Sometimes in this job you have what I’ve come to refer to as a ‘Pulp Fiction’ moment. You get a call from the Editor to go and pick up a couple of bits and pieces for the next issue. You’re greeted with an imposing, black tolex case that sits quietly in the back seat all the way home. You lay it out on the table, flick open the latches and your face is bathed in the golden glow of something truly magical. This is exactly what happened to me with the Wine Red Guild Starfire Bass.
To say this guitar is dolled up to the nines is an understatement. I’ve written about my adoration of the Starfire legacy before and from first glance it is clear that these newer renderings of old favourites are faithful to the elegance and joyful playability of their forbears. Few reissues come quite so close to delivering on the promise of harnessing the essence of the original, but if there’s one company hitting the nail on the head, it’s Guild. It’s all there: the radiant sheen of the deep red, gloss finish giving way to the incomparable mahogany grain, the rosewood saddles mounted on floating chrome bridge, ivoroid binding cresting slowly over the hip of the arched body. To say I’m smitten is the second of many understatements.
These guitars were long the poster child of 60’s rock worship. Seeing Jack Bruce wallop away on either a hollow body akin to this one or his SG, his band pounding blissfully around him, was enough to get me to pick up a bass for the first time and as such playing this specimen felt like coming home. Just about every spec here is true to the original. The neck is a narrow 1.5” at the nut and courses over 30 3⁄4” of rosewood, just as it should. Jumbo frets over a reasonably tight 12” fingerboard arc means it will lend itself to going for a walk but the even roundness of the back of the neck, which almost reminded me of hanging onto a double bass for dear life, means it’s just as comfortable anchoring on one position for a while.
Tonally it’s everything you want out of a hollow-body bass. Warm as a campfire and smooth as silk, the Guild designed BiSonic Bass pickup manages to harness all of that without sacrificing anything for the sake of electrifying the acoustic quality of the build. At 6.4k ohms the Alnico2 is neither too hot nor cool as to colour the tone more than is absolutely necessary, but it does afford you the option of rolling off the tone pot from absolute clarity to velvety woof as desired.
Being a child of the 60s mind set, it is essential that a bass of this character is able to shake hands with its friends on the floor. The danger with open cavity builds is that they can be almost unusable at high gain/ volume as that notorious standing wave barges in and rains on the parade. I ran the Starfire through a Bogner La Grange (also reviewed in this issue) and far from ruining the fun it actually came to life. I’m not sure exactly what part of the build makes this possible but the bass played like an excited puppy as soon as I kicked on some dirt, revealing an effervescence and versatility that was a more than pleasant surprise.
It was an honour and a privilege to play the Guild Starfire bass. Everything about it screams quality craftsmanship and it is truly a descendant worthy of its lineage.
For more details on Guild Guitars, head to zenithmusic.com.
Hits and Misses
Modern tone in a classic package