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This article was originally published in issue #11
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Washburn is aiming to set the low cost acoustic market on fire with the WD7S. It's one of the lowest priced guitars to feature a solid spruce top. But can an acoustic guitar selling for so little really be any good? We set Tom Quayle to sceptical and let him loose.
One of the first guitars I was allowed to play as a teenager was my Dad's solid top Washburn acoustic built in the 1980s - a guitar that I still own to this day - and as such I have a bit of a soft spot for this particular manufacturer. When I was told that I'd be reviewing a solid top acoustic, retailing at less than the price of the average starter guitar, I was mildly dubious and assumed that I'd have a bit of a dog on my hands. What a surprise I had as I pulled the WD7S out of its box and gave it an initial strum, revealing a tone that belied its unbelievably low price tag!
The WD7S is a dreadnought style acoustic featuring satin finished mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and most importantly a solid spruce top. Our review model was finished in an attractive antique tobacco sunburst with cream, multi-laminate binding, a custom wood inlay rosette, rosewood bridge and chrome die-cast tuners. Washburn have kept the cost down by omitting a preamp of any sort but it would be very simple to add one if required and there is a very well priced version that comes ready-fitted with electronics should that be what you would rather have. I should add that there seems to be a small controversy over the body woods used! Some sources insist the sides and backs are Catalpa (a tree native to the USA and uncommon in instrument making - not that this matters) which Washburn's own website insists it is made of Mahogany. Frankly, at this price, it is completely academic, in either case - we're lucky it's wood at all!
My initial inspections of the guitar revealed an instrument that is very well constructed with no obvious flaws internally or externally - so my initial reaction of surprise at how good it sounded was reinforced. This doesn't just sound like a much more expensive guitar, it's a very nicely made one, too!
With my confidence firmly assured I found that the expensive feeling continued once I sat down with the WD7S, as the matte satin finish gives a wonderful feel to the neck and body, allowing the woods to breath and vibrate naturally. Washburn produce a gloss finish version if you require a bit more shine to your acoustic but personally I prefer the feel and look of natural wood and it certainly lends a classy edge to the WD7S in my book.
The only real flaw I could find with our review model was the set-up. The guitar was strung with pretty heavy strings and quite a high action, making the playing experience a little trickier on the left hand than I'd have liked. A quick truss rod adjustment would have ironed this out though, so it's certainly not a deal breaker but I think less experienced players might be put off by the initial playing difficulty without realising how simple it is to sort out. Putting the high action aside, the WD7S was a great playing experience with an impressive and highly responsive tone thanks to that solid spruce top. Compared to some of the lower priced acoustics I've tried in the past, the WD7S sounded like a professional product with plenty of bottom end and percussive, bell-like highs. The guitar responded well to all playing styles, being particularly adept with strumming and plectrum lead work, where the dynamic range could really be exploited. The tone is rich and full without any of the 'plasticky' quality that is often the curse of lesser instruments.
I'm amazed at quality Washburn have managed to achieve with their Harvest range. The inclusion of a solid spruce top at this price point, combined with high quality construction and finish make for a package that represents incredible value for money and I really wish that guitars of this quality had been around when I was starting out.
Whilst I hesitate to call this a starter or student guitar, it would make a superb instrument for a new guitar player and would be equally adept in the hands of a skilled amateur or professional player as a second or backup acoustic. Stick a great pickup in there and you'll have an amazingly good value gigging guitar. I'd be very happy to own a WD7S and thoroughly recommend that you check them out at your first opportunity. I think you'll be very impressed.