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.
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.
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.
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.