So this is a slightly different kind of overview as we touch on a few slightly different types of pedals which produce though variations of the same Wah or ’quack’ sound - to a greater or lesser degree. I initially thought that a traditional pivot rocker Wah would be too much hassle and thus started off with the DigiTech Whammy Ricochet - which is actually largely a slightly different type of effect. If you have even the slightest affection for Jimi Hendrix, a proper Wah is essential, and it was not long before I had moved on to a Dunlop Mini Cry Baby which suits me just perfectly.
I have made mention several times that I have a large and long pedalchain - where real estate is of vital importance - meaning that the more compact the pedal is the better. So I was always on the look out for a ’Mini’ Wah pedal as such - notably - be aware that not all Wah pedals advertised as ’Mini’ are that at all. For my needs I want a Wah pedal which does not take up much more room than a regular pedal enclosure. I could have stretched to a Boss PW-3 - which is about half a length again, but the Morley Mini Wah + Volume does not quite strike me as mini at all - all Morley pedals have a wider platform that the rocker sits on, and the rocker is about as long, if not longer than the Boss PW-3 - so that one fails my own test of suitability.
There are various smaller pedals which do fit the bill, and there are 4 of those (in addition to the Mini Cry Baby) that I have always had an eye on, and would like to trial, and contrast over the oncoming years - they include the AMT WH1 and Plutoneium Chi-Wah-Wah optical Wahs and the mechanically more conventional Mooer Wahter and Wilson Mini Q (each of which has smart features). The advantage of the optical Wahs is less moving parts and a cleaner soundstage, while conventional Wahs have potentiometers which do wear out and can produce ’scratchy’ unwanted noise at times. So that is essentially the ’manual selection’ - it should be also noted that the Mooer Wahter is signficanlty the smallest - and it accomplishes this by having two fold-out stirrups which extend the length of the pedal rocker. The Mooer Wahter and Plutoneium Chi-Wah-Wah also have smart ’immediate-on’ silent switches - while the others need you to depress a lathed button to activate.
If you’re not in the mood for stomping, then there are various Auto-Wah alternatives - essentially envelope filter pedals which will give you similar results with less effort. I had often wondered what the ’Q’ was that was quoted in so many references concerning Wah and filter pedals - the ’Q’ value is essentially ’a resonator’s / waveform’s bandwidth relative to its center frequency’. By manipulating the ’Q’ factor you can accentuate frequencies to get that much-loved squelchy quack-like sound.
There are two fabulous mid-sized offering from EHX and Emma Electronic - the Micro Q-Tron and DiscumBOBulator respectively - with me leaning slightly towards the latter as it has a clever reverse filter option. At the regular enclosure level the Mad Professor Snow White is very highly regarded as are the classic AW-3 from Boss and the AF-9 from Maxon. If you need something smaller, then the Mooer Funky Monkey is supposedly their version of the Boss AW-3, although I think it nearer to the Maxon?
I find I quite enjoy playing with rocker wahs, so I’m keen to experiment and try out a few more. The Emma DiscumBOBulator intrigues me, and I have long had an interest in the Mad Professor Snow White - so somewhere along the way I will add a few more of these to my effects library to see what sort of impact they have on my ToneQuest and core sound.
Pedals are pictured and listed alphabetically by brand:
This Russian brand of really decent pedals is often hard to get hold of in the UK, but Thomann stocks most of it. When buying my first proper Wah pedal I was torn between this one, the Mooer Wahter and the Dunlop Mini Cry Baby for the longest time - the advantage of the AMT is that the Wah element is optical - meaning you don't get the occasional scratchy potentiometer noises you sometimes get with more traditional Wahs, and the key part does not wear out. I watched a tonne of videos, read an equal amount of reviews and settled on the Cry Baby in the end. The WH-1 has several advantages over that - including volume dial and external voicing switch where on the Dunlop you have to access dip-swtiches inside the chassis - yet somehow weirdly I went with the Cry Baby! I still like the look of the WH-1 and it is very much on my wishlist.
A traditional looking, but surprisingly still quite modern Wah pedal with 5 essential modes - Up | Down | Sharp Mode | Humanizer | Tempo. You have 3 dials to sculpt the sound - Decay | Manual | Sensitivity - and the latter two shape the vowel sounds for the Humanizer / Formant sounds with you also being able to assign Tap Tempo via footswitch or Mode button for Tempo Mode. I was considering the DigiTech Synth Wah also, but since that is discontinued, this is the preferred pick. I am not always a fan of the format of these now kind of old-fashioned Boss stomp boxes - I prefer the smaller soft / non-latching footswitch buttons. There's no denying though that these are built like tanks and last about as long. This is a really great pedal - at a really good price.
Before I got my Cry Baby - I had this for several months in that pedalchain slot - great for doing Tom Morello -style runs and with a tonne of features, although you don't quite get the same satisfying squelchy quacky sound that I love the Wah pedals for. This is a fantastic pedal, really well-made, but a bit left-field really for this category. I still really like it and use it pretty regularly. The control layout is really smart and allows you to use the footswitch latched or momentary. This is another great and somewhat unsung DigiTech pedal.
Seemingly the professional's compact choice, and my current favourite. Rob Chapman really likes his, and has his set to the same voicing setting as I do - 'Low', the other voicings are 'Vintage'(Mid) and 'Modern'(High) - plenty of variety - and it would have been nice if Dunlop could have engineered the pedal with an external switch - but it handles and sounds fabulous - perfect for me. Of course it does have one of those scratchy potentiometers onboard which will wear out eventually and need to be replaced.
The smaller brother of the rather large Q-Tron so beloved by John Mayer - this slimmed down but still sizeable envelope filter carries across most of the useful flavours from the bigger one. With three dials - Mode: Low Pass | Band Pass | High Pass -filters, and then 'Q' for Quack! and 'Drive' to adjust sensitivity. The Q bandwidth dial takes you from syrupy smooth to punchy squelchy funk. This pedal is not quite the classic its older sibling is, but it gets you plenty close enough.
Another of one of those innovative Danish pedal makers - slightly less well know than the other 3 - TC Electronic, T-Rex and Carl Martin, but still consistently delivering the goods. A little bigger than the Micro Q-Tron and with 4 dials but less voicings. yet a killer 'reverse' button that gives you a glorious different kind of squelch. My namesake Stefan Fast does a great demo of this pedal, and I was kind of interested in this, but don't really like the mahoosive enclosure - this also differs from the Micro-Q by having an additional Boost footswitch. The 4 control dials are Boost | Width (Q) | Attack | Sense. It sounds glorious but is likely too large for my needs.
For lots of pro-players this is the go-to Auto-Wah - simple regular pedal with just 4 dials - Sensitivity | Bias | Resonance | Decay - legendary Finnish pedal-maker Björn Juhl has a knack with frequency-shaping and most of his Mad Professor and OneControl pedals are excellent - perhaps not all quite as good as this one though. If I were in the market for an Auto-Wah this would be my most likely choice.
This optical envelope filter is very much a Mu-Tron III inside a regular enclosure. EHX kind of inherited the rights to the Mu-Tron pedal and has re-branded that as the Q-Tron - available in large and medium-sized enclosures. To get much the same scope and fidelity of sound in a smaller form-factor means that my preference would be for the Maxon over the Q-Tron above. You have 2 sliders - Sensitivity | Peak, then a 3-way mode switch - HP | BP | LP and finally 2 2-way switches for Drive (Up/Down) and Range (High/Lo) - very neat.
Some say this is Mooer's take on the Boss AW-3, but I think it's rather their version of the Maxon AF-9. It has the same 3 modes albeit named slightly differently - Hi Peak | Mid Peak | Low Peak, and two small dials - Range & Q, and one larger one - Rate. It's another little wonder and as always - gets you plenty close enough. May not quite have the fidelity of some of the larger pedals on this page, it sounds pretty good to me - great if you're limited for pedalboard space, otherwise probably nice-to have rather than essential.
One of the 3 Wah pedals I original considered - alongside the Mini Cry Baby and AMT WH-1 - I could have gone for any of them really, This one has an even smaller footprint than the others - it gets away with that by having two embedded stirrups that you can fold out to extend the length of the rocker if you feel it necessary. Comes in a great bronze looking enclosure and has another ace up its sleeve in that the pads within the stirrups are soft touch switches - meaning you activate the pedal as soon as you step on it - you need to click / latch it like most of the others. I still like the look of this and might well consider acquiring one such at some stage in the future.
A really smart mini Wah that has been around for a while but which I had not come across before - cannot find it in stock in the UK - nearest availability seems to be Holland (also on Reverb.com). This is a spring-loaded hinge which similar to the Mooer switches on straight away when you hit it, without a need for a latching switch. It has smart indicator LEDs and 3 dials to sculpt the output - Level | Contour | Gain - I must say I rather like the look of this one - another one for the wishlist.
The final of the 5 Mini Wah pedals that I like is also likely the most versatile with external Growl and Mid-Range controls, as well as 6 internal dip-switches to sculpt the tone - to make this every Wah pedal you might ever need. This is still a potentiometer-based one and has a latching switch - so not as bullet-proof as the 2 optical ones, but possibly the most desirable overall. I can't see that this has a UK distributor either? Definitely high on the wishlist.
In summary, there is much to like featured here - and every time I start thinking I might like an auto-wah or envelope filter, I hear something like the Wilson Mini Q - which brings me right back to the manual Wahs again. I still think someone needs to do a proper Wah using a TCE MASH-type pressure-sensitive footswitch; but you do kinf of need a rocker if you want to do the 'Cocked-Wah' thing - which means pedals like the Chi-Wah-Wah and Ricochet are out for that. Generally there are tonnes of options here, and where it used to be big = great. Now it's more of a matter that small can be just as great - I really don't see why I need a Wah the size of skateboard anymore - any of those featured here will do very nicely indeed.