A parlor-size crossover nylon-string with a big sound and an LR Baggs pickup.
by Teja Gerken
July 01, 2019
Lowden Guitars has built its reputation on building powerful, complex-sounding steel-strings, but founder George Lowden’s interest in classical guitars has informed his steel-string designs, and the company’s line includes a crossover nylon-string, the Jazz model, which is based on Lowden’s cutaway S-size body. Earlier this year, Lowden introduced a new version of the Jazz with a parlor-size Wee Lowden body, and we had a chance to check out one of the new WL-35 Jazz models in the Peghead Nation video studio.
The combination of a parlor-size body (which measures 13³/₁₆ inches across the lower bout) and 14-fret neck sets the WL-35 Jazz apart from a standard classical guitar. And its neck (measuring 1⅞ inches at the nut) and radiused fingerboard give it a feel more like that of a steel-string than a classical guitar. The WL-35 is also X-braced, with the height and width of the braces adjusted to incredibly delicate dimensions, and it has Lowden’s original bridge shape, with a standard one-piece saddle instead of the two-piece saddle used on the company’s steel-strings. Like some modern classical guitars, the bridge has a 12-hole tie-block, which allows for an elegant installation of the strings with a slightly steeper break-angle over the saddle. In a nod to jazz players who may use a flatpick, the guitar includes a clear pickguard. A slotted peghead is home to a set of Gotoh classical tuning machines. The woods used on our demo guitar were nothing short of spectacular. The Alpine spruce top had incredibly straight and even grain, while the Guatemalan rosewood back and sides displayed beautiful coloring and an attractive sapwood center.
As might be expected by the guitar’s compact dimensions, the WL-35 Jazz is a friendly guitar to hold, and its playability is enhanced by the short 24-inch scale, which made even long stretches a breeze. But the WL-35 Jazz’s sound is anything but small. Not only does it produce respectable volume, it is super-balanced, with a satisfying tonal complexity throughout its range. Playing near the bridge yields a nice Spanish-style “growl.” For electronics, Lowden chose the LR Baggs Session VTC system, which combines an Element undersaddle pickup with a soundhole-mounted preamp. Borrowing circuitry from the stand-alone LR Baggs Session preamps, this system is designed to provide analog warmth and a touch-sensitive dynamic EQ, and plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge, it did a great job of amplifying the WL-35 Jazz’s acoustic sound.
Overall, the WL-35 Jazz is an intriguing guitar that delivers mature classical guitar tone in a compact package with steel-string playability. I could see the guitar at home in many musical settings, including, of course, jazz.
SPECS: Wee Lowden-size body with 14-fret neck. Alpine spruce top. Guatemalan rosewood back and sides. Five-piece mahogany/rosewood/walnut neck. Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood bridge. 630-mm. (24-inch) scale. 1⅞-inch nut width. Gotoh classical tuning machines. LR Baggs Session VTC electronics. Made in Northern Ireland.$8,055. Lowdenguitars.com
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