One of the earliest effects to break into the guitar scene, the wah hit guitar player’s pedal chains in the 1960s. Early users like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton helped propel the effect into stardom through their creative use of the “crying baby” sound in their electric guitars. As decades have continued to come, the wah has found a home in every genre of music from hard rock to blues. Some of the greatest sounds in guitar history have come from rocking a wah-wah pedal during fast legato runs or adding vocal expression to a bend. Along with each pedal, we have provided links to some of our favorite demos in order to give you a feel of the capabilities of each wah.
Choosing the best wah pedal for you
Aside from perhaps reverb guitar pedals or delay effects pedals, wah wah is one of our favorite effects to have at our fingtertips. As with most guitar pedals, and particularly today when looking into the best wah guitar pedals, there are a few key characteristics that factor into choosing the right pedal – price, versatility, size, and sound. As wah prices can range based on functionality and features, we have rounded up our favorites that range from affordable simple wahs to more boutique feature driven choices. Most of our wah picks today hover around the $100 mark but feature a lot of tonal versatility and come packed with the features that will help to preserve your tone while getting the most out of your wah.
Variable parameters are often a requirement in the modern guitarist, as we want to constantly tweak our tone in the never-ending quest of chasing tone. Most pedals come with a lot of controls for fine tuning in order to achieve that, while there are still some time-tested wahs that purists out there who want a simple wah will love.
The best wah-wah guitar pedals
Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95
This classic pedal can be found on countless pro boards from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s John Frusciante to Carlos Santana. Kicking off our countdown of the best wah pedals is none other than the Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95. This wah is the gold standard when it comes to affordable wah pedals. Although it may lack some features such as true bypass and LED indicators to notify you when the pedal is on, it makes up for this by being one of the best bang for your buck wahs on the market.
However, the lack of features also allows this pedal to shine. Due to its sturdy construction and sleek black look, the Cry Baby is often one of the first choices for beginners due to its simplicity of use. The Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95 is truly a plug and stomp pedal to create that famous wah sound.
Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby
If the original Cry Baby appeals to you, but more features are desired, Dunlop brings to the table a full line of the best wah guitar pedals. Starting with the standard Cry Baby as the base, Dunlop has packed tons of features and controls into this upgraded beast. The GCB-535Q, which comes standard with a toggle-able hard-wired true bypass (one of the most important elements in preventing tone loss) is one of the most versatile wah pedals on the market. Along with the bypass, there is a built-in parameter control, called the “Q” dial, that allows users to dive into six different wah sounds that range from a very sharp notable wah to a subtler wah that is perfect as an always on effect.
One key feature that makes this pedal stand out is the variable boost. The boost is controllable up to +26dB and is perfect for getting your guitar to stand out in the band mix once engaged. By properly mixing and changing parameters the 535Q can recreate the sounds of multiple signature artist wah pedals, without the hefty price tag. The Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby lands a spot on our best wah-wah pedals due to being one of the most versatile wahs packed into a very affordable package.
Behringer HellBabe HB01
Behringer, one of the leading names in affordable pedals, has crafted up quite the wah. The Behringer Hellbabe HB01 is the king when it comes to the best budget-friendly wahs guitar FX pedals. The Hellbabe features fine-tune controls that allow for precise tone shaping to fit all play styles and sounds. Users can achieve anywhere from modern tones to the classic old-school sweep. Unlike all the other wahs on our best-of list, these pedals feature total optical control, meaning there are no mechanical pots or switches inside the pedal, increasing the durability and severely limiting wear and tear. The built-in “heel-down” range control allows for the pedal to provide lower frequencies making this pedal an ideal choice for bass and guitar.
Like the Dunlop 535Q, the Hellbabe comes with a built-in +15dB boost that allows the wah to stand out in any mix once engaged. Two LED lights at the base of the rocker indicate to the user when the pedal is engaged and/ or when the boost has been activated. As many users have mentioned in reviews, the pedal does sometimes cause an increase in tone loss or volume due to the lack of a true-bypass.
Xotic Effects XW-1
Up next is the most expensive wah on our best wah guitar pedal countdown. The Xotic Effects XW-1 is a high-end wah that is based off the early Clyde McCoy Wahs. With a high price-tag, users can expect premium features to be packed into a beautiful, sturdy, white case. As many guitarists know, pedalboard space is valuable real estate. The designers over at Xotic took this into account when designing the XW -1 and have decreased its size by about 20% when compared to standard wahs without compromising features. Unlike the harsh click of the Dunlop wahs, this pedal comes loaded with a self-lubricating nylon pivot for quiet and smooth operation. In addition, the rocker also comes fully adjustable, by turning the hex nut on the treadle, users can increase or decrease tension allowing for easier movement for swells, or firm placement for an always on effect. Standard is the transparent relay true-bypass switching with a minimum one million life cycle making this the only wah pedal you will ever need to purchase.
The XW-1 comes packed with multiple tone shaping controls. When set on warmer, the bias controls provide beefed up bass frequencies for a more pronounced wah, while switching to colder provides a more transparent vintage sound. Like the Dunlop 535Q, the wah’s Q control allows for the adjustment of the amount of wah effect for shaping the effect into a more vocal sound. A two band EQ for treble and bass has been added with +/- 15dB potentiometer to further shape the sound for different play styles. As an added luxury, when running on a 9v battery, the LED indicator at the top will flash once battery life has fallen below 50%. Although the Xotic Effects XW-1 is the priciest on our best wah-wah pedal list, it is packed with high-end features and controls that allow for unlimited wah tone customization.
Example Sounds (Click ‘Watch’ tab)
After creating the original Wah-Wah pedal in the 1960s, VOX has been at it in developing an enhanced version for the modern guitarist. The VOX 847A is just that. Today’s version of the pedal offers users the legendary tone that was heard throughout the 1960s, but with modern luxuries. Like some of the other wahs in our guide, the 847A is a basic, beginner friendly wah pedal.
The pedal comes as a solid black chassis with a chrome rocker. Standard is a buffered input jack that allows for users to plug-in without tone loss when the pedal is not engaged. The VOX 847A goes back to its roots with a simplistic design and a sound profile that has been tried and tested to work for many decades to come.
The next pick on our list of top wah FX pedals comes directly from the originators of the compact pedal, BOSS. With its sturdy designed champagne box, the BOSS AW-3 makes our list. Being the most compact pedal makes this the perfect choice for the guitarist looking to add a wah without taking up a sizeable portion of their board. The BOSS AW-3 delivers a wide range of both dynamic and auto effects. Additionally, it comes with a built-in humanizer to help deliver the sounds you would like to hear from a wah. Certain vowels “sing” a little better in certain applications and songs and the AW-3 lets you choose exactly which vowel you want to hear from the pedal. If choosing your vowel is not enough, with the auto-wah feature, the pedal talks as you play when it is engaged and is extremely dynamic and responsive to play style and pick attack.
In addition to tweaking the vowels to your need, the pedal also has an input for an expression pedal allowing you to control the AW-3 as if it were a standard wah. If things couldn’t get better, this pedal comes with both guitar and bass inputs allowing for use on either type of board set-up. Although the BOSS AW-3 pedal is in the middle of the road when it comes to affordability, many users have raved “the quality and durability of this pedal really gives it a reasonable price.”
Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight
Continuing the trend of compact pedals, we have another fun stomp box with a different twist. Many artists have taken notes from the greats such as Slash and learned that an always on wah can be the secret to great tone. The Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight does just that. This pedal allows you to achieve the cocked wah sound without the need for a wah pedal, but it doesn’t stop there. It comes loaded as nearly three pedals in one; a cocked wah, a talking wah, and a fuzz. On top of dialing in the perfect cocked sound, the built-in fuzz sounds amazing. It comes fully adjustable with a bias control allowing you to take the fuzz from a normal distorted sound to the famous “dying battery” sound many players seek. In addition to this, the fuzz can be placed both before or after the wah to get either a more vintage sound (before) or modern sound (after).
On top of the fuzz, there is also a drive knob allowing for distorted tones direct from the pedal. Like the Boss Aw-3, the Cock Fight takes up drastically less room on a board than a full size pedal while delivering the same quality tone. In addition, to all of these controllable parameters, there is the ability to control the pedal via expression as well. If you love all that this pedal has to offer, but prefer one with a rocker like many of the other pedals wah-wah pedal list, you are in luck! Electro-Harmonix has created this one of a kind pedal for those looking for a more conventional looking and feeling wah.
Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon Wah
Making its way onto our list of top 10 wah pedals is another company famous for straight to the point dependable effects. It is built rugged like a tank and is ready for any venue with its selectable wah range and fine-tuning parameters. The pedal comes with Ibanez’s “Ton-Lok” feature, once activated player’s tone settings are locked securely within the case, preventing lost settings or damaged knobs.
The wah features a wide range of sounds from the classic wah to shrieks and cries heard in modern metal. This pedal is one of the highest rated wah pedals due to its tonality and build quality. A lot of users continue to rave about the Ton-Lok feature and how this feature has prevented any damage to the knobs of their pedals. If you are looking for a wah that is both high quality and budget-friendly, this is the wah to try out. Ibanez has delivered industry staples such as the TS-808 and TS-9, and this is no different for the Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon.
Dunlop DB-01 Dimebag Cry Baby From Hell
Dimebag Darrel is known for his searing lead lines and crazy antics while in Pantera. However, he is also known for his tone and a huge part of that was his use of the wah to make his lead lines stand out. In collaboration with Dunlop, Dimebag had helped to craft and pave the way for his signature model to be created. Originally based off the Dunlop octave wah, the Dunlop DB-01 Cry Baby from Hell was born. This wah is encased in a durable yet colorful brown, yellow, and green camouflaged enclosure. It comes with a grip-tape rocker to prevent any foot slip while in use and that is just the beginning. The Db-01 is a hot-rodded Cry Baby with an extended sweep range to allow for higher and lower end.
In addition to this, it comes with a 5-way “Q” selector to control the frequency as well as a +17dB boost for those leads. In addition to the Q control, there are additional fine tune knobs located on the side of the pedal. In addition to this, the pedal features a nifty input on the left side (as well as the standard one on the right) to allow for players to input into the same side of the pedal as the output to better manage cables on their board. A unique case with a ton of built-in features makes the Dunlop DB-01 one of the best wah pedals on the market today.
Dunlop KH95 Kirk Hammett Signature Cry Baby
There is not better way to end our list of top 10 wah pedals than with a legendary pick. Kirk Hammett has revolutionized metal guitar with his use of the wah. This sound has been heard on countless Metallica albums and has helped to propel Enter Sandman’s solo to legendary status. In close collaboration with Kirk Hammett, Dunlop has unleashed one of the baddest to come off the production line. The Dunlop KH95 features a finely tuned wah set to the EQ, volume, and tone settings of the metal icon himself. It contains an extremely even response across the full range of the sweep and delivers a very responsive and dynamic range.
The KH95 comes encased in a sturdy Dunlop casing, while offering a monster-ish green and black paintjob. Kirk is obsessed with scary! To top this off, this comes with a foot-bone graphic to set it apart from your basic pedal. Countless players have said this is the best wah for metal and worth every penny. If you are looking to re-create some of the most iconic and recognizable sounds from the 80s, this is the last pick we have as the best wah pedal to check out.