The original Italian-made Clyde McCoy wah pedals from the 1967-1969 era are considered Holy Grails in terms of classic wah tone. Any guitarist lucky enough to have one of those iconic pedals in original working condition will surely agree. But for the rest of us, hoping to attain that original wah sound is often a matter of compromise. Sure, there are many great wah pedals inspired by the original Vox “Clyde McCoy” wah, including a few great sounding modern variations. But the Xotic Wah XW-1 seeks to claim the throne to become the best “Clyde McCoy” wah pedal available today. For this review, we’ll focus on simply how good this pedal is in general.
Xotic Effects are no strangers to reproducing classic tones in pedals aimed at the modern guitarist. They delivered the goods with the Marshall Super Lead/Super Bass inspired SL Drive, the Ross Compressor inspired SP Compressor, and the Echoplex EP-3 preamp emulating EP Booster. While those “3 Little Giants” offer premium sounds in budget friendly mini pedal format, the Xotic Wah seems to take the route of Xotic’s Custom Shop line of effects in that it’s clearly aimed at the boutique wah pedal market. But while it’s a bit more costly than Xotic’s recent mini pedal offerings, the XW-1 is not to be mistaken for your typical wah pedal… or any wah before it for that matter. You’ll soon find out why in our Xotic Wah XW-1 review.
- Self-lubricating nylon bushing pivot for quiet and smooth operation with fully-adjustable rocker pedal tension.
- Gold contact relay true bypassing, which allows for transparent true bypass tone, while incorporating ultra reliable switching with minimum one million life cycle.
- 20% smaller footprint than conventional wah pedals.
- Fully adjustable Wah-Q and Bias controls and a two-band EQ with +/-15 dB center-detent potentiometers optimize the voicing for different playing styles and gear.
- Fuzz friendly buffering circuit assures a great sounding wah tone with your favorite fuzz pedals.
- Internal controls include switches for Toe Down Range, Input Gain (with Input Gain Trimmer), Presence Cut, & Wah Q Frequency.
- Powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter. (Power LED will flash when battery is below 50% power to indicate that it’s time to change the battery.)
Sound & Performance:
When you first unbox the Xotic Wah XW-1, all of its knobs should be facing up to noon. (If not, it’s easy to dial in the stock tone as the knobs have little indentions at noon.) This setting is meant to capture the 1968 Clyde McCoy “Signature” Wah sound. While I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison to an original unit, my impressions are based on 2 things: a couple decades of listening to classic wah tones and how the Xotic Wah sounds with my guitars and amp. At its default settings the XW-1 produces an incredibly smooth wah sound and excels at producing classic style wah effects.
Xotic recommends a few other settings in the manual that can also take you from a 1967 Vox Clyde McCoy “Picture” wah, through the previously mentioned ’68 “Signature” variation, and to the 1969 Vox Clyde McCoy “Metal [Film] Can” style wah sounds. These variations are handled with a few subtle tweaks of the Xotic Wah’s Bias and Wah-Q knobs. But what exactly do these controls do, you ask? Read on…
The Wah-Q is perhaps the most valuable control for defining your wah sound. It’s great at noon as a starting reference point, but turning it clockwise produces a wider-ranging, vocal-like sweep for a more dramatic wah effect. Cutting the Wah-Q down below noon will reduce the sweep for more subtle wah sounds. It’s important to pay close attention to the frequency range and how the resonant peaks change through the sweep as you alter the Wah-Q. This magic little knob will help you articulate your own signature wah sound. Then all you have to do is write your own White Room, Voodoo Child, Sweet Child ‘o Mine, or Shaft theme. (Hey, at least dialing in a great tone is pretty easy!)
The Bias is where things get a bit more interesting. You may be familiar with seeing “Bias” knobs and trimpots on fuzz pedals, as altering the voltage to transistors can greatly affect the overall tone and performance of such effects. Likewise, the Xotic Wah’s Bias control can impart a dramatically different sound and feel to the pedal. Pushing the Bias up from noon creates a more aggressive wah tone that’s hotter, louder, and decidedly more modern sounding with a maxed setting being quite extreme. Cutting the Bias down from noon adds even more clarity, great for guitar players that like their wahs exceptionally clean and smooth. (Oh, and speaking of fuzz pedals, the Xotic Wah’s “fuzz friendly” buffering ensures your old germanium transistor fuzz pedals sound impeccable at all times.)
The Treble and Bass controls function as expected, giving you the ability to shape the wah’s tone to suit your guitar and amp setup. I really like the EQ section from Xotic’s classic lineup of BB Preamp, AC Booster, & RC Booster guitar pedals, and these controls are equally solid here. I find that I like to cut the Treble a bit with single coils, but generally, leaving these knobs at noon works great. Also, with more extreme Wah-Q settings, a little Treble cut again comes in handy to help define the upward sweep and tame any perceived harshness. Pushing up the Bass can bring in a beefier, low-end wah sound if that’s your thing. I don’t typically recommend boosting both Treble and Bass together as this may take away from the characteristic mid-focused wah sweep, but these parameters add to the myriad ways to sculp the perfect Clyde McCoy wah variation.
There are a few more tricks up the Xotic Wah’s sleeve, or under the hood, I should say. There’s an internal dipswitch that activates an Input Gain trimpot. This can be useful if you want your wah-infused solos to cut through a bit more. My one minor gripe with the XW-1 is that this control isn’t external, but of course, I played through wah pedals for years without the luxury of a gain boost knob and never complained. It’s not much of an issue really as it’s more of a set-and-forget control. While some guitarists might have liked an option to easily match the XW-1 to guitars with different output levels, others will already be using a first-in-signal-chain compression pedal or boost pedal to match levels. While turning up the Bias can add to your volume level, it does affect your overall wah sound, so the Input Gain knob can be a critical knob to tweak to get your output level just the way you like it.
There’s also a Toe Down Range dipswitch that’s set to On by default to give you a maximized treble response. It may be worth turning Off if you’re experimenting with more aggressive wah sounds or using bright pickups and need to tame the high-end. A Presence Cut dipswitch smoothes the high end; it’s default setting is also On. At this point you’ll have surely noticed that the Xotic Wah has a lot of options for shaping the upper frequency end of the pedal’s response which is arguably the most critical make-or-break factor of a wah’s sound. While I do enjoy a brighter extended wah sweep, tweaking these settings within reason will keep your wah tone from being unnecessarily harsh. (Your audience and band members will appreciate your extra consideration of their ears!) One last dipswitch for Wah-Q Frequency will let you activate a deeper vowel frequency response. Flip this to On and push the external Wah-Q knob for some seriously throaty, talking guitar wah effects.
The Xotic Wah has a foot-print that’s 20% smaller than your average wah pedal. (It also sports an attractive chrome treadle with a classic looking white enclosure. Sexy!) I actually found the Xotic Wah quite comfortable to use despite wearing size 13 (45.5 European) boots. Yes, it’s smaller than your classic Clyde McCoy/Cry Baby but not so small that you have to spend a lot of time adapting to the variances in dimension. This reasonably familiar size should help maintain the pedal’s appeal with guitarists shopping for a classic wah. Xotic clearly spent some time making sure the Xotic Wah’s size was just right before settling on this custom wah enclosure. The true relay bypass foot-switch also works well. My general problem with relay foot-switches is a minor latency that sometimes occurs when switching. That’s not an issue with the Xotic Wah.
I can’t emphasize enough that the Xotic Wah sounds amazing. It’s incredibly versatile and may just be the last wah you’ll ever need. The only potential issue for some could be the size (not a problem for my big feet!) or for the lack of quick access to the Gain knob. It’s pricier than most wahs, but it also most likely sounds better than anything you could put it up against. Not to mention the XW-1 can probably be tweaked to produce the sounds of the handful of best wah pedals you could compare it to. Since there is a Treble and Bass knob, perhaps a Middle control would have been useful to add some more mid-range focus. But you can also cut the Bass & Treble and boost the Input Gain for a similar effect. I’ve developed a preference for switchless wahs over the years, but the Xotic Wah has made me reconsider my previously rigid stance on that subject. As far as sheer wah tone is concerned, the XW-1 is my new favorite wah pedal.
The Xotic Wah is the real McCoy. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Let’s see the final result.
The Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 is one of the most versatile wah pedals available today and produces a range of the best classic and modern wah sounds you’ll ever find in a single pedal. The Bias and Wah-Q adjustments provide a range of “Clyde McCoy” style wah sounds while also delving into pristine, clean wah sounds and screaming, aggressive wah tones. The slight reduction in size still feels familiar with a smooth, playable treadle sweep. This just might be Xotic’s finest offering as the XW-1 has become my new favorite non-switchless wah pedal. It doesn’t get much better than this!
That concludes our Xotic Effects Wah XW-1 review. Thanks for reading.
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