Washburn C40 Review | Entry-Level Classical Guitar

A review of the Washburn C40 classical guitar

Unlike most people, I began my “guitar career” on a classical guitar…and I don’t regret it. In fact, I now highly recommend beginner guitarists at least give it a try before they settle on an acoustic or electric guitar.

The Washburn name isn’t the first thing that come to mind when anybody starts talking about classical guitars. I know that. But I’ve recently been surprised by the quality/price ratio that their entry-level Washburn C40 Classical Guitar offers.

If you’re looking for your first guitar to learn on or perhaps you just want to try your hand at the classical without investing too much money, the Washburn C40 is worth a look. Here’s my take, along with some alternatives should you decide otherwise.

The Washburn Guitar

The Washburn guitar logoWashburn Guitars have been around since 1883, established and still running near Chicago, Illinois. You’ve probably run across quite a few Washburn guitars when browsing in guitar stores, most notably their acoustics.

The most interesting thing about Washburn, in my opinion, is that they take credit for introducing the dreadnought body style for acoustics, a style that has now become the most widely popular among guitarists today.

In the 130 years since their inception, Washburn now makes some great electric guitars, bass guitars and they have a single series of classical guitars. Below I’m going to focus this review on the C40 just because it’s the cheapest but I also want to dive a bit into a few of the other classical guitars in this series that might be a better alternative for you.

A Close Look at the Washburn C40

The Washburn C40, a good entry-level classical guitarThe Washburn C40 Classical Guitar is not a new guitar. In fact, they’ve been manufacturing the C40 for almost 25 years with many different variations (and prices) over the years.

Currently the Washburn C40 isn’t the base model – there is actually a Washburn C5 classical guitar that’s a tad cheaper – but based on my experience the best place to start with the Washburn classical lineup is the C40.

First Glance

First things first: this guitar is certainly an entry-level guitar. There are no electronics, no cutaway, no inlays, no case included, etc. When you’re dealing with a price point under $150, you should expect this.

However, it’s not a bad looking guitar. Probably due to Washburn’s 100+ years of experience, they know how to make good quality at an affordable price. The Spruce top gives it a very traditional look and is complimented well with the Mahogany back and sides, all of which are laminate wood. (for more see my thoughts on laminate vs solid wood on beginner guitars)

The rosette mosaic around the sound hole adds class to the guitar and most every other spec including the number of frets (19), fretboard (rosewood) and neck width are consistent with most every other beginner classical guitar.

Giving it a Spin | How the Washburn C40 Sounds

I’ve been fairly pleased with the sound of the Washburn C40, especially when compared to the classical guitar I started out on 20 years ago (not hard to beat that one, though!).

While the guitar unfortunately doesn’t project well (i.e. it’s not that loud), I was still able to produce clear tones that were pleasing to the ear. The short of it is that I could play this on stage and make it sound good if I wanted to, but more than likely I’d be happy enough just using it to practice at home.

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Washburn C40’s Price to Value Ratio

For the average beginner guitarist, what makes the Washburn C40 a good option is the price to value ratio. In other words, for the price (under $150) you’re getting more value than you might expect. It’s not an investment as much as it is a starter guitar. Eventually you’ll grow out of this guitar and want to upgrade but until then you should be perfectly happy practicing on the C40.

My final thoughts are this: if you have the money to spend on a better guitar, do it. But if your budget truly is limited, the Washburn C40 is one of the few entry-level guitars at this price point that I would recommend.

Alternate Washburn Options

I do want to introduce a few alternatives in the Washburn line that might better suit your needs. For instance, let’s say you already know you want to pursue classical guitar and therefore want a higher quality on your limited budget. Or perhaps you already know that you will want to plug this guitar in and need on-board electronics. Or maybe you just want a cutaway.

If that’s you, here are some alternatives to consider from the Washburn classical series.

Washburn C44ce Classical Guitar

The next step up from the C40 is the Washburn C44ce. The specs on this guitar are almost completely identical to the C40 with two notable exceptions: the C44ce has a cutaway and onboard electronics.

Like I said earlier, if you feel like you’ll want to record or play on stage with your classical, it might not be a bad idea to spend the extra $75 or so to upgrade to this option.

The Washburn C44ce Classical guitar for beginners

Washburn C64sce Classical Guitar

As the numbers suggest, the Washburn C64sce takes another step up from the C44 and the C40. This time, the only difference (and in my opinion it’s a big difference) is the addition of a solid spruce top instead of a laminate spruce top.

Remember what I said about the projection of the C40 being a bit too quiet? Addition the solid top not only improves on the projection, it also adds clarity and color to the sound of the guitar. Finally, as the “ce” at the end suggests, this guitar also includes a cutaway and electronics.

The Washburn C64sce Classical guitar for beginners

Washburn C104sce Classical Guitar

The top of the Washburn classical series lineup is the Washburn C104sce. At this point you should be able to pick up that the “S” stands for “solid top”, the “c” stands for “cutaway” and the “e” means it has “electronics”.

What differentiates the C104 is that not only does it use a solid Cedar top (instead of the traditional spruce), it also uses Rosewood for the back and sides. In most cases this produces a deeper, more tonally-balanced sound from your classical.

If you have the budget, I would recommend this over the C40 just because I believe it has a longer life on your stand. You won’t be looking to replace this guitar as quickly you would the C40.

Washburn's solid top C104SCE classical guitar

Further Reading

If you found this Washburn C40 Review helpful, here’s some further reading that might interest you:

One thought on “Washburn C40 Review | Entry-Level Classical Guitar”

  1. In researching Washburn classical guitars, I got the impression that Washburn buys its classical line from a Chinese source. Not that that’s necessarily bad. If it’s the outfit I’m thinking it is, they produce an excellent product, and Washburn stands behind the quality. Nonetheless, buyers deserve to know where these are made.

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