Natura G630CE

D555CEQ

From Australian Guitar magazine, November 2008. More on the G630CE.

(SOLID TOP) GRAND AUDITORIUM ACOUSTIC WITH CUTAWAY & PICKUP
Walden is a manufacturer of "affordable" guitars. Those few words can make you run for the hills or see real bargain potential. Review by Will Beecham

Every now and then when the Australian Guitar staff hand me a guitar to be reviewed they ask me straight up 'how much do you think it's worth?" It's a good test because it only takes a few minutes to formulate an immediate opinion of an instrument, but much longer to make sense of it and write it down, which also gives you a chance for much more playing time.

At first I guessed into 4 figures as I saw the grand auditorium shape, Fishman pickup, solid top, gold tuners and a reasonable sound. Needless to say I was surprised to hear my guess was almost double the actual price of this guitar.

D555CEQ

BACKGROUND
Your average guitar lover will know a one or two sentence background to a lot of the common guitar manufactures, so here's one to add to your mental list. The company Walden came into existence around 12 years ago and is the result of two American luthiers designing guitars then sending them to China to be put together. The company actually doing the cutting, bending and gluing is not new to the game, they've been making instruments since as far back as the 1930's. You might already be starting to draw conclusions about craftsmanship and guitar royalty lineage, so if you're the kind of person that won't buy any guitar that hasn't been sneezed on by an age old luthier wood worker in Alabama then keep on walking.

ALL ABOUT
The Grand Auditorium shape has immediate benefits of being light and easy to play standing or sitting, the size a little more manageable than a dreadnought or jumbo.

Up on the headstock the tuners are gold and die cast and the Walden logo unobtrusive and classy with a pearl finish. The binding and inlays bring a bit of flair to an otherwise plain design and the pick-guard follows the shape of the cutaway and sound hole. There is no denying that as far as looks, they got it very right with this guitar. Build quality is also impressive with no obvious bleed of the stain or lacquer and all the joins tight and even.

The even grain of the laminated back and sides adds aesthetic appeal to the otherwise plain finish and the bracing internally is finely cut and lacks rough edges and tool scoring marks that you sometimes see in less expensive mass produced acoustic guitars.

The guitar sits halfway on Walden's lineup, as part of the 'natura' finish line. They claim the wood will age and mature the more and the longer that you play it, changing to match the style of your playing. The first point is likely true but in all honesty an ivory saddle and neck nut to replace the stock plastic items would go along way to sweetening the tone of this guitar.

PLAYING IT
How each strings tone and volume is balanced on an acoustic guitar can make a big difference to what you use it for, some guitars with a spectacular low end may sound tinny and weak up top. Like other features of this guitar, Walden have found a good middle ground and extracted about as much low end that is possible out of a typical grand auditorium shape. Typically, the mids are the most prominent of the sonic spectrum meaning fingerpicking, picked chords and the odd solo sound fine, but I wouldn't be using this as an open chord strumming machine, it responds better to a gentle touch than to a smashing with a 2mm thick Dunlop.

The Fishman pickup system installed on this guitar is the same that is used on many other (and some more expensive) guitars and is your usual peizo under the bridge type design with a 9 volt powered preamp. You get treble, mids, bass and brilliance controls along with volume and a low battery warning light. I wouldn't say that it adds anything to the sound of the guitar, but I consider cheaper guitars without pickups quite limited, this factory fitted system opens up the instrument to many more buyers, and while the tone plugged in isn't considerably sweet, it cuts through a band mix well enough.

THE BOTTOM LINE
With instruments at this price point, it all comes down to value for money and how many features can be packaged up into a product that attracts buyers. With guitars however, you have that trump card that it must sound and feel good, we all know that can be different from one guitar to the next that came off the same production line.

This guitar immediately impressed me and even after a number of days of playing it, I couldn't fault it in any game-ending sort of way. I consider a grand auditorium style guitar much harder for manufacturers to get right, as you can't just replace tone and balance with sheer volume attainable on other types of guitar designs. Walden have done an impressive job with this model, putting a great shape, look and pickup system into the hands of people with a limited budget.