses 9V battery or AC adapter (not included) $$
Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 Guitar Effects Pedal 9.75 x 4.4 x 3.4 inches / 2.4 pounds Black Wah pedal, uses 9V battery (not included) or AC adapter (included) $$$

What are The Main Advantages of Wah Pedals?

The wah pedal essentially alters the tones of your guitar. It moves your guitar’s lows to the mediums to produce a truly unique effect. The wah-wah sound itself is produced by changes in its frequencies as you press up or down on the pedal. Therefore, it allows the guitarist an ability to play around with the tone of their instrument.

As a musical pedal, it is one of the most versatile and adaptable to a range of play styles or musical genres. Classic rock is laden with examples of how the pedal can be used to produce some sweet riffs or to hit some really low notes. On the other hand, other genres may benefit from its ability to add dynamic expression.

Alternate Between Bright or Dark Tones

The wah-wah pedal is known for its elusive brightness. It edges on being too harsh but harmonizes itself to provide a truly expressive output. This is why the pedal is so popular among soloists who want to add the complexity of tone and create a feeling.

On the other hand, if you prefer darker, smoother tones, you just need to adjust your foot to get some warm-throaty wahs.

Removes Flatness

Music is enhanced by your own personal flair. The wah pedal could be the solution you need to remove any flat notes from your melodies to create customized music. It allows you to go outside the box and experiment with tone and harmony to uplift your understanding and abilities as a guitarist.

Ease of Use

Wah pedals are a plug-and-play gadget. Once you have your configuration down, you won’t need to adjust much. You can simply tap your foot to create some rich and memorable music.

The auto-wah pedals require a bit more learning and testing to understand the tool before you use it. However, once you get the hang of it, you won’t be able to tell the difference between it or its analog counterpart.

Travel Friendly

Guitarists understand how their equipment can easily rank up to an unmanageable degree. The wah-pedal is able to replace the need for additional synthesizers or other guitar accessories to produce a similar effect.

Additionally, it is pretty light-weight itself with pedals typically being under 2-3 pounds. Therefore, you can easily throw it in your gear bag and travel around with ease.

What to Look For With Wah Pedals?

Given its rather distinct status, there are a number of options available. The relatively simple nature allows for the pedal to be reproduced with rather ease.

Moreover, the mechanics of its functionality has not seen a lot of innovations over the years. It has been slightly compressed down from its bulky shape and refined more modern design. The auto-wah pedal is the only major enhancement that has taken place.

The Dunlop Cry Baby provides the standard blueprint for the traditional wah design. It uses a rocker mechanic that is attached to a control pot. However, given its usage, the pot wears out over time and needs to be replaced. Therefore, manufacturers end to opt for an optical pot that does not wear out.

Furthermore, pricier pedals typically provide value through its greater tonal flexibility. It may, for example, provide an adjustable frequency range or other boosts to provide further customizations. While they provide similar outputs, these additions may be a must-have for some players.

Pedals are also designed according to their purposes. Some focus on delivering sweeter, darker tones, while others feature the popular aggressive and brighter voice. In addition to the tone changes, some pedals offer volume boosts as well.

Perhaps a huge consideration for many buyers will be their budget. A wah pedal can range from being $70+ to approximately $300. Keeping your budget in mind helps to ensure you’re spending on the gear you need, rather than what looks tempting.

Not every expensive full-featured pedal is right for you; therefore as you go through the list below, think of the features that best appeal to you.

5 of The Best Wah Pedals on the Market

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal- Best Wah Pedals For Its Affordability

cry baby wah guitar

When you think of wah pedals, Cry Baby is what come to mind. The traditional, classic pedal has been used by many musicians throughout their careers.

The pedal is known for its simplicity, but effectiveness to deliver clear bright tones. It uses the traditional mechanical foot pedal to provide control over a broad range of tones. The GC95 is considered to be a powerhouse due to its musical impact. With a highly sensitive pedal, the effect immediately kicks-in to showcase its excellence.

It has a heavy die-cast construction to withstand resistance and damage. The newer version provides an ergonomic boost as well. It also places the battery compartment to a more convenient location so as not to disturb the rubber footing.

Specifications

  • 10 x 2.5 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 2.64 pounds
  • Requires 9V battery or AC adapter

Pros

  • Provides classic, smooth Wah tones
  • Durable construction
  • Relatively cheap

Cons

  • Does not come with a battery or adapter
  • Pedal sensitivity can be improved
Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal
$75.41
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:24 am GMT

Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah Pedal – Best Wah Pedals For Beginners

electro harmonix guitar wah effects

The Wailer Wah Pedal is a bit different from your usual pedals. Its distinctions aren’t revolutionary, but it has a unique circuitry system that is cost-effective, light-weight, and dynamic.

The design is based on the traditional Crying Baby Wah pedal. It has an easy-access battery compartment, however its added adapter is a great selling point for its price. It usually the traditional foot mechanism allows you to easily rock the pedal for some sweet Wah sounds. Or, half-cock it for the thick midranges to shine through.

It has a true bypass footswitch which delivers smooth action for some great control. However, there is a small shortcoming in its construction. Its enclosure is made out of plastic which could potentially break overtime. That said, it’s price makes up for its flaw.

Specifications

  • 11 x 3.5 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 1.54 pounds
  • Includes 9V battery and AC adapter

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • Lightweight, but solid built
  • Full, round tones

Cons

  • Control may be a little flimsy
Electro-Harmonix Guitar Wah Effects Pedal (Wailer
$96.00
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:24 am GMT

Morley VAI-2 Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah Pedal –  Best Wah Pedal For A Switchless Pedal

morley vai 2

The Morley VAI-2 is a classic. From its unique design, tone or affordability, it is made for guitarists who like to rock out. This wah pedal exemplifies ease of use with its switchless construction. It is a simple step on to activate and play mechanics. It also consists of a Clear Tone buffer circuit to improve signal clarity.

The pedal is designed to be sleek and modern while still being practical. It’s control knobs on the side allow for quick, easy access, and do not interfere with its functionality.

Moreover, the wah pedal comes with two sound modes: the classic Vai or a Contour wah mode. The latter allows you to alter the frequency of the wah effect and its levels. This allows the user to go as aggressive and extra as they desire while still outputting clean tones.

Its notes are also distinct as it normalizes your guitar’s signals at a steady volume. This greater harmony improves upon the overall experience and makes it a standout product.

Specifications

  • 9.25 x 6 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Requires 9V battery or AC adapter

Pros

  • Distinct and clear Wah sounds
  • Durable steel construction
  • Switchless

Cons

  • Does not come with battery or adapter
  • Cannot produce cocked wah sounds
Morley VAI-2 Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test.

Boss PW-3 Wah Pedal -Best Wah Pedals For All Rounders

boss pw 3

The Boss PW-3 is an all-analog, dynamic wah pedal with a solid construction and a compact size. It is thoughtfully created keeping in mind the modern guitarist’s needs. While being small in width, the pedal does not lack in quality or features.

It is made from die-cast chassis to handle tensions while delivering smooth performance. The patterned grip ensures your movement is calculated and precise. The pedal is highly sensitive to movement allowing users to extract the exact tones they want.

It also stands out by including a pair of side-mounted LEDs that turn on when the pedal is switched on. This simple touch allows you to see clearly how it will respond with your foot on the pedal. It also switches between a Vintage mode or the Boss’ Signature Rich mode. The rich mode allows the user to hit more warmer tones for added versatility.

Overall, it has a rich, bright wah sound with some added features to provide better customization. The unit is superbly crafted and in a format that many guitarists would appreciate. With its price and value, the Boss PW-3 is a definite low-risk buy.

Specifications

  • 7.6 x 3.2 x 2.3 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Requires 9V battery or AC adapter

Pros

  • Flexible Wah pedal with a Rich-mode for low-end fullness
  • LED On/Off indicators
  • Unique, modern steel built

Cons

  • Price is on the higher end
  • Does not come with adapter or batteries
  • May not fit everyone’s aesthetic
Our Favorite: BOSS PW-3 6 String PW-3
$129.99

The Boss PW-3 is an all-analog, dynamic wah pedal that produces rich and bright sound packed with great features for better customization. Moreover, the Boss PW-3 comes at a very good price for value which makes it a low risk-buy that many guitarists would appreciate.

Buy Now Learn More
We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:24 am GMT

Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 Guitar Effects Pedal – Best Wah Pedals For the Ultimate Customizations

xotic effects wah xw 1

The Xotic Wah Pedal sports a premium price, but it stands unrivaled. It is modeled based on legendary Clyde McCoy Wah but adds so much more.

It doesn’t just provide you with the traditional and loved wah effects, the Xotic Wah has unique control that can contour the way you sound. Its flexibility alone makes it a great buy for any guitarist.

With its bias control, you can change how pronounced the wah sounds. Its added Wah Q control adjusts the width of the filter peak to achieve an almost vocal-like effect. Additionally, you’ll also be able to control your treble and bass to optimize each element according to your playing style. Jam-packed with features, the Xotic Wah Pedal does not disappoint.

Specifications

  • 9.75 x 4.4 x 3.4 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Includes AC adapter or 9V battery (not included)

Pros

  • Sleek Wah pedal
  • Tone versatility with enhanced controls
  • Fuzz-friendly

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Gain controls are difficult to access
  • May not be beginner-friendly
Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 Guitar Effects Pedal
$236.00
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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:25 am GMT

FAQs

What are the differences between a Wah pedal or a Whammy bar?

Due to its effects, the whammy and wah pedals may sound a bit similar to some. But, listening with an attentive ear will be enough to illustrate their differences.

The wah pedal alters the tone of your guitar. Whereas a whammy bar manipulates its pitch or tuning. The two, therefore, operate on distinct sets of functionality and you cannot achieve the same tones with either. Their manipulation produces entirely different results.

If you’re looking to add vibrato or tremolo to your sound effects, whammy bars are for you. On the other hand, if the wah-tonal effects are what you’re looking for, the wah pedal cannot be duplicated.

What Are Auto Wah Pedals?

There are two main types of pedals available: analog or auto.

The analog pedals are commonly used and are probably what you’re most familiar with. They are foot-operated pedals that produce tone shifts depending on your movements.

The auto-wah pedals are newer, modern versions; it provides the same tones but operates differently. Instead of using the foot pedal as a control mechanism, there are knobs. Each knob is configured before playing and the sounds are produced in response to your string inputs.

Knobs in an auto pedal typically control:

  • Rate: The tempo of the effect
  • Depth: Controls the overall tone, adjusting it between brighter or deeper notes
  • Manual: Shifts how much Wah-effect is being produced
  • Sensitivity: Sets the responsiveness of the pedal to your guitar’s signals.

Consequently, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to the auto pedal. It can still be a powerful tool, however. It helps experienced players focus on their playing or add complexity without thinking about their foot movements. It ultimately comes down to your own preference as either type can be a great addition in any guitarist’s toolkit.

How to adjust a Wah pedal?

In order to get the perfect wah sound modulation, the pedal may need to be calibrated. In case of an auto pedal, the adjustment is as simple as turning a few knobs. But, traditional pedals can be a little daunting to calibrate.

Most manufacturers have detailed instructions on how to adjust their wah pedals for users to follow. There are a number of online resources available as well. However, it is important to start by understanding the sounds or adjustments you’re trying to achieve.

Once you have that figured out, you can configure the sounds of your wah pedal according to your preferred tones.

What are the differences between a Wah pedal or a Whammy bar?

Due to its effects, the whammy and wah pedals may sound a bit similar to some. But, listening with an attentive ear will be enough to illustrate their differences.

The wah pedal alters the tone of your guitar. Whereas a whammy bar manipulates its pitch or tuning. The two, therefore, operate on distinct sets of functionality and you cannot achieve the same tones with either. Their manipulation produces entirely different results.

If you’re looking to add vibrato or tremolo to your sound effects, whammy bars are for you. On the other hand, if the wah-tonal effects are what you’re looking for, the wah pedal cannot be duplicated.

What Are Auto Wah Pedals?

There are two main types of pedals available: analog or auto.
The analog pedals are commonly used and are probably what you’re most familiar with. They are foot-operated pedals that produce tone shifts depending on your movements.
The auto-wah pedals are newer, modern versions; it provides the same tones but operates differently. Instead of using the foot pedal as a control mechanism, there are knobs. Each knob is configured before playing and the sounds are produced in response to your string inputs.
Knobs in an auto pedal typically control:
•Rate: The tempo of the effect
•Depth: Controls the overall tone, adjusting it between brighter or deeper notes
•Manual: Shifts how much Wah-effect is being produced
•Sensitivity: Sets the responsiveness of the pedal to your guitar’s signals.
Consequently, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to the auto pedal. It can still be a powerful tool, however. It helps experienced players focus on their playing or add complexity without thinking about their foot movements. It ultimately comes down to your own preference as either type can be a great addition in any guitarist’s toolkit.

How to adjust a Wah pedal?

In order to get the perfect wah sound modulation, the pedal may need to be calibrated. In case of an auto pedal, the adjustment is as simple as turning a few knobs. But, traditional pedals can be a little daunting to calibrate.

Most manufacturers have detailed instructions on how to adjust their wah pedals for users to follow. There are a number of online resources available as well. However, it is important to start by understanding the sounds or adjustments you’re trying to achieve.

Once you have that figured out, you can configure the sounds of your wah pedal according to your preferred tones.

Conclusion: Which Wah Pedal is the Best?

Our top pick has to be Boss PW-3 Wah Pedal for its price, control, and excellent, throaty output. It provides some added features that allow you to customize the tones without overwhelming you with options.

However, all our picks are exceptional and what works for you might not work for others. If you’re just starting out or need a budget option, the Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 and Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah Pedal are excellent options.

The latter is able to provide bright riffs which adds a certain daring expressiveness. It is an improvement among other similarly priced wahs that do not deliver the same smooth, round transitions. It has an almost synth-like quality which could be a must-have for some players.

However, if the mechanical sound is not your preference and you’re looking for a bare-bones wah pedal, the GCB95 is the perfect option. This latest Cry Baby iteration improves upon its predecessors while delivering its classic and vintage effect.

The Morley VAI-2 Wailer Wah Pedal is a great switchless option. You don’t have to worry about the pedal and simply focus on the music. It may require a bit more calibrating as opposed to the others, but it does produce some fine sounds once you do.

Lastly, is the priciest option, the Xotic Wah pedal. This pedal is for intermediate and professional players who understand the basics, and want to showcase their talents. It provides a number of features absent in most wah pedals. The ability to customize and personalize your music is made possible with this pedal allowing you to truly control the wah-effect it produces.

In the end, however, our vote sticks to the Boss PW-3 for providing you the best of all worlds. For those looking for the vintage, classic sounds to start off, and those looking to upgrade their skills; the pedal outshines many competitors and would be a great addition to your arsenal.

Is your guitar gear still incomplete? Here are a few topics you may want to check out The Best Flanger Pedals That You’ll Love, The Best Combo Amps for Metal [2020], and The Best Guitar Pedal Boards On The Market Today.

Our Favorite: BOSS PW-3 6 String PW-3
$129.99

The Boss PW-3 is an all-analog, dynamic wah pedal that produces rich and bright sound packed with great features for better customization. Moreover, the Boss PW-3 comes at a very good price for value which makes it a low risk-buy that many guitarists would appreciate.

Buy Now Learn More
We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test. 11/27/2020 07:24 am GMT

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