A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Park Wah Swell Pedal Review

Both listeners of rock music and guitar players have been fascinated with wah pedals for a very long time now.

Of course, it is required to know how to apply it well in your music, but it’s still one of the most important effects that you’ll find in one guitar player’s signal chain.

That sweet voice-imitating effect allows you to express yourself in more ways and bring a new flavor to your tone.

While we’re at it, the obsession with those old vintage pedals never seems to stop, despite countless gear manufacturers coming up with and producing various different pedals, amp modellers, or multi-effects processors.

It’s as if nothing can really beat the good old stuff from the ’60s, the ’70s, and the ’80s. There’s one vintage pedal – a very rare pedal actually – that we will be discussing today.

The piece in question is a Wah Swell pedal by Park that’s been produced sometime in the early 1970s.

Let’s get into this gem.


Background

But before we start, there should be a word or two about the company that produced it. Park Amplification was launched by Marshall as their separate brand.

This smaller company used to produce guitar amps as well as keyboard tube amps (which was pretty bizarre) and different guitar effects. Park worked from early 1965 all the way to 1982 when it got closed.

The time between ’65 and ’74 is often referred to as the company’s “golden period” among the vintage guitar enthusiasts and collectors.

The pedal we’re talking about here, the Wah Swell, is one of the effects you’ll find in Billy Gibbons’ signal chain, to name one player who digs the sound.


Features and performance

The main concept here was to have a wah and a volume pedal in one product. While the concept would now be pretty weird, back then, the manufacturers tried to combine more things into one, as the ’60s and the ’70s were very experimental times in the world of guitar. Either way, the pedal resembled an average wah of the times.

While it may seem that the operation is the same as with any other wah pedal we’re all used to, it’s not exactly the case with the Park Wah Swell. Yes, it’s turned on the way most of the wah pedals are – there’s the standard “toe click” action you’ll find on an average Dunlop Cry Baby or a Vox wah.

However, the treble and bass sweep is reversed. This means that when you push the pedal down, you go to the “closed” position with the low-register sound.

And when the pedal is up, the so-called “open” position, you get the treble end of the spectrum. Pretty unusual, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

When the pedal is switched off (when it’s in the bypass mode), it acts as a standard volume pedal. As this is essentially a wah pedal, it is supposed to be placed at the beginning of your signal chain, so in the bypass mode, it works like a high impedance volume pedal.

Sweeping it up and down, you get the “swell” effect, just like you would by sweeping your guitar’s volume pot. If your distortion pedal is turned on, it would resemble adjusting the gain knob of the pedal up and down.

If the pedal is placed at the very end of the signal chain, or near the end, then it would lower the volume of the entire signal, with keeping all the gain and other effects. But this is usually done with a low impedance volume pedal.

As for powering this pedal, it works with a standard 9-volt battery you use for most of the other stompboxes out there.

However, despite this being an old pedal, the wah sounds are pretty wild. Actually, they’re crazier than most of the stuff you’ll find today.

The closest thing that you can compare it with are those classic Jimi Hendrix wah tones from back in the day.

At the same time, it does somewhat resemble the old Tycobrahe wah, another extremely rare pedal that Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath has been using over the decades.

While the pedal itself is not that bad, the reverse action is really somewhat of a weird feature. Not sure what the idea was here, but this definitely takes some getting used to and might feel very weird for some.

Other than that, it’s actually a pretty decent sounding wah pedal.


Design

The pedal is cased in a metal enclosure, although the casing is not as thick as we might be seeing with some more modern pedals today.

It also looks a bit weird compared to some other standard wah pedals, featuring the rectangular shape of the casing and the rocking part of the pedal, with the rounded edges.

The base part of the pedal is colored blue, although it’s always hard to tell what the original shade was since this is an old pedal. The rocking part is silver with the standard rubber on top of it to prevent slipping.

If you were to have one in your signal chain, it would definitely stand out both visually and sonically. Unless your other effects are old as well.


Conclusion

The pedal itself is not that bad really. There are some peculiar and weird tones that you’ll be able to achieve with it.

But at the same time, this being an old effect, there’s hardly any chance you’ll stumble upon one of these anywhere. If you do, they’re really expensive. At the same time, it’s even harder to find one in mint condition.

If you’re really into the old vintage stuff and stumble upon one, then sure, go ahead and get one as it will be a rare piece of history in your collection. But other than that, there’s really no rational reason for getting a Park Wah Swell.


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DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter Review

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

There’s a lot of different stuff that you can find on an average pedalboard these days. Modulation effects, wahs, distortions, overdrives, echoes/delays, reverbs, all put in various different orders to create unique voices for countless guitar players all over the world.

There are, however, certain pedals that are so unique that they create a recognizable voice of their own and are highly valued and respected in the guitar world. We’ve already covered a pedal like Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah, which gives some exciting twists to a standard wah or auto-wah pedals.

To take things to a whole new level, we’ve decided to cover DigiTech’s X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter which is a rather unusual yet very likable pedal used by various famous players over the years, including Korn’s James “Munky” Shaffer and Slipknot’s Jim Root. So here’s a thing or two about this piece of gear.


Features

First, we’ll explain what an “envelope filter” means. Filter pedals in general (i.e. Line 6 FM4) filter out frequencies in your guitar tone.

A standard wah pedal could be described as a filter with the moveable center frequency. This Synth Wah is, in a way, like an auto-wah pedal with a few interesting modes and features on it.

The three main knobs on this pedal are sensitivity, control, and range, while on the right side we have a switch that picks from seven different modes.

These seven modes are envelope up, envelope down, two different types of synth sounds, filter 1 or the company’s “Synth Talk” effect, “Synth Talk” with inverse filter, and the classic auto-wah effect.

The “sens” knob controls the overall sensitivity of all the envelope, synth, and filter mods, while with the auto-wah selected it controls the speed of the sweep.

The control knob has different functions depending on which mode is selected: for envelope effects, it works like the classic wet/dry knob, with synths and filters it controls the attack, while on the auto-wah mod it determines the sweep shape.

The range knob also does different functions depending on the mod: with envelopes on, it tweaks the range, with synth it serves to determine the cutoff frequency, with the filter mods on this knob determines the frequency envelope, and for the auto-wah it controls the wah effect range.

From all these controls and features, you can clearly see that the pedal opens up a whole new world of tone shaping possibilities.

DigiTech’s Synth Wah includes ñ aside from the standard input and output jacks ñ an additional output with the dry and unaffected signal.

The pedal is powered either by a standard 9-volt battery or with a standard 9-volt adapter. The manual recommends DigiTech’s PS200R, although any adapter of decent quality will do the job right.


Design

The pedal has the standard metal casing typical for many of DigiTech’s famous products. It is well-built and there are no reasons to worry about any damages, even with rough handling. The stomp foot switch has the quality rubber part that allows normal operation in any live situations without any potential slipping.

Being a bit of an older pedal, Synth Wah’s design gives out some of those vintage vibes with its looks. It’s painted dark green and all of the controls are labeled in black writing.

But although we respect the company’s decisions to write down all the mods on the front panel of this unit, it was kind of unnecessary as the writings look kind of messy at first glance.

The LED light though looks pretty well and is a solid indicator that won’t bother your eyes ou in darker settings. Yes, some pedals’ LED light indicators might do that and it’s can be annoying.


Performance

Just like we mentioned above in the features section, DigiTech’s Synth Wah is one extraordinary and very versatile piece of gear. You basically get three or four different effect pedals in one standard-size unit.

The pedal often found its use for funky clean tones, those which are often performed with guitars featuring single coil pickups.

The first two modes, envelope up and envelope down, come in handy for these particular situations and you can get a really great “spanking” sound with them.

Although the auto-wah effect is not bad, it’s not a dynamic effect like the one you’d find on Boss AW-3. With the given controls, you can only create the imitation of the rocking of a wah pedal in the desired tempo and with the desired sweep.

But the most interesting features are the Synth 1 and Synth 2 modes. They do add a bit of a distorted sound to it, but the pedal can be additionally boosted with a good overdrive or a distortion pedal of your choice, with some additional tweaking of the knobs.

The Synth 2, in particular, gives some of the old school 8-bit video game vibes if pushed to its limits. Same could be said about the Filter 1 mod.


Conclusion

In conclusion, this is definitely one of the most interesting and best-known products DigiTech has ever put out. But while the pedal is really fun to use, it does require somewhat of an experienced guitar player to get the sound right.

A beginner guitarist might find it somewhat disappointing, as it may sound a bit messy if not tweaked properly or if played without desired groove.

While there are some newer and even more versatile filter and auto wah pedals out there (that also work with external expression pedals), the good old Synth Wah still has a sound of its own that’s not easily replicated.

While maybe not perfect, this pedal is definitely a great addition to your pedalboard if you’re fond of these kinds of effects.

Dunlop Cry Baby DCR-2SR Rack Module Review

The wah effect is, without any doubts, one of the most important parts of one player’s effects chain. Giving musicians their own unique voice in a way, the quality of the wah effect has become mostly subjective, as each individual player has their own preferences.

At the same time, the ones that give most expressiveness and depth tend to be more valued among the guitar players. But what if you had even more control over the effect itself?

After all, there’s not a lot of knobs and switches that can fit on the average wah pedal, and even some more intricate pieces, like the Morley Bad Horsie 2, have only a handful of modeling options.

However, a company like Dunlop, that became very well respected for their Cry Baby wah pedals, has its own rack-mounted wah unit that can be managed by a separate foot controller, which by design resembles the standard Cry Baby format.

The rack-mounted wah we will be reviewing here is the Dunlop Cry Baby DCR-2SR, used by many professional rock guitar players, including Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, John Petrucci, Slash, and many others.

Dunlop Cry Baby DCR-2SR


Features

As mentioned, this is a rack-mounted unit, designed to give more options to shaping your wah tone than any other standard wah pedal could provide. The unit, which is in a 19-inch rack format, provides a variety of controls.

The first two controls are the range and “Q”. With the range control, you can pick from six different frequency ranges ñ 1.2 kHz, 1.4 kHz, 1.6 kHz, 1.8 kHz, 2.0 kHz, and 2.2 kHz. Right next to it stands the “Q” knob, which is used to control the breadth of the effect, or how “wide” it is.

With the “Q”, you can set it to be really sharp or to make it wider and more subtle, kind of more evenly distributed over the pedal’s sweep.

While sometimes wah pedals might cut or boost the volume in an unwanted way, the DCR-2SR has a separate boost control which allows you to balance things out or additionally boost or cut the volume of the effect when it’s engaged. This particular feature can boost your volume for up to 10 dB.

Right next to these two controls, we can find the 6-band EQ that additionally lets us shape our wah tone. The frequencies on it are 100Hz, 200Hz, 400Hz, 800Hz, 1.6kHz, and 3.2kHz, and each knob adds or cuts 15 dB to the frequency. This EQ is engaged with a separate button.

While we’re at it, the wah effect itself is also engaged with a separate button. The foot controller, which is included with this unit, has the standard toe-click feature like any other Dunlop wah pedals, but the effect won’t kick in if it’s not turned on on the unit itself.

It also comes with an additional loop that lets you run a volume pedal through it, ultimately giving more control over your tone.


Design

The design of such a rack mounted unit is probably not of the greatest importance to a guitar player. Although we would argue that some of the printed labels on it could be a bit bigger. While there might not be a lot of tweaking during the live shows, this would definitely be a very welcomed design feature.

At the same time, led lights are pretty useful and easily noticeable so you can see whether certain features are on or off. With just a little bit of practice, you’ll be accustomed to it and you’ll know where each control is located and what it does without reading any of the labels on it.

As for the floor part, the foot controller, it’s designed according to Dunlop’s classic wah and volume pedals, using the same casing with a few just slightly different features. The action and the feel of the pedal is the same as any other of their famous products.


Performance

Now, this piece of gear is actually quite versatile. It could easily be the most versatile wah effect out there. The 6-band EQ gives an abundance of tone option, especially combined with with the “range” and “Q” knobs.

With all of these controls, you’re able to have full control over the depth of your wah, the “width” (or how sharp it goes between the two voices), the volume, and the overall tone.

Whatever kind of wah you seek ñ the DCR-2SR has it. Want that subtle clean pop rhythm wahs? Want the classic 1970s one? Trying to replicate Zakk Wylde’s deep crazy wah for high gain leads?

It’s all possible through this Dunlop’s piece of gear. And whether it’s the clean or distorted sound that you want to add your wah to, it will work with anything and won’t make those higher gain tones sounding all muddy and chaotic.


Conclusion

Just to get one thing straight here – this is a professional grade wah. Yes, it costs three or four times more than an average wah most of the guitar players are using, but there’s a good reason for it.

It is a sophisticated professional rack mounted effect that gives you more options than you can get from most of the other wahs out there.

The only downside – it will just take a lot of your precious time since you’ll end up plying around with all of its features in search of those perfect wah tones.

At the same time, you need to bear in mind that DCR-2SR is to be considered if you’re using other rack effects. Otherwise, you’ll just have a bad time finding room for this unit anywhere on stage or in your home studio, making it very impractical.

Nobody is stopping you from getting one, but it won’t make much sense if you’re not a professional musician or are at least striving to become one.

Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah Review

aw-3

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.


Features

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.


Versatility

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.


Design

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.


Performance

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.


Conclusion

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.


Reverb – Video Review

Morley Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah Pedal Review

morley bad horsie 2

If you’re a lead guitar player, there’s a high chance you just can’t go without a wah pedal in your signal chain. There is just something about wah-wahs that provides you with more expressiveness and makes your guitar sound closer to a singing voice.

Ever since the first wah pedals back in the mid-1960s and all the way to now, the effect has been used by some of the biggest names of the guitar world. Talking about expressiveness and guitar, there’s one musician that stands out – Mr. Steve Vai. In order to further enhance his unique soloing abilities, Vai uses wah pedals.

steve vai bad horsie 2 contour

He’s been known for the classic Dunlop Cry Baby but he also developed his own signature pedals with Morley called Bad Horsie and Bad Horsie 2. Here, we will be going into some details of the Morley Bad Horsie 2 wah pedal.


Features

Bad Horsie 2 is the continuation of Vai’s first model with Morley. It’s in the same kind of casing with certain controls and features added.

What’s special about this wah is that there’s no need for toe click action needed for turning it on. The whole idea here was to have it engaged or turned off using the so-called “switchless operation” ñ you just step on it and works. When you’re done with your wah parts, you just remove your foot from the pedal and it’s off.

Another feature that makes it stand out from most of the wahs out there is that you can use it in two modes ñ standard and contour. The standard mode is essentially Steve Vai’s classic sound, with his kind of depth and sweep.

The contour mode, which is engaged with a separate switch, allows you to tweak the frequency and the output level of the pedal. This is controlled with two knobs – contour and level.

bad horsie 2 contour wah steve vai

The pedal can be powered either with a 9-volt battery or a 9 volt AC adapter. The manual recommends using Morley’s adapters, but all the manufacturers usually recommend their own power supplies to go with the pedals.

You can easily use it with any compatible adapter or pedalboard based supply. Just make sure that it’s a good working one.

We should also add that it works on 300mA which is usually way more than the other pedals you’ll have in the signal chain. If you’re planning to get this one, make sure that your pedalboard’s power supply has enough power for it. Otherwise, you’ll have to either have a separate adapter or run it on a battery.

It features a standard configuration with one input and one output. It should also be noted that Morley Bad Horsie 2 has a true bypass, which means that the signal goes through the pedal unaltered.


Design

As mentioned, Morley Bad Horsie 2 has pretty much the same housing as its predecessor. There is also the mini version of the pedal, which is not only smaller in size but has a different and rather interesting paint job. In case you want to have a colorful and a compact pedal at your disposal, this one is a good option. Just bear in mind that it’s more expensive than the regular version.

Overall, it looks good and it’s a well-built one, so you will most likely have no issues with it. The only downside may be that it’s larger than the standard wah size most of the players are used to, like those from Vox or Dunlop, so it will take a bit more space on your pedalboard.


Performance

If you are a wah user, you know that one of the most important features is to have good control over the pedal. This being a quality built one, you’ll have no issues with the standard performance.

You should just know that Bad Horsie 2 is spring loaded and it always goes back to the up (or closed) position. That might be a let-down for some players who want to keep the pedal in one position as they would constantly need to hold their foot on it locked at the desired position.

Sonically-wise, we could call this one as more of a “mid-range” wah. It has a good attack and it adds some sweetness to the tone, but it still keeps the low end and doesn’t make your guitar sound thinner.

And another thing ñ by its default setting, the wah doesn’t turn off right away when you remove the foot from the pedal. There is a brief delay and it stays on for a few moments.

This can be adjusted, but it requires you to open the casing of the pedal and mess around with some of the controls inside. It’s not impossible to do it on your own, you just need to be extremely careful not to damage anything inside.

You’ll need to remove all the screws, remove the lid of the battery cover, and then put your fingers inside and carefully pull the whole bottom end of the casing.

Inside you will find a small control saying “wah off delay” that can be adjusted with a small blade-type screwdriver. In case you’re not experienced or confident doing this on your own, we advise you to seek professional help and not do it by yourself. When set on the minimum setting, the wah turns off almost instantly.

Also, guitarists do tend to be picky when it comes to the type of wah sound, so the best option +would be to try it out yourself or at least go through some demos online.

Although it is a good pedal, it might not be what you’re seeking for. The same goes for any other quality wah out there. It does not make it “better” or “worse”, it’s just different.

The contour option can be pretty useful as it not only gives you more sonic options but also can provide you with additional volume boost for lead parts when engaged.


Conclusion

Overall, Bad Horsie 2 is a quality wah pedal and it’s worth the price with all the features that it has. There were, however, some players who complained about using the pedal on bright sunlight. We didn’t get the chance to try it outdoors on a hot summer day, but make sure to do proper research online if you want to use it in such a setting.

Visit: http://www.morleypedals.com/steve-vai-bad-horsie-2-contour-wah/


Video Review

MXR MC404 CAE Crybaby Dual Inductor Wah Wah Pedal Review

MXR MC404 CAE Crybaby Dual Inductor Wah Wah Pedal Review
 

Pearl Jam is one of the ‘Seattle four’ bands which have ushered in grunge music into the main stream. Although the unique style of Eddie Vedder is worth the praise, we can attribute most of Pearl Jam’s tone to Mike McCready. His own take on certain techniques gave their music a texture that was new at the time, thus attracting a lot of well deserved attention.

McCready’s use of effects pedal plays a large role in this, especially his wahs. One of the wah pedals you could often see on his pedal board is the MXR MC-404. Today we are going to take a closer look and see what this thing can do. As it turns out, it is still one of the more capable wahs on the market.

MXR MC404 CAE Crybaby Dual Inductor Wah Wah Pedal Review

MXR MC404 CAE Crybaby Dual Inductor Wah Wah Pedal Review

Ever since MXR was taken over by Dunlop, people were skeptical whether or not the new company would fill the shoes of its predecessor. However, those fears were quickly erased. Dunlop’s backing has only brought MXR a lot of improvement, especially when we’re talking about wahs. As you probably know, Dunlop makes some of the best wah pedals in the world. After all, they are the one who produced the original wah effect pedal. In context of MC-404, all of this means that we can see some Dunlop solutions being implemented where they can boost the performance and quality of the pedal.

Design

In terms of design, the pedal hasn’t really changed much compared to its original form. From a distance, it looks rather busy for a wah pedal. The chassis comes in form of a chunky aluminum design that inspires confidence as soon as you lift it up. It’s not too heavy, but heavy enough where you won’t have to worry about it moving around. Expression pedal shares a similar ideology. We have a long, decently wide surface covered with a rubberized pad for additional grip. MXR went on to add a graphic design that depicts three elements of an electronic circuit on the top, thus improving the aesthetics for those who like their pedals a bit unique.

Features

Looking at the available features, it is easy to find out what’s so special about MC-404. Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that MC-404 features dual Fasel inductors. In other words, it allows you to choose two very distinct voices for the pedal. One of them focuses more on the higher portion of the range, while the other voice accentuates the lower portion. To choose between the two, all you have to do is press one of the two buttons on the side of the pedal. Each of these are color coded, with yellow being the deep one and red being the higher one.

The potentiometer switch used to create the wah pedal is a mechanical one. MXR obviously wanted to offer the same kind of reliability we are used to seeing in theirs and Dunlop’s previous designs. With that said, going with the mechanical switch also makes the pedal a lot more affordable. The important thing to know is that it’s reliable. In terms of powering the whole thing, you can use the standard MXR power adapter or a 9 Volt battery. Speaking of which, MXR made swapping the battery a very easy task. There’s no lids to unscrew or anything like that. All you have to do is pop the rubber base and swap the battery.

Performance

Once it’s time to plug this bad boy into your signal chain, you will know exactly why someone like Mike McCready chose to go with MC-404. Let’s start with the basic operation. Potentiometer chose by MXR for this build is a dream. The level of linearity and smoothness in the travel between the fully open and fully closed position is borderline perfect. There is no creeping in the expression pedal, no popping in the signal, just pure sweeps.

Having the two Fasels to choose from really gives this pedal a whole new dimension. Sure, some guitar players prefer a minimalist wah that is just there and works, however there is a case to be made for MC-404. Using different voices it offers can really add that edge to your guitar sections. It is more or less one of those things you didn’t even know you would need until you tried it for the first time.

Another thing that really caught our eye is the lack of noise. The pedal is extremely noise-free, both when used and on stand by. We can attribute this to MXR using a low noise custom made potentiometer as well as a very silent amp. Even if you run it on the adapter, you won’t hear any noticeable buzz coming from it. On top of all we have mentioned so far, this pedal is priced just perfectly. We are talking about a fairly affordable wah that offers more than your regular models. That alone makes it a great value for the money.

Here’s a video from the Jim Dunlop Youtube channel showing off the MXR MC404.

Conclusion

MXR MC-404 dual inductor wah pedal is by far one of the better models you can grab today. Sure, it’s not the simple wah most guitar players are gunning for, but this particular model has proven that change can be good. It is priced just right and the reliability is on par with other Dunlop designs we have seen over the years. It doesn’t really get much better than that. Mike McCready has recognized the potential of this pedal and the way it can improve his tone. If you are trying to get his tone and nail some of his unique moves, you might want to consider adding MXR MC-404 into your pedal board. Not only will it help you reach a level of authenticity you want, but it’s just a good wah pedal to have. Versatility definitely means a lot, especially when it comes in form of a wah pedal.

Feature Pick

Mxr Mc404 Cae Dual Inductor Wah

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Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby Wah Pedal Review

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal review
 

First released in the 1960’s the wah-wah pedal has become an integral piece of equipment for any aspiring guitarist. Legends such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammet and Slash have all utilized the unique sound and tone of this classic piece of gear. Dunlop’s GCB-95 is a fine example of such a pedal, and the subject of today’s review.

Feature Pick

Dunlop Gcb95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal

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The wah-wah pedal was originally created to emulate the effect of a plunger commonly used by jazz musicians, particularly trumpet players, to alter the sound of their instrument. This technique mimicked the human voice, giving a ‘crying’ effect which worked well with the electric guitar. The GCB-95 is Dunlop’s original cry baby pedal and it certainly encompasses the classic sound of the wah-wah pedal which guitarists have used for decades.

The wah-wah is a versatile pedal and can be used in a number of different musical situations. One such use is to add an extra flavour to a clean guitar; this was often used in disco and funk music in 70’s with The Bee Gees Night Fever being a perfect example of an effective use of the pedal. The wah-wah can also be used with distortion, often during rock guitar solos, the pedal gives an attack to the sound and can also help the solo cut through the mix, one such example of this is during Slash’s solo in Sweet Child o Mine.

Another use of the wah-wah pedal is as a filter, allowing the user to alter the frequencies which are being played and tweaking their tone. Acting much in the same way as an EQ pedal this effect boosts certain frequencies and allows a guitarist to further customize their tone. This use of the wah-wah was commonly used by Brian May of Queen.

Pros –

Price – The GCB-95 is priced at around £69.99 at most retailers, which is relatively inexpensive for a wah-wah pedal. Considering other models can be priced up to £300, this is ideal for any musician who wants a good quality pedal, but doesn’t want to spend too much money.

Multiple Uses – As stated above, the different ways in which this pedal can be used makes it such a valuable piece of gear for any guitarist. The different ways in which the pedal can alter your sound makes it a great piece of gear for a beginner. Alternatively the pedal is essential for session players who may have to use the wah-wah in a number of different ways.

Durable and Solid – At 1.7kg the GCB-95 is a pedal that can withstand pretty much any bumps from travelling on the road. Its sturdiness and durability ensures that come gig time your wah-wah will be ready for action.

It’s the original CryBaby! – As the first release in a long line of the Cry Baby series, the GCB-95 is the original model of what grew to be a huge brand. So in addition to being a quality product, the GCB-95 is also a piece of history in regards to the Dunlop pedal range. Also, as music equipment ages it tends to gain value, as the model stops being produced, so owning this pedal could also be seen as an investment of sorts.

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby

Cons –

Size – The Wah-Wah pedal takes a lot of space on a pedal board, this space could alternatively be used by 3 smaller pedals. This can be an issue for guitarists with limited space on their pedal boards; however I believe the advantages of having this pedal make the extra space required worthwhile.

Basic Design – Since the release of Dunlop’s original design many guitarists have brought out their own models of wah-wah pedal, each having different features and perks compared with the GCB-95. This can make the original wah-wah feel a little dated when compared to the newer models; however it could be argued that since many of these updated versions were influenced directly by the GCB-95, that the authentic sound and feel of this pedal is more than adequate. Ultimately the preference of pedal differs for each player, based on their individual technical needs.

Conclusion

The history and effectiveness of the wah-wah pedal makes it one of the most iconic pedals the world over, and a piece of equipment which all guitarists can find a use for in evolving and perfecting their tone. The Dunlop GCB-95 perfectly exemplifies the unique characteristics of the wah-wah and really is the standard of quality for other pedals to live up to.