Looking for the pure beauty and craftsmanship of a Collings guitar but want a lower price point? Then look no further than Waterloo guitars by Collings.
This throwback line offers more affordability (albeit with slight dip in quality), as well as a very unique sound and style.
Not based on the higher end vintage guitars, Collings instead targets some of the less expensive brands of the depression era.
A Throwback To The Past
While they are not manufactured to quite as high of a level of perfection as your typical Collings acoustic, that is actually done on purpose.
Bill Collings wanted to emulate some of the less expensive brands of the ’30s and ’40s, such as Kalamazoo Guitars and Stella Guitars, which were far less expensive than the Martins and Gibsons of that era.
Considered by many to be intermediate level guitars, folk and blues musicians brought these brands into the professional context. These guitars had what became known as a very “fundamental” sound – there isn’t a lot of sustain or harmonic overtones; they are simply direct sounding guitars.
The current Collings Waterloos, along with the vintage models these are based upon, are very lightly built. This generates an immediate response when they are being played and creates a very honest sound – a characteristic that many higher-end guitars strive to get away from, but the Waterloos embrace.
What Makes A Waterloo Unique?
While the Waterloo line began with a limited selection of models a few years ago, they have since expanded to include a number of different versions varying in styles, woods and sizes.
From larger guitars that are better for flat picking and rhythm to smaller models that are perfect for finger-style blues or even bottleneck slide, there is now a Waterloo that will fit pretty much any style of play.
Additionally, they don’t use what most consider higher end woods – the majority of Waterloos will be made from Sitka Spruce and mahogany. And while Collings is notorious for their attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship, the Waterloo line intentionally leaves more room for aesthetic faults.
For example, you may find a little glue left around the braces on the inside and the sanding may not be perfectly smooth.
Overall, these guitars are just a little rougher around the edges than what you’d expect from a Collings.
A Lasting Legacy
Ultimately, Collings is recreating what was a relatively low-cost guitar at a high quality – you won’t get any fancy ornamentation or inlays with a Waterloo, but you will get a very solid, simple, and playable guitar.
This was a very nostalgia-based project for Bill Collings, who saw this idea through from conception to production. And although he sadly passed away recently, his vision of offering the sound, character and vibe of these old intermediate guitars – something that very few manufacturers have tried to replicate – will live on.
If you like that vintage sound but in a much more playable build or you want a raw, mid-range & very fundamental guitar for blues and folk, it is definitely worth looking into the Waterloo line by Collings.