The Jim Dunlop KH95 wah: if there is one effect that Metallica’s Kirk Hammett is well known for, it’s the Wahwah pedal. In this post, we’re having a look at Kirk’s signature wah by Jim Dunlop.
Wah pedals were originally invented to sound similar to the expressive, crying tone that a muted trumpet produces (wah wah wah waaaaah!).
Although, it’s now used by many lead guitarists to boost the mids and cut through the mix, or to get that ‘wacka-wacka’ funk sound.
What is the KH95?
As Kirk explains in the video below, he got to the point where he was having to use many wah pedals on the same stage. It just wasn’t practical to keep having to run back to the same point on the stage for each solo.
I suppose that’s what you get for being in Metallica and playing ridiculously huge stages!
So, what ended up happening was, he had the pedals all linked up to one unit where the actual effect was created. The pedals themselves were just empty shells. This central system was- of course- tweaked by Kirk himself to get just the right sound. Then, this central unit was condensed down into a single pedal, which was further tweaked and EQ’ed.
This then gave rise to the Jim Dunlop KH95 wah pedal.
This should mean, then, that this pedal works with Kirks other signature equipment (or similar) to get his exact lead tone…
Getting the Best Sound
Kirk has always been known for his use of a wah pedal in his solos. In fact, you can’t really get his lead sound without one.
So what about the sound?
Well, as I mentioned above, the idea of using a wah pedal for lead playing is to give it that extra boost.
A wah pedal if a bit like an EQ. It applies a ‘bandpass filter’ to your sound- which selects a range of frequencies, and reduces others. Then, when you move the pedal back and forth, different frequencies within this range are boosted slightly.
This is especially good for metal guitarists. They tend to cut the midrange for rhythm, but also need to be heard above a loud band when soloing. So the wah pedal is not just used for expression, but also as a signal booster and EQ.
Obviously, different guitarists prefer a different range of frequencies to be filtered. This pedal produces Kirks preferred setup, and he has used the pedal exclusively since 2008 (previously using the Jimi Hendrix, Dimebag, or Original Wahs, by Jim Dunlop).
This pedal seems to be well suited to the Metallica sound. It doesn’t produce a lot of high end (which is good, because his amp does that for him). Overall, it’s a ‘softer’ sound, with less ‘quack’ than you’d expect from an original wah pedal.
That isn’t a bad thing, though, because in the way that Kirk uses it, too much effect would be annoying! He mainly needs to boost to the midrange frequencies, as his amp settings cut those right out for rhythm parts.
Mids are the part of your sound that will help you to be heard over other instruments. So, it’s generally good to boost them for solos.
- Based on Kirk’s own settings
- True bypass On/Off switch (hardwire bypass)
- Skeleton foot graphics
- Green finish
- 9V battery required
What We liked…
Well, the first thing I noticed is that this pedal has a very ‘even’ tonal response. When you rock the pedal, there are no frequencies that particularly pop out over the others.
In fact, the sound is just what you’d want from a metal wah pedal. The bass isn’t too prominent, and the top end is thick. The even tonal response means that all your notes will be heard equally.
I would tend to think of this pedal as more of a ‘midrange boost’, with a bit of wah added in. That isn’t saying the wahwah effect isn’t very wide- it is- but the mids are what are going to boost your lead sound over the band.
Also, it has cool graphics- don’t forget the cool graphics!
What We didn’t like…
The Jim Dunlop KH95 Wah pedal is designed for Kirk Hammett. This makes it great for rocking the pedal back and forth until your heart is content (or it breaks…).
However, if you’re after a more pronounced wahwah ‘quack’, then this pedal might not be for you. The original wah has a bit more…well…’wah’ in it.
This pedal was designed to give an even, but expressive, boost to guitar solos- and it does that well. The sound may not be suited to everyone, however.
Conclusions on the Jim Dunlop KH95 Wah
The Jim Dunlop KH95 Wah pedal is a fantastic option if you’re after the Kirk Hammett sound. It will also work well if you use the pedal in the same way he does (for making solos stand out above the mix).
If you’re a big fan or Kirk Hammett, or Metallica, then this is the Wah pedal for you. If it’s none of the above reasons, you might be better off with the original crybaby wah.