A limited edition 60th anniversary guitar from the newly appointed Guild Custom Shop – David Mead joins the party…
Last year, Guild celebrated their 60th anniversary and what better way to mark the occasion than to launch a luxuriously appointed limited edition guitar from their newly opened custom shop? And when I say “luxurious” I mean it – this is definitely the only guitar I have ever seen that has a genuine diamond inlaid in the headstock! Guild only made 60 of these instruments and we were lucky enough to secure number 22 – so let the festivities begin…
The first thing I noticed when unboxing this guitar is the weight of the case – it weighs a tonne! It had me wondering whether Guild had made the guitar out of concrete, but the instrument itself is actually as light as a feather. But I guess if you are making a guitar as special as this one, you need to put it in a bulletproof case.
So what exactly do we have here? Well, the body shape defines the anniversary as being an orchestra model and the bodywood of choice is Koa, an expensive material which is indigenous to Hawaii. In fact, it’s the second most common tree on the island and the traditional choice of ukulele makers everywhere. In the Hawaiian language, Koa means “bold” or “brave” and its other use is for making surfboards and canoes. Strange, and very slightly irrelevant in context, but true.
According to Guild the Koa in use here is five A grade, and I can believe that because the figuring of the wood is really outstanding on both front and back. This opulence is pushed up another notch or two by the presence of a subtle abalone trim on the front which is repeated around the rosette. On some guitars this might look a little over the top, but here it sits perfectly with the overall vibe of the instrument. It’s a celebration, after all, so why not put out a bit of bunting?
The whole ethic behind the new Guild custom shop is to use craftsmen to do the bulk of the work with automation via machinery at an absolute minimum. This means that while the necks might be cut using CAD, the actual shaping and finishing is all done the traditional way by hand. This gives each of the 60 models in this series an additional layer of individuality as the figuring in the wood will be different every time and the actual feel of each instrument might well be unique, too.
The neck is a three-piece composite comprising mahogany on either side of a thin walnut strip. It’s a moderately chunky affair with a generous C profile – like some of the classic instruments from the 30s and 40s – and it sits comfortably in the hand, the high gloss nitro finish not causing too much of a drag factor when moving between chords.
The fingerboard is ebony with a flattish 12″ radius and is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and abalone with the celebratory ‘1953 – 2013’ marker at the 12th fret.
Tuners are by Waverly with rosewood buttons – another nice touch – and then there’s that diamond inlaid as the dot over the ‘i’ in the Guild logo at the top of the headstock. Needless to say we’re not talking anything bigger than a pinhead and, to be honest, if my attention hadn’t been drawn to its presence by Guild, it’s something I might have missed. So, it’s bling, but it’s bling at the subtle end of the spectrum.
The 44.5mm nut width will be cause for celebration for fingerstylists as just that extra 1.5mm here makes all the difference during those digit-twisting routines.
Having played a couple of all Koa guitars before, I thought I knew virtually what to expect from the Guild. But Koa can vary enormously in terms of weight and density and so it’s impossible to make too accurate a guess. In general, as a tonewood Koa sits somewhere between mahogany and rosewood – some instruments having the warmth of the former, some the brightness of the latter. I think the best sit somewhere in between and that seems to be the case here. The acoustic tone is very well balanced with a great deal of clarity and separation in the trebles with a firm but not oppressive bass end.
For fingerstyle, there is a lot of rounded warmth with a timbre that leaves the soundstage wide open for expression and dynamics with enough high end to keep the trebles sweet and pronounced at the same time.
Playing with a pick accentuates the treble response and brings out a lot of the “zing” without losing too much mid range punch.
I’ve said before in reviews that the measure of a good guitar is one that is difficult to put down. I found myself becoming absorbed with the sound of this guitar and wanted to explore it further, but unfortunately time was against me.
I like this guitar a lot. I like what it stands for – a worthy celebration of Guild’s diamond jubilee – and the fact that it is a very playable instrument with bags of character and an expansive tonal range. The thing about limited editions is that many, if not all, are destined to be snapped up by collectors and stored as an investment. It would be a shame to think that this guitar and its fellow anniversary models will spend most of their lives mute as they really do have a story to tell and from what I’ve heard so far, it’s a story that needs to be told. Personally I’d like to see a less fussy standard model based on this guitar, as I’m sure it would be a winner in the Guild portfolio.
Pros: A limited edition with a few tricks up its sleeve
Cons: Many might be put off by the anniversary attributes
Overall: A lovely instrument and a worthy debut for the Guild custom shop!
SOUND QUALITY 5
BUILD QUALITY 5 stars
VALUE FOR MONEY 4.5 stars
Model: 60th Anniversary Custom Shop
Retail Price: £4150.80
Body Size: Orchestra
Made In: USA
Back and Sides: Koa
Nut Width: 44.45mm
Scale Length: 648mm
Strings Fitted: D’Addario medium
Gig Bag/Case Included: Custom Shop hardshell