Review of Washburn Parallaxe PXL 10EC -
Washburn is a very familiar and respected name in the guitar world, probably more famous and well known for its acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments, but with artists such as Nuno Bettencourt and Paul Stanley endorsing its electrics, it's certainly no stranger to that market either. Washburn began in Chicago in 1883 and its original factory was located just blocks away from Maxwell Street, which would later become a hotbed for Delta Blues in its most raw and dramatic form. Raw and dramatic pretty much sums-up the Rock scene, too, and Washburn has certainly had some success there down the years, though arguably its presence has waned a bit recently. Cue the launch of the new Parallaxe series, which is aimed to put Washburns back into the hands of shredders and hard rockers of all kinds.
According to the manufacturer, the Parallaxe series is designed to come fully loaded with top quality hardware, so that that you won't be buying a guitar that you'll want to upgrade after a few months. The range comprises two twin cutaway series (the PXM and PXS models) and all of them come with unique features such as full contact bridges, custom carved backs and the Buzz Feiten Tuning system, offering “uncompromised performance and playability”. The particular model I'm reviewing is the PXL 10EC.
Pulling it from the box and unwrapping it, it's instantly clear from the styling what market this guitar is aimed at! Washburn claims this guitar is perfect whatever style you play, but I think it's safe to say that this one would look more at home on stage at Download festival, rather than Glastonbury.
Incidentally, when pulling it from said box, it becomes apparent how light this guitar is. That's no bad thing, by the way. It’s a common misconception that a heavy guitar delivers better tone, when the real truth is that a light guitar, made from good wood, resonates far better. The 10EC has a mahogany neck and body, so that ticks the good wood box.
Tuning this guitar was painless - this is the fixed bridge version: other models offer tremolo systems. Tuning stability is helped by good quality Grover tuners and the patented Buzz Feiten, that claims to solve tuning and intonation problems that “regular” guitars have, giving perfect intonation across the fretboard. Perfect intonation it may have, however, there was some fret buzz on our sample. I don’t think this is an inherent problem with this model, it was just unfortunate that the one we had suffered from choking out when bending high up the neck. There is a wider issue here and it's definitely not about Washburns, in particular. The problem I believe is down to the current trend among manufacturers of trying to make the action as low as possible to make it easier to “shred”. Yes, low action helps with legato but it should never be at the expense of good tone and sound - that is king after all! Raise the action a bit more and people will just have to hone their technique to accommodate. Please, manufacturers everywhere, enough of this super low action nonsense! Rant over.
Back to the Parallaxe, one thing we've said since GI started is that you should negotiate a set-up in the purchase price when you buy a guitar. Every player is different and ideally has his or her guitar set up just to suit them, so if you'd followed our advice, this wouldn't have been a problem with this Washburn (which only needed a bit of bridge tweaking, to be fair), or any other guitar you bought
Back to the specifics, the nut is graphite, so no sticking problems on big string bends, it has a 24 fret ebony fingerboard, 24.75” scale and the neck is super thin so that even the smallest hands won't find it a struggle. It also comes loaded with super jumbo frets so as you can see, and as I said earlier, this is a shred-friendly guitar. To further cement my theory, this guitar has a full access set neck joint. This offers a huge cutaway making the 24th fret a breeze to get to on any string. This is a great feature, as there are no problems accessing the dusty end of the board with ease on this model.
Pickup wise this model comes loaded with EMGs, an 85 at the neck and an 81 at the bridge. Both are great high output pickups and work well together. The 85 provides a muscular growl and smooth lead tones, where the 81 gives incredible amounts of high end cut and fluid sustain. The high output these pickups offer again suit the Rock/Metal use of this guitar. They also sound good on a clean channel mainly with the toggle switch in the middle position. Their output is possibly a little too full on for Funk/Soul playing, but the 85 would work OK in a Jazz/Blues situation.
A tune-o-matic/string thru bridge on top of the black matte paint job finishes of the overall styling of this model, with no parts getting in the way of right hand muting. The body is very comfortable due to the smooth cutaways and small body size. This guitar feels very small overall coupled with its light weight makes it a pleasure to play. I wasn’t quite so keen on the control layout however as I have never been a fan of the toggle switch being at the top of the body, as it makes changing between pickups at speed very awkward. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as they say, so try one for yourself!
I enjoyed my time playing with this guitar, it sounds great and encourages you to come up with the dirtiest, meanest riffs you can, and all the blazing lead lines that your fingers allow. The fret buzz was frustrating but is easily fixed and doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the guitar. Great wood, finish and hardware, the looks will be down to individual taste, as will the matte finish. Washburn is promoted the PXL 10 EC as an all-round guitar, and it could be, but it’s defiantly most at home when rocking out.