Back in November of 1966, while working for the Thomas Organ Company on the Vox Amplifonic Orchestra amplifier, Brad Plunkett stumbled across the design for the very first wah pedal. With its distinct vocal quality it has since become perhaps the most unmistakable & prominent effect pedal to be burnt into guitarists' minds.
Thomas Organ originally released the wah pedal to the European market in 1967 under the Vox brand name & it featured a picture of famed trumpet blower Clyde McCoy on the bottom of its housing. This was because Thomas Organ initially had no intention at all of marketing the pedal toward guitar players (thinking instead that it would be better suited to trumpet players as an alternative to playing with a mute). However, when it soon became apparent that these Italian made units were in fact being used by guitar players more so than trumpet players, Thomas Organ decided to market the pedal differently for its American release. By this time, production was in the hands of Dunlop Manufacturing Inc. & the Crybaby name was born! Dunlop manufacturing trademarked the Crybaby name soon after & successfully took the wah pedal to new heights with the Dunlop Crybaby becoming the best selling guitar pedal of all time.
Fast-forward to today where multiple brands & multiple models are now available & so choosing the right one can seem rather daunting. The obvious place to start is with Dunlop's Crybaby & (with multiple pedals now in the range) I've decide to pit seven of them against one another. Hopefully this will help to make choosing the right one for you a slightly easier task...
Well, suffice to say, the good-old standard Crybaby has become the measuring stick by which all other wah pedals are judged. When plugging into the Crybaby it certainly isn't hard to see why as, even after all these years, it still doesn't fail to disappoint.
The unmistakable vocal sweep provided by the GCB95 Crybaby is created by a filter that is controlled by rocking the pedal's tread with your foot. In a 'heel-down' position the lower frequencies are emphasised & in a 'toe-down' position the higher frequencies are emphasised & as you move your foot back & forth you have precise control over how the tone of your guitar is effected. For a seminal example of this one need look no further than a certain Jimi Hendrix.
Another great way to use a GCB95 Crybaby is to dial in on specific tones by finding notches in the pedal's travel where you like the tone & leaving it in said position. This is a great way of coaxing many alternative sounds out of your guitar & was a favoured technique of the likes of Frank Zappa, Michael Schenker & Mark Knopfler.
Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby - Positives
• The most cost-effective pedal in the range.
• Provides that classic sound that everybody thinks of when they think of a wah pedal.
• A very easy pedal to modify & upgrade so it can serve as a great starting point for a customised creation.
Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby - Negatives
• One thing that has always plagued the Crybaby is the hard-wired bypass that is notorious for sucking your tone when the pedal isn't engaged. This has gotten better over the years & it's nowhere near as bad as it once was, however, true tone connoisseurs may well find themselves wishing for a 'True Bypass' modification sooner rather than later.
• As this pedal has earned the mantel of '#1 selling pedal of all time' its tone could now be viewed as 'stock' & it may not be suited to players looking for something a bit more unique.
Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby - Summary
Being the cheapest pedal in the range, the standard GCB95 Crybaby is certainly a bargain that still sounds great to boot. If you know that you want a wah pedal, but you're unsure as to what exactly you're looking for, then the GCB95 is a safe bet with which you can't really go wrong. Plus, its easily upgradable design means that the pedal can be modified should your tastes require something a little different later down the road.
No artist is more synonymous with the wah pedal than Jimi Hendrix. His use of it on tracks such as 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' & 'Still Raining, Still Dreaming' served to immortalise its distinct sound in the lexicon of guitar history.
Jimi himself used the early Italian wahs that were made by Jen & released under the Vox brand name, brandishing that famed picture of Clyde McCoy on their underside. However, Jimi always found standard wahs to be a little too bright for his tastes & legend has it that he used to alter the position of the pot in order to achieve a darker tone. It is also said that he later enlisted the great Roger Mayer to modify his wah to give it a more pronounced vocal quality (this can be heard on the legendary Band of Gypsys recording).
The Dunlop Jimi Hendrix JH1D Crybaby is an attempt to create a wah much like the one that Jimi himself used (mods & all). Its tone is noticeably darker than that of the standard Crybaby & this, coupled with its significantly more prominent vocal sweep, provides for a more guttural & expressive wah experience. It works great for distorted leads & the lower register of the pedal gives it a mellower feel on clean tones.
Dunlop Jimi Hendrix JH1D Crybaby - Positives
• Employs a much more vocal sounding sweep than the standard Crybaby, which makes the pedal noticeably more expressive for lead work.
• The darker range of this pedal means that you don't have to worry about the uncomfortably shrill highs that some people can find to be a problem on other wah pedals.
• Although the darker register does serve to tame the highs & provide a more guttural sound, some may find that the heel-down position may well get lost in the mix in some instances & that the wah can lack the cut needed for certain applications.
• Uses the same hard-wired bypass as the standard Crybaby.
Dunlop Jimi Hendrix JH1D Crybaby - Summary
If Jimi Hendrix's lead sound is your tone nirvana, then this is the pedal for you. The JH1D recreates that dark, expressive vocal quality that anyone who is a Jimi fan has come to expect from a wah pedal. Its extreme vocal quality makes it a very expressive pedal for lead work & the lower register that it provides would make it well suited to the player who finds the top end on many wah pedals to be a bit too shrill.
Overall, a great wah that provides a nice alternative to the standard Crybaby sound.
From the moment Slash was first heard wailing through a Crybaby on the 'Sweet Child Of Mine' solo, his name was destined to become a part of the Dunlop fold. Of all the prominent guitar players that surfaced during the 90s, it was arguably Slash who managed to achieve the most mainstream success, with his carefully sculpted 'cat in the hat' image & the rock power ballad format that Guns N' Roses perfected cementing his place in popular culture.
Slash himself uses a Custom Shop Crybaby Rack Module with various Crybaby controllers placed on stage & Dunlop pitch the SW95 Slash Crybaby as having the same 'features & screaming tone as Slash's very own custom wah pedal'. It contains a wah circuit inspired by the Crybaby Classic (this features a red Fasel inductor, which is said to imbue the pedal with a 'sweet & lush top end') & also features True Bypass switching & a handy LED mounted in the side of the chassis to let you know when the pedal is engaged. On top of this, the pedal also contains a high-gain distortion circuit that you can engage using a kick-switch on the side.
Tonally, the SW95 seems to have the same sort of range as the standard GCB95 Crybaby, but the midrange seems far less present & this does lead to an uneven feeling sweep in comparison. However, some players may not find this a problem & if you are fond of the Crybaby Classic’s top end then it could still appeal.
Interestingly, if you were to pop the hood you would see that the SW95 (again taking its lead from the Crybaby Classic) features a fully surface-mounted PCB, which renders it extremely difficult to modify or repair at a later date should the need arise. Therefore this pedal would not suit the tinkerers among us!
Then there's the pedal's distortion circuit; it is on the fizzy sounding side of life & I can’t help but think you’d be better served with a standalone distortion pedal of your choosing. However, I guess it may appeal to someone who likes the idea of one pedal that can cover both bases (my advice would be to use it sparingly though if you do decide to go this way).
It is also worth noting that in order to power the SW95 you need to use either two 9-volt batteries or a power supply that is capable of delivering 18v of power (not a problem if you own a quality power supply such as one of the Voodoo Labs units, but it could be an inconvenience for some players).
Dunlop Slash SW95 Crybaby - Positives
• True Bypass switching.
• Side-mounted LED that indicates when the pedal is engaged.
• The addition of its own distortion circuit could appeal to some players.
Dunlop Slash SW95 Crybaby - Negatives
• A reduced midrange & noticeably uneven sweep.
• A surface mounted PCB circuit-board that does not lend itself to modification or repair.
• The requirement of 18 volts of power (that's 2 square batteries) & the curious placement of the battery compartment in the tread.
Dunlop Slash SW95 Crybaby - Summary
If you’re after a Slash-like lead tone then I can’t help but thinking you may be better served pairing an overdrive pedal with either the Crybaby Classic or just the standard GCB95. However, if you want the cat in the hat’s name on your wah pedal & you’re a fan of the red Fasel inductor then it may still be worth considering the SW95.
Kirk Hammett of Metallica fame has been using a Custom Shop Crybaby Rack Module as a staple in his rig for many, many years. His wah imbued solos can be heard across all eras of Metallica's music (from their Kill 'Em All & Ride the Lightning days right through to their more recent records like St. Anger & Death Magnetic) & he would therefore seem like an ideal candidate for a signature Crybaby model.
Dunlop's engineers have meticulously reproduced the sounds Kirk dials in on his rack unit with exacting precision (the KH95 is said to contain Kirk's post-wah EQ settings as well). Tonally, it sits somewhere between the standard & Hendrix model Crybabys. You could say that the frequency range seems ideally placed; it has more bottom-end depth than the standard Crybaby but never seems to get wooly or lost in the heel-down position the way that the Hendrix sometimes can. It has an exceptionally smooth sweep through the entire range & also features True Bypass switching.
However, the KH95 isn't without its drawbacks. To my ear, it can seem slightly sterile when compared to some of the other wahs in the range. You may find that the impeccably smooth sweep justifies the slight trade-off in the character department but this will depend on what you’re looking for in a wah. The KH95 is also one of the few pedals in the range to feature fully surface-mounted PCB construction & again, as with the SW95 Slash wah, this isn’t ideal if the idea of future modification etc. is of concern.
Dunlop Kirk Hammett KH95 Crybaby - Positives
• Exceptionally smooth sweep.
• A well placed frequency range that gives some of the benefits of the Hendrix-style wahs but without the associated drawbacks.
• True Bypass switching.
Dunlop Kirk Hammett KH95 Crybaby - Negatives
• Features a surface mounted PCB circuit-board that does not lend itself to modification or repair.
• In comparison to the other artist models on offer it could be viewed as a more clinical sounding wah.
• The pedal has a slime-green finish & a skeleton foot on the tread; this may be off-putting for some players.
Dunlop Kirk Hammett KH95 Crybaby - Summary
The KH95 would suit someone looking for a wah pedal with a cleverly placed frequency range that works well for most styles. It has a very even swell, rendering it pleasant to use through the entire range & the inclusion of True Bypass switching means that it won't have any adverse effect on your tone when the pedal isn't engaged.However, if you're looking for a wah with gobs of character, or if you don't like the idea of surface-mounted PCB construction, then there are other pedals in the range that may be a better fit.
Although there are many things that Eddie Van Halen has deservingly earned notoriety for, his use of a wah pedal is something that one would be hard pushed to recall. However, as a guitar player that certainly has an ear for tone (& a few other Dunlop signature pedals already on the market), he was bound to be a contender for his very own Crybaby at some point!
From the minute you clap eyes on the EVH95, it screams 'Eddie Van Halen' at you! The housing is adorned with those infamous stripes that we've come to expect on an EVH product &, just incase you weren't 100% sure, a big yellow 'EVH' logo also adorns the top of the tread.
True to form, this wah is completely custom built to Eddie's specifications. Unlike the majority of Dunlop's wahs, its circuit board is not a modified version of the standard Crybaby's board, but instead it's one that has been designed from the ground up specially for the EVH95. The EVH95 Crybaby features a custom inductor that has the EVH logo etched into it & a customised pot that is said to replicate the unique taper found on Eddie's own personal wah pedal.
In terms of sound, strangely, it's actually somehow exactly what you'd expect from an Eddie Van Halen wah pedal! It has an extremely wide range, is very vocal sounding (as vocal as the Hendrix & Cantrell models) & is without a doubt the most aggressive wah pedal that Dunlop has on offer. The heel down position is lower than that of the standard Crybaby, but higher than that of the Hendrix-style models (it actually shares the same heel-down frequency range as the Hammett pedal) but the toe-down position is higher than any other wah pedal that I've yet come across. The top end on offer here certainly isn't for the faint hearted but it ensures that this pedal will cut through the mix regardless of whatever copious amounts of gain one may wish to run it through.
In use it seems instantly obvious that this pedal was intended for high-gain soloing first & foremost (there's even a small volume boost when you engage it) & its dramatically large range & aggressive top end really does make lead lines scream at you. Interestingly however, when used on clean rhythm work it does actually have quite a likeable quality to it as well.
The EVH95 may well be a little too harsh for some, but the top end does give it a percussive bite that can work for well defined choppy funk rhythms. However, it can't be denied that the overly aggressive nature of the EVH95 doesn't make it the most versatile of wahs.
Dunlop Van Halen EVH95 Crybaby - Positives
• A unique sounding wah that is particularly suited to high-gain applications.
• An extremely vocal & expressive sweep.
• Cool EVH stripes that give any unit a certain level of street-cred.
• Convenient blue LEDs that let you know when the pedal is engaged.
• True Bypass.
Dunlop Van Halen EVH95 Crybaby - Negatives
• Its aggressive nature renders it unsuitable for subtler wah work.
• The top end may be too much for some.
Dunlop Van Halen EVH95 Crybaby - Summary
If you are looking for a wah that will be used solely for high-octane solo work then you really can't go wrong with the EVH95. Its very vocal sweep & massive range make it an extremely expressive pedal when used in this nature. However, if you want a wah primarily for rhythm work (or perhaps just a wah that is more of an all-rounder) then you may find one of the other Crybabys on offer a better fit. It must be said though, the unique character of this pedal does put it near the top of my 'favourites' list.
The Joe Bonamassa wah is one of Dunlop's newest offerings & on paper it's certainly one to get excited about! The first thing that you'll notice about this pedal is how beautiful it is; with its piano-black & copper finish it really is a stunner & internally it's even better! The JB95 features a Halo inductor (famed for its vintage sound & often retro-fitted to pedals by those seeking the ultimate in wah tone), an internal switch that lets you select either True Bypass or standard Hard Wired bypass modes & retro oversized components that are all immaculately fitted to a dashing black circuit board.
On first look the JB95 Crybaby pedal shapes up to be something rather special indeed. However, the more observant may well notice that (save for the luxurious components), the specs do shape up to be uncannily similar to that of the Hendrix wah. This feeling is only further enforced on plugging the pedal in; the frequency range on offer in the JB95 is identical to that of the Hendrix model (as are all other elements such as input impedance etc.), yet it would still be wrong to describe this pedal as a more luxurious version the the JH1D.
Although it does share the same frequency range etc. as the Hendrix pedal, the JB95 doesn't come anywhere near to having the same character. It’s perhaps the least vocal of all of the Crybabys & is much more vanilla in flavour. It must be said that it does have a pleasant sound, it's just a very safe one that didn’t grab me in the same way that the more vocal pedals did. I would perhaps venture to describe it as the polar opposite of the Van Halen model.
Dunlop Joe Bonamassa JB95 Crybaby - Positives
• Stunning looks.
• Optional True Bypass switching.
• High-grade components & immaculate build quality.
Dunlop Joe Bonamassa JB95 Crybaby - Negatives
• The least vocal pedal in the shootout.
• Frequency range is no different than that of the Hendrix model.
• The most expensive wah in the range.
Dunlop Joe Bonamassa JB95 Crybaby - Summary
Well, this is a tough one. I really wanted to like this pedal. I'm a fan of Hendrix-style wahs & the old-skool components etc. featured in the JB95 are right up my street. However, in a blind test it all boils down to the Bonamassa pedal feeling like a tamer version of the JH1D. This may well suit if a more restrained wah is what you’re after, but personally I find the more expressive sound of the JH1D to be far more inspiring.
If you're looking for an immaculately built, stunning looking pedal that comes with a certain amount of bragging rights then the Bonamassa wah ticks all of the boxes. However, if you're looking for an expressive, vocal wah with loads of character then it may well disappoint.
If you are familiar with Alice In Chains then you will know, with Jerry Cantrell being somewhat of a wah aficionado, wah-laden riffology is very much at the centre of their work. Something you may not be aware of however is that, prior to the inception of his signature wah, he spent many-a-year plying his trade with an older version of the Jimi Hendrix Crybaby & it is in fact that pedal that you will hear on seminal Alice In Chains recordings like 'Man In The Box'. With all this in mind then, Jerry Cantrell would seem like an ideal candidate to come up with a wah pedal design that might just stand out from the crowd.
Visually, a tasteful looking wah, it features an oxidised brass housing & an understated star design on the tread that bears both Cantrell's signature & the word 'ALICE' in capital letters. On the underside of the pedal you’ll find the lyrics to a song written for the now deceased vocalist from Alice's original lineup (this is a nice touch that serves to dedicate the pedal to the memory of someone who was obviously very dear to Cantrell). There is also a curious little knob on the side of the housing, but we will come to that a little later on...
The Jerry Cantrell JC95 Crybaby is a very vocal sounding wah (on a par with both the Hendrix & Van Halen models) &, in terms of range, this is perhaps the most thought-out wah on the market. The heel-down position is lower than the standard GCB95 Crybaby but, like a few other pedals in the shootout, it’s not quite as low as the Hendrix-style models (therefore not ever suffering the wooly bottom syndrome that those wahs can sometimes exhibit). However, its heel-down position is also really quite unique; it’s noticeably more focused & present than other Crybabys & this provides for an awesome notched wah sound that you’d be hard pushed to find on any of the other pedals (one can only imagine that this must’ve been done to Mr. Cantrell’s exact specifications).
Then there’s the toe-down position, & this is where that little knob on the side comes in. Perhaps the most unique feature on the JC95 is that you can choose exactly what toe- down frequency you want. With just a turn of the knob you can dial in on whatever suits the task at hand; all the way clockwise & you have a broad EVH-style wah with an aggressive top end and all the way counterclockwise & you get a subtle sweep that’s more understated than any of the other wahs on offer (& of course there’s all sorts of possibilities in between as well). One thing is for sure however; the JC95 positively drips with character regardless of how you have it set!
Dunlop Jerry Cantrell JC95 Crybaby - Positives
• An extremely vocal & expressive wah.
• Low yet focused heel-down position that serves up stellar notched sounds.
• Side-adjuster knob that allows the user to dial in on the specific toe-down frequency that suits their needs (this means that the JC95 can essentially morph to fit any wah-based requirement that one might throw at it).
• Tasteful oxidised brass housing.
Dunlop Jerry Cantrell JC95 Crybaby - Negatives
• No True Bypass.
Dunlop Jerry Cantrell JC95 Crybaby - Summary
Aside from the lack of True Bypass (something which plagues many a wah pedal) it really is hard to find a fault in the JC95. Its focused bottom end & heavily adjustable upper register make it a truly unique unit that can fit any situation with style & ease. If you’re looking for an expressive, vocal wah pedal with bags of character then the Cantrell wah is hard to beat.
All in all, I think it’s safe to say that Dunlop’s Crybaby lineup is the strongest it’s ever been and with such an extensive range on offer they’re sure to have a wah pedal to suit every need. For me, the clear winner of the shootout is the Jerry Cantrell JC95 (so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to part with the demo unit & ended up purchasing it myself following the completion of this article). One thing’s for sure though, most of the wah pedals that Dunlop have on offer these days have their merits & this shootout does prove that you can’t go far wrong with a Crybaby for the most part.
I’d put the Hendrix & Van Halen models in second & third place as, although they don’t have the flexibility & magical heel-down position of the Cantrell unit, they do share the extremely vocal & expressive quality that the Cantrell has & these are qualities that I always look for in a wah. All three of these units have a character of their own &, to my mind, this makes them warranted models that shine in their own right.
The other signature units that I tested for the shootout don’t posses quite the same level of undeniable character but they do have their distinct differences regardless. Of these models the Kirk Hammett KH95 would have to clinch it for me as both the smooth sweep & the carefully placed frequency range do give it a unique factor. However, if you like the idea of a subtle, understated wah, then the Bonamassa pedal might just tickle your fancy. Personally, I’d rank the Slash pedal below the standard Crybaby, but the GCB95 is still a fine pedal after all these years & its success is certainly testament to that!
So, with all this in mind & without further ado, you’ll find the results of my Crybaby shootout listed below. It goes without saying that tone is a subjective thing though (I’m sure your own personal list may differ from mine) & I urge you to pop into the store to test them out for yourself should you be in a position to do so. Either way, I hope this article will help you to choose the right wah for your needs & that expressive vocal sounding sweeps will soon be bellowing through your amplifier of choice.
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