In late 1995, I was looking for a hollow body archtop with clean acoustic and electric jazz sound for use in church. I looked at quite a few solid, semi-solid and hollow body archtops before finding this guitar, used, in near mint condition consigned at my favorite luthier's at a really outstanding price. The new price was about $1850 in 1994. Even though it has a solid body electric shape (I was looking for an archtop), I bought this one because it can produce a clean jazz sound ranging from acoustic to humbuckers, and also produce various acoustic and electric blues, fusion and rock sounds. Also, its price was very attractive. I don't have any other instrument that can produce the range of sound that this one can. According to the Guild plant foreman in 1996 (Fender owned Guild by 1996) they made only two runs of this instrument, less than 40 total, and sold less than 30 of them in 1994, the only year Guild made them. According to Guild, the highest and last serial number was FA000097. They were serially numbered, so there are no more than 97 of these even if the foreman's recollection of the quantity is inaccurate. This one is FA000033. Guild has very little documentation on this guitar, but I have an original brochure and I am doing a circuit diagram of the electronics in mine for them. Kent Sonenberg, formerly of Thoroughbred Music and now operating Legends Music (www.legendsmusic.com), recalled the original retail sale of this one when I asked him in 1996. I was hesitant to buy this guitar when I did because I was looking for an archtop. Now that I have it, I'm sure glad I bought it when I did. Although I play mostly classical and acoustic, it's a definite keeper. As my studies take me into more acoustic and flat pick accompaniment, it will get increasing use along with my flattop and the archtop I ordered. In my opinion, Guild gets consistently under-appreciated for its designs and quality. If anything ever happened to it I don't know how I would replace it. I would definitely try to find another one. However, it is completely unique and because so few were made, it would be difficult or impossible to replace. Count yourself amongst the very fortunate few if you own or ever get the chance to buy one of these.
Where Obtained: Ports Music, Tampa, FL
This is a 22 fret 6 string double-cutaway acoustic/electric made by Guild in Rhode Island in 1994 while Guild was owned by US Music. It is not the same as or even similar to the Slash endorsed Guild Crossroads dual neck and body combination 6/12 string acoustic/electric. It has all solid woods, mahogany back and sides, select maple top. Back and sides are one carved piece. Guild called the body semi-hollow, but it has no center block and is completely hollow inside with x-bracing. The top, back and sides are heavier than an acoustic or archtop hollow body. Overall body shape, appearance (except bridge), size and weight is that of a solid body electric. The neck is bolt-on 3-piece maple with a heavy rosewood fretboard. Headstock set is 15 degrees and has Guild's typical wide rectangular acoustic shape with concave sides and domed top. Tuners are chrome Grover Rotomatics. The neck meets the body between the 16th and 17th frets with a small upper cut-away and a lower cut-away to the 21st fret. The bridge is rosewood and constructed exactly like an acoustic flattop bridge complete with bone saddle and bridge pins. It has electric and piezo acoustic pickups both active and powered by one 9v battery accessable through a back plate. They comprise an EMG 89 humbucker/single coil at the neck and a Fishman AG-125 piezo under-the-saddle acoustic in the bridge. Each has its own volume control. The electric volume pushes and pulls to select the humbucker or the single coil in the EMG 89. The acoustic volume control is a remotely mounted pot from an internally mounted Fishman AGP-2 preamp. Fishman designed the AGP-2 for side mounting with its attached controls in the top upper shoulder or bout of an acoustic. Instead, Guild hid it inside on a back plate. The AGP-2's treble and bass controls are still functional and attached to it, hidden under the plate. I don't know why Guild didn't remotely mount these on the body top, like they did with its volume control. A master tone control sits next to the volume controls in a straight line on the top near the bottom lower bout and a 3 position toggle above the upper cutaway selects either pickup alone or combines the two. The control knobs are knurled chrome cylinders with the combined electric volume/coil switching push-pull knob knurled heavier than the others. The finish is wood-grain red on the body and natural on the neck and headstock back and sides. The headstock face is black with the underlined GUILD and large G logo inlaid. The inlay is very irridescent and pearly with a wide range of color. The truss rod cover plate is black plastic and has a white CROSSROADS engraved into it. The binding is 5 piece hand-set cream/black on the body top and headstock. The neck has no binding, but is beautifully finished rosewood with edge dot inlays on the edge of the fretboard. The fretboard face has small dot position inlays. It has no (and never did have) a pickguard. The overall appearance of the wood, colors, inlays, binding and hardware is balanced and stunning. I wish all guitars looked this nice.
The action is set to the low side (where I want it) and is adjustable via the nut, bridge saddle and truss rod. The fretboard has a 16" radius and 1-5/8" nut and the scale length is 25-1/2". It feels very much like an acoustic neck, such as the one on my Gibson Dove flattop, except the action is a little lower and strings lighter. Since I predominately play a Gibson Dove acoustic flattop and a Hirade H-15 classical, this acoustic/jazz like feel is great and does not disorient me. The controls are conveniently placed in a single horizontal line near the bottom lower bout with the pickup switch conveniently in the body cusp above the upper cutaway. The combined electric volume/coil switching push-pull knob conveniently has heavier knurling than the other two to help with the push-pull grip and identify it by feel. It has no pickguard, so it is not designed for violent or heavy, deep strumming or picking that is likely to put the pick into contact with the top. It plays as well as any guitar I have ever played and better than most. I am definitely spoiled by my other guitars and this one spoils me right along with them.
The person under whom I study (Michael Florio) and I have tried this guitar with a Roland Jazz Chorus. I have heard it through a Trace Elliot when I was buying it. I heard it through the neighbor's Marshall stack when he wanted to see it. I will probably keep to using it through a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus for now because the Jazz Chorus handles all of its sound range well. Maybe I will try a tube type jazz amp and Roland's Acoustic Chorus sometime in the future. It is best suited for acoustic/electric or electric jazz, blues and fusion or for an "unplugged" finger-picking or flat-picking sound. It truely excels at clean sound and the EMG 89 can make a good blues crunch if you want. It's not made for hard rock or metal, although one can get it to sound pretty close to a Strat or Les Paul with the right electric/acoustic pickup mix and tone settings. Because the body is hollow, and it has an acoustic pickup, it has more potential for feedback than solid body electrics. One would need to take some feedback control measures if one wanted to play really loud rock on this guitar. The controls allow one to vary the sound from almost pure acoustic to neck-humbucker to neck-single-coil electric with all variations and mixes in between. Selecting the single coil and playing with the mixes can get it to sound more like a rock guitar. I will not be giving up my Gibson Dove or Hirade H-15 and I have a Heritage Johnny Smith on order to get the large jazz box sound. I don't play hard rock, punk or metal at this point, so I don't need to get any rock, distortion or overdrive sounds from it. If I needed that sound, I could probably get it from this guitar, but it is not its primary design. If I primarily played jazz, blues and fusion with some acoustic, and wanted a really versatile guitar, this guitar would be ideal. I would not consider changing anything except the tone control treble rolloff. I might decrease its capacitance or increase its resistance to put its range a little brighter.
Everything about this guitar's construction and parts speaks quality. Guild put really good wood, Grover tuners, and EMG and Fishman pickups and electronics into it. They weren't trying to cut corners anywhere. It is built well enough and uses all the right stuff for steady live playing. The person who consigned it was a local jazz/blues musician who used it live regularly. He reluctantly consigned it to get another guitar he needed at the time. It rarely needs adjustments to anything. The local indoor climate varies from humid to dry seasonally. It needs only the standard twice a year look at the neck and truss rod. I tweaked it once a couple of years ago and may tweak it again this year. I completely overhauled the set-up on this one and replaced its piezo pickup and bridge saddle when I got it. Someone had unevenly carved on the bottom of the saddle and gouged the foil from the piezo. Fixing that was easy and it has never needed attention since. The knobs, pots and switches and tuners are heavy stuff and should out-last me. My children and grandchildren can look forward to using this guitar.