WTF?, I Got a Blah-Blah Pedal!

Not long after listening to my first Hendrix album, I realized I needed a wah-wah pedal.  This was not a mere “want” like a Tube Screamer was after listening to SRV, or a MXR Flanger was after hearing Van Halen’s “Unchained”.  This was a if-I-don’t-get-a-wah-wah-pedal-I-will-be-living-a-deprived-life type of need.  I know I sound somewhat dramatic, but I was a twelve year old living a sheltered life.

I remember going to the guitar store with my lawn mowing money and seeing it in the glass showcase, dwarfing the little, brightly colored rectangle pedals.  I was so anxious I didn’t even ask to try it out.  It was almost like a hostage situation, “OK sales guy, I’ll hand you the money,  then you hand over the pedal and we’ll back away slowly so nobody gets hurt.”

Once I got home with it, which seemed to take forever due to an extreme lack of patience that causes me to exaggerate time,  I plugged it in, clicked the on switch and was overwhelmed with a sound that could only be described as a religious experience…literally.  My amp started shouting out a series of “Alleluia’s” and “Amen’s” in a tone that could only be ironically described as an evil telephone.  After freaking out and shouting “The power of Christ compels you!” at it a few times, I concluded that my new wah pedal was picking up a gospel music station located somewhere on the AM radio dial.

Initially, I thought I had a defective unit and called the store to inquire about returning it, but the guy on the phone assured me that this was typical with wah pedals.   I didn’t believe him at first.  How could this be considered acceptable?  I felt conflicted to play “Voodoo Child” while a choir sang “Praise Jesus” in the background.  I actually called the competing music store down the road who confirmed that what I had been told was true.  From that point on I just learned to deal with the occasional radio station popping in,  hoping that when it does we will at least be in the same key.

This flashback came about when I was scrolling through the Jim Dunlop website and came across an explanation along with methods to try and solve this phenomenon.  You can find it in the FAQ’s section: along with other interesting Cry Baby information.  I copied and pasted the section dealing with the radio station issue below:

Q: Why do I hear radio stations through my wah pedal?
A:This is a common occurrence because the inductor in the Wah pedalacts as an antenna. When you are in an area with a lot of radio frequency, the pedal can and will pick up radio stations. It is not very easy to troubleshoot and fix, because it differs so greatly due to the different signals and the varying surroundings. What may work in one region might not work in another.

The first step in troubleshooting is to find out where in your rig the signal is coming from.-First check to see if it is coming in through the AC Adapter. Use the effect with a battery and see if it is coming in through the wall. If it is, discontinue the use of the AC Adapter. If this doesn’t work, then…-

Second, check to see if it is coming in through the guitar. Turn the volume of the guitar down to zero and see if you still get the radio signal. If yes, you might want to try putting a .0068-microfarad capacitor on the input jack between the tip and the shaft. (The capacitor can be a ceramic or polyester type and voltage rating of any size works.) This will also kill the high end of your sound. If this doesn’t work, then…-

Third, check the inductor. If you have a metal inductor, you can purchase a shield from us and place it over the inductor with a ground wire that is placed under one of the screws on the PC Board. This acts as both an AC Hum and RF shield. (It is part number ECB99 – and lists for $12.00) If this doesn’t work then…

-Fourth, open up the pedal and unsolder the black wire from the pot. Slide some Ferrite beads onto the wire and re-solder it. The size, number and shape of the beads depends upon the signal that you are getting, and we have not found any rhyme or reason as to which beads work with which signals. If this doesn’t work then…

-Fifth, wrap the entire wire harness in Mumetalfoil, which comes in a tape format, and hope that that works, because after that who knows!

Getting radio stations on your wah pedal is unfortunately the nature of the beast and has been since its inception. In some areas it is worse than others. It is especially bad in the Great Lakes region because the lakes act as large antennas sending out the radio signals to all areas – and all wah pedals.

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