Phew. That was a mouthful. You’d think a company that’s been around as long as Washburn would come up with something a bit more user friendly for simply naming a guitar.
Washburn, it’s fair to say, has been hit and miss over the years. It’s used various manufacturers to produce instruments sold under the one branding. But we’re turning a corner in terms of the quality of instruments coming out of China these days, and the Washburn RSG200SWVSK guitar really exemplifies that.
Re-branding guitars made by someone else is how many well-known guitar brands do business. Fender for instance, has had their guitars made in China, Japan, Mexico, and the US. The Squier marque has been made in those countries, plus Korea, India and Indonesia.
Much like cars, a brand on the headstock or ‘Fender’ as it were, tells the consumer very little indeed about the provenance of an instrument. That’s not to say however, that all guitar companies operate under a cloak of secrecy, only divulging such information to a select few distributors. It’s all pretty transparent these days.
Northfield, the mandolin company, will even tell you where all the components in the instrument come from, right on the makers label in the soundhole. And as various timbers become more scarce and subject to stricter trade restrictions, and global labour practices are under further scrutiny, it’s definitely a good thing that builders are being upfront about provenance.
Without a doubt, the Washburn RSG200SWVSK Revival Solo DeLuxe Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar needs a shorter name. However, that would probably be my only gripe. Just about everything else far and away exceeds my expectations. It’s around the $1500AUD mark, which is not cheap. But by jingo, does it compete with some much more expensive guitars. There are plenty of other makers competing at this price point. Names such as Blueridge and Sigma come to mind. But Washburn gets a lot of things right here that make it a very competitive option.
A modern instrument with vintage tendencies
It’s an up-to-date instrument in a sort of roundabout way. It’s part of the so-called ‘Revival’ line of instruments, and harkens back to the days before cutaways and on-board pickups. Many builders are well aware of this trend, fueled by the renaissance of acoustic music currently occurring. So already we have some indication of its intended audience purely from the lack of a pickup. You really want to play this thing through a mic if possible, as a great deal of attention has been paid to optimizing its acoustic ‘voice’.
Tonally, this instrument has a warm, even response across the lows, mids and highs. Each region is balanced beautifully against one another. It’s powerfully bassy, with heaps of bottom end and sustain that make big open chords lush and enveloping.
It’s not ‘scooped’ in the midrange either. The result is an acoustic presence that can be lacking in a guitar optimized for a ‘plugged in’ sound. The highs are appropriately controlled, not sticking out too much but adding a good amount of sparkle and shine to the upper harmonics.
Warm, mellow tone
A torrefied piece of Sitka spruce serves as the soundboard and gives the instrument an aged sound. The torrefaction process is an article in its own right, but it seems to mellow and balance the instrument’s tone like it’s been played in over many years.
I’m a fan of what Washburn has achieved here in the RSG200SWVSK, taking advantage of a cutting-edge trend in luthiery to the consumers benefit. Overall, a very pleasant voice that would be at home in a variety of musical contexts.
The body shape too is reminiscent of an early Gibson L-O, with a rounded lower bout that hasn’t been squared off quite as much as a Martin OM for instance. The shape is unique and aesthetically pleasing, as is the competently executed sunburst finish.
You’ll find many ‘pre-war’ details on this model. For example, the crown headstock, 1¾” nut width and faux tortoiseshell pickguard to name a few.
The tuners are open back, which was common before they became routinely enclosed later on. But here, they feature a pretty interesting innovation; variable ratio gears.
Just another gimmick? I have a feeling this seemingly minor detail will stick around. Tuning an acoustic guitar is everything. Getting the intonation correct, and having tuners that obey the wishes of the player is an engineering challenge that requires a fair degree of precision.
These tuners give you a huge amount of accuracy on the thicker strings, but use a lower ratio for the treble strings. This is a time saver essentially. It allows you to get closer to a desired tuning, quicker. Great between songs down at the pub. It’s also a pleasant tactile experience. And the smooth action of the tuners will please someone who is fussy about tuning.
All solid timbers
Many things go into making an enjoyable instrument. The Washburn has successfully taken care of the details here to produce something that both a novice and an advanced player will enjoy. Like a bottle of wine with cellaring potential, the all solid timbers of this guitar ensures it will only get better the more it’s played in. Give one a whirl when you can.
The Washburn RSG200SWVSK Revival Solo DeLuxe Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar. Not bad Washburn, not bad at all!
By Tom Kendall for the Guitar Gallery