Review: Washburn N4 Authentic Guitar — Video

The Washburn N4 model designed by Nuno Bettencourt and Stephen Davies has enjoyed incredible success since its introduction nearly 25 years ago, in 1990.

Unlike most signature model guitars, which appeal only to fans of that artist, the N4 has earned acceptance on its own terms as a great player’s ax. In fact, over the past decade or so, it’s likely that most guitarists that have bought an N4 don’t even know Nuno from their nana.

While the new N4 Authentic is an exact replica of Bettencourt’s main N4 guitar, it’s certain to appeal as much to guitarists who want a stripped-down, high-performance instrument with a comfortable broken-in feel as it does to the most die-hard Extreme fan.

FEATURES All of the features that made the original N4 popular are still present and accounted for, including the sexy-feeling five-bolt Stephen’s Extended Cutaway design, powerful Seymour Duncan ’59 neck and Bill Lawrence USA L500XL bridge humbucking pickups, and a Floyd Rose Original double-locking vibrato.

The body is a light and resonant slab of alder, and the bird’s-eye maple neck features an ebony fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, 25 1/2-inch scale and an ultra-slim profile. Controls consist of a single volume knob and a three-position pickup selector switch.

Notable features not found on normal N4 models include “mismatched” tuners (four mini Gotoh for the D, G, B and high E strings, a Grover 18-1 for the A string, and a different Gotoh tuner for the low E string) and an EVH D-Tuna with its own routed body channel. Every dent, mark and ding found on Nuno’s personal guitar is replicated in fine detail.

PERFORMANCE When I first opened the case and picked up the N4 Authentic, I initially thought that Washburn had sent me Nuno’s personal guitar by mistake. Whereas most premature aging processes look and feel more like the work of a disgruntled craftsman going to town with a ball-peen hammer and belt sander, the N4 Authentic looks and feels like a played and naturally worn ax.

The aging isn’t overdone either—in fact, from a distance the guitar looks only slightly used, with only a few subtle dings visible.

The playability is absolutely incredible, especially for players who love the feel of a broken-in guitar. The tone is equally killer, with the L500XL delivering brilliant treble and presence and the Duncan ’59 producing a fat, warm growl. Thanks to the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, intonation across the entire neck is dead-on accurate.

LIST PRICE $3,999.90
MANUFACTURERWashburn Guitars,

“Mismatched” Gotoh and Grover tuners, the EVH D-Tuna, and Seymour Duncan ’59 and Bill Lawrence USA L500XL pickups match those on Nuno Bettencourt’s personal N4.

The Stephen’s Extended Cutaway provides completely unobstructed access to the uppermost regions of the 22-fret fingerboard.

THE BOTTOM LINE If you’re looking for a high-performance hot rod of a guitar that feels as comfortable and broken-in as your favorite well-worn and much-loved ax, the N4 Authentic is the guitar for you.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.