Vox V848 Clyde McCoy Wah-Wah Reissue vs. Vintage Clyde McCoy

Introduced in 1967, the Vox Clyde McCoy Wah-Wah pedal was the most significant guitar effect of its time. Invented by a young engineer named Brad Plunkett, who worked for the Thomas Organ company—Vox/JMI’s U.S. counterpart—the wah circuit basically sprang from the 3-position midrange voicing function used on the Vox Super Beatle amplifier.

Plunkett was tasked with modifying the circuit to use a potentiometer instead of the costlier rotary switch, and this change allowed the bandpass-filter circuit to produce a sweeping vocal effect that was unlike anything heard at the time. Vox cleverly packaged the circuit into an enclosure with a rocker pedal attached to the pot (which controlled the frequency of the resonant peak) and named the new device after trumpeter Clyde McCoy, who was known for the signature “wah” sound he created with a mute in the bell of his horn. Early versions of the Clyde McCoy featured an image of McCoy on the bottom panel, which soon gave way to his signature only before the name of the pedal was changed to Cry Baby. Thomas Organ’s failure to trademark the Cry Baby name soon led to the market being flooded with Cry Baby imitations from various parts of the world, including Italy, where the McCoys were originally made. In the early ’80s, the Jim Dunlop company trademarked the name and began officially producing the Cry Baby wah, which it continues to offer in several versions.

Noting the scarcity and escalating prices of the original Clydes, Vox introduced the V848 Clyde McCoy reissue in 2004. The U.S.-made pedal closely resembles the original version and sports McCoy’s line-drawn image on the bottom plate. It is, however, fitted with an external power jack and has a “Vox” sticker on the front of the case instead of the original cast-in logo. As you’d expect, the reissue’s circuitry (which includes an Italian-made Fasel inductor) is contained on a glass-epoxy PC board instead of being handwired on a phenolic board. The new unit also incorporates some additional buffering circuitry to ensure better performance when connected to other effects or when driving long lengths of cable.

To find out how the reissue Clyde stands up to the original, we obtained three vintage units for comparison: a 1966 Vox “patent pending” wah (which happens to be missing the paper sticker originally fitted to its bottom panel), a 1967 Clyde McCoy “picture” model, and a 1968 Clyde McCoy “signature” wah. All were completely original except for having been modified for true bypass using a DPDT footswitch and being fitted with a Fulltone Wah Pot, which is identical to the ICAR 100k pots used in the ’60s. We tested all of the pedals using a Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, a Gibson Les Paul, and a variety of amplifiers that included a mid-’60s Fender Super Reverb, a Gibson Discoverer, and a Victoria Regal II.

It’s easy to be seduced by the sounds produced by vintage Vox wahs, which all seem to have their own little signatures and personalities. Some traits akin to these three units include the subtle phasing you hear in the background when slowly moving the pedal back and forth, and the sweet and non-biting response when the pedal is pressed all the way down. If I had to pick a fave, it probably would be the ’66 owing to its silky highs, lovely vocal color, and incredibly smooth and even response as the pedal is moved between its stops. The ’67 “picture” wah (which is the model that the reissue Clyde is based on) sounded a little softer than its vintage siblings, and also had just a bit less depth and vibrancy in its voice. Still plenty cool, though.

After some ear conditioning with the vintage wahs, we fired up the reissue Clyde to hear how it fared. Immediately apparent about the reissue Clyde was that it was a tad louder than the vintage units and also had more top and bottom. The pierce factor became an issue when picking hard with the rocker fully depressed—which wasn’t the case with any of the vintage units—but the reissue sounded clearer and fuller when its rocker was pulled all the way back. Although some of the more subtle phasing textures were less apparent in its response, the new Clyde’s midrange colors and vocal qualities were similar enough to what we heard from the old pedals. The differences aren’t unlike what you might find when comparing vintage guitars or amps to their reissue counterparts. Age definitely imparts its own distinct sonic imprint on any piece of gear, and that can include pops and crackles that require replacement of components (such as the pots on these old wahs) to eliminate.

The Vox Clyde McCoy reissue sounds enough like a vintage Clyde to be a good substitute on the bandstand, and with a street price of $149 you can hardly go wrong if you want classic wah tone for minimal cash outlay. (If you have a little more to spend, also consider the excellent Clyde-inspired boutique wahs offered by Fulltone and Geoffrey Teese.) The new Vox Clyde is better equipped for real-world use and way easier to replace than a vintage unit, so if you’re fortunate enough to already own a Thomas Organ-made Clyde McCoy, save it for special occasions and carry the reissue to your regular gigs—future generations will thank you for preserving such an important piece of Vox history!

Vintage Vox wahs courtesy of Michael Fuller at Fulltone Musical Products, Inc.