REVIEW: Source Audio’s Hot Hand Wah Filter and Wireless Controller

REVIEW: Source Audio’s Hot Hand Wah Filter and Wireless Controller

Source Audio LLC is a Boston-based company founded by former executives from Analog Devices, a company that specializes in signal processing for use in electronic devices. With innovative spirit and technological expertise on their side, Source Audio came to market with a wah pedal manipulated by a ring worn on a player’s finger, rather than traditional foot-rocking control.

Electronics and Fashion

The package sent to us for review included the Hot Hand Wah pedal and power supply, wireless receiver module, and wireless ring and power supply (additional accessories include various ring sizes and components for wired operation). This all came in a custom plastic carrying case. The pedal, which incorporates two foot controllers, measures a sizeable 7-1/8″ square. One foot pedal controls on/off while the other cycles through four presets. Adjustable controls include frequency, style of effect, and motion sensitivity. Standard 9V DC power is accepted as well as four AA batteries which can be easily accessed underneath the unit via a quick-clip door. 1/4″ jacks allow input for guitar and an expression pedal, and output for the guitar signal as well as expression to be passed along to a compatible input on another unit. There is also an input jack for the wireless receiver and an output to daisy-chain the receiver’s info to other effects. The receiver, which plugs into the back of the pedal, stands a little over 3″ tall and relays its status via an embedded LED. The ring is well protected in an all-rubber housing which includes a one-size-fits-all style band that pulls snug. A bright blue LED embedded into the top shows status.

Aesthetically, the unit has a clean, modern look with rounded edges. Settings are displayed via bright red LED’s. The foot pedals have good spring action and a lot of surface area making them easy to stomp, but the stomp is more of a click, like engaging a small electronic switch. They worked perfectly well, but put question into my mind about the wah’s durability if tossed around and subjected to the abuses of gigging. Settings are controlled electronically via rotary encoders which are dials that spin endlessly – no hard stops. Again, I had no problems whatsoever, but the shafts and knobs are plastic which I could see snapping off easily if victim to an errant foot sweep.

Wave Your Hand in the Air Like You Just Don’t Care!

That’s one way to affect the wah. The oh-so-cool thing about how all this works is a two-axis accelerometer built into the ring that senses its orientation as well as movement. Adjusting the ring vertically (hand pointed down vs up in the air) results in a sweep of frequencies from low to high. Shaking the ring also results in a sweeping signal, but relative to the intensity of the shaking and the ring’s orientation. This works surprisingly well and I got lost for hours (and probably looked like an idiot), flailing my arm and wrist about with a big ol’ shit-eating grin on my face. This thing is fun! Even subtle movements from my finger came through smoothly and well tracked. This is thanks to a 56-bit DSP chip and 24-bit converters running the show.

The frequency knob sets the range of sweep from lower and thicker to higher and more open. In volume swell mode, it affects the amount of gain applied to the motion. The effect knob offers five different wah effects, some with additional variations, as well as auto wah, and volume swell. The variation ranges from Classic Wah, which is a straightforward effect, to Multi Peak which can get space-agey. You won’t get vintage-style Crybaby wahs, but all the effects were very clean and offered a welcome variety. The motion knob translates ring movment into sensitivity. This is critical in customizing the unit to your style of playing. With motion set to “Pick”, the most subtle movements are transformed into wahs. This can get pretty intense and pulse-like when flailing about. By adjusting the knob higher towards “Flail”, the signal smoothes out. You can still get rapid wahs, but they’re less staccato and blend together. One advantage to a rotary encoder is that there are no limits. By turning the motion dial a full rotation, the transmission from the ring is inverted such that up is down, and vice-versa.

Four banks are available for saving presets. This is a great feature that I would find welcome on any pedal. I found this useful both for saving completely different settings as well as varying intensities of the same setting. A few more gems: expression pedal input for classic-style foot control, active analog bypass which routes the signal completely around the signal processing, and for you tweakers out there, a hidden set of adjustments for manipulating input gain, accelerometer gain, accelerometer axis interchange, and expression control output gain.

The Final Wrap

I said it before and it deserves repeating – this pedal is fun! But fun only goes so far if it’s not useful as well. I took the goods to rehearsal to see how it would fit in with the band. Wearing and using the ring felt very natural. The quality of sound as well as tracking of my motions was excellent. It won’t replace my Crybaby as there’s a different level of control using my foot, and that classic, albeit noisy, analog sound I don’t want to give up, but I could definitely see myself making room among my effects for the Hot Hand Wah.

PROS: Accurately sensitive. Inspires a new form of expression. Packed with features. Ability to save multiple presets. True bypass.

CONS: Questionable durability for long term use outside home or the studio. Effects are synthetic-sounding (though not necessarily a bad thing depending on your style). Large footprint.

STREET PRICE: Hot Hand Wah wired $199, Hot Hand Wah wireless incl. receiver and ring $299

Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie. Email:

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