Wah is one of the most remarkable and identifiable guitar effects in the world. Having a great wah pedal in your rig can open up a new world of sonic possibilities and truly add that desirable expression to your tone.
I mean, who doesn’t like wah (except maybe Adele)?
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 14 best wah pedals in the world. There will be 11 pedals for guitar and 3 pedals for bass, though we can certainly use any of these 14 pedals on any instrument to great effect.
The top 11 best wah pedals for guitar are:
- Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95
- Dunlop Cry Baby Mini 535Q
- Boss PW-3
- Xotic XW-1
- Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2
- Vox V847A
- MXR MC404 Custom Audio Electronics
- Fender FWP-1
- Fulltone USA Clyde Standard
- Electro-Harmonix Wailer
- Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight
The top 3 best wah pedals for bass guitar are:
I should mention here that any “best of” list will be highly subjective. My top 14 may be different than yours (and I’d expect that to be the case). However, the pedals on this list are top performers in their class and are certainly worth trying out to obtain that beloved wah-wah effect.
Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.
What Are Wah Pedals & How Do They Work?
The wah effect is a filtering guitar effect aimed at recreating the vocal-like sounds of “wah-wah” achieved by moving a mute in and out of a brass instrument’s bell.
Wah works by sweeping one or more boosts in EQ up and down in frequency, thereby mimicking the human vowel sound of “wah”.
Wah pedals are generally built with expression pedals. Rocking the pedal back and forth will sweep the peak response of a frequency filter up and down, creating a spectral glide known as the “wah effect”.
Wah pedals alter the frequency of the guitar signal and are best placed near the front of the pedalboard/rig signal chain.
Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
With that being said, let’s talk about some wah pedals!
For a more in-depth article on wah pedals, check out my article What Are Wah-Wah Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95
First up, and to no surprise, is the classic Dunlop Cry Baby GCB-95 (link to check the price on Amazon).
The Cry Baby Wah is perhaps the most famous guitar effect in the history of guitar. It’s been making a name for itself as a musical icon ever since its introduction in 1966.
The GCB is the modernized version of this beloved vintage wah-wah. This pedal maintains the lush and expressive character of the original red Fasel inductor whilst improving the high-end for a more articulate and aggressive sound.
The filter range parameters are as follows:
- Low Pass: 350 Hz ~ 450 Hz
- High Pass: 1.5 kHz ~ 2.5 kHz
The pedal sounds incredible and gets the first mention in this article.
Its heavy-duty die-cast housing and Hot Potz potentiometer are designed and tested to last years of use in the studio; on the road, and anywhere else you’ll be playing this legendary remake.
Dunlop is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Dunlop Cry Baby Mini 535Q
If you’re a fan of the Cry Baby but need a smaller footprint, look no further than the Dunlop Cry Baby Mini 535Q (link to check the price on Amazon).
The Mini 535Q brings the magic of the Cry Baby in a small package. It also includes a few extra controls to really shape our wah-wah sound.
The Range Selector control allows us to choose 1 of 4 sweeping ranges for the Mini 535Q. These ranges are as follows:
In addition to the Range Selector, the Mini 535Q offers the follow controls via the pedal:
- Boost switch: engages boost set by Volume knob.
- Volume knob: sets gain boost up to +16dB.
- Q knob: adjusts wah intensity.
There’s a lot that can be done expressively with such a small wah pedal. The Q control can bring us from a narrow bandpass emphasizing high-end harmonics to a wide bandpass that emphasizes low-end harmonics, all with a turn of a knob.
Like the aforementioned Cry Baby, this pedal is build strong and can handle all the rigours of tour life.
The Boss PW-3 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an awesome wah pedal from the legendary pedal manufacturer Boss.
The PW-3 is another wah with a space-saving design. Its all-analog design gives us pro-quality wah-wah along with its small footprint.
This pedal is effectively two wahs in one. It has two modes, selectable via a switch at the front of the pedal:
- Vintage mode: a uniquely full wah that retains the low-end definition and fullness that is all too often lost with typical wah circuits.
- Rich mode: a more traditional and classic wah sound.
A seemingly small detail is that, unlike the Cry Babies, this Boss pedal has on/off LEDs on each side of the pedal to tell us, at a glance, whether the pedal is on. Nothing worse than accidentally having the wah pedal on and then turning it off just when it’s time to start rocking it.
Boss’s PW-3 has a very smooth pivot action and even allows us to adjust the treadle tension with relative ease to customize the mechanics to our liking.
Like any great stompbox, the PW-3 is built durable. Its rugged, die-cast aluminum chassis feels strong and withstands the rigours of the road.
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Xotic XW-1 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a versatile wah pedal fully deserving of a spot on this list.
Xotic’s XW-1 is yet another small-footprint wah pedal, though it’s larger than the previously-mentioned Mini 535Q and PW-1.
This pedal is modelled after the 1967-1968 Italian-built Clyde McCoy Wahs. With its unique contour controls, the XW-1 offers practically unlimited wah styles. It’s one of the most versatile wah pedals to ever be made.
Let’s have a look at the parameter controls of the Xotic XW-1:
- Bias: alters the bias voltage, and affects the output level; bass clarity and wah sweep.
- Wah Q: adjusts the Q or width of the resonant peak, thereby affecting the perceived amount of wah.
- Treble: ±15 dB center-detent gain control for the high-end frequencies.
- Bass: ±15 dB center-detent gain control for the low-end frequencies.
Internal dip switched gives us even more control over the performance of the pedal with the following switches:
- Toe Down Range: activate to maximize treble frequency. Turn off for darker toe-down frequency response.
- Input Gain: input gain trimmer is only active when this switch is activated.
- Presence Cut: activate for a smoother high end.
- Wah Q Frequency: activate for deeper vowel frequency response.
In addition to these controls, the XW-1 has adjustable rubber stopper and pedal tension that adjust the range and physical resistance of the expression pedal, respectively.
Self-lubricating nylon bushing pivot allows for quiet and smooth operation. Gold contact relay true bypassing makes for silent switching and no colouration to the sound when the pedal is bypassed.
An on/off LED indicator is always nice and the Xotic Wah has one of those as well.
With all this versatility, the Xotic XW-1 will sound amazing on any instrument. Dial it in to your liking and you’ll likely have yourself a unique wah to call your own.
Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2
The Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a superb wah pedal developed alongside the guitar God Steve Vai.
Signature products of Guitar Gods aside, this pedal is awesome. It sounds incredible and has a contour mode that allows us to shape exactly to our own liking.
This pedal works a bit differently than most wahs out there. It is designed with Morley’s Electro-Optical design, which effectively uses light (an LED shines on an LDR) light to control the electronics rather than a mechanical gear and potentiometer.
The Bad Horsie 2 also has switchless operation. This means that stepping on treadle, the wah is engaged and, conversely, the pedal is bypassed as we step off. This makes it great for dynamic wah-wah but rather difficult to get a static “cocked” wah.
This pedal can be set to 2 modes:
- Bad Horsie Wah mode: set to Steve’s preferred tone and sweep.
- Contour Wah mode: allows us to alter the frequency and output of the Wah.
In the Contour Wah mode, we can control the frequencies of the wah sweep with the Contour knob and the output level with the Level knob.
So what we have is a superb wah-wah pedal that’s adjustable, built to last, and that sounds fantastic on a variety of different instruments.
The popular English amplifier company Vox makes the list with their excellent Vox V847A (link to check the price on Amazon) wah pedal.
The specifications of this chrome-finish pedal are based on the original Vox V847 for the 1960s with modern features like AC power capability and a buffered input jack.
This pedal is simple without the extra parameter controls. It simply sounds incredible. It can be described as vintage with improved dynamics and noise reduction.
The build quality is also fantastic. The Vox V847A wa pedal will withstand the tests of time and sound great whilst doing so!
MXR MC404 Custom Audio Electronics
MXR has plenty of awesome pedals. The MXR MC404 Custom Audio Electronics (link to check the price on Amazon) wah is no excepetion.
The Custom Audio Electronics MC404, like the aforementioned Cry Baby pedals, is owned by Dunlop. It’s to no surprise, then, that these pedals all utilize Fasel inductors to achieve their wah sound.
The CAE Wah actually has 2 distinct Fasel inductors (labelled as Red and Yellow) that we can switch between for two different wah sounds.
The pedal also includes a boost circuit and on/off LED indicators along with controls for the filter Q and gain.
Choose between the two inductors via the side-mounted Inductor switch.
The Q of each mode can be adjusted with the upper trim pot (for Yellow mode) and the lower trim pot (for Red mode).
The centre frequencies of the modes are as follows:
- Yellow Inductor:
- Heel Down: 400 Hz
- Toe Down: 1.9 kHz to 2.2 kHz
- Red Inductor:
- Heel Down: 255 Hz to 355 Hz
- Toe Down: 1.3 kHz to 1.5 kHz
The MC404 is a top-of-the-line wah pedal made durable with top-of-the-line components. It’s versatile and sound awesome. Check it out for yourself!
MXR is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Fender is a world-renowned guitar brand with an impressive line of pedals. The Fender FWP-1 (link to check the price on Amazon) is one wah that makes this list.
The Fender FWP-1 produces a classic vowel-like wah effect with superb audio quality.
Its comfortable non-slip rocker pedal allows for extra smoothing of the user-controlled filter sweeps. Its rugged cast-metal chassis and tough tension-adjustable pedal mechanism make this pedal durable on stage and in the studio.
We can put the FWP-1 into Buffered mode or Classic mode via an internal switch. Classic mode behaves like a traditional wah pedal while Buffered mode engages a buffer to prevent tone loss in longer signal chains. This allows the FWP-1 to sound great at any position within the pedal chain.
An on/off LED indicator tells us if the pedal is engaged or not. When it is engaged, we should expect a top-notch wah effect for our guitar or any other instruments we run through it.
Fender is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Fulltone USA Clyde Standard
The Fulltone USA Clyde Standard (link to check the price on Amazon) is an amazing-sounding wah pedal.
The Fulltone USA Clyde is named after one of the first ever wah pedals: the Vox “Clyde McCoy” (circa 1967).
Fulltone’s Clyde Standard is essentially a project that has taken the best aspects of the vintage Vox wah, like the inductor, and upgrading/modernizing other components where need be.
The tuned core inductor used in the Clyde Standard is hand-made using the exact same type of wire and inductance as the vintage inductor.
The resonance of the circuit can be adjusted internally.
Fulltone’s Clyde wah pedal features a custom booster/buffer circuit that offers up to 20db clean boost. This allows the pedal to sound great even when driving a high-gain amp or fuzz pedal.
This true bypass Fulltone pedal is built to last and features a 14-gauge welded steel pedal with nylon pivot points. The treadle can travel much further than the conventional Vox wahs, allowing for greater precision in the sweep. The tension of the treadle is adjustable.
Check out the Clyde Deluxe for a similarly excellent wah pedal from Fulltone.
A top pedals list wouldn’t be complete without an EHX model, would it? The Electro-Harmonix Wailer (link to check the price on Amazon) is a solid choice for achieving that wah sound you’re after.
The EHX Wailer Wah is the smaller successor to the company’s successful Crying Tone Wah from the 1960s. This newer pedal sounds just as great, only with better, more modern build quality and a lower price tag.
If you’re looking for a superb budget wah without the bells and whistles, try plugging and playing through on of EHX’s Wailer Wahs and you won’t be disappointed!
Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight
You may be thinking “where’s the expression pedal?” The Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight (link to check the price on Amazon) is an interesting wah pedal in the fact that you have to/get to choose your own expression pedal to control it.
Wait, where’s the expression treadle-type pedal? As I had mentioned before, a “cocked wah” is a stationary wah effect that isn’t modulating the signal. That’s where this pedal gets its name from.
This pedal is like finding that sweet spot on your wah pedal and being able to keep it just the way you like it without having to rock the treadle to an exact location every time.
To make up for the lack of treadle, the Cock Fight has intricate parameter controls.
The pedal has a Cry mode to simulate standard wah sounds and a Talk mode to produce throaty/vocal vowel sounds. It also has a built-in fuzz circuit that can be toggled on/off and placed before or after the “wah” circuit.
However, and this is a big deal, the EHX Cock Fight has an Expression jack that enables us to connect an external treadle to the pedal, effectively turning it into a regular wah pedal with tons of extra functionality!
Let’s have a look at the controls:
- VOL (volume) knob: adjusts the master output volume.
- FREQ (frequency) knob: adjusts the frequency of the filter selected by the CRY/TALK toggle switch.
- TONE knob: blends between a darker fuzz and brighter fuzz sound.
- DRIVE knob: adjusts the amount of fuzz.
- BOTTOM knob: low-frequency gain control.
- CRY/TALK toggle switch:
- CRY: simulates the type of filter found in a typical wah pedal circuit.
- TALK: produces throaty/vocal vowel sounds.
- PRE/FUZZ OFF/POST toggle switch:
- PRE: places the fuzz before the filter.
- FUZZ OFF: removes the fuzz from the signal path.
- POST: places the fuzz after the filter.
- BIAS knob: controls the amount of bias voltage supplied to one of the transistors in the fuzz circuit.
Now take all of this and add an external expression pedal. You’ll have yourself one of the greatest wah-wah pedals ever!
Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass
Getting to the bass side of things, we’ll begin, once again with a classic: the Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass (link to check the price on Amazon).
The 105Q Cry Baby Bass is designed with a lower frequency sweep range to better handle bass guitar signals. Its effect is set up to only filter the mid and high frequencies, leaving a strong bottom-end.
It also has an auto-off mode that effectively engages the pedal when we put our foot on it and disengages it when we take our foot off. Of course, it also has the classic toe-down switch typical of Cry Baby pedals.
This Cry Baby gives as a few adjustable parameters:
- Volume knob: controls the amount of gain added by the Boost switch, up to 20dB.
- Variable Q knob: adjusts the frequency range of wah-wah effect.
- Boost switch: increases the output level as set by the Volume knob.
- Silent “auto-off” switch: puts the pedal into bypass mode when you take your foot off the rocker.
The filter centre frequency at heel-down position is 180 Hz and 1,800 Hz at toe-down position.
When it comes to tasty bass wah, the Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass is one of the greatest!
Morley PFW Cliff Burton Tribute
Morley is well-known for its work with musicians. The Morley 20/20 Power Fuzz Wah (link to check the price on Amazon) is a tribute to the late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
The Power Fuzz Wah is one of Morley’s best pedals. The 20/20 version of this pedal has a smaller footprint, making it even more pedalboard-friendly and feature switchless activation.
This bass wah is a tribute to the late Cliff Burton of Metallica. It offers an incredibly wide frequency sweep and a fantastic fuzz circuit.
There are actually 2 fuzz circuits. Each comes before the wah circuit just like the original.
The Vintage Fuzz mode emulates that old-school ripped speaker sound that the original MPSA12 Transistors achieved while the Modern Fuzz mode is tighter and more guitar-like in its distortion.
The pedal has a cold-rolled steel housing and is built to last. It comes with a lifetime warranty (upon registration) to back that up. Morley’s optical circuit won’t wear down over time like typical gear-based pots.
Switchless activation allows us to engage the glow-in-the-dark treadle pedal simply by stepping on it and bypasses it when we step off.
With a buffer circuit that prevents signal loss and wild fuzz options, the Morley Power Fuzz Wah 20/20 is one of the best bass wah pedals out there!
EBS Stanley Clarke Signature
To end this article, we’ll discuss another signature model: the EBS Stanley Clarke Signature (link to check the price on Amazon) is a wicked choice for getting some awesome wah on your bass guitar.
The EBS Stanley Clarke Signature bass wah pedal is much more than a wah pedal, though it certainly excels as one. This superb wah pedal can also be used as a simple tone filter or as a volume pedal.
The tone filter allows us to dial in signature Stanley Clarke tones with the sweep of the expression pedal. The pedal pad is a releasably secure mechanism and can maintain its position at the desired tone.
Switch the wah effect into a volume control by hitting a switch on the side of the pedal.
There’s also a passive/active switch on the side of the pedal to accommodate instruments with passive or active pickups.
Finally, use the Stanley Clarke Signature Wah as the highly-flexible wah-wah pedal it is. The filter affects the mids and highs, allowing the low-end to pass perfectly untouched. This makes it a great tool for bass guitar.
This EBS wah has 4 different filter modes to choose from, selectable via the Mode switch:
- Low-Pass: Selects Low Pass filter operation (typical envelope type).
- Band Pass: Selects Band Pass filter operation (classical wah type).
- High Pass: Selects High Pass filter mode.
- Boosted dB: Selects the Band Pass filter with extra boost.
We can set the operating range and bandwidth of the wah filter between frequencies from 50 Hz to 12.5 kHz. We can also adjust the Q value of the filter for a gentler or more aggressive wah sound.
The EBS Stanley Clarke Signature wah pedal is a great unit, especially for bass guitar, and is fully deserving of the final spot on this list of the best 14 wah pedal in the world!