A quick Google will inform you that: "Alden guitars are the result of a collaboration between UK guitar guru Alan Entwhistle and one of Korea’s leading guitar companies. Alan has been involved in guitar design since the early 60’s and his wealth of experience is showcased perfectly in the Alden range. Alden guitars are inspired by classic instruments of the last 5 decades though thanks to Alan’s creative design input none could be even remotely described as “copies” All feature top quality hardware, Entwhistle designed pickups, premium materials, and superb construction supervised by the man himself!"
However, as I mentioned above, eagle-eyed readers may have noticed a not-insubstantial similarity between this guitar (and various other Alden models) and the offerings of a number of other "makers", notably Jay Turser - take a look here for example and note the headstock motif, which is identical to that on the Alden jazzers. What we would appear to be dealing with, then, are off-the-shelf basic designs tweaked a bit hardware-wise to suit particular distributors. The Alden does feature some unique and rather groovy Art Deco-style pickups for example.
Of course, there's nothing wrong, or indeed new, about this approach to marketing instruments - just think of all those catalogue-branded Stellas, Harmonys, Danelectros and so on out there for example. But there is a problem in that it's not always clear what it is you're dealing with. Is this Alden really an embodiment of one British guru's experience and design expertise? No, I don't think it is and I *do* think it's more than a little misleading to advertise it as such.
It would be great to be able to judge each individual guitar on earth on its own merits but this would clearly be an impossible task even if we could leave aside all the subjectivity that we know will come into the equation. From a practical point of view, we need pigeon holes to put things in. If someone tells me "it'd be great for a £500 guitar, but at £750 it's a rip off" I've got some idea what I'm going to be looking at and the standards by which I should be judging it. Meaningful judgements aren't going to be relative only to the very best, because that way anything but the very best is going to be "second rate" and that sort of rating system wouldn't help anyone.
The central issue is one of context. Whilst it may well be true that to some extent you're paying for the name on a "name" guitar you're also buying into history and a company you can understand and research. It's a little like the difference between buying any other generic vs branded goods, be they pharmaceuticals or breakfast cereals. So here we have a contextless jazz guitar or uncertain origin. What to make of it?
Well it's solidly built and well finished *for an inexpensive instrument*. The fretboard wood might be anything, but does its job just fine, though the fretting is best described as "adequate". The truss rod cover is functional but badly fitted, there are a couple of minor blemishes in the finish. The rather groovy multi-adjustable and lockable bridge has roller-shaped sadles which suggest a bigsby had been anticipated, but the absense of said device doesn't render the bridge any less effective. The allen-key locking of the sadle positions and the bridge height are excellent features, I think. The pickups and switch gear work fine and a range of suitably jazzy tones is forthcoming.
How it plays is, somewhat unsurprisingly, dependent upon your string choice. "Proper" jazz benefits from telegraph wires here, as you might expect. What you might not expect, though, is just how much fun a bit of Rock'n'Roll or Jump Blues can be with a set of .10s on there. All round, it's a flexible, enjoyable box and big on the "grin factor". But it's *not* an ES-175, nor indeed anyway near.
I've really enjoyed owning and playing this guitar and if I lost it and needed a replacement I'd be more than happy to buy another at the right price. But what is the right price? I think Cranes were selling these new for between £250 and £299 - the former is about reasonable, the latter a good bit too much, I think. Personally I'd think a tad under the £200 mark for a new one would be fair. This one'll be on EBay shortly, so take a look and see what it makes...
Update: It's gone for £127, which I think is a good deal both ways. That's a lot of guitar for not a lot of money, too!