By Acoustic Guitar magazine, September 2010.
More on the CD4040-CERT.
Elegant mid-price dreadnought with certified FSC-pure tonewoods.
Since 1996, Walden Guitars has been making high-quality classical and steel-string guitars in China for the North American market, and the company recently introduced the Madera line of guitars—instruments made entirely from certified FSC-pure tonewoods such as Sitka spruce and South American mahogany. Through a process known as “chain-of-custody,” the Forest Stewardship Council ensures that each guitar in the Madera line is fully compliant, overseeing the woods from the time they’re harvested until they’re used in construction. Fittingly, Madera is Spanish for “wood,” and the headstock of each guitar is emblazoned in pearl with a Chinese character that symbolizes wood. We auditioned the Walden Madera CD4040-CERT, which features all solid woods in a traditional dreadnought design—currently only one of two dreadnoughts with 100 percent pure, responsibly forested wood on the market, the other being the American-made Martin D Mahogany 09, which lists for more than twice the price of the CD4040.
The Madera CD4040-CERT has a nicely streamlined appearance. The fretboard is devoid of inlays, and the abalone soundhole rosette, tortoise body-and-neck binding, and pearl headstock inlays are at once elegant and restrained. Our review model had an attractively grained solid Sitka spruce top with a hint of bearclaw figuring and some winter growth lines. The solid South American mahogany back, sides, and neck were similarly attractive and devoid of blemishes. Made of South American katalox, which has roughly the same density as ebony, the fretboard and bridge have a nice dark color and even grain.
The craftsmanship on our review model was good. The nut was cleanly cut and the fretwork meticulous, but close inspection revealed a few file marks at random spots on the fingerboard. The binding was uniformly flush with the body, but there was a bit of bleed into the finish on the upper bout of the treble side. Inside, the bracing showed no excess glue but was rough in spots and could have used a bit more sanding. The high-gloss finish—a polyester base with a polyurethane top coat—was well applied and carefully buffed. Purists might be put off by that type of finish, but applying a traditional nitrocellulose finish is known to have deleterious effects on the environment, so it would have been out of place on this green guitar.
Stylistic Versatility and Sound
The CD4040-CERT’s contemporary C-shaped neck is neither too ample nor too skimpy. Electric guitarists will find the nut width of 111⁄16 inches to be reassuringly familiar. While the neck is comfortable, the action on our review instrument was a bit high and the guitar felt a little stiff. The action, of course, can be adjusted to taste by a competent luthier and the guitar should loosen up as it accumulates playing time.
The CD4040-CERT projects a clear and vibrant sound with plenty of sustain, in part due to its solid, quartersawn Sitka top. When I played some fingerstyle jazz with long sustained chords, the effect was piano-like, with an attractive natural reverb. Conversely, the guitar sounded appropriately punchy when strumming open-position chords Carter Family–style. As I tried various other approaches I discovered that the CD4040-CERT is a wonderfully versatile instrument. It responded equally well to anything I could think of. The open strings really sparkled on a country-blues improvisation in open E, while higher up the neck, some closed-position R&B-style chord work sounded clear and defined, and a pseudo-bluegrass flatpicked solo sounded clear and articulate in all registers.
Green Guitarist’s Dream
With its FSC-pure-certified tonewoods, the CD4040-CERT is perfect for the thoughtfully green guitarist. It’s also a bargain as an all-solid-wood guitar with good looks and a robust sound, suitable for a variety of styles. And with its versatile voice, the CD4040-CERT would also make a great go-to acoustic for any recording buff.