Madera CD4041-CERT

By Vintage Guitar magazine, July 2011.
More on the CD4041-CERT.

Brown Sugar
The Walden Guitars CD4041Dreadnought

Are you a card-carrying Lover Of Our Planet Earth? Or are you maybe just looking for a good-sounding, easy-playing guitar that won’t break the bank? Walden Guitars’ new Madera line can satisfy the needs of players who are/need both.

Made of woods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the company’s CD4041 is a dreadnought-sized guitar with a mahogany body and neck sourced from Central America. The neck has carbon-graphite rails, augmented by a two-way adjustable truss rod in an assembly the company says is stiff enough to pass string energy to the soundboard instead of losing it to neck vibration. The stack-laminated neck heel is bolted to the body.

The fingerboard is made of katalox, a wood similar to certain species of ebony, scale length is 25.6", and width at the bone nut is 111/16". The katalox bridge is fitted with dot-inlaid plastic bridge pins. The intonated bone saddle and nut show a high level of accuracy in shaping and slotting. Smooth-turning tuners with black keys are mounted on the snakehead-style headstock, topped with a simple arching curve. An attractive pearl representation of a Chinese character for “wood” joins the Walden logo on the headstock. The only other ostentation on this tasteful design is the abalone rosette. Tortoise body binding with white and black purfling complements the brown tint over the quartersawn mahogany tonewood. Both body and neck are finished with a glass-smooth topcoat of polyurethane over a polyester base.

The medium frets are neatly dressed and polished, playing cleanly up and down the fretboard. Interior inspection shows very clean workmanship with braces and even the lining made of lightweight spruce. A wood reinforcement, as opposed to Martin-style glue-impregnated fabric, covers the joint of the forward shifted, pre-war style X-brace.

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While spruce may be a louder tonewood, and cedar may be sweeter, mahogany has a clarity that makes it especially popular for blues pickers. On a dreadnought – a design with lots of body resonance – that can be a welcome thing.

Tuned to pitch and strummed with a stiff pick, the CD4041 put forth the expected big-dreadnought bass sound, but with an-across-the-spectrum definition and note articulation. A few cross picking runs and some fiddle tune fragments demonstrated the CD4041’s single-note capabilities. Playing Flatt-inspired rhythm stylings, this square-shouldered acoustic raised a bluegrass clatter that would hold its own with a Gibson Mastertone banjo.

A dreadnought without all the resonant mud? Indeed, the CD4041 plays nice in a mix of acoustic instruments and in recording situations – covering bluegrass, blues, and even gypsy jazz with its combination of its deep range and cutting voice.

The Madera experience is enhanced by its intonation and setup, which offered marginal relief in the neck with bluegrass-appropriate string height. Walden is justifiably proud of its environmental dedication in the Madera Line. The company points out that pure FSC materials are difficult to come by, certainly at guitarbuilding quality. If more players asked, perhaps other builders will commit with similar focus. But until they do, the Walden Madera CD4041 can serve as the convincer.