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This article was originally published in issue #41
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With guitar players gravitating more and more towards large pedal board set-ups, board real estate and pedal footprint have become increasingly important commodities for players. One of the largest pedals on a board can often be the Wah pedal, so there has been an industry wide trend to produce miniaturised Wahs over the last few years that take up less space on a pedal board.
The latest company to the party is Boss with its PW-3 compact Wah pedal, designed in a small footprint housing with both modern and vintage Wah sounds on board. At only 192mm long and 80mm wide, the PW3 is certainly a small take on this most classic of pedals, but Boss has gone to great lengths to ensure that the diminutive design doesn’t equal lesser sound quality or fewer features. The unit is constructed with a strong, die-cast aluminium chassis with a high quality, smooth pedal mechanism whose tension can be adjusted manually with a torque screw for customisable feel and operation. A simple but effective grip pattern ensures that your foot won’t slip off the pedal and rubberised feet keep the unit from shifting on surfaces if not mounted on a pedal board. Boss has cleverly included a pair of side mounted LEDs that light up red when the pedal is switched on. Side mounting these LEDs ensures that you can easily see when the pedal is engaged even with your foot on the pedal.
Engaging the pedal is done with a solid press on the toe end of the wah. At first it is surprising just how much pressure is required to engage the unit, but this ensures that you don’t switch it on by mistake and is only really a problem if the user is seated, as you’ll need your body weight to push the pedal down effectively. The front panel houses your input and output, power input (the unit can also be battery operated) and a small switch to move between ‘Vintage’ and Boss’ own ‘Rich’ mode. As expected, the Vintage mode offers up classic vintage Wah tones, whilst the Rich mode brings back the lost bottom end and is much warmer than the Wah tones of old. Having both modes within this single, small pedal is a great bonus and makes the PW-3 a very versatile unit for both modern and classic applications.
In use, the PW-3 is an impressive performer with fantastic wah frequency sweeps that will have you mouthing along with your lead lines like a pro. Engaging the unit is pop free and the circuit design ensures that there is no extra noise added once the pedal is switched on. The rich mode is especially impressive with warmth and low end present to produce a much…richer wah sound. In this mode the pedal becomes even more vocal and fun with less of an obvious change when switching between engaged and bypassed operation than in vintage mode. Speaking of the vintage mode, this offers up all the classic tone of a '60s style Wah pedal with the usual loss of low end but the pleasing vocal sweeps that have become so recognisable. This mode is also especially useful for mid-position cocked Rock wah tones a la Michael Schenker.
Boss has crafted a superb and fully featured Wah pedal in a small format that will be very welcome to those who need to save space on their pedal board. You lose nothing for choosing the small form factor and the choice of two voices is a lovely addition considering that the rich mode genuinely adds something useful to your tonal palette. Offering this at such a low price is Boss’ speciality and gives the user excellent value for money and a lower risk buying scenario. Very highly recommended.