From the October 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY BILL LEIGH


Washburn has been making instruments since before the end of the war—the Civil War, that is—and started offering guitars in 1883. Though the company has changed owners a few times since (and more or less disappeared for a decade or three mid-20th century), it has enjoyed several periods of renown with quality, affordable guitars and other fretted instruments made both in the U.S. and abroad.

In the last few years the company has introduced the Comfort series of guitars—which are designed for, well, comfort—and the Revival lineup of instruments that summons the ghosts of Washburn’s earliest guitars. This year the company debuted all-solid instruments in each family. The Revival Series 1930s Solo DeLuxe Auditorium, also called RSG100SWEVSK-D, is based on a 1939 Washburn Solo De Luxe Super Auditorium 5246. The latest in the Comfort Series is the G700 Grand Auditorium, also known by the catchy name WCG700SWEK-D. Each guitar features Fishman electronics, comes with a hardshell case, and sells for under a grand.

wasburn_solo_deluxe

Revival Series Solo DeLuxe

Old-School Cool

With its golden sunburst finish, dark ebony fingerboard, and distinctively shaped pickguard, the Solo DeLuxe Auditorium looks a lot like pictures of the original Solo De Luxe. In truth, the newer instrument takes design cues from its predecessor while blending in some helpful modern touches.

For example, behind the crown-style headstock with its abalone-inlaid logo are six GraphTech Ratio-Tuned open-back tuners, with a different gear ratio for each string. On any given string, a half-turn of the tuner equals a semitone in pitch. In addition, the neck’s C shape is designed to be more comfortable and playable than the older guitar’s notably bulky neck profile. The original instrument had a non-adjustable truss rod, but the modern version has a two-way truss rod, flanked by rosewood reinforcement rails, allowing for a thinner, more playable neck.

The Solo DeLuxe’s amber-to-deep-brown sunburst finish is true to the 1939 vintage burst, as is the yellowed ivoroid binding. The binding’s soft edges add to the guitar’s comfort, while providing a pleasing aesthetic contrast to the toasty top and warm brown mahogany sides and back. The ebony bridge has the vintage “smile” shape, and the matching bridge pins each have a dot of abalone on them—a nice touch. Ivoroid also decorates the soundhole in a simply designed rosette.

For an added vintage sound, both the Sitka spruce top and its bracing were torrefied, a wood treatment process that can help give a new instrument a played-in feel and sound. Indeed, the Solo DeLuxe Auditorium sounds and feels like an old friend, a quality matched by its vintage appearance. It’s comfortable and well balanced, with a smooth feel along the satin-finished mahogany neck, and it sounds perfectly even across the ebony fingerboard and throughout the length. Something about the guitar’s style begs for fingerpicking and acoustic blues, and it handles those playing styles well. Big strums and solos are also well pronounced without being too bold.

Another modern touch on the Revival Solo DeLuxe Auditorium is Fishman’s GT2, an unobtrusive under-saddle pickup system that lets you plug in without detracting from the vintage appearance. Volume and tone controls are tucked out of sight, in the soundhole. When plugged in, the pickup system captures and conveys the instrument’s warm, even sound, and both controls have broad, useful ranges.

Kudos to Washburn for creating a cool, inviting instrument that offers classic style and feel with modern touches.

washburn_G700

Comfort Series G700 Grand Auditorium

New-School Comfort

The Comfort G700 Grand Auditorium is a gorgeous guitar. Its solid torrefied spruce top is paired with coffee-toned ovangkol back and sides and joined by a ribbon of caramel-colored mahogany binding, which widens through the ergonomic armrest bevel. The full-sized Grand Auditorium sits snugly against my body, and the instrument’s soft edges and armrest bevel make it very comfortable to play.


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There’s more beauty in the details: The attractive ebony fingerboard, abalone rosette, ebony bridge, and abalone-studded bridge pins all combine for a handsome ensemble. The lack of a pickguard adds to a sense of aesthetic balance, but, not wanting to scratch the top, I found myself holding back when energetic strumming was called for. Other construction details include fret markers on the side of the fretboard only, bone nut and saddle, and closed-back GraphTech Ratio-Tuned tuners with cool-looking black tuning keys.

The G700’s Fishman Presys pickup system includes upward-facing controls with a volume knob and tuner, three EQ bands, and phase and notch filter controls for taming feedback. A mic blend knob lets you set the amount of microphone signal mixed in with the signal from the undersaddle pickup.

Unplugged, the guitar has a well-balanced, forward sound, with a tight low end and ringing mid-high overtones. With the EQ set flat and plugged into an amp, the undersaddle pickup captures the instrument’s well- balanced voice, adding an articulate high-end sparkle, while capturing dynamic shifts between soft fingerpicked or thumb-strummed passages and harder picking and strumming. Blending in the mic midway adds an airy quality and some midrange oomph, while diming the mic blend control brings up articulate but trebly finger sounds, which I could temper with the EQ.

With the Comfort G700 Grand Auditorium, Washburn has created a stunning instrument with a great sound and superb playability. 

SPECS

Revival Series Solo Deluxe Auditorium

Body Auditorium size body with torrefied solid Sitka spruce top; solid mahogany sides and back

Neck 25 1/2″-scale mahogany neck with 20-fret ebony fingerboard; 1-3/4″ bone nut

Electronics Fishman GT2 under-saddle pickup and preamp

Other D’Addario EXP16 Light coated phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053); hardshell case included

Price $849 MAP

made in China

washburn.com


Comfort G700 Grand Auditorium

Body Grand auditorium size body with torrefied solid Sitka spruce top; solid ovangkol sides and back

Neck 25 1/2″-scale mahogany neck with 20-fret ebony fingerboard; 1-3/4″ bone nut

Electronics Fishman Presys+ Blend

Other D’Addario EXP16 Light coated phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053); hardshell case included

Price $999 MAP

made in China

washburn.com


This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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