Best Wah Pedal: 7 Wahs for Different Styles in 2024

by wanderingted

and The Greatest Song Team

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Comparison Chart: Best Wah Pedal

OUR TOP PICK

Xotic XW-1 Wah

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Our Rating: 4.9

Xotic XW 1 Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Wide, adjustable sweep range
  • Smooth, easy-to-play rocker pedal
  • Buffering circuit
  • True Bypass
  • Premium Build
  • Tone Controls give you loads of possible sounds

Cons

  • Engage switch can be overly sensitive for some

Jam Pedals Wahcko

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Our Rating: 4.7

Jam Pedals Wahcko Pedal

Pros

  • Widest sweep on this list makes it ideal for Funk
  • Versatile Wah for any style
  • Easy-to-use tone controls
  • True bypass
  • Premium build

Cons

  • Pricey

Dunlop Crybaby GCB95

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Our Rating: 4.5

Dunlop Crybaby GCB95 Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Great price
  • Rugged, sturdy build
  • Classic Sound

Cons

  • No tone controls

Dunlop Crybaby CBM95 Mini Wah

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Our Rating: 4.5

Dunlop Crybaby CBM95 Mini Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Great price
  • Mini size fits any pedalboard
  • Classic sound
  • Mini size is easier to stop at half-cocked positions

Cons

  • Mini size is less stable and harder to control for some
  • No tone controls

Dunlop EVH95 Crybaby

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Our Rating: 4.4

Dunlop EVH95 Eddie Van Halen Signature Crybaby Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Growly midrange and bass
  • Premium build
  • Wide sweep
  • True bypass
  • Fixed tone, no fiddling necessary

Cons

  • Some might prefer more tone control options

Morley 20/20 Bad Horsie Wah

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Our Rating: 4.0

Morley 20 20 Bad Horsie Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Screamy, expressive treble makes it ideal for Metal.
  • Optical Circuitry doesn’t wear down
  • Wide sweep
  • Switchless activation
  • Versatile

Cons

  • No true bypass
  • No option for cocked-wah sounds

Vox V847A Wah

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Our Rating: 3.0

Vox VX V847A Wah Pedal

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Pros

  • Great price
  • Screamy high end
  • Nice to look at
  • Sturdy build

Cons

  • No tone controls
  • Shallow sweep

Introducing the Wah Pedal

In addition to Shaft-like funk and Voodoo Child haze, the Wah pedal is used for subtle effects to draw out chord shapes, create polyrhythms, emulate tremolo, create speech-like effects and more.  It is perhaps the most expressive of all the pedals on your board.

We recommend placing the Wah pedal at the front of your chain just after a compressor to avoid amplifying the volume of preceding pedals. A good starting point is: Compressor – Wah – Drive – Fuzz – Modulation – Delay – Reverb.

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How We Tested Wah Pedals

For this buyer’s guide, we tested a wide range of wah pedals to see how they all match up in performance. The seven shortlisted pedals you can see here below.

Seven Wah Pedals
From left to right: Morley 20/20 Bad Horsie, EVH95 Crybaby, Crybaby GCB95, Crybaby CBM95 Mini Wah, Vox V847A Wah, Jam Pedals Wahcko, and Xotic XW-1 Wah

In the examples below from our tests, we played the same loop (one Clean and one with Drive) through all seven wah pedals to provide direct listening comparisons.

The examples use a Strat and a Princeton Reverb Amp miked with a Shure SM57 with nothing else in the signal chain except the test Wah pedal. For the Lead with Drive examples, we added a UAFX Lion ’68 for overdrive set on ‘Lead’ mode.

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Our Top Pick

Best Wah Pedal Overall: Xotic XW-1 Wah

our rating

4.9

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Amazon Thomann Sweetwater

Bottom Line:

Super-cool tone shaping controls, premium build, wide (adjustable) sweep, and loads of features. Our favorite Wah.

Build and Features

With a wide, adjustable sweep range, true bypass, a noiseless buffering circuit, a premium build, and four dials for some super cool tone shaping, the Xotic XW-1 Wah Pedal is our favorite Wah pedal.

A lot of thought has gone into the small details in the design of the XW-1 wah. First of all, it’s a nice mid-size pedal, which takes up less space on the pedalboard, but still feels long enough to not tip sideways. With what Xotic calls a ‘self-lubricating nylon bushing pivot’, the rocker pedal is smooth and silent.

One of the XW-1’s standout features is the ability to choose your sweep range. By adjusting the rubber bumper located on the backside bottom of the treadle, you can set the sweep range anywhere from shallow to deep. This is crucial for players looking to tailor their sound for different musical contexts, whether aiming for a subtle effect or a pronounced wah.

Moreover, the pedal boasts true bypass and separate EQ controls with a 15 dB level control, which allows you to tweak it to fit the kit you have that day.

It’s also worth mentioning the buffering circuit on the XW-1 Wah. It is designed for noiseless compatibility with fuzz and other effects pedals. This addresses a common complaint among guitarists about the noise issues when combining certain effects, making the XW-1 a friendly companion on a pedalboard filled with diverse effects.

The only downside to this pedal for some might be the sensitive engage switch. It’s nice that you don’t have to slam it so hard to turn it on like traditional Crybaby switches. If you hit it full gas forward hard, however, it will switch off. Like all of the pedals on this list, you need to get used to the feel of the pedal to see if it works for you.

With a bit of playing around, the engage switch was not a problem for me.

Sound

The Xotic XW-1 Wah is a bit like the Fulltone Clyde Deluxe Wah and the Jam Pedals Wahcko in its versatility. The Wah-Q, Bias, and EQ controls open up a realm of sonic possibilities. For example, you can adjust the pedal’s response to your pick attack or shape the EQ curve for a personalized sound.

We really liked the Wah-Q adjustment, in particular. With this dial, you can dial up Steve Vai-like vocal effects or modify the half-cocked sound. You can hear some of our experiments here below on the Lead with Drive example.

For the clean example below, we tried the bias on full throttle to mellow it out. You can hear the wide sweep range here from fully engaged to no gas, giving you a pronounced Wah sound.

Best Wah Pedal for Funk: Jam Pedals Wahcko

our rating

4.7

Bottom Line:

Our favorite for Funk. Widest sweep range on this list, versatile, easy-to-use tone control, premium build.

Build and Features

The Jam Pedals Wahcko boasts a vintage sound that can be adjusted to the guitarist’s needs. Its RED Fasel inductor gives you a Crybaby-like smooth sweep, while the carbon-comp resistors aim to add warmth to your tone.

We found it to be one of the most versatile wahs out there and definitely the best wah for funk styles due to its super-wide sweep (widest on this list). Turn the sweep dial for a good funky treble and voila! – funk wah sound.

Like the Xotic XW-1, the Wahcko is equipped with a bufferless proprietary circuit. This isn’t just tech jargon; it means you can hook up finicky Germanium fuzz boxes after the Wahcko without losing your guitar’s tone.

We loved the pedal’s 6-position rotary sweep control. Without too much fiddling, you can quickly adjust the band sweep from low frequencies to high. The idea is simple: mellow or harsh and dirty. It’s a thoughtful addition for those who like to fine-tune their sound without getting bogged down in endless tweaking.

If you want more control, the Wahcko is also equipped with an internal trimmer for gain adjustment, allowing more nuanced control over how the pedal interacts with your guitar’s output.

Sound

In our tests, we found loads of possible sounds with this thing. Funky and bright, mellow, Hendrix Voodoo Childish, Dire Straits half-cock – anything was possible in our tests. Both the Wahcko and the Xotic XW-1 Wah offered the widest range of sonic possibilities on this list.

In our clean test below, you can hear how mellow this thing gets with the sweep dial at its highest setting, making the sound as mellow as possible. You can also hear how wide the sweep range is.

On the Lead with drive test, the sweep dial was set right in the middle, bringing out some of the high mids. We especially liked the half-cocked sounds of this pedal with drive.

Best Wah Pedal under 150: Dunlop Crybaby GCB95 & Crybaby CBM95 Mini Wah

our rating

4.5

Crybaby GCB95 (Full Size)

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Crybaby CBM95 Mini Wah

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Bottom Line:

The quintessential wah sound at a great price.

Build and Features

The Dunlop Crybaby GCB95 and its compact sibling, the CBM95 Mini Wah, carry the legacy of the Crybaby, a name synonymous with the quintessential wah sound.

These pedals are for purists who seek the raw, unadulterated wah effect. Both pedals are intentionally straightforward, offering no adjustable parameters such as sweep range, EQ, or level controls. This keeps the price of both pedals well under the $150 mark.

The aesthetic of these Crybabies could be described as bare bones and rugged. The full-size GCB95 looks like it might be the gas pedal for an old bus and the CBM95 Mini Wah could be the control pedal for an old sewing machine.

The Mini is half the size of the original Crybaby, making it an attractive option for pedalboards where real estate is at a premium. The full-size Crybaby is a bit more stable and offers a slower, more defined control.

Inside each of these Crybabies, you will find their most notable feature: a RED Fasel inductor. This is a bit like the flux capacitor of wah pedals – it gives the Crybaby a smooth, classic sweep from no gas to full throttle wah. Both pedals also feature true bypass switching, ensuring that your tone remains unaffected when the wah effect is disengaged.

The engage switch on both models requires some force to turn on and there are no on/off LED indicators to help you. Personally, I like this kind of engage switch. Even though it takes a hard kick to turn on, I like that it won’t accidentally switch off in the middle of my playing.

Sound

You can hear in our tests below that the default sweep range and the frequencies of the band pass filtering are identical for both the full-size and mini versions.

Compared to the other Wah pedals on this list, the sweep range of the full size Crybaby is about right in the middle, neither too wide nor too narrow.

The Crybaby Mini has a similar sweep range to its Daddy, but the smaller pedal gives you a steeper angle. Because of this angle, the sweep on the Mini feels wider and it’s easier to stop at an exact half-cocked position.

Best Signature Wah: Dunlop EVH95 Crybaby

our rating

4.4

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Bottom Line:

Our favorite signature wah with a satisfying midrange growl and a wide sweep.

Build and Features

There are loads of excellent signature Crybaby Wah Pedals, (the Jerry Cantrell Crybaby and John Petrucci Crybaby models were close competitors). However, with a premium build, a wide sweep, competitive price, and a fixed-position, growly midrange and bass, the Dunlop EVH95 Wah was our favorite signature Wah.

The Pedal is based on Eddie Van Halen’s early 1990s modified Crybaby with a High-Q inductor. Although Eddie was known for his use of Phase 90 and MXR Flanger pedals, he started to dabble with Wah later on in live shows.

The build and feel are premium and robust. The EVH Frankenstein stripes just look cool. It’s a bit heavier and more stable than the standard GCB95 Crybaby. The switch is easy to engage but resistant enough not to accidentally shut off during play.

We also really liked the bright blue LED on/off indicators. You can’t miss them! All wah pedals should have indicators this bright.

Sound

We loved how the pedal’s unique, fixed (no-fiddling!) voicing brought out a growl in the midrange and lower frequencies. It sounds fantastic with any blues style. Being a Crybaby, the sweep is smooth and you can still bring out the scream, but the real advantage of this wah is how it smooths out the harsh treble when it’s engaged.

As you can hear in our tests, this is a little bit different from a standard Crybaby sound. The pedal’s tone is a bit more intense in the midrange with a very deep, low-end sweep.

Best Wah Pedal for Metal: Morley 20/20 Bad Horsie Wah

our rating

4.0

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Bottom Line:

Screamy, expressive wah with the default setting. Versatile and switchless.

Build and Features

The Morley 20/20 Bad Horsie Pedal, with its screamy, expressive high end was our favorite wah for metal styles. Although the Steve Vai’s style is not really all that ‘metal’, his endorsed wah pedal (in its default ‘Bad Horsie’ mode) never gets boomy or too melow. It happens to be perfect for metal. (We liked it even more than the Kirk Hammett signature Crybaby)

We reviewed the latest iteration of the Bad Horsie, revamped to be more pedalboard-friendly with a premium buffer circuit for noiseless wah.

The build quality of the 20/20 Bad Horsie is commendable – designed for longevity and resistance. The optical circuitry of the 20/20 doesn’t wear down like traditional potentiometer-based designs that tend to get scratchy with age. Morley backs up the pedal with a lifetime warranty.  

The switchless activation mechanism of the pedal is handy – just step on the pedal to activate it. Additionally, the pedal’s buffer circuit shields your guitar’s tone from the potential pitfalls of long cable runs or complex rig setups.

The pedal plays more like an expression pedal than a wah. The sweep is very wide and it springs back into the off position by itself. It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth trying out. With a bit of practice, this spring style allows you to play it differently, sometimes more expressively than a traditional wah pedal feel.  

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. The absence of a cocked wah tone capability might be a dealbreaker for some, limiting the pedal’s range of sonic possibilities. Furthermore, with no option for true bypass, it might concern signal chain purists who prefer an uncolored tone when the pedal is disengaged.

Sound

The versatility of pedal’s Bad Horsie and Contour preset modes is impressive. The former is tailored to replicate Steve Vai’s iconic wah tone and sweep, screaming right out of the box, which you can hear in the Lead with Drive example below.  

Contour Mode, on the other hand, introduces a level of customization, allowing players to tweak the frequency and level of the wah effect. This versatility in tone shaping is a boon for players looking to find a unique sound.

For our Clean example below, we tested it in Contour mode to check out this versatility. Here the high frequencies are filtered out. (the Contour dial is all the way down)

Best Cheap Screamer: Vox V847A Wah

our rating

3.0

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Bottom Line:

Treble emphasis at a bargain price. It also looks good.

Build and Features

The Vox V847A Wah pedal is a direct descendant of the legendary Vox Clyde McCoy Wah, a pivotal piece of gear that made its mark in 1967. Initially targeted at wind players to emulate the effects of a mute, it wasn’t long before iconic guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, and Frank Zappa incorporated its distinct sound into their musical arsenal. The V847A hopes to continue this wah legacy.

The Vox V847A Wah is essentially a no-frills pedal with a low price. Like the Crybaby GCB95 and the Crybaby Mini Wah, it forgoes any extra tone-shaping features to keep the price low.

It sets itself apart from the Crybabies with a bit more effort in the aesthetics department. It’s a good-looking chrome and black pedal and very sturdy.

Sound

In practice, however, the sweep range is the shallowest on this list. I found it difficult to play as the on and off positions were so close to each other. Also, the sweep from on to off is not as smooth as a Crybaby. You can hear some of these weaknesses in the examples below.

The upside of this pedal is how it works for some treble-focussed lead styles. The bandpass on the V847A is screamier than the other pedals on this list, emphasizing the high-end.

Questions or Comments?

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FAQ

How does a Wah Pedal work?

The original 1967 McCoy Wah was designed to mimic the effect of a mute on a trumpet as it is moved by the hand of a wind player. 

The wah makes this sound through the use of a bandpass filter, cutting out a range of frequencies while others pass through untouched.  Wah pedals with an adjustable band pass allow users to tailor which frequencies are attenuated.

What’s the advantage of an auto-wah pedal?

Popularized by acts like Grateful Dead and Phish, an auto-wah pedal utilizes an envelope follower mechanism to produce its wah effect. It modulates its wah effect based on your input signal’s volume, offering unique electronic effects impossible with a conventional wah pedal’s foot motion.

Where does a Wah Pedal go in my signal chain?

We recommend placing the Wah pedal at the front of your chain just after a compressor to avoid amplifying the volume of preceding pedals. A good starting point is: Compressor – Wah – Drive – Fuzz – Modulation – Delay – Reverb.

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