CIRCUIT BENT IBANEZ AW5 AUTO WAH
After circuit-bending the Livingstone Super Overdrive, I thought I would track down one of the pedals that inspired the line, the Ibanez 5 Series. I managed to get an AW5 Auto Wah for cheap and thought it would make a good candidate for bending. I was right…
An auto wah is also known as an envelope filter or envelope follower. The sound of the wah is dependent on the attack of the strings of the guitar and is much faster than moving your foot on a conventional wah, therefore producing unique sounds. This effect was THE funk sound of P-Funk and Sly & the Family Stone in the 70′s. The Ibanez 5 Series wasn’t a very popular line but it does have a number of standout effects. The AW5 Auto Wah is one of them and is a great pedal for a filtered lead guitar sound. This is straight from the Ibanez catalogue:
“Our version of automatic wah is a little different than other touch or auto wahs: it has just a hint of distortion which adds some warmth to this great effect. The sensitivity control can be adjusted to increase response to your playing. Not just for wah effects, the AW5 can also be a more subtle manipulator of attack and tone. Great for guitarists or bassists, especially for bass players who want to create their own “synth-bass” sounds.”
The AW5 Auto Wah has three controls; Depth, Range and Sensitivity. The range of this auto wah is not as wide as many auto wahs but it does have a unique sound. This pedal shines with distortion or fuzz before it, making a great fixed wah tone that brings out the harmonics in your playing. A clean guitar tone through the AW5 is reminiscent of an AM radio sound. However, the circuit bends described below have taken this pedal further than initially imagined…
Pictured is the Ibanez AW5 Auto Wah before I worked on it. I have made a couple of hardware changes to the pedal. Firstly, I replaced the PCB actuator switch with an SPDT “soft-click” momentary switch. This improves one of the design flaws of the AW5. Secondly, I replaced the standard LED with a waterclear bright green LED.
I have done three circuit bends: a low pass filter
, a high pass filter
and a distortion bend, each activated by three mini toggle switches. If flicked down towards the main footswitch, the bend is “on”. However each bend works differently and more spontaneously than I expected. The high pass filter (HPF) works together with the distortion bend. The extra gain and volume really brings out the best in the HPF bend. The low pass filter (LPF) bend is independent of the others. These three bends create a combination of sounds in conjunction or alone; fixed wah sounds, sustaining drone notes, glitching octave jumps, feedback, gnarling power chords, the list goes on…
An interesting coincidence is that the bends can also be used when the pedal is in “bypass” for a more subtle effect. If the switches are flicked to the “on” position while the effect is off, the original tone is altered by the bends at a lower volume. Playing with the switches with a sustaining chord was an interesting sound as was playing a riff with the pedal off and toggle on, then activating the pedal for a larger sound. All of these options give another dimension to the pedal and the tones that can be pulled from it.
These pedals I have circuit bent so far have been very interesting and I have since tracked down an Ibanez SC5 Super Chorus and a TM5 Thrash Metal. Keep checking back for more Ibanez 5 Series bends…
Below are some demos of the cubisteffects circuit bent Ibanez AW5 Auto Wah.
Clip Details: Epiphone Sheraton > EHX Bass Big Muff > AW5 > Marshall JCM600
Settings: Bridge/Neck pickup with volume at max. Bass Big Muff (V: Max, T: 1 o’clock, S: Max) and AW5 (Range: Max, Depth: Max, Sens: 12 o’clock)
Recording: SM57 > Mbox2 > Reaper
Clean guitar (neck p/u) then AW5 stock, no bends
Clean guitar into AW5, then LPF bend, followed by HPF bend then finally the distortion bend
Distortion bend, then distortion bend and HPF bend combined, then combined with Bass Big Muff
Clean guitar into AW5 with different combinations of bends, followed by Bass Big Muff with different combination of bends