REVIEW: Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special

Legendary pedal designer Roger Mayer says the Vision Wah Special comes from the same bloodline as a pedal he built 40 years ago for Jimi Hendrix. That may be so, but to think of this as just a foot-operated portal to Jimi’s patchouli-scented spirit is to sell it way short.

Visually, the Vision Wah Special borrows a little bit of the science fiction vibe of Mayer’s famed spaceship-shaped pedals. There are two side mounted knobs, but the sleek design dispenses with any writing whatsoever on the visible part of the pedal. Instead you have to flip it over to see “Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special – Handbuilt in the UK” and that the knobs are labelled Wah Sweep and Wah Blend. Closer inspection of the pedal base also reveals a tiny hole leading through to a trimpot inside the pedal, which allows you to set a minimum volume for when the pedal is in bypass mode: when you’re not using the wah effect, the unit functions as a volume pedal. However if you don’t need the volume pedal option, you can simply turn it off by moving a jumper on the PC card.

The wah effect itself is engaged via a switch at the full ‘toe down’ end of the wah treadle, and if you’re worried that your Chuck Taylors will stomp the effect on when you’re using the volume mode, you can remove the base plate to find a small control on the PC card labelled SW Adjust, which sets the required bypass switch pressure. The treadle itself is smooth and comfortable, and relies on a clever vari friction nylon bearing, combined with a fully balanced top plate which allows the user to customise the tension from light to firm. The treadle will always remain exactly where you leave it, for those Michael Schenker fixed wah tones.

As you’d expect from a pedal associated with Jimi, the Vision Wah can sound funky and earthy. I found that at the most extreme end of the Wah Sweep control, the pedal cut through in a very sharp, bright manner especially suited to wild psycho soloing or clucky clean funk, while lower, more bass-heavy settings introduced a supportive, thick quality similar to Jimi’s soulful wah work, or the sounds of Alice In Chains’ ‘Dirt’ album. Somewhere around the upper middle of the Wah Sweep trajectory I was able to dial in a cool nasal Zappa ‘honk.’ Depending on the setting and how you play the pedal, it can go from a ‘wah wah’ to a ‘quoll quoll,’ ‘loop loop’ and ‘qua qua’ pedal. The Wah Blend control allows you to introduce the dry guitar into the sound, which is a great way of maintaining pitch clarity and the quality of your phrasing without having them be overwhelmed by the wah effect.

The Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special is more than just ‘like the one Jimi used.’ It’s a modern update on the wah concept in general, and while its ability to recreate classic Hendrix tones is a great selling point, it’s just one of the things it does very, very well.

If you’re in Australia, you can buy Roger Mayer pedals online from Guitar Toyz