ARIA AWV-100 Wah/Volume

Second of my stupid gear purchases for 2013 is a plastic wah/volume pedal made by Aria. Stupid not because it sounds bad, but because there were two auctions on Yahoo! and I bid on the cheaper one without the AC adapter jack. My initial gratitude at finding an undead battery inside was quickly evaporated when the plastic battery snap cracked. Fortunately, it still works though!

A look inside reveals that this is an inductor based wah — no op amps. First impressions are good. The sweep is wide and balanced, not harsh on top or thin on the bottom. However sweep is not particularly smooth, which is a pity because the range of the treadle is long but the W100K pot seems to do nothing for about half its rotation. I put some pads on the back which I originally bought for my old Vox to reduce the pedal travel but it doesn’t help much. Adjusting the orientation of the pot makes the top end of its range useless, so replacing the pot with a different taper is a priority.

Switching between wah/volume modes is almost too easy since it not require a lot pressure on the switch, but this pedal is NOT TRUE BYPASS. No sound comes out without a battery inside. Does it suck tone? Kinda. I noticed a sudden boost in volume when I put my weight on the pedal when it’s all the way forward. I thought it might be the pot, but I opened it up and found it was the switch. The plunger moves around slightly inside the shaft, which could be the cause, but it could be trouble replacing this tiny switch. Even so, the tone seems darker but fatter. Maybe the transistors are giving the guitar a nice fet… er, fat boost?

By far the most appealing features of this box is it’s weight. To compare against my Budwah, I picked both pedals up and dropped them from the second story veranda. The Budwah fatally injured a pedestrian, while the Aria floated down next to some crows without disturbing them. Seriously, it’s so light I had to use my wife’s kitchen scale to measure it, whereas my Budwah requires the bathroom scale. How light? About half a kilogram with battery, which makes a big difference to my shoulder when I’m carrying in a pedal board across Tokyo on trains and up stairs.

Even with no AC adapter, it seems to work fine even with a half dead battery, though there is a bit of distortion. Otherwise the headroom seems the same or better than my Budda. The volume mode is less satisfying. It’s good for tremolo effects and muting if I switch guitars, but lousy for swells which is really why I wanted a volume pedal. Maybe a new pot, switch and a few circuit mods can turn this toy into a nice piece of kit.



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