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This article was originally published in issue #32
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Guild is one of the world's best known guitar manufactures with a long-standing reputation for building iconic musical instruments. Dating back to 1953, when from its New York base it became a major name in the Jazz guitar scene, it went on to become one of the biggest names in the acoustic revival on the 1960s Folk scene and also played a part in Pop and Rock with some very collectable electrics, both solids and semis. As a company, Guild has had a roller-coaster ride, with a succession of owners, most recently the giant Fender corporation which, frankly, didn't do much to enhance the Guild legend. Now, however, Guild has been taken over by the US-based Cordoba company, which regular readers will know is one of the guitar brands we have a soft spot for. We don't have favourites, of course, but we've never played a Cordoba we didn't really like and the company seems to have a real spirit about it.
It's still too early to say what Cordoba will do now that they have this impressive heritage in house. Maybe they'll revive some of the great Guilds from the past? Maybe they'll innovate like crazy? For now, we have to models to look at from the Chinese-made GAD series, which stands for Guild Acoustic Design. They share all-solid tonewoods, tasteful appointments and performance-driven features such as satin finish necks. First off let’s have a look at the M120.
This is the cheaper out of the two GAD series models we had on test, but pulling it from the bag you certainly couldn’t tell from its appearance, it looks fantastic! If you are used to “normal” sized guitars this will appear a bit on the small size, and is classed as a concert body shape. These sized acoustics are proving popular with beginners through to seasoned pros recently, they are often more comfortable, easier to play and transport, and with advancements in woods and pickup technology you also don't lose much on the volume front. The M120 has a solid mahogany top, back, sides and neck ours was a natural finish. Mahogany tends to offer warmth, depth with a midrange heavy voice, and I found this the case with the M120, making it ideal for finger picked Blues style playing, and Country strumming. Despite its size this guitar still resonates well and delivers a fair amount of acoustic volume, once again thanks to the quality wood and build.
Vintage style open back tuners are fitted to the classy looking headstock. They were solid and held everything in tune but the only gripe is I found the winders quite small which would make re-stringing a bit of an effort unless you have a string winder. The neck was a very comfortable shape, much like a standard electric neck in fact, which is always good if you ware switching instruments when playing live. The Indian rosewood neck and fretwork were all smooth and well finished, so yes, this guitar was set up really well, with a low enough action to make barre chords and lead playing a breeze but not so low as to cause fret-buzz or intonation issues.
Our M120 also came as the 'e' version, which meant it was fitted with a Fishman Sonitone under saddle Pickup with active pre-amp. This system uses Soundhole mounted volume and tone controls, which keep everything tucked away. There was no built-in tuner or any other EQ controls, so on first glance you wouldn’t know it was an electro-acoustic. I have personal issues with the soundhole mounted controls as they make altering volume and tone whilst playing almost impossible, however, they do work well and if you like everything neat, tidy and tucked away, then this could be the system for you. It's a high quality pickup so you don’t lose much of the guitar's inherent tone when you plug it in, and there were no feedback or humming issues.
This model also has a mahogany back, sides and neck, vintage style open tuners, Indian rosewood fingerboard and the same electrics. The only differences are a solid spruce top and an Orchestra body shape with a cutaway. The spruce top brings back some of the highs that could be argued are missing from an all-mahogany guitar. This makes for a very balanced instrument with a good tonal palette, capable of many different musical styles. The Orchestra size is what most people would consider a “normal” acoustic to be, and because of this, the F-130 produced more acoustic volume than the M-120. The cutaway also allows for more access to the higher end of the board. This model was also set up very well, making any style of play possible, with the pickup delivering much the same as it did on the M-120. Fit and finish on the F-130 was also spot on.
The M120 and F-130 CE are both top notch acoustic guitars offering high build quality and great tone. Fitted with similar hardware and electronics, deciding between which one is going to come down to personal taste and the tone you desire. If you want that big strummy sound then the F-130 would be a good choice; something a little lighter and warmer, then the M120 could be the answer. Can’t make your mind up? Get both, you won’t be disappointed!
We liked both these guitars - a lot. However, the acoustic guitar market is possibly the most fiercely competitive of all in the instrument industry and there are a lot of all solid wood acoustics available now - many of them very capable and some of them selling for less. There is another side to that, though. When you buy a guitar, re-selling it probably isn't your highest priority but as members of the GI team pointed out, having a name like Guild on the headstock is always going to make a guitar easier to re-sell if you decide to switch styles or move up a gear. When weighing-up asking prices for a new guitar that's a factor that's worth considering.