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This article was originally published in issue #4
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Washburn is experiencing a new lease of life in the acoustic market with new models which have been universally well received. Ideally priced for the guitarist looking to treat himself to his first ‘proper’ acoustic - or the player looking for a hard working, gigging electro - the brand new Washburn WD25 SCE promises a lot. But can it deliver? Giorgio Serci finds out.
In recent years, Washburn has become associated with the Rock and metal genres, as a result of the production of a number of successful electric models. However, not so many people know that Washburn was originally established in Chicago in 1880’s. In those years this legendary city was the epicentre of the Blues, within which the role of the acoustic guitar was essential. From the 1920’s Washburn guitars were involved in the actual development of Delta blues which, in turn, helped in popularising Washburn's acoustic guitars.
In recent years Washburn's acoustic models have consistently offered good value for money and the WD series in particular has come in for a lot of praise. This latest addition, the WD25 SCE, is a natural finished dreadnought with a cutaway that continues Washburn's value for money approach and comes with a Fishman Isys preamp, mother of pearl Washburn logo, inlayed fingerboard dots and a stylised W on the heel. It has abalone purfling and rosette, die-cast chrome tuners and it features wood binding throughout, which gives it a very organic and natural feel.
The WD 25 comes with a solid Alaskan Sitka spruce top, which is a really light resonant wood. It features rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck and headstock and, interestingly, a two-way truss rod, which makes it possible to adjust the neck in both directions, backward and forward. The fretboard and bridge are made of rosewood and the saddle and nut are bone.
As most guitarists know, the original dreadnought body shape was invented by C.F. Martin, when that company was looking to make loud acoustic guitars with increased bass response. So successful was Martin's innovation that just about every acoustic guitar maker in the world, from top to bottom, has copied the shape - increasingly in recent years with the addition of a cutaway to provide easier access to the top frets. But the dreadnought shape isn't the only thing Washburn has borrowed from Martin, as it has also used quarter-sawn scalloped bracing - an ingenious strategy which involves chiselling the top braces in order to enhance the bass response. It's a nice touch in a lower priced guitar.
Whether you are mainly an electric or a classical guitarist looking to expand your arsenal, this guitar is quite versatile thanks to its action, which is very nice and low, its C-shaped neck profile and that handy cutaway. All in all I'd say they make this guitar very good in terms of playability and undoubtedly competitive within its price range. As you would expect, the dreadnought size produces a loud sound, reasonably well balanced and resonant.
The Washburn's electric sound is generated and controlled by a Fishman Isys, a really fine piezo preamp that comes with a built-in tuner and a two-band equalizer (Bass and Treble). Acoustic guitars amplified with only a piezo pickup tend to generate a sound closer to an electric than to an acoustic guitar tone. The mic really is what makes the difference. However, since the price of this guitar is so low, you could easily upgrade the preamp at a later stage to include a mic blend and perhaps a three-band equaliser. Alternatively, you could keep the same preamp and simply add a gooseneck mic inside the guitar body, between the upper and lower bout.
Playing live, it is also really useful to be able to tweak the mid-range as well as the treble and bass from your guitar preamp, as they can be overwhelming heavy through a P.A. and that's a facility this Fishman lacks. However, the absence of a mic and a mid range control in the equaliser are not a real issue - you have to consider this guitar's retail price, and what matters most is how it plays and sounds and in those departments it certainly doesn't disappoint. Check out our video for the full picture!
In conclusion this Washburn is a really good guitar with a loud and resonant tone, great playability and attractive looks. Frankly, it's excellent value for money and I'm sure you will be as impressed as I was. It looks like Washburn has another winner.