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4 Degrees of Compact Enclosure Wah Pedals!

Dr ScientistDunlop EffectsEnvelope Filter and Auto WahFulltone EffectsGuitar Gear Improvements and PrototypesModulationPitchWah and Fixed Wah+-
2020GPX4DegreesOfWah700.jpg

This post was inspired by a series of confluent events which impacted the use of slot #4 in my pedal-chain. Quite a while back I went through a phase of Mini CryBaby Wah Pedals - first the standard CBM95, and then the more advanced CBM535Q with additional controls. I was quite fond of the 535Q Mini for a while but eventually became somewhat frustrated with it and decided to switch to auto-wah / envelope filtering instead.

 

My auto-wah as such of choice for the longest time was the Mu-Tron Micro-Tron III - which had a lovely expressive quack to it. While more recently I elected to go with Dr Scientist’s Dusk Dynamic Filter - which has quite a bit more to it for a greater variety of high quality signal manipulations and superb quacky tones!

 

Back when I was alternating the CBM95 and CBM535Q I also dabbled with the CSP030 CryBaby Q-Zone Fixed Wah - which essentially does away with the treadle / rocker component and allows you to manually dial in your own cocked-wah sound. So in real terms another type of auto-wah really to most intents and purposes.

 

In any case I had been very much settled into my auto-wah phase when I attended Mikey Demus’ Redbeard Effects Live Showcase at this year’s Birmingham Guitar Show - the day before my Coronavirus isolation started on March 1st! Mikey employed some really cool wah-pedal flourishes throughout his set which really encouraged me to reconsider using a more manual style wah pedal again.

 

I had for a long time quite liked the concept of Fulltone’s WahFull - but was never really 100% happy with its form factor and overall execution - I somewhat thought it could do more in a smaller enclosure. So I decided to visualise my own take on that sort of execution in a compact format enclosure - courtesy of another GPX Deviation Prototype Visualisation - AKA the ’Bump-Wah’. This imagined pedal essentially marries together the best aspects of the Q-Zone and WahFull and adds in a couple of extra features as I will detail below.

 

Not long after I had completed that visualisation Dunlop announced its CBM535AR or Mini 535Q variant with Auto-Return feature on the treadle / rocker - which seemed to me the perfect solution to one of the aspects that most frustrated me about the use of manual wahs - the whole switch on/off mechanic and the need to manually return the treadle to base after every off-click!

 

I obviously own the Q-Zone and Dr Scientist Dusk thus far - and I will most definitely snap up a CMB535AR when it turns up in UK retail any week now and hopefully before the end of September. And then I can but live in hope that some enterprising pedal builder / innovator will take it upon themselves to eventually develop something close-enough along the lines of my evolved Bumb-Wah concept!

 

Here follow the further details - per pictured order above :


Dunlop CSP030 CryBaby Q-Zone Fixed Wah - £150

There are quite a number of Fixed Wah pedals on the market - including Daredevil's Atomic Wah, EHX's Cock Fight and Magnetic Effects' Midphoria. While my current preferred variety is the Dunlop / MXR Custom Shop CryBaby Q-Zone - there is also a standard range 3-knob Q-Zone, while my preference is very much for the CSP030 designation as pictured and featured here. This has the most extensive / best mix of controls for me and delivers very satisfactory results.

 

Its controls are as follows :

  • Boost = Output level essentially - up to +16dB
  • Bandpass = Centre Frequency for selected Frequency Range
  • Range = High / Medium / Low Frequency Range Cluster
  • Q-Adjust = Control the Frequency Cluster Bandpass Width
  • Expand = Extends Low-End Sweep, and Increases Gain

Dunlop CBM535AR CryBaby Mini 535Q Auto-Return Wah - £160

This has essentially all the core features of the previous CBM535Q, but with a couple of very significant new innovations :

  • Boost = Button to activate Boost Level / Volume (up to +16dB)
  • Range = Select Frequency Cluster : 270Hz - 1300Hz / 320Hz - 1650Hz / 360Hz - 1840Hz / 420Hz - 2100Hz
  • Volume = Control level of Boost - up to +16dB and if activated by Boost button above!
  • Q-Adjust = Control the Frequency Cluster Bandpass Width

The unique innovations are that instead of having a separate switch which you have to press the treadle down the whole way to activate and then lever back - this time around the treadle is spring-loaded as such for auto-return to base - and moreover activates as soon as you nudge it just the slightest bit - so working very much in a dynamic momentary fashion - rather than the clicky/clunky on-switch latch-on/latch-off modus operandi of the previous models!

 

This is a fantastic usability innovation which takes the often slightly clunky Wah pedal format a considerable number of steps forward. I will be rotating this in as a manual alternative to the Dr Scientist Dusk on probably quite a frequent basis.

 

NOTE that there are no demo videos out yet - which means the pedal is likely at least a month from arriving in shops - I've featured the previous largely same feature set CBM535Q for now - which I will switch out once there is an official new demo.


GPX Deviantion Bump-Wah Prototype Visualisation - N/A

As briefly touched on in the intro, this is a visual prototype of my own devising - a GPX Deviation as I tend to call these exercises - based on the confluence of the CryBaby Q-Zone CSP030 and the Fulltone WahFull amongst a variety of other devices. This dates back to the time when I used to get somewhat frustrated with traditional rocker / treadle wah pedals - in particular the need to press down on the rocker fully to activate the pedal, then return the rocker to base, and press down again in the other direction to unlatch and bypass the pedal. I just found the way of operating those pedals rather clunky and frustrating. Of course the recent arrival of the CryBaby CBM535AR somewhat resolves and mitigates this.

 

I determined back before then, that rather than having any sort of rocker - it may be better to have a sort of over-sized rotator knob - a little more refined yet larger than on the WahFull - where you could easily manipulate that with your foot - and where a couple of additional features would give you a little more dynamic quack and extra sizzle.

 

To those ends the Bump-Was has two knobs different to the other pedals of this kind - where 'Sweep' governs the rate of change and directionality of the Wah curve as manipulated by the 'bumper' - and so you can for instance reverse the profile to achieve those Gilmour-esque Seagull sounds. The Warp knob introduces a second modulation - I thought a spacey Phaser or Flanger would be great here to throw in an extra dimension of sizzle. I even conceived that the pedal's Engage footswitch might be a Jackson-Audio-style multi-mode variety which allows you to step through different 'Warp' modulation modes. This would be an entirely different kind of wah pedal therefore to near enough anything that has come before.

 

  • Range = Undecided whether this should be a more fluid sweeping control or more of a rotary-selector with 4 or 5 specific frequency range clusters - not unlike the other examples
  • Sweep = This is essentially a movement sensitivity and direction vector control - to allow you to reverse the sweep of the wah in either direction and to impact on how fine or coarse the gearing is on the 'bumper' so you can easily achieve Gilmour's 'Seagull Effect' for instance and other unique and unusual textures
  • Volume = Labelled as Boost on many of these other pedals - essentially the output level of the effect
  • Q-Width = Control the Frequency Cluster Bandpass Width, of referred to as simply Q-Adjust
  • Warp = This is a secondary modulation applied to the quack of the wah - probably a flanger or phaser type modulation for extra squelch and sizzle - although we could apply a variety of different Warp effects here courtesy of that Jackson-Audio-style footswitch mode switching
  • Pup-Twkr = Pickup Tweaker - an Input Sensitivity control as such to tune the pedal to your pickup output
  • Engage Footswitch = Bypass switch at a basic level, but also most likely a Jackson-Audio-style multi-mode switcher to step through different modes of 'Warp' modulation
  • Freeq! = The Bump / Bumper Wheel - an enlarged rubberised knob for controlling the wah instead of the traditional treadle. Here I have not quite decided whether to add additional functions on this - e.g. tilt or push/press - generally though you manipulate it with your foot along several different control vectors - and control the speed, direction and extent of its impact courtesy of the Sweep and Pup-Twkr controls

NOTE that as currently a fictional prototype visualisation there is no video demo - I've included a video of the nearest-match Fulltone WahFull instead!


Dr Scientist Dusk Dynamic Filter - £190

This pedal has been featured extensively on this site already - and I don't really have any more to say than has already been said several times over. Just a fantastic all-rounder dynamic filter pedal with 3 great higher-level modes and no less than 11 sub-modes. Delivers beautifully richly detailed and textured quacks, blips and squelches via analog OTA chip. This will remain my principal choice for slot #4 - with these others on the page being subbed in occasionally on rotation as the mood fits.

 

3 Modes :

  • Cutoff
  • Envelope
  • Low Frequency Oscillation / LFO

And 11-Mode push-button Sub-Mode / Function selector per each of the 3 Modes

For Cutoff we have :

  • Slow Sweep
  • Medium Sweep
  • Fast Sweep

For Envelope there is :

  • Sweep Up
  • Sweep Down

And for LFO you have 6 Waveforms :

  • Sinewave
  • Ramp Up
  • SAW Wave / Ramp Down
  • Square Wave
  • Sample & Hold
  • Random

The dual footswitch are enabled with smart functionality too

The Multi Footswitch has different functions per Mode :

  • Cutoff = Automated Filter Sweep
  • Envelope = Envelope Freeze
  • LFO = Tap-Tempo / LFO Speed Ramp Up; hold gives you Speed Ramp Down

The Bypass Footswitch has a secondary Hold Preset Function :

  • Press for True Bypass, Hold to load and cycle through 5 onboard Presets

Final Thoughts

There's obviously several other pedals at a similar level of high fidelity - with various alternatives, backups and understudies easily up to the task - albeit I feel my choices deliver a little more pizazz overall. I dare say there are plenty out there for whom the Fulltone WahFull is perfect - while I'm hoping and waiting on something to approximate my own Bump-Wah visualisation.

 

I have only one of these left to get - the CMB535AR - which will hopefully happen in September - otherwise it's just a waiting game as usual - and seeing what the more progressive builders come up with.

 

I feel each of these is the best in their respective categories and particularly for my preferences. I've also thought that Wah could be accomplished by a similar momentary function / mechanic to the DigiTech Whammy Ricochet - solely based on a momentary footswitch - possibly that's another variation here - or possibly just a different operational mode on the Bump-Wah / Touch-Wah.

 

One thing's for sure is that I really don't like those ginormous flipper size OG wah pedals - they're just not in the slightest pedalboard friendly - which is an essential consideration for me. What do you all think? Is there something obvious I have overlooked within these criteria?

 

UPDATE - as is often the case and upon general wider consideration while waiting for the outside chance of the Bump-Wah to become a reality, I have decided that I will probably acquire a Fulltone WahFull at some stage - in fact have ordered one such just now!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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