Guild F-30CE Standard Review

AG 225 September 2011

by Adam Perlmutter

With its orchestra-size body, the Guild F-30 has long been one of the company’s most popular small guitars. The earliest version, which debuted in 1954, had a spruce top and maple back and sides. In 1959, Guild began making the F-30, which would soon become a favorite of folk strummers, with mahogany back and sides. Now, some 50 years later, it is available in several versions, both as straight reissues and in updated incarnations with cutaways and electronics. We checked out the F-30CE Standard, a modern, mahogany-body cutaway guitar, complete with D-Tar electronics.

Good Looks and Top-Notch Construction

Our review F-30CE was built from a selection of handsome tonewoods. The solid Sitka top is tightly grained and has a warm reddish glow; the mahogany back, sides, and neck are evenly figured; and the rosewood fingerboard and bridge have a nice dark-chocolate coloring. Like most Guilds, the F-30CE has a tastefully understated appearance. The ornamentation is minimal, restricted to pearl dot markers on the fingerboard, ivoroid body binding and heel cap, simple rosette and back stripe, and the Guild logo in pearl on the rosewood-capped headstock.

It is evident that great care was taken in the making of our F-30CE, a product of Guild’s New Hartford, Connecticut, production facility, which has been in operation since 2008. The gloss finish on the body is perfectly applied and buffed, and the neck’s satin finish is similarly well executed. The frets are impeccably crowned and polished, and the bone nut and saddle cleanly cut, precluding the adjustments commonly needed to make a brand-new guitar more playable. A peek inside the guitar reveals no hint of laziness, either; the bracing and kerfing are smoothly sanded and undetectably glued. I was also impressed with the guitar’s light weight—a mere 4.4 pounds according to a digital postal scale.

Smooth Sound and Playability

The F-30CE’s C-shaped neck, though quite slim for an acoustic, is extremely comfortable in all regions. Although I prefer the look of gloss, the satin finish on the neck feels undeniably smooth and inviting. The action on our F-30CE was perfectly set at the factory for any kind of playing, save perhaps for slide, and when subjected to both barre-chord accompaniments and single-note forays, the guitar played very easily. And as expected, the smooth Venetian cutaway provided unrestricted access to the highest frets.

While the original F-30 (and the current F-30 Aragon) has a fairly narrow nut (111/16 inches), the F-30CE was given a more fingerstyle-friendly 13/4-inch nut width. To put the guitar through its paces I tried some basic Travis picking, a few Duke Ellington arrangements, and some classical pieces by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. The F-30CE performed equally well in each context, even on the Brouwer works, which are intended to be played on nylon-string guitar. Perhaps a result of its mahogany construction, the F-30CE has a warm and mellow quality, like a nice small-batch bourbon. While the sound is well balanced from string to string, the robust midrange is especially pleasing to the ear.

Although the F-30CE sounds great for fingerpicking, I found it to be equally suited to strumming. It doesn’t have the low-end power and volume of a dreadnought or jumbo-size guitar, but it would work well for accompanying a singer. It sounds crisp and articulate with up-and-down strumming in a variety of tempos and alternate tunings: open G, D A D G A D, and others. The individual voices of each chord have good separation and balance, and everything rings out euphoniously.

D-Tar Wave-Length Electronics

The F-30CE is equipped with a D-Tar Wave-Length electronics package—an undersaddle piezo transducer with an 18-volt, high-input impedance preamp, powered by two AA batteries. The unit’s two controls, for low- and high-frequency shelving, are mounted discretely at the edge of the soundhole, which, from a cosmetic standpoint, is definitely preferable to the large plastic units mounted on the sides of many acoustic-electric guitars.

To test its amplified sound, I plugged the F-30CE into a Fender Acoustasonic amp and was pleased to find that the nearly noise-free pickup faithfully reproduced the guitar’s attractive acoustic sound. I also miked the guitar with an Audio-Technica condenser mic and discovered that it recorded well, with a nicely organic and highly detailed sound that would be agreeable in a variety of settings.

Modern Classic

With the F-30CE Standard, Guild has retained all the best features of its small-bodied classic and updated it with a slim-profile, satin-finish neck; smooth cutaway; and premium electronics. The guitar is well built and playable right out of the box. It has a superb, balanced tone when fingerpicked and works nicely for strumming as well. A great-sounding electronics package makes this fine guitar even more of a winner.

SPECS: Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Scalloped Adirondack spruce X-bracing. Mahogany neck. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 13/4-inch nut width. 25/32-inch string spacing at saddle. High-gloss lacquer finish. Chrome Gotoh tuners. D-Tar Wave-Length electronics. D’Addario EXP16 coated phosphor-bronze strings (.012–.053). Made in USA.

PRICE: $2,799 list/$2,099 street.

MAKER: Guild Guitars: (480) 596-7195;

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar September 2011

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