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Topics - Tony Raven

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...because it's not like OS (much less Lyon) has their own site.  >:(

Though it's become a generic term, Autoharp is a company trademark (though only the cursive-lettered word is still protected).

I find myself with two 12-bars & a little 6-bar. There's not a whole lot of discussion, & I've yet to find any site that collects the history or lists known models.

But, maybe next week...  ;)

Guitar Care, Repair, Modification & Lutherie / Voice Contour Control (VCC)
« on: September 18, 2016, 05:20:07 PM »
Yah, I am resurrecting this topic again, because for some reason it pops up in conversation.

For those in the dark: up until a few years back, many of the midrange-or-better dual-humbucker Washburns replaced the standard "tone" knobs (actually just crude lowpass filters) with the Voice Contour Control (commonly abbreviated "VCC") circuit. The associated knobs are marked "VCC".

The VCC was marketed as being able to not merely produce a humbucker tone AND a single-coil tone (as with a standard "coil tap" switch), but the whole range of in-between sounds, & do so entirely without mains hum. This marketeering did make me grit my teeth, as (1) one coil of a humbucker does not sound like a proper single-coil pickup, & I'm tired of that myth >:(, & (2) that's NOT what the VCC is doing anyway (see below). But it certainly WAS an innovative idea, & most guitarists never use the "tone" knob anyway, so why not add to the options?

QUESTION #1 -- can anyone tell me what years the VCC was installed? The archived catalogs in the VCCs early days are gappy (like 1993, 1997-8, 2001, then 2005-now). I'm guessing the same span as the WI-64: 1999-2010.
QUESTION #2 -- any idea of exactly which models had the VCC?

Here's what purports to be an actual circuit diagram -- rather than steal his thunder, I'm gonna send you to the page:
the VCC (Voice Contour Control) on the Washburn WI64 guitar is *not* a spin-a-split pot (which varies the linkage from HB to single coil) but a dual-ganged 500k linear pot which varies the linkage from series HB to parallel HB.
Naturally, being as it's an innovation, & most guitarists are a bunch of slavish sheep who mostly want to "sound like THAT guy," the VCC was widely despised.  :P

Well, to be fair, I've always had my doubts, feeling that the circuit -- though it looks GREAT on paper -- should have been somehow adjusted (resistance or capacitance or maybe an inductor) for the particular pickup sets, for the type of amplifier, maybe for the guitar's construction & even the type of music & playing style for which it's intended. In any case, I didn't see where it was going to be a "one size fits all" game-changer.

Online, most VCC owners whined about it, even after admitting -- sometimes with pride -- they never used their "tone" knob anyway (as I predicted). You can easily find dozens of stories where they basically say, "I took the circuit out of my WI-64, put in better pickups with standard wiring, & now it sounds so much better!!" -- meaning "just like every h-h guitar ever made." ::)

Yes, you read correctly: they replaced the pickups, THEN blamed the VCC for sounding bad. This is yet another instance where I feel comfortable saying "clearly, many guitar owners are tone-deaf idiots." 8)

Any "four wire" pickup can be swapped into the circuit.

The single greatest innovation was (IMO) the WI-66 ProG, the goldtop with dual P90s. Actually, they're each stacked dual coils.

Guitar Care, Repair, Modification & Lutherie / Grover tuners
« on: September 15, 2016, 03:08:41 AM »
For no good reason that I can determine, I am a devotee of Grover tuners -- whether Rotomatics on a modern guitar or Sta-Tites on a vintage acoustic or elephant-ear 142s on a Precision.

Wait... no, I do have good reasons.  ;D Generally, if a used guitar has Grovers, it meant that someone cared about the instrument, whether the previous owner or the manufacturer. So, when I'm making a quick browse through a shop, used guitars with Rotos get high priority.

As for Washburn: the Mercury Series probably holds some GREAT guitars, but I don't own a single one. But I have three Mavericks.  8) All told, eight of my nine Washies have factory Rotos.

And they REALLY DO honor their "Lifetime Warranty." A few years back, I bought an Epi Stratoclone with busted-up Grovers. I sent an email to asking about this. Their rep said "send 'em in," so -- having nothing to lose -- I did. Back came a sealed fresh set of Minis... absolutely free.


I've collected a bit of data about the Rotomatics, & am trying to push it into some sort of order, with intent of eventually looking for a book deal if I can get enough photos. Meantime, if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to share chunks of it on this site.

(And if anyone's got an old set of 12:1 Rotos gathering dust, I'd maybe want them. :) I'm a player, not a collector, so not interested in paying premium prices for the "made in USA," & it's okay if they're a bit beat-up. I find modern 18:1 & even 14:1 to be too fiddly for my taste.)

Post your thoughts on Banjos & Mandolins / tenors?
« on: September 15, 2016, 02:38:16 AM »
Does anyone know whether modern Washburn has ever made a tenor (four-string) guitar?

General Discussion / RIP: Toots Thielemans
« on: August 22, 2016, 11:00:22 PM »
All-round cool guy, & you'd be surprised at all the places you've heard his music.  8)

He first got my attention as the harmonica soloist on Rick Derringer's track "It's Rainin'."

Idol Series / And the Idol Series is finally dead.
« on: July 16, 2016, 07:25:24 PM »
Whether "Original Idol" or mere LP clone, the Idols are no longer on the site.


Idol Series / Idols seen for sale
« on: June 26, 2016, 03:25:36 PM »
I talked myself out of buying a WI-64DL for $100 + shipping. It needed some TLC, & I'm feeling overwhelmed by projects at the moment.  :(

And on eBay I see a 66 Pro that looks to have had almost no play: correct branded ABS case, hangtags, VCC sticker, even what looks like the protective foam piece on the switch. Asking $399, delivered.

A mere $300 can get you a goldtop.

No, not mine (though I really should pare back on the Mavericks... :o).

I'm always willing to find a Washburn bargain, especially some neglected model I think is pretty cool -- that's how I got a JB-80 for $250. But there's only so many guitars I need, & lots of cool stuff I pass by.

Let's start with a few remarks on the Idols. There's been a lot of used WI-64 in the past few months, which in itself scatters market prices.

But the 64 had a few variants in its long run (1999-2010). The pearloid-top 64PL was apparently a short run for a Big Retailer (Guitar Center?) in 2001 or 2003 or something, supposedly a run of 300 (not confirmed with Customer Support) -- the BlueBook skips it entirely. Then there's the 64V -- here "V" is for Vintage rather than Vibrato -- with various degree if beat-up-looking finish & "discolored" hardware. At the top is the 64DL with quilt maple top. And let's not overlook that the "basic" 64 had a few finishes: the most common are the black & trans red, which were available for the whole run, more briefly the Platinum Metallic & the Blonde, the "M3 Crackle Graphic" (only available 2006), & Natural (2009-2010). Having spotted only one Blonde, it does look nice.

Yet the marketplace usually lumps all the 64 together, & this even affects pricing for the rest of the Idols. The result is that there's ludicrous offers (like a $400 WI-14) & bargains ($150 WI-64PL).

While I can't say I love the color, it's tough to argue with $180 all-in --

Though innocently labelled "WI-64," this had to be THE dirtiest-looking "relic" job I've seen short of dragging a Badwater through a swamp --

Still has the VCC label on the back, too. Possibly the only four-knob Idol to NOT have speed knobs.  :o It's the hardware that makes this worth at least $180 (+ s/h): every last little screw & washer has been uglified, the pickup covers are perfect, & I dare you to find a set of discolored Grovers on the open market for less than $65, much less 18:1.

I'm totally serious about weird pricing. The transparent red (SG-style) 64s have created some sort of meme. Here's one on eBay asking $500.
Or you can get a new (??) one on Amazon for $920.78 -- a used one is a mere $400.

FWIW, Guitar Center Online has been placing the 64DL at $200-$250, the 64 at $150-$250 (depending on coolness of color, I guess). MGR Online had similar prices but the lower-priced 64s have disappeared.

I'm spoilt.  8) Now that I've had a 66V in my hands -- quilt top AND binding -- but I didn't need the vibrato, I'd skim past the 64 & go right to the WI-66PROQ with Duncans. Why, here's one for $300 + $50, or about 1/3 of what the aforementioned Amazon idiot wants for a red 64.

The BT-2 is trending downward. Still a great little h-h axe, but unappreciated. Here's a black one hoping for $52  ??? + reasonable s/h.

I got attached to a BT-3 as a "Strat substitute," & so long as you're not a gung-ho Fender nut I think you'd likely agree... even though it's got a mahogany body & an SG scale, which is enough to give fantods to some Gibson fanatics.  ;) Anyway, prices are pretty darn low;black is most common, though I'm seeing reds more common, & one sunburst. MGR Online has then at a mere $80-$90 (saddened a bit by $40-$50 s/h), but here's one at GC for $60, so call it <$100 total, & you could probably partit out for twice that.

And if you want the quilt top & h-s-s, this BT-4Q is $100+.

At $150 + $50, this white-&-gold X-30 is beginning to haunt me.
It's like the "good twin" of my black maple-board s-s-s X-33!!

After getting an X-10, I wanted to do it right, but couldn't find an X-40 at sane price. Well, here's one for $150 + $50.
The waist cut intrigued me, & is certainly unique. Anyway, it's another model that BlueBook messed up: they assume the 40 is the same as the 40PRO, though the latter was an h-h with Duncans, the bridge assembly is Schaller, & there's a quilt-top version (Trans Blue) that ought to raise the value further. One online review disparages the 50's chunky neck & compares the 40PRO favorably to Ibanez Wizard necks. I figure the Book is right that the 40PRO is worth more than the X-50... but the older 40 is worth less, & the quiltie worth most of all.

Heck, now I look around, here's one for a little less than $300 all-in.

I spotted a WI-66PROG -- goldtop with P90s, you know the one -- on eBay, where a handful of weasels had taken 11 bids to get it to $76.  >:( I'll give 'em a run, but if you want to put in a serious offer, I'll step aside. You've got a week.

Acoustic Guitar Players Post Comments & Questions / EAG-88
« on: May 28, 2016, 05:32:24 PM »
I spotted an interesting Washburn oddity at Goodwill -- electrified acoustic, lots of binding, distinctive 6-in-line headstock.

No luck at finding info on it... but I soon found the Samick EAG-88, a.k.a. "Blue Ridge," sold through 1995, part of their American Classic series.

The only significant difference I see is the fingerboard end.

I can't find the Washie in BlueBook, but they have the Samick, rating it worth maybe as much as $300. The only review I've found says that his was good plugged in but pretty useless unplugged.

Idol Series / a "WI-65 SR USA"?
« on: May 20, 2016, 03:06:18 AM »
I found this on eBay, & it is just WRONG in SO MANY ways that I don't even know where to begin. Let's get the pictures first.

Now, THIS is what a WI-65 usually looks like --

Among other differences, the black one has amahogany SET neck, Grover tuners, four knobs, VCC, & Tune-O-Matic. The few I've seen had no fretboard inlays.

Meanwhile, that red thing has the WI-14 forearm cut, & what looks like a built-in tuner (did Lyon use something like that?) or maybe practice amp.

The damned thing really looks like some sort of actual Washie, albeit elements of Oscar Schmidt or Lyon. My first thought was a WI-/OI-/LI-14 that'd gotten its control cavity crushed (hence the repair plate), but someone put a bit of effort into the logo decal & the lettering. Both faces of the headstock have the "end burn" I associate with a ham-handed sanding after a paint strip. The headstock actually appears to be the proper Washburn shape. :o The "serial number" is repeated, stamped into the headstock below the lower tuner pair.

I suppose MAYBE the Custom Shop let a "test bed" mutant slip from its grasp, but that's me being an optimist. Anyone care to venture their own guesses?

Signature Series / Jennifer Batten's other Washies
« on: May 08, 2016, 12:39:40 PM »
Before production of the JB series, Jennifer Batten apparently played a Centurion, but now I can't find my notes on this.

However, there's definitely some one-off Battens out there:

Her preference for string dampers is a giveaway.  ;D

For some reason, Batten is still listed as a Washburn Signature Artist, though she hasn't had a signature model since 2004.

Bill Nelson once reviewed a Variax 700, saying he wanted to enjoy the electronics but this was undercut by the not-so-great work on the guitar part. From the sound of it, Batten hit the same wall. Per an interview published last November --
I took a little hiatus from Washburn for a couple of years because I was so excited about the Line 6 Variax, but I'm back with Washburn and I've conned them into putting the electronics of the Variax into a new Washburn Parallaxe electric and I was hoping to take it out on this tour, but I've stumped them with the electronics.

They're going to have a big release in October, right when the tour is over. So what I'm taking out is my old Washburn that I've been using for 15 or 16 years; it's not available any more, it's called the JB100.
The only guitar she mentions on her website is indeed the Parallaxe, with a link to the Washburn site.

X Series / X Series, 2002-2010
« on: April 25, 2016, 10:29:06 PM »
I'm still working on my list of the X models. Naturally (being Washburn), nothing is simple. Okay, it's not as much of a mess as the contemporaneous WI Idols, but it's nowhere near so straightforward as the (somewhat messed-up) Maverick family.

Let's start it off with a few oddities.

Foremost would be the X-3, actually a group of models for which I can find reference only in Australia. If you were to believe the numbering system, it'd be reasonable to expect that this would be a short-scale version (like the X-5) &/or an "entry"model (like the X-10). Here's two retailers:
Washburn X3PRO Electric Guitar Solid Archtop Maple body, bolt-on Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlay, Tune-o-Matic bridge, string-thru body construction, 2 x Washburn HH pickups, 1 vol & 1 tone controls, 5 way toggle switch, diecast tuners. Includes paded gigbag.
WASHBURN X3 PRO BK Electric Guitar Maple Archtop Mahogany Body Bolt On Maple Neck Rosewood Fingerboard Tune-o-Matic Bridge String Thru Body Dual Washburn Humbucking Pickups Padded Gigbag Black Finish
The latter showed a version with no fretboard inlays.

There were also variants. Per my notes:
  • X-3PRO -- Solid arch Top Maple Body, rosewood fingerboard (BLK, WS) $599
  • X-300PROBSK -- Satin Top Mahogany Body, crossbones inlay, EMG HZ (Black Satin) $729
  • X-3QPRO -- Quilt Top, Mahogany Body, rosewood fingerboard (BC, QA)    $729
  • X-3QFRPROBCH -- Quilt Top, Mahogany Body, Floyd Rose Locking Trem (Black Cherry) $829
(Don't be too sticker-shocked: not only AUD, but MSRP, so an X-10 is tagged $349.  ::))

Devilishly difficult to find even THAT info -- any photos or hands-on reports would be appreciated!  8)

More recently, I made my first sighting of an X-29 -- h-h ("Select / Designed by EMG", closed covers), black carvetop w/creme binding (unbound neck), black headplate, maple boltneck, rosewood fbd, 24 frets, offset dots, through-body, TOM, Grovers, black hardware, 3-way blade, 2 knurled knobs (V/T), MIC.

It looks like a more "shred" X-30, plus that bound top. It's got a heel plate rather than the 30's ferrules. The 29 looks to be the highest-numbered X with offset dots -- everything above has either the fret-12 "X" or nothing at all.

A very pretty beast, & a worthy sibling of the X-33 if not X-40.

The marketplace is GLUTTED with X-10, priced anywhere $50-$200 (:o). Many of the sellers persist in calling it a "Pro" model; roughly half call it an "X Series" model & have no first clue what it actualy is.

I own one, & while it's not terrible, there's nothing to recommend it, particularly when you see all the $150 Mercury (MG) & $100 BT-2 out there.

And with such a wild range of pricing, higher-end X models show some confusion as well. Last week, I barely missed a $130 X-40. :'( I'm presently pondering TWO X-30s, $150 each -- one demure in Walnut, the other quite striking in gloss white with covered gold-plate pickups & white rings; a 2004, so no X inlay.

General Discussion / the REAL history of modern Washburn
« on: March 26, 2016, 01:16:48 PM »
One of my few quibbles with Washburn/SLM is that their claim of a 133-year history is tripe, an outright intentional lie. The modern Washburn brand is in no way actually connected to the original Washburn brand, much the same as Danelectro. The original brand was a hot item from the 1890s to the 1920s, but took a series of socioeconomic hits: the Great Depression, WWII wood shortages, the rise of the phonograph & movies & radio for entertainment. The Washburn brand unofficially died around 1940.

This took a little digging -- search engines are NOT friendly toward obscure topics  ??? -- but I found a 2005 post from a guy who says he was there at the time.

Edited for easier reading --
In the late '50s and early 60s in Chicago, there was a violin shop owned by two German immigrants, Eric Prager and Wolfgang Ritter.

At the beginning of the great folk music boom (or folk scare, take your pick) around the time the Kingston Trio became popular etc, generating a big increase in guitar sales, Prager and Ritter opened most of their floor space for guitars. It was renamed "The Chicago Guitar Gallery".

The place was really something. If you wanted to try one of the Martins, Gibsons, Ramirez or any high-end guitar, you were greeted by Eric Prager who would ask "You got money?" If you said no, he would respond, "you bring money, than you try guitar." (He was really a nice man, but in business, he made Ed Roman look like Mahatma Gandhi.)

They hired a young German Violin builder to become their repair man since he knew something about fretted instruments. His name was Rudy Schlacher. Rudy worked for Prager and Ritter for a few years, building a few guitars and being the main repairman. (For you luthier history buffs, this was about the same time Bozo Podunivac opened his first shop in downtown Chicago.)

Schlacher saw the potential in guitar sales, left Prager and Ritter, and opened his own retail shop, called the Sound Post, in Evanston.

Eventually Rudy decided retail music would make a living, but wholesale music might provide a fortune. Thus he started importing guitars, first reproducing his own designs, than copying others.

Looking for a marketing hook, Rudy knew the name "Washburn" was attached to a company whose products were now vintage, sought after, and -- unlike C.F. Martin -- were no longer available.

Any rights to the name "Washburn" were long expired, and no one had attempted to copyright or reuse the name.

Thus Rudy took the name "Washburn" for his line of imported guitars. Washburn was so successful, Rudy sold the retail store and concentrated entirely on his wholesale company, Washburn.
And there's an article somewhere online about the original rise of Washburn, which I have yet failed to find again.

General Discussion on Washburn Electric Guitars / a Mystery Case
« on: March 26, 2016, 12:27:15 PM »
Someday I'm gonna make up a gallery of Washburn guitar cases, because this isn'tthe first time...

Does anyone know what model(s) this case is supposed to fit?

Clearly for an offset body but larger than Fenders, so I was thinking maybe Maverick. The seller says the opening is too short for standard Fenders OR Gibsons. Per a close-up, the widest point across the lower bout is roughly 13".

My thought is that maybe this would be ideal for my JB-80, but as I've still got THAT dent in my wallet, I'm reluctant to leap without more knowledge than I have at hand.

(side-note -- I've been known to gamble on gear. Last year, I paid like $60 for a soft-side case on the basis of a bad photo; the seller had no idea what it was supposed to fit. Turns out to be form-fit for a standard PRS-type solidbody... of which I have a very nice Austin clone. As almost all aftermarket cases for these are either uber-pricey OR just a slightly wider version of the standard "openwork" generic case -- where the guitar body sort of "sloshes around." The best compromise is probably from PRS, but $200 is more than I paid for the Austin.)

Show Us Your Washburn / WM612 Custom Maverick
« on: March 26, 2016, 11:29:57 AM »
Not mine, but worth sharing as this is the only one I've ever seen for sale. (Apologies that the seller generally doesn't do good descriptions, but the photos are good.)

A thinline acoustic/electric 12 (should be piezo AND the humbucker) grafted to a Billy T body, lots of knobs, two 1/4" outputs.

I was taken aback by the $2,200 asking price, but then I remembered this is a USA, & not exactly common, only offered 1998-2000. The last MSRP on this was $4,000, after all.  :o

And unlike so many great Washburn guitars, there's a small demand matching the supply, so book value would be roughly $3,000. While not so treasured as the crystal-covered Bootsy bass (~$3,500), it beats out the legendary Dime 3 ST (~$2,700) to be Washburns second-most-valuable used guitar.

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