Wah War: Dunlop Clyde McCoy Cry Baby vs. Xotic Wah XW-1

Wah pedals are like pizza: Some might be better than others, but they’re all super tasty and any wah is better than no wah.
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Wah pedals are like pizza: Some might be better than others, but they’re all super tasty and any wah is better than no wah. The two pedals on review here represent radically different approaches toward the goal of killer wah tone. Here’s what we found.

CLYDE MCCOY CRY BABY

The Clyde McCoy pedals that the Thomas Organ Company put out in 1967 are pretty much regarded as the Holy Grail of wah-wahs. Dunlop, the modern-day superpower of wah production, acquired the original machinery and tooling that produced the first Clydes, but they weren’t content with just cranking out NOS nostalgia. They examined every part of the pedal and made tons of improvements on the original, all the while maintaining the awesome tone and singing sweep that made the Clyde so sought after.

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The heart and soul of a wah pedal is the inductor, and Dunlop took the hallowed Halo inductor of the original up a notch with their re-engineered H101 Halo. The idea was to keep the sweep but cut down on noise, and improve reliability. They also beefed up the jacks, toe switch, and all moving parts for increased durability. It all comes together in a sturdy, rugged pedal that feels great when you stomp on it.

And when you do, the tone is freaking amazing. Bold, throaty, and strong, with totally usable low end on the heel side and incredibly sweet treble frequencies with the toe down. It’s just instantly satisfying and refreshingly forgiving. Anywhere you set it, it sounds pleasant and musical and anyway you rock the treadle—slow, fast, fluttery, whatever—it produces an organic, inspiring effect. And while the Clyde doesn’t come on with a boost per se, it asserts itself in a confident, authoritative way. Into a clean amp it seems to make everything a little bigger, imbuing notes and chords with information and life. With a dirty tone it squawks, wails, meows, and sings, and it’ll do the cocked-wah Schenker tone like nobody’s business.

This is definitely a “what you see is what you get” affair. There is no adjustment whatsoever on the Clyde and the only external nod to modern convenience is a 9v adaptor jack (which strangely was recessed a little too far, making it tricky to keep an adaptor connected, although Dunlop reports that their adaptor features a long barrel that fits perfectly). This wah does one thing, and it does it amazingly well. Like a great old one-knob amp or a single-pickup guitar, you don’t need a ton of options if the tone is happening. This is a true modern classic. The real McCoy.

XOTIC WAH XW-1

This sweet pedal from Xotic also aims to capture the magic of the famed Clyde, but I goes about the task in a very different manner. The first difference you’ll notice is the footprint. The XW-1 is 20% smaller than a standard-sized wah, and that’s a lot. It feels pretty much the same under your foot but it is way more pedalboard friendly. It looks great overall, with its cool white finish and screwed on nameplates. Looking over the cosmetics, it becomes clear that this wah has a ton of options. There are four knobs on the input side labeled Bias, Wah-Q, Treble, and Bass. They all have a pronounced but very musical effect on the tone, with no bad settings to be found. Inside, you get four DIP switches and a trim pot to further tailor the treble response, Q, and input gain.

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We plugged in and were greeted with a clean, quiet, expressive wah tone. The action on the treadle is super smooth and there is a generous throw. All the controls work great and again, you can’t really get a bad sound out of this wah. The tone seemed so clean and clear with all controls at center that I wanted to coax a little more oomph out of it. There are many ways to accomplish this: cranking the Bias, boosting the Bass knob, or going inside and dialing in some input gain. My favorite setting had Bias and Bass at two o’clock and a slight bump to the Input Gain trim pot. This was just loud enough to let me know I had kicked in an effect and produced a big, full tone throughout the range. And because of the range you get, long, slow sweeps are a breeze.

Other niceties include relay bypass switching, adjustable pedal torsion (via the hex nut on the treadle), and an LED that is courteous enough to blink when your battery is below half power. Thanks! This is a beautiful wah that offers huge amounts of flexibility. You could easily dial it in for any guitar and it would provide clean, gorgeous tone. Well done.

So, is there a winner in this battle of the McCoys? That depends on you. They both do a stunning job of delivering vibey, inspiring wah tones. I see two very different customers for these pedals. If you want old-school, plug-andplay simplicity that sounds great from the getgo, you’ll love the Clyde McCoy Cry Baby. If you like some modern conveniences, tweakability, and a smaller footprint, the Xotic is for you. They both do what they do so brilliantly that they both win Editors’ Pick Awards.

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