FOUNDED IN 1952 BY A MUSICIAN AND FORMER MUSIC-STORE owner named Avram “Al” Dronge and his friend George Mann, Guild quickly grew to become one of America’s top makers of acoustic guitars. Though Guild began with archtop jazz guitars, the company’s road to success was paved by a trio of steel-string flat-tops introduced in 1954—the F-30 Aragon, F-40 Valencia, and F-50 Navarre.
Guild’s 6- and 12-string models such as the D-40 Bluegrass Jubilee, D-50 Bluegrass Special (introduced in 1963 at the behest of Dronge’s son Mark), and flagship D-55 became very popular in the 1960s, and the company certainly benefitted when Richie Havens performed his famous song “Freedom” at Woodstock on a Guild D-40.
Fender acquired Guild in 1995 and moved production from Westerly, Rhode Island, to Corona, California. In 2005 Guild production was moved to Tacoma, Washington, and in 2008 to New Hartford, Connecticut, where the guitars on review here were made.
Though the D-40 STD, D-50 STD, F-30 STD and F-30R STD, F-50 STD, and F-212XL STD on review here have very different sonic personalities, they have lots in common feature-wise, including solid wood construction, red spruce scalloped-braced tops, nitrocellulose lacquer finishes, and traditional-style dovetail neck joints. The workmanship inside and out on all of these models is excellent, with the emphasis on tone rather than cosmetic details. Ornamentations are minimal, but the bindings and pearl inlays are well done. The frets are properly shaped and finished—though not highly polished—and the bone nuts are carefully slotted and also rounded and polished to eliminate sharp edges. The bridge saddles are also made of bone and are compensated for proper Bstring balance. The guitars all played consistently well right out of the box. Their setups offer low action without string buzz, and the intonation on all of them was solid and tuneful.
These Guild guitars all have things that will make them appeal to certain players, and the best way to know which model is right for you is to find a store with a good selection and try them all. What follows here are observations of what we gleaned from these guitars during tests that were conducted in the GP sound lab.
Special thanks to Waybacks guitarist James Nash, who lent his ears and great chops to this roundup.
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