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It’s not uncommon for guitar players to obsess with pedals. After all, it gives new dimensions to your sound and allows you to better express yourself through your instrument.
And, above all – it’s just fun. Now, we could argue about what the most fun type of guitar pedal is, but for us wah is certainly up there near the top. Whether it’s used for solo or rhythm sections, it is one of the most important effects in rock music.
But as technology progressed, we’ve also seen the development of dynamic wah pedals. One of the most famous of those is made by Boss and it’s called AW-3.
We’ll use the opportunity to share a few of our experiences with this piece of gear and explain what makes it so special compared to other wahs out there.
Since this is a Boss pedal, it’s packed in the company’s classic metal casing. And like any other of their products, they’re well protected and can’t be easily damaged.
This being the dynamic wah, it follows the dynamics of your playing and goes between the “open” and “close” positions. There are five basic modes controlled with one of the knobs ñ up, down, sharp, humanizer, and tempo.
In the “up” mode, the sound of the open position is achieved with louder playing, while the “down” works the opposite way. The “sharp” mode is essentially like the “up” mode but it gives you a different sound and a wider wah sweep.
To activate the tempo mode, you need to set the switch, hold the pedal down for two seconds and then tap the desired tempo.
The humanizer mode is one of the features which makes the AW-3 unique. There are two knobs that control two “vowels,” one for the closed and the other for the open position.
There are five voices to chose from for both positions – a, e, i, o, u.
Of course, it won’t work as a wah if you put bot knobs on the same voices as you would just get one vowel for both positions. There should be a combination of two different letters unless you really feel like experimenting.
All of the modes, except for the tempo mode, are additionally controlled by the “decay” knob. With this feature, you can manage how strong the signal is affected by the effect and how fast it goes away.
The “manual” and “sens” knobs – which are the same two knobs that also control the vowels in the humanizer mode – allow you to tweak the sound more.
Manual sets the frequency at which the wah begins, while sens controls how much the effect is applied. If you turn the sens knob more in the clockwise direction, you’ll get the wah effect engaged even with softer playing.
If you turn it all the way down, you can get the effect of the wah being locked at one position, also known as the cocked wah sound.
There are also some features which weren’t available in the previous version, the old Boss AW-2. First, there’s an additional input for bass guitars. You can, of course, also plug in the bass guitar into the regular jack, but this other input is adapted for low-end frequencies.
And another feature, which gives this pedal a whole new dimension, is the option to connect it with an expression pedal. There’s an additional jack for this, and you’ll need a short stereo cable. This way, it turns into a regular wah with a few different modes to use.
Aside from the obvious Boss visual and structural features that guitar players are very much used to, the color of the pedal is pretty interesting. It has a silver metallic color with a slight dash of gold.
Very unusual for a guitar pedal, and it’s more like someone did a paint job for a car. But we don’t mean it in a bad way, it’s just a different color.
Using it as a standard dynamic wah, it shows better results for clean sounds, mostly for funk or any funky oriented rhythm playing and some lead sections.
The pedal is very responsive, but you’ll need some time to play around and tweak to get the desired sound and sensitivity you need. The sharp mode is a pretty interesting one, and it gives that deeper and synth-like tone.
Of course, you can use the dynamic wah with overdrive and distortion, but our impression is that it’s not the best option for the high gain soaring leads.
The humanizer mode is extremely fun. However, we’re uncertain whether it can be implemented in conventional music. Not that it is bad, but it can be just too weird for the listeners.
But on the other hand, engaging any mode with an expression pedal connected to it, there’s a whole variety of possibilities. Of course, the “up” and “down” modes are essentially the same, and that way it resembles the classic Dunlop Cry Baby.
The “sharp” mode with the expression pedal and the distortion engaged, you’ll be able to easily achieve the sound resembling that deep wailing Zakk Wylde wah.
The only thing here is that you’ll have to tweak the minimum level knob on your expression pedal.
Wah pedals are kind of specific and every player has their own taste. Just like with distortion pedals, it would be best if you can try it out yourself and decide if it suits your style of playing. Not a single demo video online can give you the real impression for an effect like wah or a dynamic wah.
With that being said, our own impression was overall positive, despite a few downsides mentioned above. Also, if you dislike the toe-click option of most of the standard wah pedals, then using the AW-3 with an expression pedal is a great option.
Just bear in mind that it will use up more space on your pedalboard. The other option you might want to consider could be the Morley Bad Horsie 2, but the AW-3 will most definitely give you more versatility.
Again, we would advise you to try it out and decide what you think about it yourself.