Review: Lowden WL-35 Jazz Nylon-Stringed Guitar is Sonically Balanced and Inviting to Play

Parlor-sized with an L.R. Baggs pickup system, Lowden's WL-35 Jazz nylon-string guitar is an excellent fit for steel-string guitarists looking to expand their palette.

The venerable Irish luthier George Lowden has been building fine instruments for over 40 years. Lowden guitars inhabit a world of their own, with unique sounds and sizes and forms that seem familiar but don’t invite immediate comparisons to standard shapes. These instruments share somewhat of a common tonality, with crystalline, bell-like highs, rich in overtones, yet with a roundness to the mids and bottom; very seductive. I played a number of Lowdens at the 2020 Winter NAMM show, and all had great setups, very high build quality, and lovely voices. Impressive, to say the least.

The WL-35 Jazz I checked out after NAMM is part of the Wee Lowden range, as the name suggests, the smallest instruments the company offers. Parlor-sized and outfitted with nylon strings and an L.R. Baggs pickup system, the WL-35 is an excellent fit for steel-string guitarists looking to expand their palettes with the warm tonality of nylon strings. Aside from the compact body, this guitar departs from the traditional classical guitar in several significant ways: Its neck joins the body at the 14th fret, as opposed to the expected 12th; the fretboard’s scale length is short at 610mm (24 inches), and the nut is narrow as well. Different—but great. 

Lowden WL-35 Jazz Nylon-Stringed Guitar angle

Tasteful and Understated

The review model WL-35 Jazz is made from a gorgeous selection of tonewoods. Its AAAA Alpine spruce top, sourced from Italy, is beautiful and almost white in color with not much figure, just a lovely and serene piece of wood. The back and sides are AAAA Guatemalan rosewood—toffee-colored with lots of grain—and the two back pieces are artfully book-matched, with a hypnotic pattern that I spent a little too much time staring at. An attractive center seam of purpleheart and walnut is seen in the mahogany neck, and the fingerboard sports elegant maple binding, which is repeated on the body’s top and back. 

Lowden WL-35 Jazz Nylon-Stringed Guitar headstock

The guitar’s appointments are tasteful and understated. A simple abalone rosette is complemented by a thin band of purfling, comprised of pau ferro, maple, and mahogany. The headstock retains the characteristic Lowden profile with a nice dark ebony veneer, and the body and neck have a satin finish that’s perfectly applied and luminous, with just a hint of gloss. Also, unlike the standard classical guitar, the test model came outfitted with a clear pickguard, so I think Willie Nelson could have a go at it.


Unsurprisingly, the overall build quality of the WL-35 Jazz is superb; I couldn’t find a single flaw in the instrument. The perfectly articulated bridge has a modern tie block, with two holes per string, allowing for an easier way of attaching the strings than the traditional manner. But most important, the fretwork is clean and even across the board, and the action is nice and low. All of the notes ring out true and clear, with no discernible dead spots found anywhere the neck.

Lowden WL-35 Jazz Nylon-Stringed Guitar back

Deceptively Small

The WL-35 Jazz, with its small body and ergonomic curves, is a very inviting instrument to play. Its comfy C-shaped neck, tapering gently from 48mm to 60mm, fits my hand nicely and, in conjunction with the low action, makes for a very pleasurable playing experience. A nut width of 1-7/8 inches—narrower than on a standard classical and closer to my Collings 001 Mh—helps make stretchy Ted Greene-style chords less problematic. And the elegant gold Gotoh tuning pegs with ebony knobs feel solid and reliable. 

The WL-35 Jazz has a very nicely balanced sound, not as loud or bottom-rich as a full-size classical guitar, but far from thin or boxy, and the Guatemalan rosewood seems to add a hint of appealing brightness. My first reaction was that the guitar sounded bigger than it looked, and I found it hard to put down. When I tried using a pick, the notes blossomed with very little compression. I played a few classical pieces and jazz tunes, as well as some of my own more ambient fare. While the guitar felt a little light on the bottom for the traditional Spanish repertoire, its clarity and quick response were great for the other approaches. 

When a friend asked for some nylon-string on a recording session, I knew it would be a good opportunity to see how the guitar fared in the studio. On the session, I used an AKG C414 EB microphone and played mostly fingerpicked lead lines on a Middle Eastern-flavored jazz tune. The mic liked this guitar a lot. I was able to get a great recorded tone with minimal fuss—just a touch of compression and no EQ. 

The L.R. Baggs Session-VTC undersaddle pickup sounds great: round and full, with crisp articulation and no shrillness at all. I was also able to dial in pleasurable tones, whether via DI, a Fender Princeton Reverb, or a Henriksen Blu amp, with the aid of the soundhole-mounted volume and tone controls. The Baggs system paired nicely with a Catalinbread Echorec delay pedal and a Chase Bliss Audio Dark World reverb, and the pickup’s onboard tone control helped me shave some of the extra highs incurred when I used a flatpick. In short, the Session VTC pickup, with its rich and balanced tone, is an outstanding option for the gigging guitarist.


All in all, the Wee Lowden WL-35 Jazz is a very fine instrument, impeccably built of premium tonewoods, and possessed of a beguiling, inviting tonality. It’s an ideal choice for the steel-string guitarist looking for an expanded sonic arsenal, as well as the jazz guitarist seeking that nylon-string sound coupled with modern playability. A definite winner.

Lowden WL-35 Jazz Nylon-Stringed Guitar soundhole


BODY WL body (parlor-sized with 13-3/16″ lower bout and 4″ depth); solid Alpine spruce top; solid Guatemalan rosewood back and sides; rosewood bridge with 12-hole tie bar; satin polyurethane lacquer finish

NECK Five-piece neck (mahogany/purpleheart/walnut); 610mm-scale ebony fretboard; 1-7/8″ nut width; gold Gotoh SG381 tuners with ebony buttons; satin polyurethane lacquer finish

OTHER Bone nut and saddle; L.R. Baggs Session-VTC undersaddle pickup; Savarez Red (treble) and D’Adarrio Pro Arte (bass) strings; Ameritage hardshell case; available


MADE IN Northern Ireland 

PRICE $7,600 street

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This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Mark Goldenberg
Mark Goldenberg

Mark Goldenberg is a guitarist and composer who has played on records for a myriad of artists including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, and more.

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