The Cry Baby Wah Pedal is one of the most iconic guitar pedals in history, having been utilized by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Kirk Hammett. It’s a timeless effect still popular among guitarists wishing to add emotive and expressive wailing to their solos.
So, without wasting time, let’s dive into my review of the Cry Baby Wah Pedal.
Cry Baby Wah Pedal Rating
The Cry Baby Wah is one of those pedals that almost every guitarist will own at some point. It’s an essential tool for any guitar player looking to add some expression and character to their playing. The pedal was first released in 1966 and has since become an effects pedal staple.
Frontman Philosophy Score
- 10 inches x 4 inches x 2.5 inches
- True bypass pedal
- 9V battery or AC adapter powered
- Frequency range: 350 Hz to 2.2 kHz (peak frequency variable)
- Q control: Modifies the bandpass shape of the wah
- Weighs 2.9 lbs
- One of the most popular and recognizable guitar effects pedals ever made.
- It enhances your playing with character and emotion.
- The pedal has a highly customizable sound with an adjustable sweep range.
- The pedal’s construction is tough and built to last.
- Beginners may struggle to keep their wah movements in sync with the song.
- It is more expensive than some other wah pedal brands.
How much does it cost?
The standard Cry Baby Wah is a mid-range pedal that costs around $100. This is more expensive than some other wah pedals, but considering the brand recognition and classic sound of the Cry Baby, it is a fair price. Signature models and variations of the Cry Baby will cost significantly more (up to $250).
My score: 5 out of 5
40% of the total score
The Cry Baby Wah has a distinct tone and personality that no other effect can recreate. The pedal has a wide and adjustable sweep range that can be customized to fit your playing style. The pedal has been used by countless guitarists due to its unique and characteristic sound.
How is the wah sound created?
A wah pedal is, in essence, a sweeping band-pass filter that alters the tone of the guitar signal in real-time. When you move the pedal up and down, the filter’s center frequency changes, resulting in a sweeping effect that extends and closes the frequency range. This process creates the iconic “wah wah” sound.
Heel up vs. heel down
In essence, putting your toe down and heel up adds more high frequencies to your tone, while putting your heel down and toe up takes away the high frequencies from your guitar tone. Those are the basics, but let’s dive deeper into how the pedal sounds in each position.
Heel down: the famous quack sound
The wah pedal often filters off low frequencies at its lowest setting, producing a thin and trebly sound. As you move the pedal forward, the frequency range steadily expands, enabling more middle frequencies to come through. This is where you obtain the iconic “quack” sound associated with the Cry Baby Wah pedal.
Examples of heel down wah:
- Jimi Hendrix‘s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” is a fantastic example of employing the wah pedal in the heel-down position. The unique “bump” sound of the wah pedal activating in the heel-down position may be heard in the entrance riff. This produces a more muffled, bass-heavy tone, often employed in funk and rhythm guitar playing.
- In Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” Eric Clapton utilizes the wah pedal in the heel-down position for the main riff in this song, creating a deep and throaty tone.
Heel up: piercing lead guitar tone
As you pump the pedal forward, it expands even further, enabling more high frequencies to get through. When pushed into the heel-up position, the Cry Baby Wah Pedal will produce an extremely bright and piercing sound that can cut through the mix and is generally used during the climaxes of guitar solos.
Examples of heel-up wah:
- To achieve the scratchy, muted sound heard in the beginning riff and throughout “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, guitarist Tom Morello uses the heel-up position of the wah pedal.
- The guitar solo in Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” features Randy Rhoads’s use of the wah pedal with the heel-up position to produce a bright, cutting tone.
My score: 4.4 out of 5
30% of the total score
The Cry Baby Wah is simplicity at its finest.
It features a straightforward yet efficient design, which has stood the test of time. The effect is activated and deactivated by a single-foot switch, and the sweep range is controlled by a rocker pedal. The rocker pedal is incredibly smooth and easy to control. However, I must note that it may be a bit loose for beginner guitarists, making it more difficult to control.
My score: 4 out of 5
15% of the total score
The Cry Baby Wah is more expensive than other wah pedals on the market. However, the price is justified by the quality of the pedal. The Cry Baby Wah is made to last and can withstand the wear and tear of regular use.
The cost will also vary based on the model you select. Because of the additional customization and functionality, signature models might be more costly.
My score: 5 out of 5
15% of the total score
The Cry Baby Wah is built like a tank. It’s as tough as they get. The pedal made from sturdy materials that can take the wear and tear of performances and tours.
This pedal also has a true bypass, so when the effect is turned off, the signal goes straight through the guitar without going through the pedal at all.
Furthermore, Dunlop, the manufacturer of the Cry Baby Wah, provides a one-year guarantee on their pedals. If your pedal is malfunctioning, you can send it back to Dunlop for repair or replacement.
How does the Cry Baby Wah sound with other pedals?
From harsh and biting to expansive and psychedelic, Cry Baby Wah pedals pair well with other effects pedals. Here are some popular types of effects pedals that are used alongside the Cry Baby.
If you place an overdrive or distortion pedal before the wah pedal in your signal chain, the drive will add extra harmonics and sustain to the guitar’s signal, giving the wah pedal a more pronounced sound. It is very common for rock and heavy metal lead guitarists to use a distortion pedal alongside a wah.
Overdrive or distortion pedals with a wah can be heard in songs like “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.
Chorus pedals generate a rich, shimmering sound by repeating and slightly delaying the signal, making the overall sound more expansive. Using a chorus pedal with a Cry Baby Wah will also make the chorus effect more pronounced and allow it to cut through the mix.
Another modulation effect that produces a sweeping, jet-like sound is a flanger. When combined with a wah pedal, the flanger effect intensifies, and the sound becomes more “trippy”.
This is heard in songs such as “Barracuda” by Heart, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, and “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush.
A delay effect pedal produces an echo-like sound by repeating the guitar signal. When used in conjunction with a wah pedal, the wah effect can produce a more spacious sound by filtering the delayed signal.
Songs like “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, and “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer all contain these 2 effects combined.
Univibe is a modulation effect that mimics the sound of a revolving speaker. When combined with a wah pedal, the univibe effect gets more pronounced and focused, and the resulting oscillating guitar tone sounds more trippy and psychedelic.
Songs like “Machine Gun” by Jimi Hendrix, “Little Wing” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and “Who Knows” by Band of Gypsys are great examples of this.
Where did the guitar legends put the Cry Baby Wah on their pedalboard?
You can get a fair idea of how to use the wah within your existing pedalboard setup by getting a sneak peek into how some of the iconic guitar players used Cry Babys in their signal chain.
Signal chain: Cry Baby Wah > Fuzz Face > Octavia > Univibe > Marshall stack
Hendrix’s use of the wah pedal is prominent in several of his most well-known songs, including “Voodoo Child” and “Purple Haze.”
To achieve his characteristic psychedelic sound, he frequently layered it with other effects like the Fuzz Face and Octavia.
Eddie Van Halen
Signal chain: Cry Baby Wah > MXR Phase 90 > MXR Flanger > MXR 10-Band EQ > Marshall stack
Van Halen’s use of the wah pedal was a key element in the creation of many of his iconic songs, including “Eruption” and “Panama.”
To create a truly original and engaging tone, he frequently layered it with other modulation effects, such as the MXR Phase 90 and Flanger.
Signal chain: Cry Baby Wah > Digitech Whammy > Boss DD-3 Digital Delay > Boss TR-2 Tremolo > Marshall stack
Morello is noted for his creative use of effects pedals, including the Cry Baby Wah. He frequently used it in conjunction with the Digitech Whammy to produce an unusual pitch-shifting effect.
Signal chain: Cry Baby Wah > Ibanez Tube Screamer > Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble > Fender Vibro-King
Buddy Guy is a blues master who has extensively used the wah pedal throughout his career. To create a rich and expressive tone, he frequently couples it with overdrive pedals like the Ibanez Tube Screamer and chorus effects like the Boss CE-1.
Cry Baby Wah variations
There are several varieties of the Cry Baby Wah, including signature models created for certain guitarists. These models include distinct sounds and graphics that go along with the artist’s particular style and aesthetic.
Here are a few of the signature Cry Baby variations:
- Slash Signature Cry Baby Wah
- Joe Bonamassa Signature Cry Baby Wah
- Cry Baby Multi-Wah
- Gary Clark Jr. Cry Baby Wah
- Dimebag From Hell Cry Baby Wah
- Buddy Guy Signature Cry Baby Wah
- Kirk Hammett Signature Cry Baby Wah
What about the Cry Baby Junior?
The Cry Baby Junior is a scaled-down version of the original Cry Baby Wah pedal that fits neatly on compact pedalboards.
It has a smaller footprint and a simpler design, yet it still has the full traditional Cry Baby sound. It also has three different wah voices that sound great and add a lot of versatility to the pedal.
However, the original Cry Baby’s size is designed to perfectly and comfortably be played on stage, while the Junior might be a bit cumbersome, especially if you’ve got bigger feet.
Should you buy the Cry Baby Wah?
The Dunlop Cry Baby Wah is a classic and flexible effect pedal that countless guitarists have used to define their tone and expression. Whether you want a classic wah sound or a more modern, unusual approach, it may bring a whole new depth to your performance.
However, if you exclusively play in a specific style that doesn’t rely significantly on wah effects, or if you’re on a restricted budget for a full-sized wah, a smaller, more cost-effective wah may be better suited for you.
Whether or not you should purchase the Cry Baby Wah is a matter of personal preference and playing style, but in my opinion, every guitarist should add the Cry Baby to their pedalboard.