Monday, 21 June 2010

Westone SW35

With the Antoria, i had really sparked something. I got to thinking about originals, rather than rebrand imports, and took my research from there; domestic models that were never really sold to the West. This fascinated me, considering how familiar we are with almost all the commonly known Western brands shops stock; as a budding collector it was a revelation. The number of different brands is quite astounding - there really were dozens of quality guitar factories each making their own take on famous American acoustics, a lot of which are completely, or little known to the West.

The first of these i obtained was this Westone SW35.

Westone was the brand name used by Matsumoku of Japan for their own line of stringed instruments; a name well known in the West - not so much for their acoustic line but rather their electric and bass line they manufactured in the early 80's on through to the later 80's. The acoustic line is quite rare, and was manufactured in the mid 70's, with very few making it outside of Japan. Matsumoku itself is a well known name, not primarily for it's own Westone brand, but rather for who they made guitars for: Japanese Epiphones, Aria Pro and Pro II, Washburn electrics, and some Greco electrics. It is an impressive list and variety of models, and these are held in very high regard these days - try and get ahold of a 70's Washburn semi-acoustic and you are looking at quite a sum of money, let alone an Epiphone Sheraton or a Greco Supersound. In regards to the Westone brand, it was a chance for Matsumoku to put some new original designs and technology into their craft on both the electic and acoustic guitar lines. One of the areas for originality was the neck. Matsumoku must of felt a dislike toward the convential glued neck joint, or bolt on neck joint; a lack of resonance, sustain and tone perhaps, or perhaps just the feeling of a slightly disjointed whole. Whilst on the electric line it is easy to see the neck-thru designs employed first on the Westone electrics, and then on Aria and Grecos; with the acoustic line, this neck joint is much less noticable without inspection of the soundhole. What you find is Matsumoku designed a 5-piece neck, that fuses into the body of the guitar, coming into the body of the guitar inplace of the traditional neck block. What it creates is a more complete resonating peice of wood, and an exceptionally strong neck. A strum of this SW35 and the response is outstanding. Very alive, very characterful, full of tone and bass response. D45 tone is not a million miles away. So pleased with what i heard that i searched out a second one and bought it as well.


Now the specification of the guitar; I might mention just now, but models made for the Japanese market largely follow a simple model name - price relationship. For example, this model, the SW35, originially cost 35,000Y in 1974-1975. Additionally, the W stands for Western, largely meaning it's American sounding/modelled. The S is still a bit of an unknown to me, i have read that it means Strong, in relation to the bracing of the top, which lends itself to being louder and brighter. It could also mean Solid, as this model does have a solid spruce top, and it shares model names with an Aria range of mid 70's acoustics - Aria had an LW range which were laminate, and an SW range, which were solid top. In regard to the Westone, i will take the S to mean both Strong and Solid. About the SW35; it's a simple looking guitar modelled after a Martin D41, with quite simple abalone rings around the soundhole and purfling around the body. The top is solid spruce, whilst the sides are rosewood, and the back is 2-peice rosewood with an attractive mosaic down its centre. The neck is adorned with simple dot markers, a squared headstock, and gotoh tuners which are excellent. Considering it's quality of tone, it is quite something to learn that this SW sits in the middle of Westones acoustic range, with the SW80 being the top of the SW range at 80,000Y. I have yet to come across any of those!

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Full set of images: here

13 comments:

  1. Georgious!
    Can this W-40 be 1980 built or was it in the 70's? Maybe 1974?
    http://page11.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/n93198666

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  2. Lauran,

    Thanks for visiting. I have tried the link you have put, but it doesn't seem to work for me.

    In general, a Westone W40 would be mid 1970s, likely 1974-1975. It would be solid topped, and have the same neck design as the SW35. It would also have a 3-piece back, most likely jacaranda-maple-jacaranda.

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  3. Hi Martin it is still in Google's cache, try this:
    Copy this phrase in Google: WESTONEW-40 1980
    Next, on the prob. first result (page11.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/n93198666 - In cache) Click on - In cache !
    There you have it, a Westone with a Martin logo!

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  4. I would have bought it in an instant!
    By the way, thanks for the info. You seem to be so well informed where did you get this info?
    I know of only one acoustic catalog in Japanese which I cannot read, and I've come across quite a few that weren't in it, ie a hummingbird copy.
    cheers, lauran

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  5. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3lim0Ok5Y1sJ:page11.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/n93198666+westone+w-40+yahoo+japan&cd=3&hl=nl&ct=clnk&gl

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  6. Hi Martin,
    Odd I think and it probably means nothing... when at this very moment on the biggest american auction site a westone turns up with a serialnumber that is only 1 last number different from the former (which should work by now).
    320599959470

    I suppose there's no general rule for those westone acoustic serialnumbers?

    You are a busy man and I don't mean to spam!
    I think you could see where I come from.
    And thank you!

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  7. Hi Lauran,

    Apologies for my late reply.

    I can now see the guitar thanks to your link! It was a beauty. From the serial number, it was made 1974. The Martin & Co logo must of been a personal change by a previous owner. It seems plenty of people did this and understandably so.

    There has been some debate over at matsumoku.org about serial numbers and trying to work them out. They are mainly focussed on the electric line rather than the acoustics though. Still it is a site worth a visit. So far no-one has come up with the answer.

    Most of my knowledge comes from a huge amount of old catalogs and a lot of time researching each of the different brands, mainly through Japanese websites. Over time all the little bits of information starts to link. I still have a long way to go though!

    From my research i've found Westone made guitars of different models - i think nearly every factory at the time was making a range of popular USA models. Westone catalogs are few and far between, with the ones available highlighting only the W and SW range. These were their flagship guitars, the most expensive models they made were to be found in those ranges.

    If you are watching a Westone W40, i wish you good luck in winning the bid! Any other questions, please ask away. And i am glad this blog is being read by all different nationalities!

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  8. Surprise.
    I stumbled opon a lovely W40 a while ago.
    Lookd are stunnung really.
    SN 1974009
    Got pictures.

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  9. Hi Lauran,

    Seems i have spent my summer collecting rather than blogging. I now have two Westone SW40s and one SW35. Should you be interested in one of them, please send me a message. I'll be writing an entry on the SW40 soon.

    Thanks for comments as ever.

    Martin

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    Replies
    1. Hi Martin

      I have an aria sw40. It was my very first guitar. I bought it new around 1980 i think, and used it regularly until about 4 years ago (I added a fishman undersaddle pick up for live use). It is a fantastic looking and sounding guitar and I have yet to see another one anywhere. It is very hard to find information about this guitar and your blog is the only thing even close. I'm about to try and sell mine and I'd appreciate any info you have on the sw 40 models so that I can be a more informed seller and also because my curiosity is peaked. Thanks so much and congrats on your cool blog.

      Here are some pictures. http://www.ebay.com/itm/330700389785?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

      John
      www.lostsatelliterecords.com

      P.S. One of it's distinctive qualities is that there is writing printed on the headstock with the following..."hand finished by craftsmen built from selected materials giving fine tonal qualities that will mature as the timber ages"

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    2. Hi John. Thanks for your query.

      That is a nice looking Aria you have there. Headstalk shape wise is the later Aria Pro II style shape of the late 70's early 80's, which is similar to Washburn guitars from the same time. I've searched around catalogues and can find very little on this era of SW models for Aria. Certainly solid-topped, laminate sides and back, made by Matsumoku. I hope your sale gets you a good return, i would expect to sell this for around $350-$400.

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    3. Very interesting stuff. Thanks Martin.
      John

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