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This article was originally published in issue #38
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Apologies if I don't keep mentioning the name of this new acoustic from Washburn but it's a big enough mouthful to keep saying, let alone keep typing. Washburn must have missed the email that recommended making the names “catchy” and “easy to remember”!
The WCSD52SCE (there - I said it!) is from the company's Woodcraft Series that offers exotic back and side woods of zebrawood and koa with matching headstocks, bridges and pickguards plus a maple fretboard on select models. This series includes eight models available as dreadnought or dreadnought cutaway with electronics. Models with 0 in the model name means they have maple fretboards, while a 2 designates a rosewood fretboard. There are two '50' models, featuring solid Sitka spruce tops, with koa backs and sides, and ours had a beautiful natural finish and top attention to detail throughout. The Sitka spruce top offered bright highs with a mid range heavy voice, the koa bringing some warmth and depth back into the tonal spectrum.
A mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard gives yet more bottom end making the overall sound, resonance and dynamic range of this guitar very pleasing. It would be interesting to try one side by side with a maple necked '50' to see just what difference the wood makes, but all I can say for sure is that the one we had, with the rosewood option, sounded just fine. You might assume that a maple equivalent would be a bit brighter.
It's a Dreadnought sized guitar with a cutaway so there was plenty of acoustic volume with limited attack, it's a guitar that responds to how you play, making it very versatile for many different styles. Die-cast tuners are fitted to the classy looking headstock, which were solid and held everything in tune. The neck was a very comfortable shape, feeling much like a standard electric neck, and speaking of the neck, our sample was set up really well, with a low enough action to make barre chords and lead playing a breeze but not so low as to cause fret-buzz or intonation issues.
The Washburn comes with a Fishman 301T pre-amp system, with built in tuner, EQ and phase control, which was good and managed to keep the dreaded acoustic feedback away, even when we positioned it close to speakers. It didn't suffer from that common undersaddle fault of losing too much bottom end and seemed to keep this guitar's inherent tone intact.
There's no doubt that Washburn’s WCSD50SCE is a very handsome and reasonably priced electro-acoustic that offers great looks and finish. It sounds and plays well too, so what's not to like? Priced as it is, this guitar falls slap bang in the middle of a very competitive and greatly over-subscribed area so it needs to stand out and it does. The use of koa, usually regarded as a fairly exotic tonewood, helps and the maple fretboard option is also slightly unusual. Then there's the cachet of having the Washburn brand on the headstock. Overall, this would be a very safe buy for a low-mid price electro-acoustic.
This model is one of Washburn’s Comfort Series, which is designed to combine looks and ergonomics to deliver a guitar that is a lot more comfortable to play than the average acoustic. This might not seem a big deal if all you do is strap a hulking great dreadnought about your six foot six inch frame and strum away, but for younger players and smaller framed guitarists, a big guitar can be a real struggle. To counter that, Washburn has endowed this series with unique belly and top carves, meaning these guitars should hug the body rather than digging into it and provide a comfortable playing experience whether you're sitting or standing. The WCDM25SK is a three quarter size, satin finished dreadnought-ish style acoustic guitar with a solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides. The comfort styling comes from electric guitar designs, providing curves and cutaways like a forearm rest consisting of a bevelled strip of rosewood at the lower bout which becomes part of the rosewood top binding. A partial cutaway on the bottom upper bout allows superior access to the higher frets. The mahogany neck has a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays which ties in nicely with the rosewood bridge. The rosewood capped headstock features a maple inlaid Washburn logo and stylized W as well as gold tuners with ebonite buttons and a nice GraphTech nut. Yes, it looks very good indeed.
The finish and attention to detail on this model is just as good as its Woodcraft series bigger brother, and, in fact, due to the cutaways and sculpting it will have had more time spent on it, which should have inflated (but hasn't) the cost.
So does it really feel more comfortable to play? Yes. These cutaway additions do make the guitar very comfortable with no pointy edges sticking into your stomach or ribs, while the ample cutaway also made upper fret access a breeze. Clearly, you are not going to get the same level of volume from this sized guitar but the clever design and good wood choice yields surprising results. Despite its reduced size, it's a very dynamic guitar that is capable of a variety of styles and playing techniques. The 25.5” scale makes it feel just like any other guitar and the neck was very comfortable and easy to play, with great set-up and no intonation or fret buzz issues.
Overall, Washburn's WCDM25SK is a great guitar for a child or a beginner, or anyone else who doesn’t get on with full sized acoustics. Equally, it would be a great travel guitar etc., and it does all these things without compromising on quality or playability and with a relatively minimal loss of tonal richness. If you wanted to gig with it you would want to add a pickup, but there is a huge choice these days and it is reasonably priced, so you should be able to add one without too much trouble.