Guild F-1512E Review

AG 233 May 2012 Cover

by Teja Gerken

Founded by former Epiphone employees in New York in 1952, Guild has long been known for offering high quality at a competitive price. And since being introduced in 1964, its jumbo 12-string has become the template for the modern 14-fret, standard scale 12-string guitar. To create a line of more affordable instruments than those built in its US facility, Guild introduced the GAD line of Chinese-built instruments in 2004 and recently gave the entire GAD line a makeover. Because Guild’s 12-strings are so iconic and desirable, we checked out the new F-1512E, an all-solid-wood spruce and rosewood instrument that features some modifications and updates to the classic 12-string Guild design.

Classic 12-String Lines

Guild has clearly used its top-of-the-line F-512 as a model for the F-1512E. In addition to the 16.5-inch wide jumbo body’s East Indian rosewood back and sides, the F-1512E has an Indian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, the latter of which has Guild’s distinctive shape with two points facing toward the endblock. And like earlier Guilds, the three-piece neck design puts a strip of maple between two pieces of mahogany and includes two truss rods, which has historically proven to ensure neck stability even with the additional string tension inherent to a 12-string. With original Guild 12-strings, you accessed the twin truss rods at the headstock, but the F-1512E’s truss rods are reached through the soundhole. And while F-512s and other high-end models typically had multipiece fingerboard inlays that inset an abalone triangle into a large pearl block, the F-1512E has simple mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock overlay has also been simplified: rather than the traditional black face, binding, and “Chesterfield” logo, the F-1512E’s headstock is capped with plain rosewood.

Excellent Materials and Craftsmanship

The quality of materials and level of craftsmanship on this Guild F-1512E should put to rest any idea that Chinese-made instruments cannot be built as well as a typical guitar leaving a North American factory. The top has tight, straight grain and a hint of bearclaw, and the Indian rosewood used for the back and sides is dark, even in color, and well matched. But it’s the fit and finish that had me double-check this instrument’s birthplace. The level of precision exhibited in the assembly of the parts is impressive, and while I’ve been noticing a trend toward thinner and more evenly applied finishes on Asian guitars in general, this Guild may set a new standard.

Contemporary Feel

We have a Guild JF-65-12 built in 2000 at the old Westerly, Rhode Island, factory at the Acoustic Guitaroffice, and while it’s not fair to compare the two instruments’ tone due to the different woods used (our guitar has maple back and sides), I was a little surprised to see how much easier the F-1512E is to play. The guitar has a slimmer feeling neck, its fretwork is excellent, and its action is set up for easy playability throughout the fingerboard range, even when tuned to standard pitch. The guitar is also considerably lighter and less topheavy at the headstock than the older instrument. The F-1512E’s string spacing at the saddle was similar to our office guitar in terms of the distance between the outside strings, but the room between each pair of strings on the F-1512E felt a smidgen tighter, which fingerstyle players may want to take note of, because some may find it slightly cramped feeling.

Smooth Tone

Tonally, the F-1512E has the workmanlike versatility that has always been one of the attractive traits of Guild 12-strings. The guitar’s large dynamic range is immediately apparent; if anything, it’s difficult to play the guitar quietly, because its inherent character tends toward the explosive. I keep my own 12-string tuned low with heavy strings for more of a Leo Kottke- inspired approach, and whenever I play a standard-tuned 12, I can’t help but fall into some clich�d licks. So as I launched into the opening to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” I noted not only the guitar’s punchy volume, but also the great balance and separation on both the strummed and single-note sections of the tune. Rosewood can be a problematic wood for 12-strings, because it sometimes leads to a cloudiness caused by an excess of overtones, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Guild; its bold and muscular sound invites comparison with any great sounding 12-string. When I did try the F-1512E out on less bombastic material, it was great to hear the guitar’s note separation on a jazzy, Ralph Towner-inspired turn through the Charles Mingus standard “Goodbye, Porkpie Hat,” where the Guild’s playability helped me explore every area of the neck.

Plugged-In Performance

The E in the F-1512E’s name denotes that it’s equipped with electronics (the guitar is also available without electronics, for a street price of about $1,200). The guitar’s Fishman Sonitone package consists of a braided-wire undersaddle pickup, a preamp mounted inside the bass-side edge of the soundhole with controls for volume and tone, and a nine-volt battery attached to the neck block using a standard battery bag and Velcro. This barely visible no-fuss setup is easy to use and requires little modification to the guitar.

I plugged the guitar into an AER Compact 60 amp, and while I was impressed with the complete lack of the “quack” sometimes associated with undersaddle pickups, the system had difficulty matching the Guild’s complex acoustic voice. The basic sound would be fine in a band setting, where the somewhat pronounced midrange will help cut through a mix of instruments, but serious solo performers may wish for a more accurate reproduction of the instrument.

Overall, the Guild F-1512E is an impressive instrument. Whether you’ve always wanted a Guild jumbo 12-string but couldn’t afford a US-made version or are simply looking to buy a great 12-string regardless of brand or price, this is an ax worth checking out.

SPECS: Jumbo 12-string. Solid spruce top with scalloped bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with maple center. Dovetail neck joint. Indian rosewood fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1.875-inch nut width. 2 13/32-inch string spacing at saddle. Polyester finish. Enclosed gold tuners. Fishman Sonitone electronics. D'Addario EXP38 light-gauge strings. Made in China.

PRICE: $1,829.99 list/$1,350 street.

MAKER: Guild Guitars: (480) 596-7195 guildguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar May 2012

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