If ever there were a pedal based effect that was difficult for me to put my finger on, it’d have to be wah. Call me immature, but every time I have a long-board at my feet I can’t help but imitate the cheesy, rhythmic chant that populates the background of so many blue movies from the 70’s. I wish that I could take it seriously enough to find space for the rapid-fire tonal opportunity that these units offer, but I just can’t for the life of me get my mind out of the gutter. If ever there was a wah that would rescue me from myself, however, T-Rex’s new design The Shafter has a shot at the title.
As the website states, The Shafter is T-Rex’s attempt at carving out a whole new niche in the wah market. It has three distinct, switchable voicings for you to choose from and all three seem plucked from a different era of wah history. To the left, Wah 1 is your classic, first era, psychedelic sound that pushes and pulls treble or bass across the potentiometer just like Hendrix. Wah 2 has a broader, deeper Q like some of the more esoteric, Japanese builds that started to push the envelope as time and lawsuits advanced. The third setting is ostensibly the wildest, but it is the one I ended up spending the most time with. The inscription ‘Yoy Yoy’ at the right hand position is probably the best and only way to describe it to be honest. It’s almost as throaty as Peter Frampton’s talk-box and is by far one of the most original wah sounds I’ve ever wrapped my mind around.
One concept that often causes people to overlook the wah is the idea that it might be a one trick pony. The thing that sets one unit apart from another, aside from its specific voicing, is the amount of control you have over the peripheral aspects and added extras. Use The Shafter’s boost dial to send your Kirk Hammett style solo high above the rest of the band or use the slope knob to zero in on the perfect amount of heave through the mid frequencies. Mounted right next to the output jack is the Hotspot button that allows you to further broaden your sweep right from your heel to the tip of your toes. On top of all that, the on/off switch is inaudible and the contact free potentiometer driving the ship completely eradicates any possibility of unwanted crackle and hiss. T-Rex have absolutely kept a keen eye on the successes and failures of past and future designs and expanded on them.
Of all the players I’ve ever heard dive headlong into the pool of wah, one has always stood out to me. He was playing a big ol’ hollow body alongside a modern soul band, doing jazz moves into a wah that looked eerily like The Shafter I see before me. He was the first to open up the idea of using a wah as a thorough colour box as opposed to a hokey porn reference and ever since I saw him clean up the stage at The Toff that night, I’ve been looking for a wah that could help me do that and more. Lo and behold the brilliant minds at T-Rex Engineering have me covered.
Hits and Misses
Highly flexible control, original voicings and silent construction in use