The Washburn guitar company started making guitars in 1883 in Chicago as a division of stringed instrument maker Lyon & Healy. Lyon & Healy was making plucked string instruments in the 1880s, with Washburn (guitars, mandolins, banjos, and zithers) being their premier line. The Washburn factory would later be involved with Delta Blues as a result of an influx of black people to the area in the 1920s. This type of blues would change the way blues music was played, and would also change rock and roll. This blues movement helped in the success of Washburn guitars at that time. The musicians played the guitars as well as making them by hand. The Washburn guitar and the blues movement that it was involved with are associated with Maxwell Street. This street is only a few blocks from the factory where Washburn guitars were first embraced.[clarification needed]
In 2013, Washburn announced a "return" to their electric guitar range, revealing the Parallaxe range of guitars, a new series aimed towards extreme metal players. This new line will be available with 6 and 7-string, and will feature Washburn's first production 8-string guitar. The guitars will also include Stephen's Extended Cutaway system, a feature that was only available for the Nuno Bettencort signature line and the older EC series, which will be available on several 6 and 8 string models in the series. These guitars will also have the Buzz Feiten tuning system.
In the same year, Swedish guitar company Strandberg Guitarworks announced a partnership with Washburn Guitars, making his designs easier and cheaper to obtain. They will be built in Washburn's USA custom shop, with signature models for Paul Masvidal of Cynic and Chris Letchford of Scale the Summit announced.
Many Washburn guitars equipped with humbuckers have a feature called Voice Contour Control (VCC), which is currently available only on Washburn. VCC is similar to coil splitting, in that it changes the tone of a humbucking pick-up to that of a single coil, but it does it by turning the tone knob. In doing so the musician can get every sound from the humbucker to the P-90 to the single coil and all points in between, all without the hum normally associated with single coils. In other words, it gives the player the option of a warm/thick humbucker sound, or a thinner single coil sound at the twist of a knob. With VCC at 10 on the guitar knob, you get a fuller, thicker sound characteristic of humbucking pickups.
Notable Washburn innovations
Here is a look at the headstock of a Washburn RB2802 8-String Bass which uses the Buzz Feiten Tuning System.
Over the years, Washburn designed (patented and trademarked) several guitar construction features:
Buzz Feiten Tuning System — a corrected temperation tuning formula, which uses a compensated nut and saddle to correct the inherent intonation problems of the Western tuning formula. This system comes standard on all USA made Washburn guitars and basses and is featured on select imported models.
Stephen's Extended Cutaway — special modification of bolt-on neck joint.
Voice Contour Control - a special coil structure that allows a blend between a humbucker mode and a single-coil mode on the same pickup.
Washburn uses the mechanism of endorsements, where:
Manufacturer provides custom-shop instrument that suits the artist best, for free (or even paying artist).
Artists promotes his or her usage of that instrument and advertises manufacturer company.
This process greatly promotes the whole industry. Beginning artists often try to copy the sound of their favourite artists and thus try to use the same equipment. Endorsements help both manufacturers and consumers: beginning artists get to know what kind of equipment their idol uses and can copy their sound easier, and companies raise sales.
Nuno Bettencourt models are flagshipped by the American hand-made N4. The N4 guitar is a small reverse headstocksuper-strat which features the unique Stephen's Extended Cutaway neck joint for easy access to the higher frets. It also contains Bill Lawrence and Seymour Duncan pickups, and a Floyd Rose licensed tremolo. The production budget models of this guitar which are machine built in Korea are known as the N1 and N2 which feature standard bolt-on necks and lower grade pickups and tremolo systems. The N3 (discontinued) was also produced in Korea and sported the Stephen's Extended Cutaway but used lower grade pickups. Nuno has also endorsed several Washburn acoustic models. There is also the N7 7 string model.
Washburn Paul Stanley model
Paul Stanley models consist of the PS600 and PS800 (extensively used while touring with KISS), as well as the "Preacher" PS7000/PS7200/PS9000/PS9200 (which he used during his 2006-2007 tour to promote his solo album Live to Win). Stanley's line also includes the PS9 and PS11E acoustic guitars that feature his image on the front and come bundled with a custom gig bag.
George Washburn / Stephens Extended Cutaway electric models were introduced in 1987 and designed entirely by Stephen Davies. They are high end instruments which showed the era of overpowered superstrats. The EC series had 3 models named Atlantis, the "Challenger" or "Spitfire". The EC 29 and EC 36 were the very first guitars to be MASS-produced which incorporated over 27 frets. The EC26 (Atlantis) had 26 frets, was made in the U.S.A. and it's a very rare model.
Dan Donegan Signature Model/Maya Series (2003): A six string electric guitar series for Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan and named after his daughter Maya. There are currently two models of this guitar: Maya Standard guitar (DD70) and Maya Pro guitar (DD75). Both use Seymour Duncan pickups.
Dimebag Darrell ML body style Dimebag Signature series. Washburn's Dean ML-style Dime 333 and radical Gibson Explorer-like Dime Culprit models were the most popular. The Dime 333 had a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo, the 332 model featured a stop-tail bridge. The Culprit, with its sliced-up Explorer-style body, featured a Floyd Rose tremolo, a mirror pickguard and a pair of hot ceramic humbucking pickups with chrome cover.
Steve Stevens Signature Model (1993) SS80 and SS100 models made at Washburn's Chicago custom shop. The SS40 was mass produced in Korea. The SS80 was produced in black with gold hardware and a Schaller-licensed Floyd Rose tremolo, Seymour Duncan JB humbucking pickups. The SS100 featured black hardware and Frankenstein monster graphics.
Ola Englund Solar (2013/2014): Signature model announced by Washburn in 2013 for Swedish guitarist Ola Englund of Six Feet Under, Feared, and The Haunted. Specifications are currently unavailable.