Washburn WI66PROG

From its early parlor-sized acoustics to today’s none-more-black rock weapons like the Maya and Paul Stanley models, the Washburn company has manufactured a little of everything 6-stringed in its 125-year history. The Korean-built WI66PROG comes right from the core of the Chicago-based company’s current electric arsenal. It’s a recent addition to its Idol series, shares the line’s body profile, and is a close sibling to the humbucker-loaded WI66PRO in particular, but instead wears a pair of P-90-style, alnico-magnet stacked humbuckers, and an exclusive metallic gold finish on its top. A mid-priced instrument with plenty of rock credibility behind it, this member of the Idol clan seasons its no-nonsense modern styling with a sizeable dose of retro chic.
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The WI66PROG’s sculpted neck heel and partial bass-side cutaway combine to offer a resistance-free reach right up to the 22nd fret—you might call this a “single-and-a-half” cutaway—and the guitar balances well both on the lap and on the strap. Even unplugged, this instrument yields a big ring and long sustain, and solid yet buttery playability with easy, choke-free bending—–no doubt aided by its broad 14" fingerboard radius. Performance is further enhanced with the inclusion of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System. The Feiten system comprises, among other details, a slightly forward-shifted nut, and a compensated intonation arrangement that combine to help a guitar play more in-tune than a guitar tuned and intonated with standard relative tuning. A great many pros now swear by the system, and it’s a standard feature on some considerably upscale brands such as Tom Anderson Guitarworks and Suhr Guitars, so it can be viewed as a bonus in the Washburn’s price range.

The neck is a three-piece construction with a splice for the headstock that starts around the second fret, and another at the heel. It is carved to a slim “C” profile that’s pretty flat behind the nut and the first fret and a half, but it rounds out a little as you move up. The jumbo frets have been smoothly dressed, and the guitar arrived beautifully set up, with a medium-low action and accurate intonation. Finish detailing is generally very good, too. Gold finishes can be surprisingly difficult to pull off well, and the WI66PROG doesn’t slavishly adhere to the classic shade so much as pay homage to it. It’s a little livelier, with a touch more sparkle in the metallic element. There are a few points around the body edge where the paint has strayed over onto the inner ply of the six-ply binding, but not so much that it’s obvious to anything but an extremely close inspection. Combined with the cream soapbar pickup covers, mother-of-pearl “Washburn wing” position marker inlays, and mother-of-pearl tulip on the headstock, the WI66PRO offers stylish, yet uncluttered esthetics. In short, it’s a real looker, and simultaneously exudes a solid, businesslike confidence that makes you want to pick it up and start rocking.

I tested the WI66PROG through a Gabriel Sound Garage Voxer 18, a tweed Victoria 45410, and a Marshall JCM800, along with a variety of pedals. Don’t let these vintage-looking soapbar pickups fool you—this Idol is still primed to wail, and these “humbucking single coils” pack a serious punch in their full stacked-double-coil mode (Tone pots down). They nail a little of the edgy, slightly gritty character of a genuine single-coil P-90, but present a more mid-scooped voice that wants at least a touch of distortion to really shine. Through clean-amp settings this Idol is, consequently, a little honky and nasal in full ’bucker mode, and a bit woolly when set to the neck pickup. But wind up the Marshall towards crunch, and the entire guitar takes on a transformation of tone and playability—it gets a lot easier to dig in and express yourself. Give it some serious overdrive, and it really sings, but with a voice that is more fat, stinging single-coil than round, warm humbucker.

The coil-tap function proves extremely useful, too, and it helps yield more satisfactory clean tones—and even a little twang—and the two-pickup combination of one stacked ’bucker and one split coil offers a couple of funky, open voices that gleefully nail cleaner blues, pop, and roots-rock chores. Overall, this isn’t one for smooth, nuanced tones, expressive jazz voices, or other clean-leaning work, but for ratty, slightly gnarly alt-rock and heavier styles, the WI66PROG expresses a boatload of character. With its gold-finished top, stacked soapbar pickups, and confident set-neck delivery, the WI66PROG packs a lot of personality, and it holds its own in the quality and mojo stakes.