After All These Years: Washburn Continues To Show How It’s Done

It’s been 132 years since Washburn hit the scene…yes, 132 years (that’s just a smidgen longer than Coca Cola has been around)…and they simply haven’t let up. As found out during 3P3D 2014 and at Winter NAMM 2015, Washburn is still bringing classy, sophisticated-but-still-a-little-mean styling to the electric guitar market with it’s the ParallAXE line.

Washburn_N4_Nuno_Bettencourt_Walnut_1103103_gOne of the biggest splashes this writer remembers Washburn making is the introduction of the Stephens Extended Cutaway bolt-on neck design. It came out right around the time I became obsessed with guitars, making the already radical designs entrancing me for hours that much more mind-blowing. Seeing such a cool design continue to flourish on ParallAXE models like the PXM10, PXS100, and PXM170 seven string makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

And you can certainly get warm and fuzzy tones, or clean and spanky tones, or rich and sparkly tones all day long, with myriad pickup options that include models from EMG, Seymour Duncan, and clever parallel-series switching arrangements Washburn has equipped the ParallAXE line with. But these guitars seem to say, “Pardon me, but perhaps a little more punch and grind would be of interest?” Do listen to that mysterious voice from out of the ether and cook those tubes a little bit; the ParallAXE rewards with tough, punchy, well-defined tones no matter the gain level.

The ParallAXE, like all U.S.-made Washburn guitars, also features the Buzz Feiten tuning system, which uses nuts and saddles that are specially placed and compensated to correct some of the quirks that occur with standard guitar intonation. The guitar sounds sweeter and more in tune, particularly when playing more complex chords like seventh chords. It’s a typically standard feature on higher-end instruments, but every U.S.-made Washburn has it right out of the case.

Washburn has also done some cool things around the edges, adding little details that other makers tend to miss. Vibrato-equipped ParallAXE guitars come standard with what has become a very popular upgrade for many players: an oversize brass block. Many players are finding that the bridge bock is a key component of tone, and that larger blocks contribute to better sustain and resonance characteristics. Vibrato-equipped guitars also feature springs that are mechanically muted, to do away with the annoying zings and clangs that can occasionally get so bad that they can be sensed by the pickups. This really isn’t stuff that Washburn had to do, but it’s extremely cool that they put that much thought into the little things.

All of the model types bearing the ParallAXE logo and name are cool in their own rights, but it might be said that the ParallAXE flagship is Ola England’s SOLAR signature line.PX-SOLAR17DLXC_BS-1 The SOLAR line takes everything killer about the other ParallAXE models and cranks them to “10.” In addition to all of the cool features present on the other ParallAXE series lines, the SOLAR line adds graceful scooped cutaways for a fast, aggressive look.

Evertune-02Some SOLAR models also feature the innovative Evertune bridge, an all-mechanical bridge that naturally maintains the tuning of the strings through a system of springs and levers. Essentially, once you get the guitar in tune it stays there, regardless of changes in environment. And, when set up properly, you can still bend strings with the Evertune bridge.

Washburn could’ve easily stuck to it’s 132 year-old roots and continued to specialize in vintage-inspired designs, something it does very well already with it’s Jazz, Classic Idol, Hollowbody electrics and Lakeside, Heritage, Vintage, and Parlor series acoustic lines. But it deserves major kudos for keeping it’s collective ear to ground and integrating the cool, modern looks and stuff guitar players love into the ParallAXE line. Here’s to 132 more great years!

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