Posted by: kubiakl | July 5, 2011

Searching For An Oasis Of Information…

… In the desert of stupidity that makes up our internet.

I want a wah.  It’s been years since I used one – I got rid of my cheap Dunlop Crybaby because a) I wasn’t good with it and 2) it didn’t sound great.

Now, in retrospect, it could have been the rest of my setup that caused the horrible tone.  Solid state amps and digital effects probably did no favors to the Crybaby, which many say is plagued with issues already.  The fact that they can be a bit of a tone-suck in bypass mode and the cheap potentiometers used (mine developed a weird bug partway through the sweep) caused me to finally toss it.

And to be honest, I haven’t missed it.  Wah is an overused effect and I have never felt a pressing need for it.  But the other night I was playing a new idea in Garageband.  The guitar was recorded as a line-in, instead of miking the amp, because it was late at night.  When I listened to the playback of my solo I started messing with different effects including the wah.

It made me realize that, when used with taste and restraint, wah can add a very unique touch to some of the notes.  So I did what I do in these situations: researched the hell out of wahs.

Of course everyone has an opinion, but it was hard to find really useful information.  What I needed was a true bypass wah with an old-school vibe that would work with a fuzz pedal.  Apparently many wahs don’t match up with fuzz pedals due to impedance issues (at least if the wah is before the fuzz).  There is a buffer kit that can be installed… but I just wanted one that worked out of the box for the few times I want to use a wah.

I found quite a few that seemed like good choices but the demos I found weren’t very good at demoing the different sounds of the pedal.  One guy could have easily answered my question – he had one of the wahs I was looking at plugged into a fuzz pedal similar to my London Fuzz (he had an Analogman Sun Face), turned both of them on… and the bastard DIDN’T EVEN MOVE THE TREADLE.  Before the fuzz was on he was rocking that thing like he was in a 70’s funk band.  Afterwards he just kind of let it sit, only moving it a little to change the tone.

Thanks pal.  Thanks for showing that your wah is capable of the same damn thing my tone knob is capable of.

It came down to three choices finally.  The Budda Budwah, the Dunlop MC404 designed by Custom Audio Electronics, and the BBE Ben Wah.

RMC Teese, Area 51, Fulltone, and Wilson were all looked at but dismissed for high price and availability.  Wilson has a 5-6 week lead time on his pedals.  Geoffrey Teese supposedly makes a great fuzz friendly wah but those were a little steep (and the Wheels Of Fire wah has an ugly red paint job).  Area 51 and Fulltone Clydes were both just a bit high.  Wilson was in my price range, but the lead time wasn’t something I want to deal with now.  His wahs start at $160 and go up depending on what options you want.  I believe all of them include a buffer for fuzz friendliness.

The Budwah is the least adjustable, but quite a few reviewers said they felt no need to adjust it.  It has a “tight vocal sweep”.  The BBE has a cool “Harmony” control that allows you to adjust the amount of sweep available to dial in your sound.

Then there’s the CAE MC404.  It’s a collaboration with Custom Audio Electronics and Dunlop, so it has the Crybaby housing (with a white CAE logo on top).  This thing is loaded with two Fasel inductors, a red and a yellow, as well as the MXR boost circuitry on the output side.  Internal trimpots can adjust the sweep and gain of the pedal, an outboard knob adjusts the boost, and two small kick switches turn the boost on and off as well as switch between the Fasel inductors.

The yellow inductor has a vintage tone, more treble-y, while the red has a more pronounced midrange and bass feel.  The idea of switching the voicing of the pedal on the fly was very appealing, and one guy demoed it with a fuzz and said he never had an issue.

The ability to switch voicings, the boost, the reputation of Custom Audio Electronics, and finally price and availability enticed me enough to lay my money down.  I should be able to write a review shortly.  And I’ll try to answer my own question, just in case others are wondering the same thing.


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