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This article was originally published in issue #43
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There has been a trend in recent years among the top acoustic manufacturers to produce mini models of their high-end guitars, aimed at the travel sector of the market, but also often seen as a cheaper entry point for some of the more expensive brands. These models tend to be significantly more affordable than the regular instruments and sacrifices are sometimes made on the premium build quality and features to achieve that. The Wee Lowden, however, is George Lowden’s version of a mini guitar, and this is anything but a cut-down instrument designed as a cheaper entry level point in the brand’s range. Rather, the Wee Lowden is a full fat acoustic, made with all of the care and attention to construction and tone that these incredible guitars have become so loved for.
The Wee Lowden represents George Lowden’s long held dream of designing a small bodied guitar that didn't suffer from the inherent tonal ‘boxiness’ that can come with smaller bodied instruments. The guitar finally came about after Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody asked George to build a small-bodied guitar as a gift for Ed Sheeran. Having wanted to produce such a guitar for quite some time, George set about producing a brand new model and over the course of around 20 months the Wee Lowden came to life. Apparently, George spent a lot of time designing the bracing and soundbox geometry so that the sound remained warm and rich and the results are incredibly impressive for such a diminutive guitar.
The WL35 features gorgeous Indian rosewood back and sides matched with a solid cedar top. Indian rosewood was chosen to tame the brightness and stiffness of the cedar, a wood that can be too crisp on smaller bodies when coupled with the wrong back and sides wood. Rosewood adds more body in the lower mids and happens to look stunning to boot! The top and back purfling is a stunning combination of sycamore, walnut, rosewood and mahogany with figured mahogany binding running all the way round, creating an incredibly classy look. Sycamore, rosewood and mahogany are also used for the soundhole rosette and look beautiful on the plain cedar top.
A strong, five-piece mahogany and rosewood neck is matched with an incredibly dark ebony fretboard with ebony binding leading up to the simple, classy headstock with quality Schaller M6 tuners and matching ebony buttons. The bridge is a string-through design in rosewood completing a design that is understated in the best possible way whilst being incredibly impressive and beautiful at the same time. As you can see, there has been absolutely no scrimping when it comes to the material used for this beautiful instrument!
The Wee Lowden is absolutely everything you’d expect from its larger brethren, with no cut corners for the sake of selling a few more guitars and the build quality and finish are second to none. Internally and externally this guitar exudes hand-made quality with love and attention applied to every aspect, from the wood work to the beautifully applied satin-type finish and fretwork. This of course results in a guitar that pretty much plays itself with a very consistent action and very friendly 610mm scale length. The neck profile is exceptionally comfortable, even for smaller hands and, of course that body shape is a pleasure to play thanks to its smaller dimensions.
Hearing the Wee Lowden is just as much a pleasure as playing it, thanks to an amazing level of body and richness to the tone. It’s hard to believe that such a small body guitar with a cedar top can sound this full across its entire range but, somehow George Lowden has achieved the impossible with the WL35. By no means is it as loud, bass rich and piano-like as an F50 or one of the other full size acoustics in Lowden's range, but it is far richer than it ought to be and could easily be your main acoustic guitar, especially if space is at a premium.
This is definitely not a travel or mini guitar that will leave you lusting after your far better instrument back at home, but a fantastic guitar in its own right that is worth every penny of that admittedly high asking price. On that point, the price, you may be wondering why we have awarded it four and a half stars when the extra half is usually reserved for products offering that bit extra value for money. And that's the point: for this class of professional guitar, a painstakingly handmade guitar from a master builder, this isn't an expensive instrument. You can pay a lot more and get significantly less. For professional players doing a lot of travelling but who still need a professional level instrument, or those who just want the best that mini guitars can offer, the Wee Lowden will be a seriously attractive proposition from both a tonal and aesthetic stand point. For everyone else we can dream, and be very jealous of those that can afford such a great guitar. Fantastic!