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Test Drive: Wechter Pathmaker Solid Body PM-7354

June 19, 2012
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A Wechter acoustic may not have the household recognition of a Martin, Gibson, or Taylor, but Abe Wechter has been designing and building instruments for folks like John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Steve Howe for over 30 years. That’s a Wechter Dobro that Rob Ickes is playing of the cover of the August 2011 issue of GP, and his production instruments have been prized by many in the know for their unique design, quality, and affordability.

It’s no surprise then that Wechter’s new solidbody electric guitars also deliver distinctive styling and upscale features that belie the budget-minded pricing. The basic models come in alder with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard, while the fancier ones—like the PM 7354 on review here— have a mahogany neck, ebony ’board, and a mahogany body with a 3/4" flamed maple cap.

All models sport Seymour Duncan pickups and Triple Shot mounting rings that allow the two coils in each pickup to be run in series or parallel. Either coil of each pickup can also be switched off for singlecoil flavors, and there’s a mini-toggle that puts the two pickups out of phase. Normally I don’t enjoy guitars with so many switching options, but the Triple Shot was easy to operate and I reveled in being able to quickly reshape the tones. The Pathmaker has separate Volume controls for the bridge and neck pickups, making it possible to get Peter Green-style sounds in the out-of-phase position by slightly backing off one or the other pickup. This would have been easier, however, if the controls were more smoothly tapered toward their full-on positions.

Wechters are made overseas, but the company’s U.S. facility sets up all the models and fret-levels them with a computer-run Plek machine to ensure accuracy. That may have been one of the reasons this Graph Tech Ghost Hexpander MIDI-equipped version tracked better than any other synth-ready guitar I’ve used. The Pathmaker is a pleasure to play, too. The body cut and shallow neck shape are both very comfortable, and the high frets make bending easy, even with the low action.

The ebony fretboard and maple cap conspire to create a bright instrument with a quick attack and highly defined notes—and this too may have contributed to the spoton tracking. I ran the audio out of the guitar into my computer interface, and the MIDI connection into a Roland GI-20 converter’s USB connection to Ableton Live. Combining amp and overdrive plug-ins on the audio track with soft synths on a MIDI track opened a world of sounds—over and above the dozens available from pickup combinations alone.

Suffice it to say that if you are into MIDI guitar, you owe it to yourself to check out the PM-7354, though any variant of this versatile, well-made instrument could be just the thing to help you find your own way in the guitar wilderness.

Specifications

CONTACT Wechter Guitars, (260) 407-3836; wechterguitars.com

Pathmaker Solid Body PM-7354

PRICE $1,820 retail/$1,369 street (hardshell case included)

NECK Mahogany, set

FRETBOARD Ebony

SCALE 25"

BODY Mahogany body with 3/4" flamed maple cap

BRIDGE Wilkinson tremolo with Graph Tech Ghost saddles. Solid-steel machined trem block.

TUNERS Enclosed die-cast

PICKUPS Seymour Duncan w/Duncan Triple Shot mounting rings

CONTROLS Bridge Volume, neck Volume, master Tone, MIDI Volume, MIDI patch selector, MIDI/MIDI and magnetic/magnetic 3-way selector, Phase switch, 3-way pickup selector

ELECTRONICS Graph Tech Hexpander preamp

BUILT Korea

KUDOS Wide variety of quality tones. MIDI tracks very well.

CONCERNS Volume pot taper.

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