Guild GAD-JF30(2)

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the number of guitars coming out of Japan diminish, as major overseas guitar factories have sprung up elsewhere, most notably in Korea. Now, domestic guitar companies have begun to look to emerging manufacturing giant China as a resource. It could be argued that as a guitar-manufacturing nation, China is new to the game, and seeing a heralded American brand such as Guild entrust its legacy to them is impressive. The Guild GAD-JF30 ($1,199 retail/$899 street) is an offspring of this union.

From a cosmetic perspective, the JF30 is a knockout. The classy, vintage-style case alone deserves an honorable mention, with its antiqued hardware, sage-colored tweed covering, faux-leather trim, and sturdy handle. As for the guitar, the jumbo body features a well-matched solid spruce top, and flame maple back and sides. The back also features a cool zigzag stripe. The rosette, trim, and binding are all wood—no laminates or plastics used. The blonde finish is buffed to a killer gloss, and it looks and feels durable enough to withstand years of playing. The soundhole—which is built up and reinforced for strength—provides a view of the beautifully installed scalloped bracing. The one-piece mahogany neck features an ebony fretboard and bridge, and it meets the body at a traditional dovetail joint. The chrome Grover Rotomatic tuners look great and turn smoothly. Other features include a bone nut and compensated bone saddle, an ebony bridge, and charming pearl inlay on the logo, neck, bridge, and strap buttons. A transparent pickguard lets the pearly wood glow through. The factory setup action may seem a bit high for some players, but it suited me fine.

The JF30 is an excellent choice for soloists or duos, as the jumbo body shape produces a tone that is roomy without being boomy. The choice of woods makes for a bright tonality with a very present low end for an even ring across open chords. The maple back and sides add brightness, and combining them with the ebony-on-mahogany neck and spruce top balances the yin and yang, creating a dynamic guitar with clear projection. The sound won’t rattle the upstairs neighbors, but you’ll get more volume than the average dreadnought body provides. Chords really punch out clearly on rhythm playing, with virtually no buzz and sustain for days. A detuned JF30 gives up a lot of growl, but the bass notes stay focused.

Playing with a pick yields a precise, sharp tone without ever getting brittle, and single notes cut through without sounding harsh. Not merely a projection machine, the JF30 still sounds warm and luxurious while maintaining crisp dimension.

The GAD-JF30 retains the essence of a classic Guild acoustic—a big and articulate-sounding guitar that’s easy on the eyes. The presence of this guitar in an affordable, Chinese-made line will certainly help place Guilds into the hands of players who couldn’t previously afford one of the company’s beauties.