Funky! That’s the keyword that comes to mind when talking about the Mad Professor Snow White Bass Auto Wah. Let’s take a closer look…
The Snow White Bass Auto Wah is a touch sensitive (dynamically controlled) envelope filter. Mad Professor has two overall lines of pedals – factory-made and hand-wired. The hand-wired pedals are significantly heavier and more expensive. Whether they sound better is hard to say, but in this case there is no way to make that comparison as the bass version of the Snow White Auto Wah is only available as hand-wired at this point.
The SWBAW features four knobs: SENSITIVITY, BIAS, RESONANCE and DECAY. These are common controls on this type of pedal even though the naming may differ a bit from pedal to pedal.
The SENSITIVITY knob determines when to kick in the filter depending on the dynamics of the incoming signal. The range is very wide and with a passive bass it should be set quite low. If you crank it up high, it’s ready to receive a very hot signal from an active bass, but if you do that with for instance a passive Fender Jazz, there is little to no effect even if you dig in deep or slap. The bass is simply not capable of producing a signal that is hot enough to reach the threshold of the filter.
One very interesting thing about the SENSTIVITY knob is that you can actually bypass the sensitivity completely by turning it all the way down. Then you will not be able to trigger the auto filter no matter what the signal. But you can still tweak and use the resonance filter manually. For instance, you can use it like a classic wah pedal that you punch in, but leave ‘open’ in a certain position, which can really twist the tone and make a huge difference.
The BIAS knob simply controls the frequency of the resonance filter. In case, you bypass the sensitivity as just mentioned, use this knob to sweep through the frequency spectrum.
The RESONANCE knob controls the Q – or the ‘width’ – of the resonance filter, and finally the DECAY knob allows you to control how fast the resonance filter falls back.
The sensitivity setting is extremely dependent on the particular bass, playing style and bass player that feeds the pedal. And it is highly sensitive. Just a tiny notch up or down can totally change the way the pedal reacts and sounds. The same is true for many of the other parameters, so taking a strict, methodical approach to the sounds clips would be hard to do in a meaningful way.
Therefore, I simply decided to go through various settings – both subtle and more extreme – using a number of playing styles and hope that you can get an idea of how this pedal sounds.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
Overall, I find the Snow White Bass Auto Wah immensely versatile. There are so many flavors of funkiness hidden under the hood that it could keep you occupied for a very long time to explore them all.
Add to that the ability to bypass the sensitivity altogether and use it in a parallel setup as demonstrated in the last round of sound clips and you have yet another dimension that adds to the overall versatility.
If anything, I could have wished for a blend option. Sure you can use it in subtle ways, but sometimes I just love to create some extreme effects that I can blend in with the clean signal, which creates a result that is impossible to obtain in any other way.
The build quality is very high, but that was only to be expected from a hand-wired pedal at this price point.
The one thing that troubled me the most regarding design and usability is the very wide range of the knobs, which naturally makes them very sensitive. If you turn just a little the change could be radical. It’s good to have such a wide tonal palette at hand, but I would not recommend trying to adjust the pedal mid song as you risk going from ‘almost there’ to very nasal or a swampy tone that struggles to cut through the mix. But if you find that one setting that makes you smile every time (and I guarantee it is in there somewhere), then that may well be all you ever need.
Having said that, I am not sure I would actually trade the wide frequency and Q ranges that can make sub-like tones with or without the SENSITIVITY engaged for less sensitive knobs. The point is, get to know this beast, tweaking it good in the rehearsal space before taking it to the stage.
A few other small issues are the power supply input located on the side right next to the input jack – a bit too close to the input jack if you use pedal board patch cables with 90-degree angled jacks.
Today (2015), a new Mad Professor Snow White Bass Auto Wah will cost you around $350. That’s a lot of money for a pedal – even if t sounds as great as this one. Value for Money is the one parameter that will drag the overall score of this pedal down a notch.
At the end of the day, it’s all about that tone. And when it comes to sound, the SWBAW is hard to beat. The quality is very high, and while some design choices cause a little trouble, they can be justified as they contribute heavily to the versatility.
Very good build quality
Sensitivity can be bypassed
Knobs are über-sensitive
Power supply input clash with input jack