Guitar Wah Pedal vs Fixed Wah

Electric Guitar Guitar Ownership Guitar Pedals Effects Pedals Wah Pedals Fixed Wah Cocked Wah Dunlop Effects + -

I’ve recently come across some highly amusing YouTube video reviews of various ill-informed persons disparaging fixed Wah pedals and bemoaning their lack of ’sweeping’ action. In fact both Wah Pedals and Fixed Wahs are simply types of Envelope Filter effects - which category also includes the Auto-Wahs - which indeed do run a frequency sweep to give you a dynamic evolving squelch like that of the rocker-type manual Wah pedals.


I myself discovered the usefulness of a fixed wah quite by accident - having inadvertently left my Dunlop CryBaby Mini in the on / toe-position. I noticed a remarkable accentuation in the crispness of the frequencies on a number of my distortion pedals - they sounded somewhat ’enhanced’. By adjusting the frequency / Q point in applying the envelope filter to particular frequency ranges - you can significantly enhance those frequencies - which can improve as well as curiously / weirdly colour your throughput tone.


It just so happened that the toe / on-position of my CryBaby Wah (in ’Low’ voicing) was the perfect enhancement for several of my distortion pedals and I loved the serendipitous outcome. From that point I just wanted more control over that ’enhancement’. Hence I acquired one of the relatively recent Custom Shop CSP030 CryBaby Q-Zone Fixed Wahs - which allows you to zone in on the exact frequency cluster via 3 position range toggle, and 3 frequency fine-tuners - Bandpass, Q Adjust and Expand - you then use the ’Boost’ dial to set by what degree you want to add that enhancement.


Think of this as a sort of distortion EQ enhancer - which can add some amazing extra crunch to your distortions and / or give you more oddball sounds for solos, fills and incidental effects - the kind of Tom Morello-ish sounds that lots of us like. So Fixed Wah is not at a replacement for a Wah pedal - it’s another tool entirely which gives you more of just one aspect of the Wah pedal. The previous CryBaby Q Zone pedal was much lamented when withdrawn, and the newer version improves on every aspect of it. There are all manner of decent fixed wah pedals on the market - also known occasionally as ’Cocked Wah Pedals’ - these include examples by Daredevil Effects, EHX, Fulltone, Magnetic Effects and Rocktron.


You should be aware that if you want a more automated sweep pedal - then you should be specifically looking for an Auto Wah or more general Envelope Filter pedal which tends to do just that sort of thing. A Fixed Wah by contrast is a static frequency enhancer - which has no dynamic movement.


Depending on how and what I am playing I will occasionally swap my Fixed Wah in place of the CryBaby Mini - which tends to be the mainstay of my pedal chain. The Fixed Wah can never replace that, but it does have some very specific applications where it does things that the general Wah cannot.


So don’t be disparaging about a Fixed Wah pedal - you just need to know how to use it. That said - you may really not have any need for one. I file this effect in the ’nice-to-have’ rather than ’essential’ category - I just use it every now and again - admittedly usually to great effect.


My favourite current Wah pedal is the Dunlop CryBaby Mini which retails for around £118, while the Dunlop CryBaby Q-Zone Fixed Wah can be yours for as little as £123. I’ve seen various instances where the Q-Zone is described as an Auto-Wah, which it decidedly is NOT - Auto-Wahs have automatic and dynamic sweeps to simulate the manual Wah Pedals - while the Fixed Wah pedal gives you static frequency enhancement - AKA Cocked Wah ... here endeth the lesson.





In the same slot that I normally alternate the Wah and Fixed Wah pedals, I also have a DigiTech Whammy Ricochet - which does an excellent momentary pitch-shifting effect, and I am already planning to add the DigiTech FreqOut which gives you momentary-triggered feedback on deman - again through a single -footswitch compact pedal.


I have often wondered why DigiTech or TC Electronic now in particular - with its new MASH footswitch technology - why they could not do a momentary footswitch-triggered Wah or Fixed Wah in a similar manner. Neither DigiTech nor TC Electronic have any type of Wah pedal offering currently and I feel both could do really clever versions / variations on that theme - based on simple extrapolations of their existing technologies ...

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