Like so many pedals originally designed for the bass guitar’s 6-string sister (no offense, guitarists), wah-wah effects often tend to suck the life out of the low end, creating a significant problem for those of us seeking to hold it down. Through the years, however, designers have taken considerable strides to retain low end in stompbox effects, from chorus pedals to fuzz boxes and beyond. The Electro-Harmonix Crying Bass, which features EHX’s Next Step technology, represents the latest development in the arena.
No to Pot
Ever since the wah pedal was developed in the late ’60s, the construction of most incarnations has involved a rocking footbed attached to a potentiometer. The pot, in turn, acts like an instrument’s tone knob by running a signal through a capacitor to attenuate high end.
Like all its Next Step brethren, the Crying Bass ditches the footswitches and pots in favor of a slick system with no moving parts. Tipping the pedal forward from its resting place engages the effect, and rocking the pedal backward or forward on its rubber-bottomed fulcrum sweeps the wah. The Crying Bass features buffered-bypass switching and is powered by either a 9V battery or a Boss-style AC adapter.
A Good Cry
The primary use of the Crying Bass is, obviously, as a wah. On its own, the pedal’s wah has a depth of expression that makes the pedal’s modest price a total bargain. But the two additional features—a fuzz and a low-pass filter—make it an exceptional value.
I tested the Crying Bass with both a Precision and a Jazz bass running through a ’65 Ampeg SB-12 and quickly found that if it’s Shaft-style wacka-wacka wah effects you crave, this pedal serves up a pretty juicy version of that particular dish. To my ears, the Crying Bass was tastiest when worked at slower speeds, giving a phaser-like swirl to a chugging eighth-note pattern as I slowly rocked the pedal heel-to-toe.
Those looking for a kick-ass bass fuzz might do better elsewhere in the massive line of effects from EHX. With that said, I often found myself using the Crying Bass as a stand-alone fuzz. Simply dial up the fuzz knob on the side of the pedal, kick it on and leave it stationary, and you have yourself a pretty sick-sounding little fuzz box.
Next to the fuzz dial is where the pedal’s other secret weapon resides: the low-pass filter that’s fixed at 194 Hz. While the typical filter might allow low frequencies to circumnavigate the fuzz and/or wah circuits, there seems to be something else at play here, since cranking the filter actually creates a pretty profound bass boost. However it’s working, the low-pass filter definitely does the trick in helping preserve a low-end presence when using the effect.
Electro-Harmonix has long been an innovator in the stompbox game, and its Next Step technology follows solidly in that tradition. In practice, the system is not without its difficulties because the Crying Bass is so easily engaged by tilting the pedal forward from its resting place. An accidental bump or a stage’s floor flex from an active performance could inadvertently kick it on.
Similarly, the pedal’s sweep sensitivity requires cautious control, as a little twitch or jiggle mid-position can create unintended warble effects. But given the Crying Bass pedal’s sweet sounds, mitigating these environmental factors is worth some extra effort.
If you aren’t already familiar with the legacy of Electro-Harmonix in the realm of effects pedals, do yourself a favor and read up on the company’s rather amazing work. If, however, you just want to jump right in and have a ball on bass with a multi-talented pedal that will set you back less than 100 bucks, go check out the Crying Bass now.