The World of Walden Guitars
Your music reflects your attitude and how you live your life. So does your guitar. Walden is an expression of the choices you make, choices that matter and make a difference. Playing a Walden says that you want more than just a great instrument. You also want a guitar that is built in a responsible and ethical way.
With its early beginnings in 1996, the Walden Guitars can’t really be termed as a pioneer in guitar manufacturing in the same leagues as say, Gibson, Fender or Martin. However, in just 18 years, the company has carved out a decisive piece of real estate in the acoustic guitar landscape with high-quality, great sounding and beautiful instruments that are also impressively affordable. But where did the story of Walden Guitars start?
The story of Walden Guitars can be traced back to the early 90’s and Walden’s eccentric and charismatic boss, Jonathan Lee. Lee’s forays into the world of guitar started off as a guitarist for various electric and acoustic acts in New York, San Francisco and Middletown, Connecticut. According to Lee, success during these first gigs meant getting paid just enough to pay for gas and a couple of beers.
It was around this time that Lee first attended a guitar building class conducted by veteran luthier Charles Fox, and his life with the instrument would be changed forever. Lee and Fox immediately found common ground with their mutual love of the instrument and soon became partners to found the CFox Guitar Company. And even while working at CFox as the vice president and Chief Financial Officer, Lee continued to finish, buff and setup guitars even while handling the sales and marketing of the completed instruments. And by the time the CFox Company closed in 2001, Lee, Fox and their team of eight luthiers had lovingly crafted hundreds of acoustic guitars which are still highly desired.
Once the CFox Company closed its doors for good, Charles Fox, Lee and a handful of their luthiers joined hands with the Taiwanese musical instruments manufacturer KHS Musical Instruments to create the Walden Guitars brand name. To this day, KHS is the sole owner of the Walden Guitars brand and all Walden guitars are carefully crafted at the Walden shop in Lilan, China under Jon Lee’s careful eye.
The Walden Philosophy
According to the folks over at Walden, one of the main factors that set their guitars apart is their holistic attention to the manufacturing process. And today, Walden is known for consistently putting out guitars that sound great and look beautiful. From the high-grade soundboards, Mahogany necks, Indian Rosewood bridges and fingerboards to fully bound necks and bodies, it’s hard to find a Walden guitar that doesn’t look like it belongs in the hands of a serious guitar player. In terms of technology too, Walden seems to strive to stay ahead of the pack. For example, their Natura and SupraNatura line guitars are coated with Nitrocellulose lacquer which becomes more and more porous as it cures and hardens, resulting in a guitar sounds better and better as the years go by.
Walden also prides itself on its ethical manufacturing process and claims to be the only guitar shop in Asia that has a certified 100% Pure Chain-of-Custody. And not only does the company go to great lengths to ensure that all their materials are legally and responsibly sourced, but they also take efforts to provide their employees with excellent working conditions, making Walden Guitars arguably one of the most socially and environmentally conscious guitars that you could get your hands on.
In fact, Walden recently introduced its Madera line of eco-friendly guitars which only use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified woods from managed forests. And according to the Walden Guitars website, this is a culmination of over 10 years of pressuring suppliers for FSC certified words.
And to all the naysayers of Chinese-made products, Jon Lee argues that it’s not where something it’s made, but that it’s the expertise and methods that go into the creation of a product that defines its quality.
Walden’s Product Line
In addition to its flagship steel-string guitars, Walden also produces a range of classical guitars and baritone guitars. And the great thing about these guitars is that the bulk of them sell for well below $1000, but sound far superior to guitars of the same price range. For example, reviewers of the G700CE, a guitar in the 600 dollar range, unanimously agree that the tone, projection and onboard electronics of the guitar are virtually unmatchable at that price-point.
Another reviewer comments on the CG404, a guitar that sells at a little above the $1000 mark, that they would readily recommend the guitar to anyone from an absolute beginner for its playing ease, to a seasoned professional for its tone quality.
Even Guitar World magazine remarks that Walden’s D710, which is a part of the company’s Natura series and retails for a little under 600 dollars, sets the standard for bargain acoustics and puts guitars that cost nearly three times as much to shame!
Walden’s Artiste Roster
Walden might not have some of the big-name artistes that manufacturers like Martin and Taylor guitars might boast, but reading through the artiste testimonials on Walden’s website, one does get a sense that players that use Waldens are those who know their instrument in and out.
A few testimonials worth mentioning:
In this day and age, and especially when it comes to musical instruments, it’s hard to imagine that high quality and affordability can go hand in hand. However, Walden Guitars are honestly a beacon of hope for guitarists who crave instruments that are lovingly crafted, sound great and aren’t break-the-bank expensive.