Walden CG4041-CERT

Walden is a burgeoning brand that places a high priority on sustainably sourced timbers

When you talk about acoustics, Walden might not be the first name to spring from the lips of the man on the street, especially in the UK, but the company has some significant firepower in its armoury.

Currently offering around 100 different models and variants in its extensive budget-to-sub-£1,000 catalogue, the brand was founded in 1996 as a collaboration between boutique US luthiers Charles Fox and Jonathan Lee, and leading Taiwan-based instrument manufacturer KHS, whose other lines include Mapex drums and Jupiter brass.

"The CG4041-CERT carries the FSC logo, indicating that all woods come from legal, sustainable sources."

Designed in the USA (Jonathan Lee is Walden's chief designer), the guitars - focusing predominately on dreadnoughts, grand auditoriums, OMs and nylon-stringers - are made in China, in a factory that, according to Walden, is the only one in Asia with 100 per cent Pure Chain-Of-Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.

Indeed the Madera Series CG4041-CERT grand auditorium carries the FSC logo label, indicating that all woods come from legal, sustainable, well-managed sources, from forest to finished instrument.

Walden is also a member of The Forest Trust, another global, non-profit organisation concerned with ensuring ethically structured timber supply chains.

Named after the Spanish word for wood, the top-range, all-solid 'FSC-Pure' Madera Series was launched in early 2010 and presently comprises three grand auditoriums, a trio of dreadnoughts and a nylon classical: all non-cutaway acoustics.

Four of the six are cedar/mahogany, but the CG4041-CERT and a CD4041-CERT dreadnought equivalent are fairly unusual in the general scheme of things by being all-mahogany instruments.

Yes, we could cite, say, Vintage's budget V300MH and V400MH or Martin's 15-Series as other examples of the genre, but these are no-frills satin or matt-finish guitars - as is usually the case with all-mahogany jobs - whereas these Waldens are high gloss, including the necks.

The type of finish tends to define series within the Walden catalogue. Gloss lines - the Maderas and cheaper Concordas - carry a combination polyester/polyurethane coating; satin ones, such as Natura and SupraNatura, of which our D2040 is one of the latter, use nitro-cellulose lacquer. Measuring 406mm (16 inches) across the lower bouts and with a generous maximum rim depth of 118mm, the CG4041's body is Central American mahogany, as is the neck.

Both are bound in tortie plastic, the top adding narrow white/black multi-ply purfling, plus coachlined purfling strips around the rims and back. The purfling theme is continued for the abalone-inlaid rosette's concentric rings, while a tortie scratchplate echoes the binding material.

Internally, vertical reinforcing strips around the rims affirm the guitar's all-solid-wood build, and the spruce strutting and kerfed linings are clean and tidy.

The scalloped X-bracing is said to conform to a pre-war pattern. Quality of the lacquering and buffing is good, and the wood's deep, reddy-brown hue suggests that some colour staining is applied prior to spraying.

The bridge, carrying a bone saddle, appears to be either ebony or dark-stained rosewood, but is in fact formed from katalox. Despite its synthetic-like name, katalox is actually a South American hardwood, sustainably sourced and with a density and appearance not dissimilar to ebony.

The white-dot-topped bridge pins look like they're made of katalox too. Grand auditoriums aren't especially associated with being fingerstyle instruments, but the CG's 650mm-scale three-piece neck is certainly designed to appeal to pickers.

Topped by a smooth set of unbranded, black-buttoned gold tuners and carrying a katalox fingerboard, it kicks off at an airy 45mm across the bone nut, widens a fair bit further up, and the string path finishes at a spacious 56.5mm string spacing at the bridge.

It's a span that feels fairly broad in the hand, but good comfort is retained thanks to a flattish-backed 'C' profile of moderate, virtually constant depth. Fretting is tidy, though the tops merit more polishing for smoother bends.

Constructionally, the neck is bolt-on and incorporates a two-way truss rod and carbon graphite reinforcement rails under the marker-free fingerboard. Side dots provide the necessary position references.

Judging by the slight lacquer lines either side of heel where it meets the body, the guitar is sprayed up after basic assembly rather than the body and neck being lacquered separately beforehand.

Sounds

The guitar is an eager and engaging performer. The volume and dynamics are punchy, responsive and sustainful, while the tone is nicely poised between warmth and brightness, and there's a pleasing, rich bloom in the low end that doesn't undermine the intrinsic clarity.

It produces a worthy all-round sound, in short, whether you're picking or simply strumming the guitar.

Necessarily, this review is something of a random dip into Walden's extensive range, since it recently changed UK distributor and many models aren't scheduled to arrive until later in the year.

Nevertheless, what we've looked at here inspires a good deal of confidence, quite apart from the brand's commendable commitment to sustainably sourced timbers.

The CG4041-CERT, which ships with a deluxe case, is a tempting prospect for fingerpicking GA fans prepared to splash a bit more cash. It sounds great and, in its attractively unusual all-mahogany gloss livery, looks the part too.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Fingerstyle neck. Classy looks. Quality sound.

Cons

Fret tops need more polishing. No second strap button.

Verdict

Adds a desirable gloss to the all-mahogany club.

Body Style

Non-cutaway grand auditorium acoustic, solid mahogany

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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