The Washburn Guitars Forum

Washburn Electric Guitars Forums => X Series => Topic started by: Tony Raven on February 28, 2015, 10:34:50 AM

Title: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on February 28, 2015, 10:34:50 AM
I buy the occasional guitar online, on the basis of a few blurry little photos & a small pricetag. Thus far I've done well; some better than others, but no bad surprises. Yet, I'm a little nervous until it's actually in the house & unpacked...

What I was looking for this time was a good used set-neck Idol. I'm kinda long on h-s-s guitars, & thinking a two-pickup Gibson-scale axe (maybe even a proper set-neck) as a contrast to the guys I sometimes back up, who ALL seem to have galloping Fenderitis.

Did you know there's a Washburn, WI (Wisconsin), that search engines seem to like better than Washburn Guitars...?

Anyway, I saw a listing for an "X Series Washburn," which almost always means an X-10, but I look just in case it's a fancy-top X-12. What I found looked a lot like this:
Pretty much the anti-Idol... but WOW.

On eBay, of course. A clutch of bidders ratcheting it up a dollar (or less -- idiots!) at a time. I threw in a half-decent lowball bid & scared off all but one, & I finally got him to cave after a couple of solid raises.

There's some online whining (onwhining?) about how "noisy" the Shaman pickups are, but I mostly play a venue that looks like an upholstered livestock shed & has amazingly no-buzz wiring, so I ain't afraid.

Rather than sprout a new thread (yet), any info about Shaman-stamped pickups, especially the single-coils, would be appreciated! About all I can find is that the HBs are on the N-61 & the TB-100 "Tabu," which actually is a little cool.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 06, 2015, 04:33:47 PM
I'm exhausted. The guitar arrived, reviews another day, but for now I'll say I'm pleased. Strings a touch light for me, but intonation is almost right (high E a bit flat) -- very responsive to left-hand vibrato, even full-barre, yet nothing goes sharp if I press a little harder than intended (a big reason I dislike super-light strings). The out-front tone is surprising for a slab -- maybe I'll try close-miking it. The matte finish on the fretboard is super-thin, not at all like the supergloss Fenderoid bushwah that kept me away from maple for 30 years. Ran througha  few minutes of jazz, folkie, & metal; allsomehow worked out nicely.

Two years back, I spent half as much on an X-10. The 33 is clearly superior in all ways, from pickups to fret-end finish. The neck might be a little chunky for some, but it's what we once called "slim" back when dinosaurs roamed Poughkeepsie, so plenty thin for my stubby li'l fingers.

Does anyone know which years the maple had the black "X" 12th mark? This one is blank; s/n begins "0511" so I'm guessing 2005.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 13, 2015, 11:47:05 AM
Still haven't unearthed any onfo about the "X" -- it's there in the 2005 catalogue, & BlueBook seems to believe it's always there, but they only do what the little voices tell them anyway. (I did recently spot a dead Craigslist ad for an X-33 in TS & rosewood that didn't have the inlay, so it's not just mine.)

Now that the NGD thrill has worn down a little, I can safely report that I still really like this guitar. The strings really are half-shot (the G is all but black!) but it takes a fair bit of bluesy mangling to throw the tuning off significantly. There's a little buzz around fret 6 for both E, but that could be due in part to marginally too-light strings, & I figure will be entirely remedied by a basic set-up. The nut is reasonably low, but inconsistent, & will want a touch of the file. Solid alder body, & factory Grover 18:1 tuners -- rarely the sign of a cheap-ass axe! Only 21 frets, but I don't spend much of my life up above 14 anyway, & I've got a half-dozen 24s if I feel the craving.

Really appreciating the finish on the neck & fretboard: satin, & not much thicker than rubbed oil. Though the axe I've had longest has a gloss finish, it's often been a deal-killer for me over the years: supergloss just don't feel right, & I suspect it kills tone far worse than thick body paint. One oddity: the painted side dots are more than 1/8" below the fretboard top, double what I've come to expect even from inlaid dots.

Few thoughts yet on the pickups. Sorry, but I can make just about anything sound decent with just about any amp, so there's really no basis for objectivity. However, it looks like the previous owner has pushed a couple of the slugs down, making "stagger" quite literal, so I'll have to go in & poke them back to proper height. And, naturally, the bridge pickup is so close as to overwhelm the other two AND kill tonality -- hey, if it ain't loud enough to drive yer hair-metal amp, that's why God gave us the Tube Screamer. 8)

While the top carve is nowhere so severe as my Cort Viva (almost 1/4" thinner at the center & tapered front AND back), it's very comfortable, & stands out visually. I've been a fan for years of what Washburn calls the Soloist shape (skinnified Strat).

Here, there's a nice little touch not apparent in the catalogues or even mentioned in any review. Just about EVERY guitar I've seen in this shape has the upper strap button either dangling from the teeny sharp horn (generally with a screw no more than 3/4" long, thus with maybe 1/2 of wood contact) with its edges in air, or cops out & attaches it lower (sometimes so low as the heel). The sheer wonder is that there aren't many more guitars with ripped-away upper horns!! The X-33 has a lateral groove cut into the end of the horn, so that the button's entire foot can be securely seated against the finish. Well, okay, to be honest, mine shows a paper-thin gap between foot & finish, clearly meaning that the hole wasn't countersunk & the button is standing up on castoff.

That heavy "Washburn designed" six-screw bridge certainly can't hurt the tone, & looks nice too.

All in all, I got a guitar that takes the classic Fender Strat configuration, leaves almost all of that in place, yet improves on it. I rediscovered the joys of the single-coil bridge pickup a couple of years ago. This is my third s-s-s guitar, which I'd be happy to stand up against most MIM Fenders & even some USA. If you need an s-s-s guitar, leave the $$$$ Fender safely at home, get one of these for $350 or less, spend $50 on a pro setup.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 13, 2015, 11:53:32 AM
Lest I be remiss --

If you like what I'm sayin', but you're more in the market for an h-h, & want a thru-body hardtail, then keep an eye open for the X-30. These wander past for $250 & less.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 15, 2015, 03:06:43 PM
Still haven't unearthed any onfo about the "X" -- it's there in the 2005 catalogue, & BlueBook seems to believe it's always there ...
Pawing through the archives, I found a Winter '06 catalogue. By that point, the X had disappeared from ALL X-Series guitars.

This also helps me better ID a used X-40 -- NOT a Pro -- that I spotted online: 2002-2004.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: psp742 on March 21, 2015, 05:13:47 PM
hello Tony.. i have the same model X-33 in black...  chose it because it's MiK, the Tobacco burst was MiI.  just prefer Korean made, the neck is chunky and the bridge looks like it is Wilkinson.
Here is a link to my X-33 with pictures and some information too.,22869.0.html
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 22, 2015, 12:59:40 AM
Nice!! And the bit about the TS being MII is interesting.

As I say in another thread, if the Epiphone prefix listing does indeed apply a little to Washburns, the "N" prefix might mean these were made by Fine Corporation (Incheon).

They apparently supply some guitars to Davitt & Hanser -- lately sold by Hanser Music Group to JAM, which owns U.S. Music, which owns Washburn. Small world, eh?
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: psp742 on March 28, 2015, 05:56:01 AM
Hello Tony,
I am not sure all black X-33 are made in Korea and Tobacco burst are from Indonesia..  It just so happens that the eBay seller I got it from had 2 X-series..  X-33 guitars.  He told me the neck profile on both guitar are different and he preferred the Indonesian because it was less chunky...  From the pictures it looked like the X fret marker on indo is actual inlay, while the Korean is printed... My X-33 came with the OGB (original gig bag) and trem arm..
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on March 29, 2015, 01:35:20 PM
I have a small collection of amps, but I bought the X-33 intending it to eventually go oinstage with a feisty little Fender "Princeton 65" -- no, NOT a "Princeton Reverb," which is a 15-watt thousand buck tube amp, & don't get me started about their Bad Naming Practices...

Okay, anyway, this is the 1-12 two-channel solid-state amp, a respectable 65 WRMS @ 1% THD, MIM, the simple model with no DSP effects, just actual spring reverb. I'm a recent convert to solid-state Fenders -- well, some of 'em -- that work great with single-coil pickups, capturing that classic Fender twang without the expense & maintenance & fragility of a tube amp.

Having said that, as luck would have it, I'd rearranged some stuff, so I just plugged into a Princeton Chorus (2-10, USA), an ancestor of the 65 & at least as good, but only 25 watts/side (stereo out). As luck had it, I'd left the bass & treble cranked, the mid zeroed, & Gain up high.

Messed around for a half-hour, & am satisfied that the X-33 with them Shaman pickups is credible for blues, flatpick country, blues, & metal. I don't find the pickups any more "noisy" than any typical single-coil. They don't go lifeless when I dial back the guitar's volume knob, & come through nicely when I zero the Tone (two tricks that often bring out the worst in a pickup, especially with a solid-state amp).

The X-33 is certainly a worthy heir to the Stratocaster design. Comparing to my few s-s-s guitars, it's all-around better than my Squier "Vintage Modified" in terms of tone AND hardware AND playability, so the VM might be moved along to a new home.

Washburn has such an uphill battle!! The X-33 had a Suggested Retail Price somewhere $600-$719 (stories vary), with common street price $400-$450. Meanwhile, a Fender Standard (Mexico) goes out for $499, has better resale value, great distribution, & top-notch name recognition. I'd say this X-33 is at least as good as a properly adjusted MIM Strat.

On the upside, if you want to play a guitar & not just "collect" in hopes of someday retiring, you will see a few wander buy for under $150 -- four recent eBay sales have been $108, $134, $244, & $379, a strange range that tells me there's lingering demand for the model, but sporadic.
Title: Re: X-33 on the way
Post by: Tony Raven on May 10, 2015, 03:11:35 PM
I haven't yet mentioned that the X-33 has a skunk-stripe neck, something that still pleases me after all these years. I have a few guitars, but only like five striped, which includes two Squier Strats & a Precision bass.

Then again, I also think the X Series design would be improved by a "pinwheel" trussrod, as weirdly used by Washburn on their cheapest (X-10) AND priciest (N-5) guitars but nothing in between. This not only adds significant strength to the headstock joint, but makes it a breeze to tweak with no strings in the way & NO special tools (like the otherwise useless worn Allen wrench in my toolbox).

The honeymoon continues. I've been running the X-33 through either the Zoom GM-200 modeler (for headphones) or Princeton Chorus. Those Shaman pickups are NOT gonna convince anyone this is a Fender! They've got some serious bite to 'em. Very much NOT a one-size-fits-all design. My gut says they COULD be, but that may require two pedals: graphic EQ & perhaps some kind of limiter/compressor to shave some edge off that attack -- these are some moderately DEAD strings, remember, & a change could make it sweeter OR nastier.

At one point, trying to push the boundaries, I set up a "metal" rig on the GM-200 & cranked the low E down to D... ya know what, it sounded great. :o The neck pickup, on its own, is so dark as to be kinda muffly, but in position 4 the tone is rather nice, so I'll probably leave it alone. But the bridge reminded me of a bright humbucker, with less mid/low mud.

I don't have the action super-low, as the guitar is intended for general-purpose duty & will have to handle the usual bar-band fare. Then again, if it were to get a pro setup, I think it'd be near-ideal for shred.

A random thought about synth-guitar drifted in, if you (like me) are headed toward that strange confluence. Right now, a "Roland ready" Fender Strat will set you back $500+, used -- actually, a hex-equipped anything will cost you at least $350, & it's rising. For the same price (or less), you could have a guitar that's not a "me too!" Strat, with a voice of its own. If I were to commit more fully, I'd consider over-routing an X-33 & putting in a Roland GK-KIT

However... here's a Downer Alert, albeit not huge. After winding this out as indicated, I unplugged everything for the day. I played the X-33 unplugged for a few minutes, & it finally dawned on me that the high E sustain isn't great, & the B almost as bad. Since this is usually due to a bad nut, I put a capo on, to no change. Poking at it a bit, I determined that the strings don't break sharply enough over the bridge slugs; the effect is negligible on the bigger strings, but for the little ones it's almost like the "buzz bridge" used to get that cheesy Coral sound. Easy enough to file, sure, but even easier to not be happening in the first place on a $600 guitar!!