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This article was originally published in issue #41
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On the face of it, it's a bit of a lottery for the manufacturer to put out an artist guitar. Will people buy it just on the strength of the player's name? Will they buy it even they don't happen to like that artist's music? Does the artist need to be a legend for it to sell? Whatever the answer, Ola Englund's name adorns an entire range of Washburns. Ola is acknowledged as a great player (we interviewed him in GI Issue 31). Apart from being the guitarist for The Haunted and Six Feet Under, he has a huge online presence. His YouTube channel has accumulated 77,000 subscribers and 24 million total views, with content ranging from Metal techniques, amp reviews and mixing competitions. With those kinds of hits, you can see why a major company like Washburn would be keen to have him on board - and on board he certainly is, fronting not just a single model but six and seven string guitars of a range of styles and options. We'd wanted to review one of Ola's Washburns when we interviewed him but have only just been able to get our hands on one, from which you can only conclude they must be selling fast!
Our review sample was one of the original double cutaway models, not the more recently released Vs, in its six string, fixed bridge version. I duly searched around for my lost Metal chops, which I think I last had about ten years ago, and prepared to get all shreddy. Be sure to check out the video!
Striking would be a good word to use when first setting eyes on this guitar. Finished in a pale thin blue revealing the beautiful wood grain of the swamp ash body, and being pointier than a pointing stick, complete with an upside down headstock, it's clear where this guitar is aimed, and it's not your rehearsal big band on a Monday night! This guitar screams ROCK, and more importantly, “Play Me!” Pulling it from the gig bag the other first impression is just how light itis, which along with the looks put me in a good mood straight away. Having played many different weight and type of guitar over the years I can say that in most cases light guitars are best. They resonate and sustain better, with easy dynamic response as well as being more pleasing to have on your shoulder for a long time.
As well as that swamp ash body, the PXSolar 16 has a maple thru neck with a 24 fret ebony board, giving a scooped mid-range voice perfect for the style intended. The double cutaway body is not only comfortable but offers some of the best upper fret access I have ever come across. I quite often found myself up the dusty end without even realising. As you might expect the action was low, and with jumbo frets and super thin neck, even I managed to bring back some of my inner shred. This is a seriously fun guitar to play, its set-up was perfect with the fixed Hipshot bridge, graphite nut and quality tuners, offering fantastic tuning stability and intonation throughout, along with the comfortable body you could quite happily and effortlessly widdle away for hours.
Giving this guitar the grunt are two Duncan Solar Pickups which are, as you might expect, high output. Control wise you get a five blade switch, plus Volume and Tone controls (the latter, a nice addition for this type of guitar). In the bridge position the tone cuts through brilliantly with clear crystal like clarity, with the neck delivering a super silky scooped lead tone. The great thing is the five way switch, meaning you have many tonal options with this guitar - roll the volume back a bit with an out of phase selection and it gives a great Blues tone. Stick it through a clean amp on the neck pickup and roll back the tone and you get a fairly convincing Jazz tone... (just don’t do it in public). I had just one gripe and that was the signature Ola fret marking at the 12 fret. It looks cool from the front, but looking down and playing it was a bit confusing as it also crosses the 11th and 13th fret giving room for error, I'm sure it's something that you would get use to over time, but swapping from a normal guitar board to this takes a bit of getting used to.
I'm going to lay my cards on the table: I absolutely love this guitar! If I was in the market for a pure shred machine, this would be my choice. Yes it's capable of other styles, but let's face it, it looks and sounds perfect for the style intended. The pointiness and headstock shape may put some people off, but I think the look and finish is superb. Light weight, super comfortable and effortless to play, it made me feel 16 again and want to play just for the fun of it, and that can only be a good thing. We also think it's very good value for the price, given its undoubted high quality.