D31S 1998 review by Washburn

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 0 (0 votes)
Washburn: D31S 1998

Purchased from: SamAsh

Features — 9
D31 Washburn dreadnaught with passive pickup (solid top is spruce). No controls; jack is the end pin. Gloss finish and the sides/back are flamed maple well done (probably laminated, which makes no real difference). Grover tuners appear original. Korean made in 1998. The pickups is like a K&K Sound type... no external controls at all and no battery. You plug in and the sound man or the amp man controls everything (that's how it was through the 1990s for acoustics, mostly). Well finished and built (good woods, fretboard is nicely inlaid with MOP "W" and dots and fret ends are all smooth and slightly inboard of the fretboard edge. Fretboard heel is darkened rather than raw. Good headstock decoration and plenty big to hold a clip-on tuner.

Sound — 9
If "10" is so good it is dreamy, this one at $150 easily rates a "9". It is nearly as good as my Japan Takamine A/E premium acoustic dread. The Washburn sounds better acoustically than my Breedlove Stage Dreadnaught (which I will sell to pocket a few hundred bucks). I learned lately... again... that even a Carlo Robelli can sound good with crummy paint, hardly passable action, and cheap tuners. But what matters is can the guitar be made to play good enough if it naturally sounds good. I have a very good ear for guitar tone and even cheap stuff sometimes has one example that sounds quite good. this Washburn D31S is well made, plays REMARKABLE, sounds quite nice and balanced and was insane cheap to buy in sound condition (no damage). Grover tuners do not go on cheap guitars at a factory... remember that.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
This is the real point of a well-made versus "OK" acoustic. All the details are well done (real Grover tuners, wooden string pegs, neat inside with a nicely applied paper label. Bone nut and saddle. All the things we associate with a "better quality" guitar. The "S" denotes solid top (spruce) and the top bracing and wood quality is what matters. This one has tight grain and no rattles anywhere. The guitar was well taken care of, with minor marks and no headstock damage or careless scratching. It looks good from 2 feet away and plays REALLY well already. Someone set it up before me to pass the "3rd fret test" and the saddle and relief were adjusted well. I smoothed the saddle to make it glow and cleaned the nut slots gently with nut slot files for that purpose and to barely lower the slots.

Rated "9" because it was never an expensive guitar and acoustically it beats a pretty good Breedlove midrange guitar. I will soon compare it to a Taylor 600 series new one to learn the differences.

Reliability & Durability — 9
Washburn only makes good guitars. they do not sell junky guitars. I owned 3 of the WI64 with Buzz Feiten (electrics) and they are a good alternative to an SG or LP (somewhat between those 2). I never owned a Washburn acoustic is 30 years and literally a couple hundred guitars. so this one was good enough used to be my "open mic night" guitar on stage. I see no reason to doubt the sturdiness. It look very nice, understated, very sharp maple back/sides, and plays remarkably well (better than the set-up Breedlove mentioned above).

Overall Impression — 9
At $150 used with a passive pickup and VERY nice action and acoustic tone (I learned on classical guitars and play with nails mostly)... this one is a real "find." It beats a 400-600 dollar Breedlove with full modern electronics and case. Acoustics need a certain 'feel' to make you dig them... low action, easy playing, excellent tone and sustain, strong bass and mids as well as a "sweet" treble that lingers. This cheap and used guitar has it all... for hardly pocket money. I encourage you to look for Washburns from KOREA back in the 1990s. They occasionally show up in Sam Ash in Richmond, VA and I stumbled on this one. And I'llbe looking so as to beat this one and then have this guitar on Reverb.com.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    ...the Oscar Schmidt OG2CESM model (made for Washburn) at $200 from China new beats this real Washburn in a few ways. It is better balanced and 'crisp', has full on board electronics and an XLR output as well as 1/4" jack. It is easily made to play well by lowering the nut slots (NuBone saddle and nut). I will replace the saddle with a compensated bone one from Allparts and the tuners are OK, but real tuners will keep it in tune better. Having V and  Tr, Ba, Mi  as well as Presence and a notch filter knob and a decent tuner makes the OG2CESM a versatile guitar and it's a real bargain if you get a used one. At $200 brand new, I took this example. The D31S is excellent for $150 hardly used, but the outdated electronics does not fit in open mic night settings.