20 November 2012

Pedal Effects: 3 wah comparison


Ah, the Wah!.
Who didn't hear Hendrix' accrobacies with his wah?. Who didn't loved the wah in "Shaft in Harlem"?.
The wah is one of the simpler effects (from the complexity perspective) but one of the most difficult to master.
The wah is all about its core voice, that depends a lot on the kind of inductor being used, the sweep range and the central frequency that has the biggest bump.
But, that's not enough. Most of us developed a high sensibility in our hands but, no so much in our feet and, the wah is all about feet sensibility.
It's an awesome expression pedal but, takes a while to make it work in the way you need at a certain passage. From subtles changes in the central frequency to wide sweeps, the control of a wah is a big weapon for a guitarist but, not all the wahs work the same. Every maker offers one or more models with different characteristics and, some wahs fit better the needs of a particular player than others.

In my case, I prefer wahs based in the Italian Inductor, the early British Wahs. I am not interested on wahs using the American Inductor type, because I fill more human-voiced the Italina one.
That's why, in this comparison, I am leaving out the Morley Bad Horsie 2 wah and, just comparing three British-voiced wahs, instead.

The 3 wahs

The simpler one is the Vox 847. A reedition of the old Voxes, with true bypass modification, what is a clear benefit over vintage units, that were well known as true tone-suckers.
Remember that Jimi Hendrix started all with a Vox wah, before it was hardly modified by Roger Mayer, as the taste of Jimi was changing while recording and performing.
I hear no noises in this wah and, the rocket works well. Nice and wide sweep range, can cover from low to high frequencies and have a good central frequency. Straight forward, simple and effective.
The drawback with the 847 is that it can lead you to issues if you are planning to use it with a vintage fuzz.
The 847 isn't buffered when on so, the fight for the pedalboard chain is assured.

The Real McCoy RMC4 goes so close as possible to the awesome Vox Picture Wahs that started all this.
The Vox Picture Wah was named like this because the picture of McCoy was stamped on the back. The Wah was trying to model the Trumpet accrobatics of McCoy and, that's why that picture.
The Real McCoy RMC4 bases its design in that early wah but, adds true bypass switching and a buffer to make it fuzz-friendly.
Without any doubt, this is the rawest sounding unit in this comparison. The sound is deeply vocal, very human-like and has an awesome sweeping range and central frequency.
The drawback with this wah is that goes noisy with the time and, that the electronics can catch RF interferences and other weird noises (do you remember Machine Gun's by Hendrix, catching some Radio talking in the middle of the song?).

The versatiler of all them is the Roger Mayer Vision Wah. Since Mayer was Hendrix' tech, he knows a lot about how to achieve outstanding effects that work flawless for studio work. Roger Mayer uses state-of-art electronics components, maybe because it has an history in the Navy, what makes him to every time choose military ranged components.
From those 3, the purest or hi-fi sound is coming from Roger Mayer's wah. No noises at all and, the wah has a lot of versatiliy.
One knob controls the tone of the wah so, you can make it sounding more bassy or more trebbly but, I choosed to let the control to match the bypass sound of the guitar.
Other knob controls the output gain. I choosed to let that control to unitary level, to don't hear any difference when switching on the wah. But, the good thing is that you can always tweak gain and tone to your needs.
Four switches provide 16 combinations, where the frequential content, sweep depth and middle frequency change radically, from very vocal to very thin and, everything in between.
I recognize, this can make a new wah-user to be scared and, makes difficult for a non schooled wah-ear to choose the right switch combinations. To walk around the 16 combinations can be a hard job but, at least, you have total control over which kind of wah you are after.
The Vision Wah is also buffered when engaged so, no issues with vintage fuzzes.
The case is made of Carbon Fiber, what makes this wah way expensiver but, it has some other interesting things. By example, the typical 3PDT swith isn't a mechanical one but an electromagnetic one. That means that the clicking pops of switching it dissapear and that the component will last more time, since there is no mechanical fatigue. Same happens with the rocket pot, that works with an optical cell instead of typical mechanical pot, what removes any noise or crack when rotating the pot and, makes it to last longer time.

Tone wise, I prefer the deep vocal sound of the RMC4 but, this wah is way noiser than the other two. When moving the rocket up and down, you can hear the mechanical noise in your sound and, the floor noise is always greater than in the other two wahs.
The best filtered one is the Vision Wah but, I didn't heard any kind of disturbing noise in the 847 at all.

Playing with the switches of the Roger Mayer's you can get close to the sounds of the other two wahs but, I wasn't never able to exactly mime the sound of the RMC4.
Since I can go very close and, I prefer to better control my floor noise, that is already an issue because I am using vintage-correct single coils, I would leave the Vision Wah in my pedalboard.
The drawback is that is a huge pedal, wider than the other two and a bit longer (Roger Mayer is used to big effect boxes, BTW).

The Video

Even that isn't an in depth walking on every pedal, the first part compares the sound in bypass and switched on mode for each wah, trying to cover different sweep ranges and wah works.
I am taking more time with the Vision Wah because, I wanted to check how each switch is actually affecting the sound, to choose the better combination to my taste at the end of the video.
My choosed combination goes close to the sound of the Picture Wah but, it isn't an exact clone.


  1. HOla
    Has probado los Mision Wah??

    Los importa AL´s en gijon.



    1. ¡Hombre, tu por aquí!.

      Pues no, no los he probado. Ni siquiera sabía de su existencia. ¿Qué me puedes contar sobre ellos?


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