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Washburn Idol Series WI65PRO & WI67PRO £429 & £529

Washburn introduces a pair of new Idols well worthy of praise that will have audiences falling at your feet... by Chris Vinnicombe

PHOTOGRAPHY JOBY SESSIONS

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WASHBURN IDOL SERIES WI65PRO & WI67PRO £429 & £529

ELECTRICS CD TRACKS 6 & 7

Straight out of the box the WI65PRO is one of those rare instruments that plays so naturally and unobtrusively that you don't even have to think about it

B

ack in issue 236, Washburn's Idol Series WI65 kicked up something of a storm in the Guitarist office thanks to its exceptional value for money and hugely impressive tonal palette. Despite the model's undeniable sonic sexiness, its moody all-black livery and skull headstock decal inevitably polarised opinion and, for some, reverse-parked the instrument into an inescapably heavy metal niche. This aesthetic was juxtaposed with a set of sounds that covered virtually every musical base imaginable, so happily Washburn has introduced a pair of new Idols with the same killer specifications, but arguably more universally appealing cosmetics.

WI65PRO

The first of the new Idol models is the understated WI65PRO, which looks efficient and gig-ready in its classic Gibson-like transparent cherry gloss finish. One of the most immediately striking aspects of the WI65PRO is just what you get for £429 of your hard earned. The guitar comes loaded with £170 worth of pickups in the shape of a Seymour Duncan '59 humbucker in the neck position and a Custom Custom at the bridge. The Custom Custom is a particularly intelligent choice as, while the pickup's Alnico II magnet packs a punch, its voicing is more vintage-like than others in the range and should facilitate a richer selection of clean and mild break-up tones. This quest will undoubtedly be aided by Washburn's innovative Voice Contour Control system that we'll explore in detail in the Sounds section of this review. To ensure that the signal flowing through those Duncan humbuckers is as in-tune as possible, the guitar comes equipped with the acclaimed Buzz Feiten Tuning System. Endorsed by the likes of Steve Vai, Robben Ford and Larry Carlton, check out www. buzzfeiten.com for the full FAQ. Sceptics should just try playing a few chord shapes high up the neck, or in combination with open strings, to hear the distinct lack of the kind of intonation inconsistencies to which we've all become accustomed. To give your electric of choice the full Buzz Feiten treatment from an authorised repair shop such as Charlie Chandler's Guitar Experience (www. guitarexperience.co.uk) will cost you upwards of £120, so with that and the Seymour Duncans we've racked up £290 worth of kit before we've even looked directly at the guitar itself. Beneath the transparent cherry finish there's a mahogany body and neck made from several sections of timber. The finish has been applied evenly and, although there are a few very small inconsistencies visible under very close inspection, there's nothing unsightly. The carved body has a snug, lightweight feel somewhat akin to a sixties Gibson SG Special, while the neck's shallow D-profile is very player-friendly to say the least, especially in combination with medium-jumbo frets that facilitate easy string bending. It's all too easy to reel

W165PRO Build quality Playability Sound Value for money

The WI65PRO boasts Seymour Duncan '59 and Custom Custom pickups

TEST RESULTS

WE LIKED Fantastic feel; great range of sounds; high spec:price ratio WE DISLIKED Some might regard the choice of headstock logo inappropriate

off platitudes about how the guitar `plays itself', but straight out of the box the WI65PRO is one of those rare instruments that plays so naturally and unobtrusively that you don't even have to think about it, allowing you to concentrate on the task in hand.

WASHBURN WI65PRO PRICE: £429 ORIGIN: Korea TYPE: Single cutaway solidbody electric BODY: Solid carved mahogany NECK: Mahogany, glued SCALE LENGTH: 628mm (24.75-inch) NUT/WIDTH: Black graphite/42mm FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, 356mm (14-inch radius) FRETS: 22 med jumbo HARDWARE: Chrome Grover 18:1 tuners, tuneo-matic bridge/tailpiece STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52mm ELECTRICS: Seymour Duncan '59 humbucker (neck) & Custom Custom (bridge), twin volume controls, three-way toggle selector switch and twin Voice Contour Controls WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.7/6 OPTIONS: US-built PI70 Pilsen Idol is £1,299, the original moody black WI65 is now £399 LEFT-HANDERS: No FINISHES: Transparent cherry (as reviewed), black, metallic silver and natural matt Sound Technology 01462 480000 www.washburn.com

The rivals

WI65PRO Italia Maranello Speedster £449 Gordon-Smith GS2 from £500 Gibson Faded Les Paul Special £880 Gibson's Faded Les Paul Special provides humbucker-assisted satisfaction and Gordon-Smith guitars are more than capable of bettering some of the biggest American manufacturers. Italy's Maranello provides meaty humbucker tones at a slim price

WI67PRO

Unlike the WI65PRO, which retains the cartoon-like headstock logo recalling the Dimebag Darrell signature Washburns, the semi-hollow WI67PRO is granted an added touch of visual elegance by a classic pearl inlaid script logo along with headstock binding and a floral motif. Binding is continued along the fingerboard edges and the body's carved quilted maple top, which

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WASHBURN IDOL SERIES WI65PRO & WI67PRO £429 & £529

ELECTRICS CD TRACKS 6 & 7

WASHBURN WI67PRO As WI65PRO except... PRICE: £529 TYPE: Single cutaway semi-hollow electric BODY: Semi-hollow mahogany with bound quilted maple carved top FINGERBOARD: Bound rosewood with pearl wing inlays HARDWARE: Black chrome Grover 18:1 tuners, tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece WEIGHT (kg/lb): 4.0/9 FINISHES: Quilted tobacco sunburst (as reviewed), quilted cherry sunburst

The rivals

WI67PRO Ibanez Artcore AS73 £299 ESP LTD X-Tone PS-2V £499 Duesenberg Double Cat £969 Duesenberg's Double Cat is a Rickenbackerinspired semi that does a great job of blending twang with punch, and while it may seem expensive by comparison, this is the type of guitar that the Idols are more than equipped to compete with. ESP's LTD Paramount Series semi has a sort of melted Les Paul appearance and a tone fatter than a deepfried pork scratching. Finally Ibanez's Artcore range has more semis than a lap-dancing bar, and the AS73 is a cool take on the ES-335 with modern upgrades such as the Quik Change tailpiece

appears to be solid maple with a quilted veneer rather than a laminate and is approximately 9mm thick at the f-hole ­ a substantial slab. The top itself has been finished in a subdued amber shade of tobacco sunburst that is a little lower tar than the full strength nicotine yellow of the classic Gibson equivalent. Along with the more traditional livery, the guitar's proportions are those of a typical carved top electric, lacking the dramatic forearm contour of the solid Idols. Indeed, the whole instrument is a much heftier proposition than its trimmer solidbody sibling, weighing in at 3lbs heavier with a Les Paul-like maximum body depth in excess of 51mm compared to the WI65PRO's 40mm. Semi-hollow this guitar may be, but there's certainly more physical mass overall. In terms of hardware and electronics, the WI67PRO is identical to the WI65PRO, albeit with moodier black chrome parts. In the case of both guitars here, removing the panel from the control cavity reveals that topdrawer pickups aren't accompanied by the highest-grade pots or the heaviestduty wiring, but on balance this is one area where the Idols merely punch their weight, rather than performing well in excess of their retail prices. Despite both of these instruments having identically proportioned necks, perhaps because of the binding and pearl wing inlays, the WI67PRO doesn't feel as immediately inviting as the flat, unadorned blank canvas of the more spartan WI65PRO's fretboard. The WI67PRO also gives the impression of having had a few extra coats of polyester lacquer and, whether or not this is actually the case, the feel is certainly a little cloying.

W167PRO Build quality Playability Sound Value for money

TEST RESULTS

WE LIKED Classier headstock logo; same great pickups; Feiten system and VCC wiring WE DISLIKED Extra weight might cause some players a problem, not as immediately appealing as the WI65PRO

You get a passive rotary pot for each humbucker that sweeps between the dual coils of the pickup in series (hard clockwise) and parallel (hard anti-clockwise)

SOUNDS: For the uninitiated, Washburn's Voice Contour Controls provide a great deal of variation above and beyond the usual twin humbucker combinations. The standard three-way toggle switch and pair of individual volumes work in the expected way, but instead of a pair of tone controls that for most players will probably remain wide open anyway, you get a passive rotary pot for each humbucker that sweeps between the dual coils of the pickup in series (hard clockwise) and parallel (hard anti-clockwise). This opens up a huge combination of sounds and allows you to introduce varying degrees of hum-cancelling single-coillike spank into the equation. These two may have the same tonal palette in electronic terms but their contrasting construction makes for a marked difference in character. Where the WI65PRO is focused and biting, the WI67PRO's extra body mass translates into a denser tone with less focus but extra girth, more characteristic of a Les Paul. Additional airiness in the sound due to the guitar's semi-hollow construction appears to be tempered by the sheer amount of extra timber. The VCC controls are inherently musical and allow for some interesting variations. The key is experimentation within your own set-up, but we discovered a few corkers. Bluesy neck pickup solos

benefit greatly from introducing a little Fender-like spank into the equation for articulation in certain passages, then rolling in more of the series full humbucker sound for longer sustained notes. The W165PRO in particular did a great raucous Townshend-esque rhythm bawl with added twang. Both guitars genuinely provide a healthy degree of Les Paul/Strat crossover and can deal with anything you throw at them from the most obnoxious dirt settings to chiming pop, warm jazz and virtually all points in between.

Verdict

It doesn't take a brain like Professor Stephen Hawking's to do the math and calculate that both guitars here offer great specifications and incredible versatility for the money. Washburn's Voice Contour Control system blows us away every time and we wish that they offered the circuit as a retrofit for other twin humbucker guitars. If you can live with the physical weight and like the extra visual impact, then the WI67PRO is an arguably more refined package. However, if you are in the market for a great value do-it-all six-string, then the WI65PRO should be your first port of call. The combined package of the pickups, VCC wiring and the benefits of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System make the price of £429 a near-steal.

Washburn Idol Series W165PRO

RATING

Washburn Idol Series W167PRO

RATING

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