Price paid: £ 370
Purchased from: Pooles Music, Grimsby
Features: This guitar, built in 2006, in a small village just outside Beijing, China features a completely solid wood construction at a deliciously affordable price. The Grand Auditorium body consists of a Western Red Cedar top and Indian Rosewood back and sides, scalloped X bracing for the soundboard and a Fishman Classic 4 preamp, wired to the end pin, which in my opinion is a great, ergonomic touch.
The 20 fret neck is made of Mahogany and features a Rosewood fretboard, a 2 way adjustable truss rod and a 1 11/16" nut width, which, combined with the slightly short scale and body shape, is extremely useful for fingerpicking.
Overall, the Walden strikes me as full to the brim with excellent features, and appointments, for an amazingly low price, and in keeping some of the more fancy additions to a minimum, offer the intermediate guitarist an excellent option for a first, or perhaps a second solid wood instrument. // 8
Sound: My style of guitar is hugely varied, within the Acoustic spectrum. When I write music, it is in a modern folky blues style, which it handles brilliantly. As well as this, I dabble in fingerstyle instrumental guitar, by artists such as Andy McKee, Craig D'Andrea and Tommy Emmanuel. This often calls for an open tuning, and I can safely say that I have put the guitar through its paces in this division. I play and write material in DADFAD, DADF#AD. DADGAD, DGDGBD, CGDGCD, CGCGCE and many other tunings, and with the right string gauges, the Walden handles them all admirably.
I also attend many Folk sessions, and its equally as comfortable in standard tuning, flatpicking my way through Celtic Folk music, as well as adding more adventurous accompaniament.
Unplugged, and with my favourite Elixir .13s, the sound I get, largely thanks to the Red Cedar top, is warm, well balanced, and with great resonance and upper end harmonics. With an open tuning, the string to string balance is brilliant, with nothing overpowering, only complimenting everything else.
The onboard Fishman preamp works excellently through a DI box, and out through a decent PA. I have recently started using an MXR 10 band EQ, to really get the tone that I'm hearing in my head, which my Walden gets ever closer to fulfilling. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: I got this guitar second hand, when the original owner traded it in, to get a Taylor 514ce, so there was no complaints whatsoever. I fitted a strap button to the side of the neck join, to make it easier for live performances.
The action was slightly lower than I prefer it to be, but adding thicker gauge strings (it was set up for .12s, but I set it up to suit me better) makes it a great fit for my hands, and allows me to get great tone, and dig in a bit more. // 9
Reliability & Durability: This guitar is definately built to last, as long as you take good care of it. I have always tried to keep it in good condition, which really brings the most out of it. The hardware is good and solid, especially the tuners, which keep me in whatever tuning I'm currently in, brilliantly, until I change it, for the next song.
I have used, and will continue to use, this guitar without a backup, as it's just an absolute workhorse. // 9
Overall Impression: For the style I play, I believe that I have found a near perfect match. I have been playing for roughly 8 years, and have owned a fair few barely passable acoustics, and to be blessed with playing something like this day in, day out, is a real joy.
When I was trying instruments out, I tried it alongside Martins, Taylors, Larrivees and cheaper models such as Freshman, Seagull and Yamaha, and out of all of them, I chose this one, in a blindfolded test (I had my brother play the same song, on my top 5 guitars, after I realised all of them played excellently, and I couldn't choose between them).
If this was stolen/lost, I would be genuinely devastated. A guitar, that is such a great fit for me, comes along maybe once or twice a lifetime, and I am really grateful that I get the pleasure of it, whenever I want. I take it almost everywhere I go, and it's still a great thrill to play.
The only thing I could possibly wish for, would be a bone saddle, nut and bridge pins, which I can only imagine would get me even closer to that perfect tone, and I am currently debating whether to purchase a set, but this minor imperfection aside, I am completely happy with it, and I would recommend it to anyone, looking for a step up from the all laminate acoustics that many people start on.
The amount of compliments I get from my Walden, is unreal, and have even persuaded people to search out Waldens of their own. They're not considered a huge company, and the initial reaction from most people was "Walden? Nope, never heard of them, get a Martin/Taylor", but were then subsequently blown away by the quality of this guitar, which is something that happens to me every time I pick it up. // 9