Washburn WI580 USA Idol
In 1999, Washburn set out to create a modern classic fit for the new millennium: the Idol series, a single-cut guitar design with all the quality, innovation and value you would expect from the esteemed Chicago-based company.
Ten years later, courtesy of a revamped Custom Shop facility, Washburn has added considerably to the Idol range with the USA model looking every inch a contender in the market for high-end, single-cut electrics.
As you'd expect, the WI580 is appointed with a Tone Pros tune-o-matic-style bridge and stud tailpiece, and high-geared (18:1) Grover tuners – the former being a seemingly ever-present feature of many contemporary American custom shop guitars.
A chambered and lightweight mahogany body takes on a deeper, more individualistic shape than a traditional single-cut, while retaining the familiar styling of the original Idol, the WI64.
An aquiline treble side marries up the slicker and forward angled bass-side. It might look awkward, but the WI580 is surprisingly comfortable, especially with the ribcage contour.
Fret access is also excellent thanks to a recessed curve sloping across the heel joint.
A subtle, classy black 'burst finish is applied to a two-piece flame maple top, taking on a carved, slightly raised belly in a similar vein to a PRS Singlecut.
This high-gloss finish flatters the wonderfully tight flame maple cap, testament to the instrument's exceptional build.
The fretting is beautifully finished too; jumbo frets have been expertly levelled and polished contributing to a super-slick action.
The neck, a happy medium between PRS's wide-thin and Gibson's slimmer '60s profile, is more than comfortable. The WI580 feels modern, accommodating more kinetic playing styles.
Placed into the rosewood 'board are 22 half-block inlays, which complement the general aesthetic nicely.
The only clue as to the WI580's origin is an oblong custom shop logo emblazoned on to the vaguely Epiphone-esque headstock.
Washburn is among a number of manufacturers to employ the Buzz Feiten Tuning System.
"It allows someone playing with heavy gain to still ring out chords with clarity and true pitch," explains the Custom Shop's vice president of manufacturing, Terry Atkins.
This guitar is perfectly intonated in every playing position, and sounds particularly sweet acoustically.
The electrics include coil-splits on the tone controls, giving you the ability to alter the two Seymour Duncan pickups – a Custom Custom and '59 humbucker in this case.
In Washburn-speak they can be adjusted from, "humbucker crunch" to "razor-sharp single-coil" with just a pull-up of the tone control. A three-way toggle switch with two volumes and tones control the electrics.
After a couple of strums through a cleanish amp, the WI580's bridge humbucker offers a glassy and present top-end with a healthy dose of vocal chime reminiscent of Gibson's famous double-cuts.
Less weighty sounding than a Les Paul and not as thick in the mid-range as a PRS Custom.
The 580 opens up considerably in higher-gain settings and chords are transparent and vocal, while there's no mushing out at the top-end.
Dialling in more grit from the amplifier coaxes a more aggressive classic rock sound, in this case always feeling more at home in high-gain and more suited to modern metal than vintage rock.
Conversely, neck and mixed positions offer a fruitier gain tone, more in-line with what one might expect from a PAF-type humbucker.
The coil-splits reveal an expected reduction in output and an introduction of slight coil hum.
Tonally the single-coil is maybe not sparkly or authentic enough to satisfy those who hanker for a vintage Fender tone.
But given a little overdriven punch, the coil-splits add that grit and 'dig-in' feel that the full coil humbuckers don't provide.
Used with the volume controls it's typically versatile, enabling you to select single-coil grit and scream, Gibson-esque blues-rock and ultra-modern Muse-style high-gain attack.
Washburn has evidently succeeded in producing a sonically dynamic instrument, but one that feels more suited to classic and heavy rock players.
The build quality is unquestionable, and the WI580 delivered clear and precise rock tones at every stage of the sound test.
If you're after a classy 'boutique' single-cut and haven't got your blinkers set on a Les Paul, here's one to try.
Great Build. Siky-smooth feel. Distinctive looks.
Pricey against Gibson's production LPs but nicely in line with smaller number brands.
A fine addition to the American single-cut market, its modern sonics and unquestionable build quality will attract players who remain unmoved by vintage-inspired single-cuts.
Country of Origin
Single-cutaway, solidbody electric with Buzz Feiten tuning System
ELECTRICS: Seymour Duncan Custom Custom (Bridge) and Seymour Duncan '59 (neck) humbucking pickups, three-way toggle pickup selector switch, two volume and two tone controls (with coil-splits)
Tone Pros tune-o-matic-style bridge and stud tailpiece, chrome Grover tuners
No. of Frets
Custom specs available via special order with Washburn