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Say Wah? Five Essential Signature Wah Pedals

For all the audio wizardry made possible by effect pedals, nothing quite rivals the expression allowed by a great wah pedal.

Originally intended to mimic the sound of a muted trumpet, it didn't take long for guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa to make that sweet, sweeping "wah-wah" sound an integral part of the rock and roll lexicon. Whether conjuring a voodoo child or a bad horsie, the human element of the active manipulation of the pedal and its voice-like qualities are what give the wah a special place on the pedalboards — in and in the hearts — of countless musicians.

This week, we look at five essential pedals tailored especially for players who really took the wah and made it an integral part of their signature sound.

As always, this list was compiled by a group of Guitar World staffers, including technical editor Paul Riario.

Jim Dunlop Jerry Cantrell Wah

Outside of the realm of fretboard dramatics, few guitarists have used the wah quite so effectively as a tone control than Alice In Chains' Jerry Cantrell. The wah makes a subtle appearance on countless AIC classics, including "Them Bones" and "Down in a Hole," helping one of grunge's greatest players to home in on that tonal "sweet spot" for his ripping leads.

With a darker tonal spectrum than your stock Cry Baby, the JC95 gives you maximum control of your range by way of an adjustable Fine Tune knob. Thanks to Cantrell's predilection for cutting mids, you won't get bogged down with muddy bottom-end tones or shrill highs, instead getting a clear, throaty effect ideal for the careful tone-master and the stomp-happy guitarist.

What does it sound like?

Our own Paul Riario tries out the Jerry Cantrell Wah:

MSRP: $264.99 | Learn more about this pedal.

Vox Joe Satriani Big Bad Wah

The Vox Joe Satriani Big Bad Wah dual-mode wah pedal is the result of a collaboration between Vox and Joe Satriani (one of three such collaborations).

In the context of wah pedals, the Vox BBW is unique because it truly is two wah pedals in one. Wah 1 is pretty much a classic VOX, complete with the expected vintage UK tones; Wah 2 captures Satriani's original drive and voice controls. The result is a wide range of new sounds — not exactly the kind of sounds you'd expect from your average wah pedal.

The pedal has a Drive knob that mimics the Wah 1 gain at its lowest setting; it also delivers a 10-dB boost at the maximum settings for growling overtones. Wah 2 mode incorporates the Voice switch, which lets you choose everything from trad wah voicings to dark, resonant tones reminiscent of a vintage talk-box.

What does it sound like?

Here's the official Big Bad Wah demo video, featuring Satriani in action, direct from Vox's website:

MSRP: $280 | Learn more about this pedal.

Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie Wah

By now, you’ve probably guessed that this pedal was "designed according to the artist’s specifications," much like everything else on this list. And that is indeed the case for this pedal, Morley’s Steve Vai Bad Horsie Wah.

Vai has a close relationship with Morley Pedals, and the company makes three Vai signature models: the Bad Horsie, Bad Horsie 2 and the Little Alligator volume pedal.

As any Vai fan knows, this pedal is named after "Bad Horsie," the wah-heavy opening track from Vai’s 1995 album, Alien Love Secrets. (Check out a video of the song here.)

The pedal features Morley's electro-optical design, so there are no pots (which tend to get scratchy and wear out over time). Another cool feature is that you simply step on the pedal -- as in, touch it with your foot -- to engage it, and then just step off the pedal for true bypass.

What does it sound like?

Check out the two audio samples below, both of which are from Morley Pedals’ official website:

Morley Bad Horsie Sample 1

Morley Bad Horsie Sample 2

You also can check out Morley’s official demo video for this pedal, featuring Tommy Bolan, below. (And feel free to watch this additional video by Gearmanndude, who reviews countless pedals from all makers, large and small.)

MSRP: $204 | Learn more about this pedal.

Real McCoy Custom Joe Walsh Signature Wah

The Joe Walsh Signature Wah by Real McCoy Custom has been on Walsh’s pedal board (which you can see here) since late 2007, when the company, also known as RMC, began producing the pedal.

The pedal — which happens to be the company’s first signature model — was designed according to Walsh’s specs and aims to reproduce the wah sounds heard on Walsh’s early recordings.

The Walsh model features true bypass, an exclusive RMC ROC-POT potentiometer and easily adjustable rocker tension. As a visual bonus, the flame graphics on the chassis were created by artist Perry Hall according to — once again — Walsh’s specs.

What does it sound like?

This pedal doesn’t leave much of a footprint on YouTube (no foot/pedal pun intended). Hopefully, RMC will create and post an official demo video. Until then, you’ll find only one or two poor-quality videos on YouTube, plus this helpful video from

MSRP: $235 | For more info about this pedal, visit

Jim Dunlop Z-45 Zakk Wylde Signature WahYou know any wah made for Zakk Wylde is going to be rough, tough and road-ready, and this metal-cased behemoth of a pedal is all of that and more.Used by Wylde with both Ozzy and Black Label Society, the Z-45 from Dunlop is a wah pedal that, in the words Guitar World gear reviewer Eric Kirkland, will make "each note cry with a deep and evil-sounding moan that resolved into an emotional peak."The secret to the Z-45's warm, cutting tones is the Fasel inductor, which was responsible for some of the most iconic wah sounds of the late '60s. A longtime user of the Jimi Hendrix Cry Baby, Wylde made sure his signature medal had both a "classic" feel as well as more than enough thickness cut through loads of gain.What does it sound like?Here's a video from Dunlop — featuring Wylde — that introduces and demos the Jim Dunlop Z-45 Zakk Wylde Signature Wah: MSRP: $200.55 | Learn more about this pedal.