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This article was originally published in issue #24
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Washburn has produced a huge range of guitars catering for many budgets over the years, guitars which have often been used as good basic instruments that can be ‘hot-rodded’ at a later stage with new pickups, tuners and other hardware. With its new Parallaxe range, however, the US company has decided to throw-off the 'you can upgrade it later' image by offering Rock and Metal guitars for today’s most demanding professional players. Washburn's Parallaxe models won't need updating later because they already come with professional level hardware. The secret weapon is they do so at wallet-friendly prices!
Washburn sent us a PXS10FRQTR model to check out, a fine looking superstrat, featuring a mahogany body with a quilted maple veneer and a 24-fret maple neck with an ebony fretboard and super jumbo frets. As the range's initial publicity promised, the included hardware reads like a spec sheet for a high end custom guitar, with an original Floyd Rose bridge and oversized brass tremolo block, Seymour Duncan Jazz and Distortion pickups, a locking nut, Grover 18:1 tuners and the much-lauded Buzz Feiten tuning system for better intonation. Washburn has even chosen to include the amazing ‘Stephen’s Extended Cutaway’ bolt-on neck joint for superb upper fret access, as featured on the Nuno Bettencourt N-series guitars. Only the thin quilt veneer and Washburn logo would lead you to believe that this wasn’t a custom made guitar, thanks to the impressive specs list.
Of course, this all means nothing if the guitar plays badly and is built poorly. This isn't the case though and the construction, finishing and set-up on our sample were all top quality, making a guitar that played as well as the specs suggest.
The maple veneer is a lush quilt that is matched into the mahogany body with precision and accuracy and is repeated on the modern, pointy headstock. The fret work is very good and the neck plays like butter thanks to its 25.5” scale length and super-thin profile. This guitar is designed for technical players and in that regard it excels, with super jumbo frets and a flat radius making this a silky smooth and fast playing surface with rock solid tuning, even after copious amounts whammy bar abuse! The ebony fretboard feels and looks great and Washburn has given it an extra element of class thanks to the smaller dot inlays and 12-fret logo that is way more subtle than some other brands seem able to manage. The headstock is the only design element that seems to visually let the guitar down in my view and doesn’t quite match up to the iconic designs of some other guitars but is certainly appropriate for the style - others may love it of course!
Tonally the PXS10 is a great performer thanks to the pair of excellent Seymour Duncan pickups, a solid brass block and a variety of tonal options. Many people say that the 'Original' Floyd Rose model, as used here, is still the best floating trem design on the market with bags of sustain and tone and that is certainly what the Floyd used here delivers! The PXS sustains for days, even with the action lowered to the point of insanity, and rings beautifully with a snap and pop thanks to the ebony fretboard. Plugged in and using the Seymour Duncan Jazz pickup in the neck, cleans are far from the sterile, dead tones that can often mar Metal-style guitars. Instead, here we have warmth and dynamic clean sounds that are every bit as convincing as the filthy ones these kind of guitars excel at.
The PXS also includes a push/pull series/parallel switch for even more tonal variety from its three-way selector switch, offering up more single coil type tones as well as the more common humbucking positions. Moving over to higher-gain sounds and engaging the Distortion pickup in the bridge gives super tight rhythm and smooth lead tones that are very well matched with the guitar's playability. This will give shred and technical players all the freedom they need to play at their best. Thanks to the quality of this bridge pickup though, the PXS can also do subtle overdriven tones, so it could never be described as a one trick pony, even if its looks might lead you to suspect that's all it can do - far from it!
Washburn is onto a winner with the Parallaxe range and if the PXS10FRQTR is anything to go by then some of the other brands producing guitars within this genre should be paying attention. This is a pro-spec guitar of serious quality. Matching this level of hardware with great build quality at a price that is affordable by all serious guitar players is an achievement not to be sniffed at - it would seem you can have your cake and eat it! Highly recommended.