Anatomy of an FX Chain: CA Vintage Wah (Free Download)

You know you want it…there’s something irresistible about a greasy wah effect

by Craig Anderton

Some people think all you really need for a wah sound is to set a parametric EQ to bandpass with a fairly high Q, and sweep it back and forth. However, a vintage wah’s bandpass filter has a skirt that rejects high and low frequencies, which doesn’t happen with a parametric EQ’s bandpass response.

I came up with a technique that does the vintage wah effect quite well by copying a guitar track and flipping it 180 degrees out of phase so the signal canceled. Then, I’d set one track’s parametric to bandpass with a fairly high Q and sweep it. Because the only difference between the two channels was the bandpass peak, that’s all you heard—the highs and lows canceled out.

The VC-64 is ideal for this application, because it has two parallel paths and you can throw one of them 180 degrees out of phase. However, it’s a very old plug-in and the developer is nowhere to be found, which pretty much dashes any hopes for future updates—even if Cakewalk wanted to update it themselves, there’s currently no way they can get the rights to do so. Although the VC-64 doesn’t install by default in X3, you can still do a custom install if you want to use it. However, I thought it would be prudent to come up with an FX Chain that wasn’t dependent on the VC-64.

The answer: Those good ol’ reliable (and often unappreciated) Sonitus plug-ins, coupled with the ability to have one FX Chain knob affect multiple parameters. Chaining the Sonitus EQ’s high and low pass filters, then sweeping them together, takes care of nuking the highs and lows; increasing each filter’s Q (brought out to a Resonance control) provides a suitably resonant bandpass effect.

Here’s a screenshot of the de-constructed FX Chain.


The wah part itself is the two tracking filter stages with adjustable frequency and resonance. The multiband dynamics that follows the wah is really just a multiband limiter in case the resonance gets out of control (note the Limit button is enabled, but the ratio for all bands is 1.0 so there’s no dynamics processing).

This is a simple FX Chain, but it’s extremely effective. The only real downside is that while you can automate the Frequency control, you can’t tie it to an external pedal. However, there’s a solution: You can translate this approach to the ProChannel EQ by grouping the HP and LP filters, and adding a resonant peak with one of the parametric stages that belongs to the same group. You can then assign the group to Remote Control, assign a footpedal, and pedal your way to wah madness.

Download the free FX Chain (SONAR X2/X3 Producer only)

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