For acoustic guitar and bass players looking to take a step out of their comfort zone, the BT-258E Deluxe opens up a wealth of musical possibilities, and does so with some exceptional tones and a very approachable feel.
Immense, clear tone with harp-like midrange chime.
No gig bag or case included.
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Guild dropped big news at NAMM’s Believe in Music Week in the form of two new baritones: the BT-240E and a fascinating eight-string model, the BT-258, on review here. Built on Guild’s bodacious jumbo body platform, they occupy a sonic range right between a bass and a standard acoustic guitar.
The BT-258 is especially interesting because it features octave string pairs in the third and fourth slots. In the virtual landscape of BIMW, where it was impossible to lay hands on the merchandise, its unique appeal prompted a request for a test sample. Was it really as cool as it seemed on the screen?
The BT-258 arrived in a box that appeared a bit small for a jumbo, and the reason became apparent upon opening it. (The almost-too-nice price started to make a bit more sense as well.) In addition to being built in China for the affordable Westerly Collection, the guitar comes with neither case nor gig bag.
UPS had not been particularly careful, and there was a small ding in the natural gloss polyurethane top finish. If you’re interested in one of these new baritones, I highly recommend that you check out the jumbo cases Guild has on offer.
It’s worth protecting such a lovely solid Sitka-spruce top, as well as Deluxe features including laminated rosewood sides, an arched rosewood back, a bound neck and body, and a Fishman GT-1 pickup system.
The BT-258 tunes up in traditional baritone fashion two and a half steps below standard, so from strings eight to one it goes: B, E, aA, dD, F#, B. Chords stack up in familiar ways, but when you strum an open E shape, the sounded chord is a fifth below, at B.
I was immediately blown away by its deep, clear, and powerful tone. The octave jangle in the middle range brought a smile, and projection was super strong. The BT-258 has elements of harp guitar, bass, and 12-string but ultimately has its own charm.
The onboard electronics delivered an accurate and even representation of its immense sound, even when plugged into a diminutive Fender Acoustic Junior GO. Fingerpicking a baritone acoustic is about as close to playing a grand piano as it gets for a guitarist. The scale length is a whopping 27 inches, so the feel approaches that of a bass.
I enjoyed the superior snap and terrific sustain, other than at the seventh fret of the fourth string, which was a bit muted. Having longer, thicker strings makes certain things, such as bending, more difficult, but the overall playability of its C-shaped neck is surprisingly normal.
The nut width is a familiar 1 3/4 inches, and I was able to get my relatively small fingers everywhere they wanted to go. Having extra octave strings for just the middle strings adds a 12-string element without the hassle of so many extra strings to manage. Focus on striking them with a plectrum and the resonance is remarkable.
Playing the BT-258 brought me back to an experience at NAMM when Martin introduced a Roger McGuinn signature model that included a sole octave string to complement the wound G.
McGuinn himself explained to me that after years of making 12-string magic with the Byrds, he realized that a huge percentage of his licks were actually based on the G string, and therefore chose only that string for the octave complement.
My experience playing the BT-258 leads me to agree. It feels practically like playing a big six-string, yet sounds almost like a deep-tuned 12. Sweeping chord strums sound massive.
Going the baritone route is a major move on its own, and adding a couple of octaves delivers extra intrigue. It’s not the first time we’ve seen such a beast on the market – Taylor’s Baritone-8 had the same configuration – but it’s been discontinued and wasn’t nearly so affordable.
Players in search of a rich, unique sound should appreciate the BT-258 Deluxe 8-string Baritone, and songwriting and studio applications are plentiful. I wound up using it on a session to add body on a grungy, drop-tuned song in the key of C, which is just below where even a good dreadnought can comfortably go.
Percussive players will flip out for the 258’s “thwap” factor. Bassists looking to move toward an acoustic without going all the way to a standard model should audition this baritone as well. Even when one factors in the extra dough for a jumbo gig-bag or hard case, there is solid value here, and the bottom line is it’s a ton of fun!
- PRICE: $629 street ($499 street for B-240E)
- NUT WIDTH: 1.75”, bone
- NECK: Mahogany
- FRETBOARD: Pau ferro, 27” scale, 16” radius
- TUNERS: Guild GBB1 nickel butterbean, 16:1
- BODY: Solid Sitka-spruce top, laminated arched rosewood back and sides
- BRIDGE: Pau ferro with compensated bone saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Guild/Fishman Sonitone GT-1 with sound-hole flywheel volume and tone controls
- FACTORY STRINGS: D’Addario EXP23 Coated Phosphor Bronze (.016–.070) plus octave strings (.012 & .014)
- WEIGHT: 5 lbs (as tested)
- BUILT: China
- CONTACT: Guild
Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel, and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com.