Wechter Pathmaker 3000 AE Guitar Review
Wechter Pathmaker 3000 Features:
• Top - Laminated Spruce Top, Arched Top and Back
• Back and Sides- Laminated Maple Back and Sides
• Neck - Mahogany Neck with Gloss Finish
• High Gloss Body, Neck, and Headstock
• Fishman Prefix Plus or Wechter 3 Way System
• Abalone Sound Hole Purfling
• Cutaway Dreadnought body
• Hand Scalloped Bracing
• Bound Top, Back, Neck and Fingerboard
• Rosewood Headstock with Inlayed Abalone Logo
• Bound 25.5” scale Rosewood Fingerboard
• Rosewood Bridge
• Neck Width 1.715" wide @ Nut • 22 Frets
• Bone Nut and Saddle
• Ebony Bridge Pins with Abalone Inlays
• Die Cast Chrome Tuners
* List Price - $599.00 (Includes Black Vinyl Padded Gig Bag)
The first time I saw a Wechter Pathmaker 3000 guitar was in a very positive review given by Guitar Player magazine. They liked it enough to give it an editor's pick, which made me wanna give it a closer look. I promptly ordered one from Musician's Friend to see what the fuss was all about, and it was at my door within 3 days time.
The Pathmaker 3000, like the Carvin C850 we reviewed, also follows a trend that companies have been getting into (such as Fender and Carvin); where they build the guitars in a reputable foreign factory (in this case China), and then do the final setup and quality control in their American location. Wechter's shop is in Paw Paw, Michigan. The list price stated on Wechter's website for the Pathmaker 3000 with the 3-way system is $599.00. It lists at $669.95 with the Fishman Prefix Plus system. I ordered one from Musician's Friend online for $399.00 with the 3 way system and free shipping. The guitar comes from Wechter with a nice black vinyl padded gig bag with blue piping so you get that too. $399.00 is a pretty attractive price point for a guitar with a 3 way electronics package and a gig bag wouldn't you say? The Carvin C850 we reviewed had the Fishman Prefix Plus system in it, so I wanted to try a guitar with a mic/pickup combination system, to see if I could get the elusive recorded mic'd guitar sound that so many guitarists covet. Both Guitar Player magazine and Guitar One magazine gave this model awards, but I was extremely curious about how it would work in small group settings unplugged, and especially in recording and live settings plugged into a PA system leading praise and worship with a full band.
The guitar came inside of the gig bag, which was packaged inside a slightly protective box. The box was thin enough that it made me wonder if the guitar could have been damaged on the trip. Mmmm...nothing like that new guitar in a case smell! Upon opening, I found a shiny black padded gig bag with storage areas, and striking blue piping. Nice, but made of a vinyl type material that looked great, but probably wouldn't last as long as a gig bag made of something tougher like thick nylon. The Pathmaker 3000 was inside, all black and shiny like a sports car ready to run. The white binding reminding me of racing stripes on a '69 Camaro. As shiny as it was, you could still tell that Wechter had purposely made the finish thin to promote better response and tone. A look at their website confirmed this. Probably a good idea on a guitar like this with laminated construction and double cutaways.
A quick once over of the glue points inside of the body, and I saw that everything looked nice and clean. I didn't find any glue drips or anything sloppy. Wechter says that these guitars are handmade. If this guitar is any indication of Wechter quality (and I believe it is), then they are doing a good job of quality control in Paw Paw, and the foreign factory is building some clean guitars. The trim around the neck and body was smooth. The tuners were adequate but just so; and if I were to keep the guitar and gig with it, I would probably replace them with higher quality Schallers or Grovers. They operated smoothly, but seemed to be lacking that special tight feel that the expensive ones have. The fretwork was fine with no burrs or rough edges. There is a nice stained trim around the headstock that just makes it stand out, and is classy to my eye. I haven't seen that before. Actually that is what a lot of people said when they saw me with the Pathmaker. Statements like "What is that?" and "That is a cool looking guitar" were common.
After playing some big dreadnoughts, this guitar seemed very light to me. I enjoyed the lack of weight on stage when I played for whole song sets. Honestly, I think I sweat less playing the Wechter than with a heavier guitar (I move a lot when I lead a praise and worship set!) But the question is...does the lack of weight mean that it lacked in the sound department? Read on to find out.
Wechter has a line on their website that says that the neck on this guitar feels like a solid body. They are absolutely right. There is something about the construction of the neck and the width at the nut and neck to body joint, that make it feel more like an electric guitar than an acoustic at times. But the light weight of the body and the full acoustic sound are always there to remind you that this is a bonified acoustic guitar. The neck is fast and smooth, and you can play it way up because of the double cutaway design. I wasn't ecstatic about the setup although it was not bad. I just like my strings pretty low, so I gave a call to the shop in Paw Paw, Michigan to get some advice on filing the saddle down and adjusting the truss rod just a bit. The guitar was completely in spec, and this was just a matter of me wanting it setup for my playing style. I ended up leaving a message, and to my surprise, when I got home from work the next night the phone rang. I said "Hello", and the voice on the other end asked for me, and then said "This is Abe Wechter, and I was returning your call". Can you believe that? The creator of the guitar that I purchased actually called me to help me out with setup. He did not know I was from Heart of a Worshipper, he was just honestly interested in helping me get the guitar set up right for me! That impressed me. It wasn't a service guy. It was the man who designed the guitar that called. Chock one up for Wechter guitars in the customer service area! That was a hoot!
The Pathmaker 3000 played fast and easy. No buzzing or intonation problems. I'm not a speed demon on any guitar, but scales and riffs seem easier on the Wechter than on many other acoustics I've played. The guitar comes with some brand of coated long lasting strings that are not Elixirs, and I changed them and immediately got a less colored tone. Of course strings are all about personal preference, so your mileage may vary.
The tone of this guitar is decent when unplugged, but not quite loud enough for much more than a small group of listeners. It's extremely fun to play all by itself though. I found myself playing for hours just because it sounds balanced and not overpowering. I got a good "mix" between the guitar and my voice, which made for some good worship times with me and the guitar singing and playing to the Lord all alone. This guitar seems to be designed predominately for plugged in play with the 3 way system, but is loud enough for small settings. If you play a bit harder, you are rewarded with a tone that is even, but lacking some in the bass frequencies when compared to a full dreadnought played side by side for comparison.
Sound Plugged In
Some people like to knock laminated construction guitars, but they have a benefit that solid wood construction guitars cannot claim. You see, with an all solid wood guitar, the owner has to be very conscious of heat, humidity, and cold. If the owner of a solid wood construction guitar just ignores factors such as how hot or humid it is where the guitar is stored or being played; then they will eventually run into problems with warping, or bowing, or finish cracks, or one or more of many other potential problems. You see expensive all solid wood construction guitars are also high maintenance, if you treat them like the manufacturers say you should in their literature that is. Many people keep them in humidified rooms, and humidified cases, and never take them out gigging. Others do gig with them, but aren't so concerned about potential problems. I generally don't have extra cash laying around that I want to spend on fixing my Martin if I neglect it though. I doubt many gigging musicians do either. Enter the Wechter Pathmaker 3000. Of course the owner should still keep this guitar humidified, and take care of it, but because of it's laminated construction, finish, and cost for admission, it's gonna be a lot less prone to be as effected by humidity, cold, and heat, than an expensive all solid wood construction guitar. And replacing it takes much less of chunk out of our bank accounts! I think that's the point. A guitar that can be taken anywhere and gigged, without worry .
The three way system was something new to me. I had tried two way systems, but the addition of a magnetic pickup in the sound hole I had never seen or tried before. So what you have is a condenser mic on a little adjustable boom, an under saddle pickup, and a magnetic pickup mounted near the neck on the sound hole (which can be moved by loosening the screws). All this is fully controllable from the side of the guitar. You have a main volume control, a blend control between the mic and magnetic pickup, bass, middle, treble, a sharpness control for the mic, and a volume control for the mic alone. There is also a phase switch, a power indicator, and a low battery light. Wow, that's a lot of control right? The one thing that I missed though, and that should be considered on future models, is a notch filter. This is really needed on any acoustic electric guitar, but especially on models that come with microphones! Consequently, when I played the guitar plugged into PA systems with a monitor and vocal mic anywhere near me, I had to turn the condenser mic on the guitar way down, which definitely took away from the nice mic'd guitar sound.
Another bonus with this guitar, is that you have the typical 1/4" endpin jack, but you also have an XLR jack right next to it. The benefit here is that when plugging directly into a PA through a snake, you wont need a direct box or 1/4" to XLR adapter. You can go right from the guitar with a regular mic cable into the snake if you want. Cool. What's more, you can run phantom power from the mixer in the sound booth through that XLR jack, and power your 3-way system on the guitar. So the 9 volt battery isn't even necessary if you've got access to phantom power. Nice touch, and more proof that this guitar is well thought out and designed with gigging players in mind.
I used the Pathmaker 3000 with a praise and worship band, alone, in small group settings, and for recording. As already stated, I got positive comments on the looks of the Pathmaker 3000 from several musicians. The sound plugged in can be just about anything you want it to be, except for a really big bodied acoustic guitar sound. With the right eq settings, and a little mixing in of magnetic pickup with the under saddle, and just a bit of condenser mic, I had a sound that I was pleased with and had no feed back problems. I had to roll off the mids almost all of the way on the eq to get the guitar to sound bigger. The soundboard's mids were set flat. So live through a house PA the Wechter scores high marks. The thing is just so adjustable, and you have so many options, that you'd have to be completely incompetent not to be able to get a workable sound. Someone with even average guitar skills, and a good ear for tone, could get the Wechter Pathmaker 3000 to sound like a much more expensive instrument in short order just by judicial use of the control system. I missed a notch filter at the controls, but seemed to be able to use other available controls to filter out unwanted frequencies, just not as fast. Many of the newer multi effects pedals for acoustics are now coming with a notch filter, so that is always an option.
The battery is housed inside the system controls, and very conveniently comes out by squeezing the ends of the compartment together and pulling it out. This is fast and easy...A huge improvement over older systems where you had to loosen the strings, or de-string the guitar just to get at the battery inside the body!
An area where I found this guitar very useful was in the area of recording. I pulled the mic out some and pointed it in toward the strings pointing down toward the sound hole at the top. Then I mixed it with mostly the condenser mic and a bit of magnetic thrown in for warmth. Sounded good. Then I ran it through a tube mic preamp and it sound good and warm. Laid down some tracks and I was very satisfied with the results. Wechter has some sound samples at their website www.wechterguitars.com. The whole website is well laid out and the samples can give you an idea of the sound that the Pathmaker 3000 is capable of.
The Wechter Pathmaker 3000 is a chameleon. It can change with whatever the need is, because of it's ingenious design and electronics. Somebody needs to give Wechter a trophy for the whole idea if they haven't already! This guitar is a bargain at the dollar amount you can get it online and in music stores for. It's versatile, gig worthy, and just plain looks and sounds cool. You can keep it clean and locked away in some humidified room if you want to; but part of the attraction is that you don't have to baby it, and if you ding it up it'll just give it some more character! It's even got a lifetime guarantee for goodness sake. I read one guy's review, and he was gonna buy three of 'em in different colors to match his stage outfits! As for me, I've usually got a Wechter Pathmaker 3000 next to my other guitars on stage now, because there is always a song that I can find the guitar sounds good on. It's reliable, and tolerates climate changes well.
My opinion...try one out. You might just like it.
by William Charles