logicbdj, on december 19, 2012 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Price paid: $ 349
Purchased from: www.Sonuus.com
Ease of Use: INTRODUCTION
The Wah never seems to go out of style, having emerged with incredible glory from the days of Hendrix and later breathing life into modern rock with many virtuoso guitarists having their own signature Wah pedals. With some added distortion, there is very little that is as gritty and sexy as well-executed Wah guitar vocalization, but one common annoyance is the background noise of those scratchy, wearing pots. It becomes costly and a pain to change them, and with Murphy's Law not on your side, pots tend to wear and become noisy when you least want them.
When I heard Sonuus was releasing an analogue signal path wah/filter pedal, but with digital control and pre-sets, I was interested. But what captivated my attention was that this Wah has NO pots rather, it uses a unique patent-pending pedal sensor that eliminates pots, pot wearing, and dirt formation around the mechanics.
As anxious as I was to try this pedal, and write a review, I quickly became aware of how daunting a task it was going to be this is no ordinary wah, but a fully programmable envelop filter. There are a ton of features about this pedal, and so I'll address the most basic to the more complex.
I already mentioned one of the basic (and one of the most important) features in the introduction, including the use of a new sensor to control the effect, and that means no scratchy pot noise... ever. Moreover, with its ground-breaking pitch-tracking technology, it is possible to create unique pitch-bend and tracking effects that vary considerably in range and quality that has set a new standard in wah/filter pedals
This dual-filter transparent-true-bypass' pedal is ideal for guitar or bass and comes with 100 presets, as well as 100 user presets to save your own creations. The pedal includes the following groups (with 10 in each):
1. Pedal-controlled Wah (from smooth and sweeping of a traditional Crybaby to throaty and growling)
2. Pedal-controlled vowel sounds (a more humanized approach to the wah)
3. Touch wah/guitar (affected by how hard you play)
4. Bass envelope (these actually sound pretty cool on the guitar as well unique jazz tones coming from these presets)
5. LFO (low frequency oscillation not stepped; note that the rate of oscillation for these pre-sets, as well as those in number 6 below, is controlled by the foot pedal)
6. LFO (stepped for more rhythmic applications)
7. LFO beats
8. Pitch-bend and pitch-track
9. Bubbly envelope
10. Mix-up (various combinations with some sounding like they emerged from a science fiction movie).
There is so much variation, from Vintage to modern, that there's plenty to choose from; but Imagine developing a few dozen wah/envelop filter patches to your preferences, relative to different styles of songs or artists you like, and being able to access them via the pedal's footswitch on command!
The rear panel has a lock switch, which enables the user to keep the pedal in lock-down mode, so that you cannot edit or change any presets or their parameters. This is ideal for a gigging musician who wants to make sure that none of the buttons or controls are touched accidentally (although with the steel crossbars in place, it is difficult to do so).
The power supply options are three-fold. You can use an optional adaptor or batteries (via a convenient flip lid on the bottom), and if the power supply disengages accidentally, you get uninterrupted power transference to the batteries. The third option is great for those home players, as you can hook up a USB Chord to your computer and power the pedal that way the Wahoo's software is contained directly in the pedal, and so your computer recognizes it right away. (With all three connected, the power supply takes priority, followed by the USB then the batteries.)
A cool power feature is that you will see a periodic bAt' flash, to let you know that the batteries are getting low. As well, hold down a few button combinations and you can see how much life is remaining in the batteries. I'm not sure if I'll have to worry about that since I adore that USB feature, but it's certainly handy for those on the road or forgoing an electrical power supply.
A patch can be engaged or disengaged by way of the footswitch, but just like other wahs, you can engage the effect simply by moving the foot pedal to the toe-down position (there is no clicking or added noise to the signal either way... just a smooth transition in and out of the signal chain; this feature also can be turned off).
EASE OF USE
The Sonuus Wahoo is both simple and complex in its use simple enough to move from patch to patch, but offering so much versatility in altering those patches, for custom sounds, that it can be complex. However, I do say that with some reserve, since the Wahoo's tweak-ability is not the issue, but rather how much time you can play around with it to discover your unique personality does not make it a simple plug-n-play. The Wahoo has three areas of potential configuration, and I'll address each accordingly.
There are four sub-areas under Level: Drive, Filter Mix , Dry/Wet and Output. The Drive offers a very nice degree of distortion/overdrive, and sometimes this is all you need added to one of the Wah settings and pumped through a clean amp (I'm a bit smitten with this pedal's tone right now, having removed my other distortions/drives from the chain). It's a very warm-sounding analogue that produces rich harmonics when turned up no harshness, and if turned to the max gives some fuzziness to the tone (adjusted with some of the other settings and you can mimic some heavy and thick muff tones).
The Filter Mix refers to the proportion of filter 1 and filter 2 in the output mix, so that you can have a little of one, a lot of the other, etc., including combining a Wah with a pitch control, or a LFO filter with an envelope filter, etc. The Dry/Wet allows you to alter the degree of your instrument's signal, whether you want to go full bore on the effect, or have it enhance your guitar's tone only slightly. The Output refers to how strong the signal will be, which also includes a noise gate/threshold setting, a very nice feature since some modulation effects (wah is an example) can produce some hissing when the Drive is cranked up.
This section of the pedal is the real shape-shifter. You can adjust the resonance and frequency of the filter, for deep and high responses, and for short and broad responses (and even reverse filter sweeps). In effect, you can adjust the filter shape, to allow for (or remove) various frequencies, and this then is affected by the filter curve (which adjusts the feel of the footpedal/response of the envelope filter). For the greatest expression, this is where you can adjust and create vocal sounds combining two filters in order to pair together common resonances found in the human vocal tract; in doing so, a typical Wah can sound more like ee', uh', or aw', for example.
With this part of the pedal you can indicate whether the pedal controls the effect (typical with the wah) if control is handled by way of MIDI, or internally by way of LFO (e.g., an auto-wah effect). As well, the Envelope Mode option allows you to control the degree of filter by how hard or soft you play, and the Pitch-track/Pitch-bend functions serve to provide you unique feedback responses relative to the note pitches you play (when exaggerated, think of strange sci-fi or mad-scientist laboratory sounds).
This is where you alter settings for a more custom fit, including:
- LED Brightness (reducing brightness saves on batteries!)
- Instrument (any plug-in instrument you desire, and obviously guitar... but also 4- and 5-string bass; a different selection will optimize the Wahoo for your particular needs)
- Sensitivity (this offsets the envelope sensitivity globally so you can adjust for different instruments without having to adjust each envelope preset, so that the effects sound true and clear without being either too low or distorted)
- Noise Gate (how quickly the noise gate kicks in, set separately on each preset)
- Footswitch Time (you can adjust how quickly footswitch activation reacts when switching an effect off and on, or switching from pre-sets)
OTHER COOL FEATURES
The Wahoo can be controlled with a MIDI input or it can be used as a controller (e.g., to control a synth or synchronize LFOs to a sequencer). I'm a bit green' when it comes to MIDI applications (it's been a few years since I've dabbled with it), and so describing all it can do in this mode is best left to the manual and promotional materials on the Sonuus site. But there are several other features that make this pedal worth having, including an LED display to let you know what patch you are on (you can provide a unique name in the user-altered patches, and more than three letters if you use the software more on that exciting feature later). And then there's the future-proof upgradeable firmware simply plug in a USB to your computer, and receive the latest pedal technology in no time flat.
The Windows/OSX Desktop Editor is a real kick in the pants, for those who enjoy seeing a graphic representation of a signal's level, frequency, curve shape, etc., for that visual tweaking besides controlling the Wahoo like it was a VST plug-in! In effect (no pun intended), you can adjust any of the aspects described in this review, all on one layout... make any changes to any patch (including altering the vowel sounds), then save it in your user patch section. And through the software you can save all your settings, which means storing all your patches to your computer and re-installing them to your Wahoo in case of a mishap. If you love to tweak and create unique tones, you will love the free downloadable software as it saves a lot of bending down, playing around with buttons and knobs, etc.
Check this link to see what some of the Editor's windows look like. // 7
Sound: Patches are easy enough to edit, but with the software it is a no-brainer. The sounds you can achieve, just by manipulating one patch is enormous. I put together various sound files to demonstrate a few simple ideas. The first sound file keeps the frequency settings of the Crybaby Wah (drive set half-way for some grit), but each time the riff repeats the vowel range varies (The low frequency remains between oo' and aw' as each riff repeats and shifts from u' to er', ah', uh', ae', e', I', and then ee').
Imagine changing the low frequency to any other vowel sound, and then altering the high frequency once again and you can Imagine how diverse the Wahoo is for nothing more than a wah.
Being a guitar player, with tastes ranging from classic to modern rock, the use of the Wahoo as a Wah is my main preference, and this is by far the most diverse Wah you could own. I won't bother rewording what Sonuus has stated so eloquently:
"No more complaining that the filter sweep is too wide or not wide enough. The Q, or peakiness, of the filters can also be adjusted, and indeed this has become common on a lot of pedals. Where the Wahoo differs is in making this Q dynamically variable: you simply set two Q values (hi and lo) and the filters will morph between them. Not only does this let you tailor the sound more precisely, but it lets you emulate other wahpedals more easily: for example a typical Wah's Q drops as the filter cutoff increases.
"Perhaps the coolest adjustment is the filter response curve. A common problem with Wah pedals is that the sweet spot in the pedal travel, that point which gives you the most interesting sonic variation, isn't always where you want it to be. This can mean that there's too much pedal movement before anything interesting happens. The response curve lets you change how the pedal position maps to the filter so that this sweet spot can be closer to the heel or toe position, or spread evenly across the full pedal travel."
Is there anyone out there completely happy with any particular Wah pedal? For the most part, I suspect guitarists are content, but there's always certain songs or the use of certain equipment that will allow a particular Wah pedal to Shine one moment, then fall a little flat another. Now you can create your own Wah catalog without having to buy several models that would take up excess room and excess investment.
From smooth to aggressive wahs, to more synth-like sounds, the frequency range is huge! Any stringed instrument or keyboard can make use of the Wahoo, but this is matched easily by its digital diverseness and excellence in sound high quality analog tone with zero noise coming from the workings of the pedal. This next sound file selects the LFO mode (100% mix) with the same frequency settings, but while altering the wave shape every repeating riff from sine to triangle, square, saw up, saw down, and trapezoid(bear in mind that no other setting is altered, including bpm, steps , response curve or filter type):
With the Envelope mode I kept sensitivity, punch, attack and decay, etc., the same, but changed the frequency; I also used both filters to add a touch of Wah to enhance the envelope:
And here is an example of the Pitch mode, while messing around between pitch-track (first riff) and pitch-bend (the riff repeats three more times with altered bend references' of bottom, center and top all other settings remained constant):
These are only a few examples, and most transition in a subtle way (listen to the final example in this review for more over-the-top sounds), but realize that there are hundreds of possibilities since you can combine the foot pedal Wah as one filter along with a LFO, Envelope or Pitch mode in another filter... or any other combination or any one on its own... and while altering any number of elements, from frequency to Drive to filter type, etc!
This next piece is an actual composition using various stock patches on the Wahoo. There are some wah' moments throughout the song, but the use of modulation throughout is apparent. The equipment includes a JEM custom guitar (Casper Guitar Technologies, with Sublime Pickups), a Pritchard amp (clean channel) and a Boomerang delay:
And finally, here is a sound file that plays around with some exaggerated settings on the Wahoo, to give an idea of some odd' possibilities in tone shaping:
http://soundcloud.com/brian-johnston-10/wahoooddsamples/s-zIyma // 10
Reliability & Durability: The Sonuus Wahoo is one of the most professional pedals I have used, in both quality of sound and in construction. Housed in heavy gauge aluminum, the knobs and foot pedal are steel construction; and what the user notices are safety crossbars in place to prevent the foot from slipping off and hitting any of the buttons and controls. The movement of the foot pedal is very smooth and solid, and the footswitch likewise a nice solid click'. The Wahoo's ruggedness was made for gigging, but with enough incredible features for the home and studio user (USB connector as a power supply and editing software, to name two). // 10
Overall Impression: Of all the pedals I've reviewed and demoed, I have never been as impressed as I am with the Sonuus Wahoo and the software makes getting neck deep' involved fast and easy. I own several types of big name' wahs, and they have become obsolete in the presence of the black and chrome Sonuus Wahoo. A real looker', this pedal is incredibly diverse, easy to use, and offers so many usable pre-sets that you may not be tweaking right away.
I usually find a few weak spots when reviewing a product, but the Wahoo offers such enormous versatility and clear sound, that the only complaint might be to include a power adapter (not that I would need it with the USB option). Likewise, there is no one particular feature that stands out Sonuus considered everything, from sound quality to its diverseness... and including the software, the overall package is quite inspirational to one's playing.
Although I was hoping for a great wah, which it is, I was less concerned about the other filter options (and those are darn good!). What surprised me are the drive/distortion tones available in the Wahoo as I messed about with the frequency settings (from metal chugging to searing leads), which can be combined with a Wah or not. If the Wahoo had some delay and chorus it would have to be categorized as a floorboard multi-effects unit, albeit the quality of sound coming from this pedal surpasses high-end multi units I have used thus far.