Guild F-47R Review

AG 216 December 2010 Cover

Posted by Charles Saufley

Though Guild Guitars is not yet 60 years old, it is without question one of the great American guitar makers. High quality, relative affordability, and associations with iconic players such as Richie Havens and Paul Simon helped propel the company’s quick rise to prominence in the ’50s and ’60s. And in the years since, Guilds became faithful companions to John Renbourn, Nick Drake, and contemporary players like Ryan Adams.

There’s always been something a little special and unique about the look, feel, and sound of a Guild. And though the company that Al Dronge founded with the help of some former Epiphone employees in New York in 1952 has passed though the hands of several owners (since 1995, it’s been a division of Fender) and called six factories home (the latest is shared with Ovation and Hamer in New Hartford, Connecticut) the distinctions and intangibles that make a Guild guitar unique remain. They are certainly in evidence in the F-47R we received for review—a rosewood-and-spruce grand orchestra that has appeared sporadically in the company’s catalog since the early ’60s. It’s a handsome, sweet-playing specimen that’s more than worthy of the Guild legend.

Stylish and Well-Built

The styling of Guild’s fancier models, like the F-50, F-412, and F-47, always seemed to owe something to Guild’s history as a jazz archtop manufacturer and even the electric guitars of the day. It’s part of what has made these guitars stand out from the pack and is most evident in the pearl block inlay on the bound rosewood neck and the trademark Guild headstock—complete with Chesterfield inlay—the very picture of subdued art deco cool.

The pretty Adirondack spruce top has a sunny blond hue that takes on a warm, luxurious glow through the nitrocellulose finish. The Indian rosewood back and sides are beautiful pieces of wood, too, with grain that’s rich and deep, revealing chocolate and reddish shades under sunlight.

Guilds have generally been revered for their sturdy build quality. Here again, the F-47R is worthy of the legend. From headstock to endpin the construction is virtually flawless. The fretwork is immaculate, as is the binding on the neck and around the body, which contributes to the guitar’s upscale appearance without upsetting the tasteful and understated overall look.

Buttery and Robust Tones

Over the several weeks I spent with the F-47R, I was repeatedly pleased with its versatility, much of which is attributable to how comfortable and familiar it feels. The C-shaped neck is substantial without feeling too big. It has some of the tactile feedback of a good vintage neck—solid and sturdy but conducive to moving around the fretboard as fast or as lazily as you need to.

It’s the kind of comfort that puts you at ease in any playing situation. The guitar seems to invite a try at tunes like Led Zeppelin’s “White Summer” or Pete Townshend’s acoustic-driven songs from Tommy—workouts that require a combination of heavily strummed power chords, gentler flatpicked arpeggio sections and legato runs, and even more delicate fingerpicking movements. In these settings, the comfortable neck shape and easy action make it all feel as natural as a first-position E chord.

The guitar is especially impressive in pedal-to-the-metal strumming situations, where the rosewood-and-spruce body kicks out remarkable volume without any appreciable compression or blurring of overtones. And while the F-47R isn’t exactly petite, with a 16-inch body width at the lower bout, it demonstrates projection more akin to a dread or jumbo, with a nice balance between bass and treble tones. That recipe also works in jazzier settings—where complex chords sound harmonically even and silky smooth—and exceptionally well for flatpicked BB King–style pentatonic blues melodies.

On the whole, the guitar’s tone tends toward the midrange. If the available sonic pallette has any deficiency, it’s a slight lack of bite and sustain in the trebles. While this is an issue that could correct itself as the spruce top seasons, it is somewhat surprising given the overall guitar’s balance and robust voice. It also makes it a little harder to imagine the guitar as an ideal fit for a pure fingerstylist.

A Timeless Flattop

The F-47R is a stylish, timeless-looking guitar that can wear a lot of hats. It would look and sound particularly great under the fingers of a rootsy songsmith or rock strummer. The consistency in quality in both the New Hartford–built D-40 (see the October 2009 review) and this F-47R suggests that Guild is on the right track in its new Connecticut home. And given the versatility, playability, and musical qualities of this guitar, Guild will likely be breeding yet another generation of dedicated players in the years to come.

SPECS: Grand orchestra body. Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Dovetail neck joint. Three-piece mahogany and walnut neck. Indian rosewood fretboard and bridge. Scalloped Adirondack spruce X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 11/16-inch nut width. 2 3/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Bone nut and saddle. Gotoh tuners. High-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish. D’Addario EXP17 coated phosphor-bronze strings. Made in USA.

PRICE: $2,999 list/$2,299 street.

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

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar December 2010

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