In high school, when I first started taking guitar seriously, we’d occasionally have a period (where the teacher was hung-over or hadn’t mapped out a lesson plan) that would be spent ‘learning how to research’ in the library. Invariably that would mean we’d wander off, find the music section and crack open whatever coffee table book they had that had anything to do with guitars. One particular book was nothing but a roll call of axes that any rube might have seen on TV. In the section headed ‘Hollow-Bodies’ was a picture of a wine red Guild Star Fire IV. The olive leaf tail piece, the stern, sweeping curves; all of this struck me as an image of class that couldn’t compete with the Ibanez 7 strings I’d lusted for. Upon opening the case containing a brand new OM140-CE, that image came sailing back to me.
The OM refers to the ‘Orchestra Model’ design specifics; 140 signifies wood grade, in this case Sitka spruce top on mahogany back and sides. Most importantly, they’ve reclaimed some design specifics from antiquity that are particularly visually appealing.
The Chesterfield emblem sits proudly atop the headstock like a beacon. Tonally, the prominent character is bright, glassy and bristling. Taking much of it’s voicing from the spruce, the high mids are incredibly present while the top-end is confident without being obnoxious. There are some really crystalline harmonics in the note that are a nice, unexpected touch, while a solid yet subtle low-end really keeps all that gloss in check. Typically of its size it’s not excessively loud, but the balance of tones – lead gallantly by that chiming top – means that it takes very little to get the guitar to open up and make itself known.
CALL ME OLD-FASHIONED
It genuinely feels nice to play too. Guild have gone for a classic, wide C shaped neck that, while long out of fashion and frankly not my usual cup of tea, gives something back to the player. It’s the kind of neck that makes you work a little harder and makes playing that bit more rewarding. Balanced with a suspiciously light body, it perches evenly in your lap, coaxing more out of you than you expect it to. The relatively wide (by today’s standards) 13⁄4” neck harks back to older designs that, while difficult at first, quickly become familiar and gratifying as the guitar wears in.
Another wise choice in this model is the Fishman Sonitone with Sonicore pickup system tastefully mounted just inside the sound hole. Chosen for its transparency as much as it’s stealth, all you ever see of the electronics is the tone and volume controls that scarcely peek over the lip. Acoustic pickups are a necessary evil much of the time, but the Fishmans manage to colour the tone very little. If anything, a pinch of warmth knocking off some iciness up top isn’t necessarily all that bad.
Guild have created a model that has all the hallmarks of classic guitars from their glory days, with a few modern garnishes and they have managed to do so without busting the budget wide open. This is a player’s guitar. It wants you to concentrate, and in return you have in your hands a guitar that will play you as much as you play it.
For more details on Guild guitars, head to zentihmusic.com.
Hits and Misses
The wide C shape neck isn’t my preferred style.