QUICK HIT: A few cheap wah pedal recommendations rounded up from Jim Dunlop, VOX and Morley.
I don’t know what I would do without my Morley wah pedal. I bought that thing before I had a driver’s license and it’s still going strong, despite the fact that the bottom plate is a little loose and wobbly. It’s great when you can get right in between the lower and higher tone swells, where the sound kind of washes out and resonates a really nice ethereal effect.
I use that all the time, and am particularly fond of how it sounds with a delay pedal or a phaser.
A good wah pedal just has a way of improving your other effects. It’s simple, but still one of the most valuable pedals you can have on your board.
Read more: Best pedalboards for guitar
As we target cheap wah pedals, we'll look at the following four options:
The Best Cheap Wah Pedals: My Top 4 Picks
1. Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal
IDEAL FOR: All skill levels, all styles and those who want a simple wah pedal
- Sound quality of the wah effect is fantastic
- Wah has a distinct vocal quality
- Foot pedal moves comfortably
- Price point is extremely inviting
- No extra tone control or shaping features
Luckily for us bargain hunters, one of the most popular wah pedals in history usually costs around $70.
If you check often enough, you should see some used and refurbished options for less, sometimes as low as $40.
The Original Cry Baby is one of the simplest, most effective and widely-used wah pedals to ever be created. Run from a Dunlop ECB-30 power adapter, the Cry Baby boasts a solid construction with a switch and on/off wah design .
Moving the pedal feels good under your feet and creates a thick, responsive wah tone that's incredibly addictive.
The only downside is that you get little in the way of voicing control or other features.
Then again, you probably won't want to change the tone.
Who uses the Cry Baby Wah pedals?
A slew of high-ranking guitarists use a Dunlop Cry Baby wah, many of whom have their own signature versions.
Here are a few names you might recognize:
Randy Rhodes (Ozzy Osbourne)
Who is the Cry Baby wah most ideal for?
The Original Cry Baby is a catch-all wah wah pedal, good for any style and all skill levels.
While those wanting more control over their wah tone (voicing and tone controls) might want to opt for a more feature-rich wah pedal, those who just want the basics will be completely satisfied with this $70 purchase.
Sweeping the wah back and forth sounds great, producing plenty of definition and a nice swell to the wah sound that gives off a slightly vocal quality.
It's the wah pedal and one of the "safest" guitar pedal purchases I can recommend.
2. Morley Vai-2 Bad Horsie Wah
IDEAL FOR: All styles, all skill levels and those who prefer the switchless wah design
- Tone is comparable to the Cry Baby
- Switchless design allows you to toggle the wah on and off at an instant
- Pedal movement is comfortable and fluid
- Durable and well-built (mine has lasted over a decade)
- None for the price
One of the most notable features is that the switchless design, allowing you to step on to the pedal to engage the wah and simply step off . The benefit of this is that you can turn the wah on or off in an instant, instead of having to step on the foot controller and click.
As I mentioned in the introduction, having a switchless wah is a must for me, as I'm to the point where I couldn't get used to having to click a button.
It's a preference thing for most people.
Note that these also have spring function that causes them to jump back to the disengage position as soon as you move your foot off the pedal. In other words, you don't even need to intentionally move it back to its original position.
It's my personal favorite on this list.
Morley VAI-2 Bad Horsie Wah Ideal Buyer
The Morley Wah's tone is similar to the Cry Baby, with a sweet, vocal-like sweeping sound and a similarly basic setup. Primarily, you'll have to decide how you feel about the switchless functionality. That's the most significant difference between the two.
Otherwise, they're both good for the same situations.
3. VOX V845 Classic Wah
IDEAL FOR: All skill levels, all musical styles and anyone looking for a basic "bare bones" wah pedal solution
- Tone has a crisp sweetness to it that's fun to use
- Foot pedal feels smooth, even with faster sweeping
- Sturdy as anything
- Once again, zero tone-shaping features
VOX has a nice, smooth swell to their wah pedals, which is aptly demo'd by Gear Wire’s YouTube page.
Your on/off toggle is back underneath the foot controller, giving this pedal an eerily similar feel to the Cry Baby wah, without any major distinguishing features.
As far as tone is concerned, I'd consider the wah to be a slightly "sweeter" and more fluid sweep than the Cry Baby. Perhaps it could be described as the more organic of the two sounds. But, to be honest, it's splitting hairs to try and draw much distinction between this and the Original Cry Baby wah.
They're extremely similar.
Both are great pedals and tend to see a lot of use from professionals and amateurs alike.
Joe Satriani has used a VOX wah similar to this one (I believe he has a signature model now) for his entire career.
Pricing and Ideal Buyers
Once again, those looking for a "bare bones" wah pedal without any bells and whistles should be entirely confident about this option.
Like the Cry Baby retail is at, or in most cases under, $70.
At that price I like it for beginners, studio work and nearly any context you can think of.
4. Morley Mini Wah and Volume
IDEAL FOR: Small pedalboards, all styles and all skill levels
- Wah and volume can be easily toggled
- Maverick version is switchless
- Small size is great for smaller pedalboards
- A bit pricier than the others
This one retails a little higher than the others, around $85, but if you check out the demo, you can really hear the difference in sound quality, especially on the clean setting.
Liking the size probably depends on preference, though it might be a big plus for those of you running smaller pedalboards.
A button near the bottom right-hand side of the pedal toggles between wah and volume functionality, while the LEVEL knob gives you some basic control over both modes.
The new "Maverick" version is switchless and omits the volume portion.
The "switchless" feature is the same as what we see in the Steve Vai signature "Bad Horsie" pedal.
Step on to engage the wah and step off to disengage it.
As I mentioned, this is a feature that I personally love and wouldn't want to be without.
If you don’t want to spend a lot
As you can see, buying a wah pedal on a shoestring budget becomes easier if you avoid extra-features and signature models.
Not that those pedals aren’t great to have. They’re fine if you want to spend more.
But if you aren’t looking to spend big, don’t be off-put by the vibe that the Morley VAI-2 and Cry Baby original models give off. They’re great pedals and provide enough quality for someone who just wants a simple wah pedal without a lot of extra fuss.
They’re often the perfect combination of quality and price.
A safe bet, if nothing else.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Dominic Bartolini