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This article was originally published in issue #13
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Want two analogue filters with masses of digital control in a compact format, complete with an expression pedal? UK MIDI specialist Sonuus has the very thing with its just launched, 'Best of NAMM' nominated Wahoo pedal. Tom Quayle put one of the first production samples through its paces.
Sonuus is a UK-based guitar technology company run by boffin Dr. James Clark. Over recent years it has made a real stir in the world of pitch recognition and conversion for guitar and bass players, providing a compact and budget friendly solution for entering the world of synths and sequencing. First shown at winter NAMM 2012 where it was nominated for a 'Best of NAMM' award, the Wahoo is the company's first effects pedal unit and represents a few firsts within the industry.
The Wahoo is a dual analogue filter/wah stomp box where each filter can be configured as low-pass or band-pass and operated independently in wah pedal, envelope, LFO, and pitch-tracking modes. Each filter features a true analogue design, similar to those found in vintage synths, giving the Wahoo a warm organic feel that is very hard to achieve with digital products.
The digital front end allows for masses of control, giving you a huge spectrum of sounds from vocal formant filters, to envelope controlled wahs, to sequenced filter sweeps. Sounds can be stored in up to 100 user presets and the unit ships with 100 factory sounds to show the potential that the Wahoo provides. Sonuus has also packed in its pitch tracking technology, allowing for some truly unique sounds that can be controlled with pitch recognition: a first for a filter pedal.
Construction quality is very high, as the Wahoo is made from aluminium, housing high quality electronic components and a unique expression pedal design, featuring a brand new type of position sensor that allows super-fine precision control with no mechanical couplings. No potentiometers here or optical sensors that are susceptible to dust and wear - in fact, Sonuus claim that the Wahoo pedal will never become noisy and will never wear out!
In use the pedal is super smooth and precise, with just the right range of travel for all of those fat filter and wah sounds. On the front of the unit are the controls for storing presets, editing filter sounds and assigning the control parameters using envelopes, LFOs, onboard pedal and pitch tracking. Having this many options on board allows for some truly expressive sounds that can be dialled in with relative ease. That said, this is definitely not a plug and play pedal. You'll probably want to read the manual a few times, but in no way is it beyond the average user to program and come up with some cool sounds. If you want to go deep though you really can, with mind-boggling levels of parameter tweaking outlined very nicely in the manual and editable with a very intuitive user interface!
Round the back of the pedal you'll find basic ins and outs, plus a USB port for utilising the impressive looking software editor (MAC and PC compatible), MIDI control via DAWs and uploading firmware updates. This means that the Wahoo can be updated via new software releases, adding new features or effects, making it truly future proof - a great asset. The software allows full control over all parameters in a user-friendly interface, making editing as painless as possible and allowing storage and uploading/sharing of user patches. Finally, a lock switch allows the user to perform without worrying about accidentally editing their settings by locking all controls other than preset selection and the expression pedal.
The Wahoo can be powered via USB, four AA batteries or any standard 9v power supply, although this is not included in the box, something that is an oversight in this reviewer's opinion, but is certainly not a deal breaker. True-bypass operation keeps your signal intact when the pedal is off and it's surprising how quiet this unit is even with a ton of filtering going on.
In use the Wahoo presents an amazing array of very inspiring sounds that are all warm and fat without the blandness and tonal thinning associated with many digital units. Running through the 100 factory presets can be a little daunting at first but they are arranged in groups giving you access to each filter type and controller function. A nice addition might have been a list of all 100 presets giving you some idea of how each sound was achieved, but simply scrolling through each sound is a lot of fun! My favourites were the very vocal sounds using the expression pedal to move between multiple vowel sounds and the fantastically fat envelope filters. If you can imagine a filter sound it can almost certainly be achieved with the Wahoo!
The really great thing about the Wahoo is how inspirational the sounds can be - I can fully imagine using some of these sounds to write entire riffs or songs and after all, what else do we use effects pedals for if not to inspire us to be more creative? In this respect the Wahoo is highly successful and I very much recommend that you check one out.