Hands-On Review:Washburn PTK Pop Top


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by Douglas Baldwin

Have you noticed how many cool guitars Washburn has been kicking out lately? The folks from Mundelein, Illinois, seem intent on redefining the mid-level guitar market. Case in point: the PTK Pop Top, a fresh remake of the Flying V design, which is currently in use by Jason Krause of Kid Rock fame.


There’s plenty of old-school tradition in the choice of materials; after all, why mess with success? The Pop Top features a Korina body and neck, an ebony fretboard with a 12-inch
Washburn PTK Pop Topradius, Grover tuners, a Tune-O-Matic bridge and a string-through-body design. Some modern flavor is added via upscale pickups (a Seymour Duncan 59 and an EMG 85 active pickup), jumbo frets and employment of the Buzz Feiten tuning system, a method of guitar intonation that improves upon the standard equal-tempered tuning system found on non-Washburn guitars. (Washburn holds the exclusive license to the Feiten system.)

We found the
PTK’s construction to be topnotch. The pale Korina wood was treated with a black pore sealer that accentuates the grain, given a natural finish and topped off with clear lacquer. The resulting look may be a bit too “kitchen tabletop” for some, but onstage it definitely announces, “I am wooden, hear me roar!” The jumbo frets were polished to mirror- like perfection, and all the setup details were well attended to. The action, at 4/64ths of an inch, felt perfectly right, but there is plenty of room to tweak it to your own taste. Our only complaint was with a shallow saddle slot that allowed the high E string to slip off when bent forcefully.

The
Pop Top’s electronics include a concentrically stacked volume/tone knob for the EMG, individual volume and tone knobs for the Duncan and a three-position pickup selector. Inside the control cavity, the soldering chores were neatly executed, and all visible components looked top shelf. The active EMG’s battery should get more than a Styrofoam wrap to keep it in place, but it caused no problems during our test run.

Speaking of which, a pristine Fender Pro amp immediately revealed the EMG pickup’s amazing detail, a bright, yet warm quality not unlike an amped acoustic or a direct-to-mixer electric. In contrast, the neck position Duncan came across as round, dark and just a bit fuzzy around the edges, making it a perfect foil for the razor-sharp EMG.

A Marshall JCM 800 combo and a Mesa/Boogie Heartbreaker were employed to see what kind of juice could be squeezed from the
Pop Top, and the results were a blast. The EMG proved exceptionally versatile, handling chunky palm-muted rhythm figures and wide-open lead lines with equal aplomb. Pick attack was punchier than a heavyweight mismatch, and the EMG’s breathy high end made pick harmonics a breeze. The Duncan, in contrast, roared with deep, round vowel-like authority, recalling the “woman tone” mastered by Eric Clapton and Lesile West in the late Sixties.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Washburn’s PTK Pop Top delivers plenty of rock and roll attitude, with a distinctive look that’s matched by its stellar construction and well-chosen electronics. This guitar is a “must try” for any player intent on stepping out from the crowd.