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Electro-Harmonix Cocked Wah Fuzz Effect

 

A Run-Through with the Cocky King of the Roost

 

By Chris Loeffler

 

Enterprising tone pioneers long ago discovered that in addition to the typical application of animating their tone with a sweeping wah pedal and fuzz, there were points in the wah’s sweep where they could “park” the wah (i.e., leave it at a certain point mid-sweep) that created unique and very effective (especially live) tones. That said, fuzz and wah effects have always had a tumultuous relationship…when paired right, they can make the sonic love of rock gods, but the wrong application can result in a pumping, chugging, lifeless mess of mush. Using the two together requires signal chain adjustments and settings tweaks that typically end up getting “less than the best” from both your fuzz and wah compared to when they're used independently.

 

Here’s the crux of the issue: traditional fuzzes want  a direct connection to the guitar pickups, so they like being first in the signal chain. Although the way a wah filter focuses the guitar's frequencies can sound amazing and cutting when placed in front of a fuzz, traditional wah pedals have terrible buffers that utterly destroy the minimal loading needed to make a fuzz vibrant. Placing a wah after fuzz, while a valid tone, sounds much less organic and more “effected” as it scoops out quite a bit of the fuzz attack and bloom.

 

Whether the intent was simply to squeeze a tone typically created by multiple effects into a single pedal or to free players’ fuzzes and wahs to sound their best when used individually, Electro-Harmonix has unleashed the Cock Fight in a bid to let guitar players have their cake and eat it too.

 

What You Need to Know

 

The Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight runs on a standard 9v battery or included power supply and features controls for Volume, Frequency, Drive, Tone, Bias, Bottom, Pre/Post, and Cry/Talk. In addition to standard in and outs, an expression input allows incorporating an expression pedal (EHX Expression Pedal, M-Audio, Roland, etc) to sweep the filter like a traditional wah pedal.

 

The fuzz portion of the circuit is sculpted using Drive, Tone, and Bias controls, and can be placed before or after the filter circuit - or even removed entirely (but what’s the fun in that?). Drive adjusts the overall amount of fuzz gain, and is very interactive with the Bias control, which dictates the voltage the circuit receives. While the Drive control goes from nearly clean to saturated, rich fuzz, the Bias control changes the structure of the gain based on how much juice it’s feeding. All the way up, Tonebender and Muff-style richness and dimension lurks, but when rolling back the Bias the gain starts to gate, the distortion beings to simplify, and eventually the tone devolves into sputtery, 8-bit Nintendo bloops by the bottom of the sweep. The Tone control shows surprising restraint for Electro-Harmonix (famous for giving so much range that things can get a little crazy) and is gentle and natural across its sweep, never getting too dull nor too bright...just helping ease your tone into a sweet spot.

 

The wah circuit is controlled by Volume, Frequency, Bottom, and Mode controls and, unlike the fuzz, cannot be disabled when the pedal is on. The Volume control, logically, controls the effect's output volume (from dead quiet to double the volume of the original signal), while the Frequency knob adjusts the filter sweep, just like rocking a wah pedal would. The Bottom control allows for additional bass, typically cut in a wah-style effect, to be reintroduced, especially for bass or keyboard applications. The Bottom control is most effective with guitar when used in moderation, as things got a bit flabby with the control kept past noon. The Cry/Talk switch assigns one of two filter styles to the wah, which each merit individual discussion.

 

Cry Mode is a traditional wah tone, and likely the sound most people think of when asked to guess what the Cock Fight sounds like. Unlike many of the wah mainstays I’ve used, the sweep is surprisingly even and smooth and there weren’t any of the ugly points or harsh spikes I typically try to speed through. Hendrix, Zepp, Hammett…they’re all there. When in front of the fuzz circuit, the Cry mode is like a knife that cuts through the mix and beefs up the mids, just like a traditional Wah/Fuzz combo. The fuzz builds nicely around the filter and rounds out the edges. While the sound is very organic, even untrained ears will know something is happening beyond “distortion.” Depending on the guitar and amp, pretty much any point in the Frequency range has a valid application.

 

Placed after the fuzz, the Cry mode's filter section really pulls in the tonal range of the fuzz and boosts a confined scope of frequencies for some interesting, if not exactly vintage, tones. It’s spiky and more aggressive, and has an almost “out-of-phase” quality to it at many points of the sweep.

 

Talk Mode is a vocal, chewy filter setting that seems to recreate the vowel run A-E-I-O-U-W (OK… not a vowel) one would expect from the yowl of a golden-throated, baritone alley cat (but in a good way). Robotic, talk-box like tones seem to have a bigger smoothing effect over the attack definition, and it’s certainly the less traditional-sounding of the two modes.

 

Placing the fuzz in the post position obscures some of this funkiness due to the gain, and Frampton-like “howling into a distorting loudspeaker”-type sounds are attainable; but in the pre-position, the filter gets a stranglehold over the fuzz and creates synth-like tones that would be as at home in an EDM recording as they would the world of rock. While this may sound dismissive or like a one-trick pony, I doubt there is a Cock Fight owner who won’t find a way to sneak the Talk setting into a live performance for at least one song.

 

 

Limitations

 

  • Extremely high-output active pickups can overload the effect, making it better suited for single-coil and traditional humbucking pickups.

 

  • While limitation may be the wrong word, I’d love to see a treadle version come out down the line to take full advantage of the wah (I’m not a fan of the lightweight M-Audio and Roland expression pedals).

 

Conclusion

 

The Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight is the rare example of an analog multi-effect that does everything right. The fuzz sounds and feels good enough to satisfy any fuzz snob, and the two wah modes would each be top candidates on their own. As if sounding great as individual components wasn’t enough, the circuits play together beautifully and create a treasure trove of lead and rhythm tones. As someone once joked in the Effects Forum, “Friends don’t let friends cock their wah,” there can be a temptation to overuse it to the point where the awesome-sauce becomes fatiguing - but that’s on the player, not the pedal.

 

Resources

 

 

Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight Cocked Wah Product Page

 

Buy the Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight Cocked Wah (MSRP $148.90, MAP $111.70)

@Sweetwater   

@B&H    

@Amazon    

@MusiciansFriend

 

_________________________________________________

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

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Phr0stByte  |  April 25, 2017 at 7:37 pm
Take a look at pairing it with an Electro Harmonix expression pedal - built like a tank with no moving parts. I love the combo!
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