The inspiration for Waterloo stems from the American made guitars of the 1920s and 1930s. It was at this time that large and reputable guitar manufacturers widened their market to suit affordability, and add to the bottom line during tough economical times. To do this they produced a range of cheaper instruments, and courtesy of mail order catalogues, did so under various sub-brands. It allowed major manufacturers, like Gibson and Martin, to move product at a fraction of the price of their premiere instruments. They were made fast, rough and played that way – some barely played at all. The more triumphant of the bunch were raw and gritty sounding instruments, and despite their slap-together manufacturing process had a natural and distinguished tone.
Collings sight Gibson’s 1930s budget offshoot brand, Kel Kroydon as one of the WL-K’s big influences, and it’s clear why Waterloo sought counsel from these jangling beauties – its far from perfect construction created a bittersweet aural personality, and although simply built, spouted complex tonal characteristics.
This is what Collings, with its Waterloo sub-brand has set out to achieve – simple guitars with a gut-full of soul that unlike its distant ancestors are crafted with precision and care.
At first glance, the features of this guitar are illuminated by a basic and neat aesthetic; the WL-K is a pleasure to gaze upon. It’s the little things that Waterloo have replicated that make this worthy of attention – from the light, and thinly lacquered body, to the branding on the head stock; the Kel Kroydon influence is apparent.
It would be forgivable to assume that the guitar’s its light weight is aligned with the opinion that this is an inexpensive, throwaway guitar. Be not fooled by the quantity of wood, for this gem is all quality. What this guitar lacks in weight, it makes up for in sound and playability. The Collings legacy of producing premium quality is no exception here – this instrument is made with a love for the craft. It truly is an American (made) beauty.
One piece of advice – leave your picks at home, people! This one’s for the flesh alone. Made with a thin spruce top and mahogany bottom, the body resonates transparent mids and bright highs; there really isn’t a need to put plastic to nickel. This is where this guitar shines bright. It’s responsive and longs for expressive playing of the finger-plucking variety.
The oval shaped neck is a comfortable size, allowing free reign up and down the 24 7/8” scale. Accompanied with shallow action, lead riffing and barred chords are a walk in the park. Thin body bracings and carbon fibre T-bar can be thanked for it’s delicate frame, but do little to inhibit its responsiveness.
Make no mistake; though they’ve based the design on some of acoustic guitar’s more gritty predecessors, Waterloo has focused on taking all of what made these instruments renowned and left behind that slap-together manufacturing of those mail order times. The WL-K is a fine guitar, and although a fraction of the premiere Collings brand guitars, it’s far from a school music room instrument. Worthy of the price tag, it’s a piece of gear that is sure to improve over time, if that’s even possible.