The Top 10 Best Wah Pedals for Guitar in 2021

Whether you call it a wah pedal, a wah-wah, or anything in between, the wah is perhaps the most iconic and widely used guitar effect in music history. From Jimi Hendrix to Zakk Wylde, countless legendary axemen have leveraged a wah in their music to achieve their signature tones. 

If you’re new to playing guitar, or if you’re looking to polish up your wah knowledge, you’re in the right place. Read on as we cover everything you need to know about the wah pedal and share ten of the best wah pedals on the market today. 

best wah pedals for guitar

What Is the Wah Effect?

Wah wah pedals are a guitar effect that alters your signal’s tone to create an expressive sound that mimics the human voice. At its core, a wah pedal is a simple frequency filter that changes the sound as the pedal moves through a spectral glide. 

The first wah pedal made its way to market in the mid-60s, but players like Chet Atkins were using homemade effects to produce a similar sound almost a decade earlier. It didn’t take long for guitarists to adopt the effect as their own, and players like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton of Cream were using wah effects to create their signature sound by the late 60s. 

How Do Wah Pedals Affect Tone?

The easiest way to understand how the wah effect works is to think about it as a tone knob for your feet. These pedals provide a variable EQ boost that player’s control through an expression pedal. 

In the toe-down position, it’s like having an additional tone knob on your guitar turned up to ten. In the opposite position, it’s like the tone knob has been rolled back to zero. There are also many positions in between that provide players with a powerful and expressive guitar tone.

When you manipulate the wah pedal with your foot, a gear inside the pedal rotates a potentiometer back and forth, which creates the distinctive sound that’s so emblematic of rock and roll. 

How to Choose the Best Wah Pedal for You

Before you select one of the pedals from our list below, you’ll need to know what to look for to find the best wah pedal for you! Be sure to consider these criteria before deciding on your perfect pedal. 

Potentiometer vs. Optical

The classic wah effect features a potentiometer inside the pedal that you manipulate with your foot to create the effect. This is the traditional configuration, and most pedals feature a potentiometer to control the effect. Their warm and vintage sound characterizes them, but they can wear out after years of regular use. 

Optical wahs use an optical filter to create the wah sound, and they’re virtually indestructible. While these pedals are the most durable, they lose some of their vintage sensibility for a more modern sound. Most players prefer a potentiometer-based model, but if you’re into modern metal and hard rock, you may want to try an optical wah. 


Most effects have straightforward designs with no knobs or switches to worry about. Most players agree, there’s no need for any additional bells and whistles. However, some players argue that the best wah pedals offer greater control over the wah sound. Features like a switchable boost, adjustable Q control, or a voicing selector can dramatically change the sound of your pedal. 

You’ll need to decide if you’d like an effect with additional controls or if you prefer the tried-and-true approach without any bells and whistles.

Build Quality

Manufacturers build the best wahs like tanks, and they build them to stand up to years on the road. The housing and internal circuitry of a wah represent the bulk of the manufacturer’s costs, and some brands try to cut corners to save money. Avoid plastic pedals, as they won’t be able to put up with the wear and tear that a cast metal pedal can. 

The Top 10 Best Wah Pedals in 2021

Now that you have all the info you need to select one of the best wah pedals let’s get down to business and check out our top wah pedals list.

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal Overall

If you’re looking for the tone that started it all, you won’t get much closer than the original Jim Dunlop CryBaby standard wah pedal. The Original Cry Baby features a 100K ohm Hot Potz potentiometer to provide the effect’s sharp snap. This pedal also features Dunlop’s legendary die-cast construction, and it’s always at the top of the list when it comes to the best wah pedals. 

Features & Specs

  • Hot Potz potentiometer for vintage tone 
  • The original Cry Baby
  • Die-cast construction
  • Battery or 9V power adapter

Who Should Use This?

Any player looking to capture the vintage sensibility of greats like Jimi, Clapton, or Gilmour is sure to love the often imitated industry-standard Original Dunlop Cry Baby wah. 

Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal on a Budget

Players looking for classic wah tone on a budget are sure to love the Electro Harmonix Wailer wah. This wah looks and feels like a classic Cry Baby or Vox wah, thanks to its rack-and-pinion gear mechanism, vintage voicing, and classic treaded foot pedal. But unlike most of the best wah pedals, it’s available for under $70.

This Electro Harmonix pedal is also a good choice for players who aren’t looking to lug around a heavy die-cast wah. At just over a pound and a half, the Wailer is about half as heavy as most quality wahs on the market. 

Features & Specs

  • Lightweight aluminum build 
  • Classic wah tone
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Electro Harmonix Wailer wah is the perfect pedal for guitarists looking for a classic-sounding wah with an affordable price point. This Electro Harmonix wah sounds quite similar to vintage wahs from Dunlop or Vox, but it’s significantly more affordable.

Vox V847-A Classic Reissue Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal for Vintage Tone

The OG Cry Baby is among the best wah pedals ever, but the Vox V847 was first, and it’s still arguably number one. This wah offers distinctive looks with its heavy cast base and shiny stainless steel rocker pedal. 

Recently, Vox overhauled the circuitry on this pedal, switching out the inductor with one that offers a voicing closer to the original from the mid-60s. The resulting Vox V847A is a rich and expressive wah with a wide range and a smooth response that all players will appreciate. 

Features & Specs

  • Upgraded inductor 
  • Includes Vox carrying case
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use This?

Tone purists who are hunting for the vintage sound of the original Warwick and Vox wahs of the mid-60s are sure to love the Vox V847.

Dunlop Mini 535Q Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal for Tiny Pedalboards

Every guitarist needs a wah, but not everyone has the space on their pedalboard. This ingenious wah pedal from Dunlop is about the size of a standard stompbox, but it offers all the tone of a standard Cry Baby. 

The Dunlop Cry Baby Mini also includes a Q control, which allows you to set the exact frequency range your music calls for, and a switchable boost function for taking leads and solos to the next level. It also boasts true bypass circuitry that won’t color your tone. It might look tiny, but the Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Mini offers a huge tone, true bypass, and plenty of attractive features. 

Features & Specs

  • Full-size tone, pint-size pedal
  • Adjustable Q knob
  • Switchable boost
  • True bypass circuitry
  • Die-cast construction
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use This?

Any guitarist with a cramped pedalboard is sure to love the Dunlop Cry Baby Mini, which only takes up as much space as a standard stompbox. 

Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie Electro-Optical Contour Wah Pedal

Best Optical Wah

Players who prefer the reliability and instant-on operation of an optical wah pedal are sure to love the Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 contour wah from Morley. This signature wah is built to Steve’s exacting specifications and offers two operating modes to deliver Vai’s iconic signature sound. 

You can use this signature model traditionally or in Contour Mode, which provides controls for wah Q and output. Engaging this wah pedal is as simple as stepping on the foot pedal to engage it and taking it off the pedal to turn it off. As you’d expect, the pedal features glow-in-the-dark custom Vai graphics throughout. 

Features & Specs

  • Optical circuitry for ease of use and reliability
  • Contour mode with controls for wah Q and output 
  • Original Morley size
  • Rugged rolled steel case
  • Clear-tone buffer for improved signal clarity

Who Should Use This?

Vai fanatics and any guitarist who wants the convenience and reliability of an optical wah will want to get their hands on the Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2 contour wah, arguably the best wah wah pedal on the market.

Fulltone Clyde Deluxe Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal with High-end Construction

Fulltone pedals have been all the rage with guitarists since the early 90s, thanks to their fantastic tone and attention to detail. Many tone purists argue that the Clyde line is responsible for the best wah pedals on earth. The Clyde Deluxe is a testament to that, and it provides an unbeatable mix of features with impressive craftsmanship. 

The Clyde Deluxe offers the same high-end true bypass switching as the Clyde Standard and adds a level control and three different voicing modes that bring a world of classic wah tones to your fingertips. 

The Whacked mode is a pumped-up version of the Fulltone classic wah sound, while Jimi mode provides plenty of classic Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Hendrix vibes. Rounding out the voicing selection is the Shaft mode, which Dunlop voices after the classic wahs of the 70s funk era. 

Features & Specs

  • Input level control
  • Three voicing modes
  • True bypass circuitry
  • Custom Fulltone components throughout

Who Should Use This?

Guitarists looking for a versatile wah that they build by hand to exacting specifications are sure to appreciate the Clyde Deluxe from Fulltone, which is among the best wah pedals available.

Boss PW-3 Wah Pedal

Best Wah Pedal with Multiple Voicings

One of the most unique sounding and player-friendly wahs on the market, the PW-3 from Boss, is built-tough by arguably the biggest guitar effects manufacturers in the business. The PW-3 is streamlined to take up less space and features adjustable pedal tension to customize the pedal feel. 

The Boss PW-3 has two voicing modes. The vintage voice provides a classic 60s style wah sound, while the rich mode provides a throatier voicing that doesn’t cut bass frequencies as sharply as a traditional wah does.

Features & Specs

  • Analog construction
  • 9V battery or power supply
  • Two voicing modes
  • Adjustable pedal tension
  • Streamlined to take up less space

Who Should Use This?

Guitar players looking for a versatile wah in a streamlined form will love the Boss PW-3. It’s also ideal for players who want to be able to customize how the pedal feels under their foot. 

Xotic Wah XW-1 Guitar Effects Pedal

Best Wah Pedal for Versatility

Players who need a wah that can tackle the widest range of tones will want to get their hands on the XW-1 from Xotic. Xotic models this pedal after the original Italian-made Clyde McCoy wah from 1967, and with the exception of the Dunlop Custom Audio Electronics model, it may be the most premium wah guitar pedal available.

The wah offers controls for bias, wah Q, and treble and bass with an impressive +/- 15dB of cut and boost for each frequency. The pedal and stopper are both adjustable, so you can quickly dial in the perfect feel under your foot. 

Features & Specs

  • Bias, wah Q, and EQ controls
  • Adjustable pedal and stopper
  • 20% smaller than standard wahs 
  • Self-lubricating bushing for smooth operation

Who Should Use It?

Guitarists who want the most versatile and customizable wah they can get are sure to agree that the XW-1 from Xotic effects is among the best wah pedals around. If you like tinkering with knobs, this is the pedal for you. 

Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Signature Cry Baby Wah

Best Signature Wah Pedal

Dream Theater fans and knob tweakers, rejoice! Dunlop meticulously crafts the Dunlop Cry Baby JP95 to John Petrucci’s exacting specifications, and they broke the mold with this one. 

This signature model takes the tried-and-true circuitry and build quality of the original Cry Baby from Dunlop and adds to that a volume knob and Q bias control for dialing in an ideal wah tone. So far, we’re buying it. Dunlop then adds a unique 6-band EQ, which you won’t find on any other wah, so you’ll be able to fine-tune the perfect wah tone for your sound. 

Features & Specs

  • Classic Cry Baby circuitry
  • Unique gunmetal finish
  • Controls for Q bias, volume, and 6-band EQ
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use It?

Dream Theater fans flocked to this wah in droves when it was first released, but it’s also the ideal wah for any lead player, DT fan or not. If you’re serious about dialing in a head-turning signature tone, this is among the best wah pedals for you.

Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah

Best Auto Wah 

Looking for an excellent wah tone but don’t feel like being tethered to an expression pedal? The Boss AW-3 may be the answer to your prayers. This dynamic and expressive auto-wah offers all the classic wah tones you’re after in the form of a set-it-and-forget-it stomp. 

The AW-3 offers controls for decay, manual, sensitivity, and mode. There are five modes in total, including a humanizer mode, which approximates the human voice. The mode knob also has a tap tempo function, so you can dial in each song’s exact tempo for precise wah sounds. 

Features & Specs

  • Inputs for guitar or bass
  • Five-modes: up, down, sharp, humanizer, and tap tempo
  • Achieve great wah tones without an expression pedal
  • Expression pedal input
  • 5-year warranty

Who Should Use It?

Guitarists and bassists in the market for an auto-wah or envelope filter should check this pedal out. The Boss AW-3 is also perfect for players who want a wah but don’t want to have to control it with their foot. 

How to Use a Wah Pedal

The most common way to use wah pedals is called “sweeping.” To execute this technique, you’ll “sweep” through the pedal’s range from back to front in rhythm with the song you’re playing. You can achieve wildly different sounds depending on whether you sweep through the range in half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, or any other subdivision. 

Many players will also “park” their wah pedals to emphasize a particular frequency range. This technique is especially popular during solos and lead parts. Guitarists will engage their wah and keep the pedal “parked” at a specific location to help their lead playing cut through the mix. 

Wah Pedal Signal Chain Location

Wah pedals are one of the easiest guitar effects to place correctly in the signal chain. You’ll want to place your wah at the very beginning or very end of your chain. 

Most guitarists place their wah pedals at the beginning of their signal chain, and this placement provides all the full and throaty sound your wah can offer. 

Some players will also place their wah at the very end of their signal chain. This placement provides a different tone since the wah is being driven by your other pedals’ output more than your guitar. Putting the wah at the end of your chain rolls back some of the harsh treble you usually hear when the wah is in the toe-down position. 

Placing your wah at the end of the signal chain offers a unique tone that’s more in line with the far-out style of guitarists like Tom Morello. It’s great for experimenting, but most guitarists leave their wah pedal at the front of the chain since that’s the best way to achieve the classic wah sound. 

Are You Ready for Some Great Wah Tone?

Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton. Joe Satriani. Steve Vai. Zakk Wylde. Mark Tremonti. What do all these guitarists have in common? They all rely on one of the best wah pedals to deliver the signature tones that have made them some of the most legendary rock stars on the planet. 

You might not be on their level of rock stardom (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t add one of the top wah pedals to your pedalboard. Each of the ten effects above could easily be the perfect wah pedal. 

Depending on your playing style, needs, and budget, you should have no trouble selecting one of the best wah pedals for your pedalboard.

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