Walden Natura D555CE: It Sings

From France's Guitar Unplugged magazine, March 2007. To read this review in its original French version, click here. More on the D555CE.

D555CEQ

As the visible label in the sound hole of the instrument indicates, this Walden was conceived in America and made in China. The model proposed here belongs to the series named Natura, which itself is subdivided into three categories: the 500 series, the 600 series and the 700 series. Flagship in the acoustics, Walden is now well-known for its excellent quality/price ratio, by introducing high-class instruments for a competitive price. Let’s take a look at it.

SOBER BUT EFFICIENT
The body of this Dreadnought was made of several beautiful species of wood: The back and sides are made of mahogany (watch the shining and streaked grain ), and the top is of massive spruce. This combination of species favors a clear and bright tone, and gives this guitar a lot of dynamics. The traditional “X-Brace” offers a better resistance to the tension produced by the strings on the top, for the same result, even if there is a small lack of low-end with the punchy mediums and high-end.

The marquetry is quite sober: the bindings between the sides and the soundboard, just like the one between the sides and the back are made of black plastic with white thin strips. The rosette is also plastic and alternates between white and black strings of different width. According to this logic, the pins are also very simple. We point out at last that only the top has been covered with nitrocellulose satin varnish. Regarding the finish, the headstock (mahogany) contrasts with the rest of the instrument. The brand logo (mother of pearl) was inlaid on a very thin ebony plate, high-class, indeed…. The diecast machine heads assure a very good intonation, even after several bends. A button for strap’s attachment, in which is actually the jack input, is installed at the bottom of the sides, but unfortunately we can’t find the same on the neck side.

LET'S TAKE A WALK IN THE WOODS

Let’s come to the essential: playability, i.e. the way you feel when you first grab the guitar. It’s excellent and it’s been a real pleasure for me to play this great tone guitar. The neck to the body junction was made at the 14th fret. The cutaway, very well-made, allows an easy access to the high pitch of the instrument. The playability is appreciable. The C shape neck tends to be easy for chord-style playing and the single-notes licks in the upper part of the neck are easily and smoothly performed. The action is low enough in the first frets, but it becomes a little bit higher as we go upward, and this could be uncomfortable for those who are deep in “petruccianism” or “satrianism”. Anyway, the trussrod is here to fix this point.

The sustain is really exceptional, but just like most of the guitars in this price range, it’s less evident on the B and E strings. As we go up the neck, it becomes more and more obvious. Chord-style playing is real hot and the dynamics are quite amazing. It’s a real pleasure to feel the guitar’s vibrations on your chest! For me, who like to fight with the strings and have a slapping sound, the lady Walden didn’t disappoint me, far from it… even if the finger-style playing happens to be a little bit less convincing. A compensation on the saddle bone for the B string is the proof that Walden team really cares about intonations problems. Don’t mistake this, the first impression was excellent and the more we play this guitar, the more we feel good with it.

Guitar Unplugged

FROM THE ACOUSTIC TO THE ELECTRIC

Once plugged, the Walden steps into another dimension. The beauty is equipped with a Fishman Classic 4 preamp, featuring the equalizer (bass, medium and treble), brilliance control and volume. This guitar is very eclectic and comping seems to be its real strong point. The tone is clear, the trebles are very present and the basses slightly behind.

Either in solo, or in arpeggios, this Walden makes it and stands quite well versus competition. It’s some kind of flattering reference, regarding the huge amount of entry-level models in this series and their competitive price. Its sound palette is very large and it would be real amazing if you could not find the sound you’re looking for by adjusting the equalizer. Please do know as well that, if you are not addicted to the electric, Walden provides the same model in a folk version. It means without cutaway (the D550), and for the acoustic version (the D555). The strong point of this guitar is undisputedly its tone “unplugged” with a sound’s projection that could turn pale more than one, even to embarrass some of the “grand” brand. If you feel like trying this guitar, and at last open your wallet, you ought to know that it will provide you, not the big revolution of the design but an instrument which will turn heads around: sober and warm, it’s the essential, isn’t it?