My plan, originally, was to buy a Martin. I looked at several, over a period of a month, trying to decide which one I wanted. I was very near purchasing a nice D-45, although I was not entirely satisfied, (neither with the tone, nor the price) when the owner of the store brought out two Guilds that were not yet on display. One was a jumbo, and the other, this GF55. The jumbo was sweet, but had a little too much bottom-end for my taste. The GF55 was balanced just right. The owner of the store allowed me to take it home for three days and evaluate it at my leisure. Three days later ... I bought it.
I would definitely purchase this guitar again, if it were lost or stolen ... if it was possible to find this particular model. There were not many of them made before Fender/CBS bought the company. The guitar could be slightly better if it had an even faster, slimmer neck ... but that's all I might change. My favorite aspect of the guitar is the tone. The worst? This instrument doesn't really have a "worst" aspect. Perhaps the fretboard could be beveled a little more ... but that is a matter of taste. I'd love to have a matching 12-string, with a maple shell.
If you find one of these, in good condition ... buy it! Or tell me where it is, so I can buy it! I've had mine for 17 years, and wouldn't trade it, or sell it, even if I was starving. Some guitars you don't let go, not for love or money ... and this is one of them.
Model Year: 1991
Price: $1200.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Rucker's Music Center, Columbus GA.
It was made in the US. The back and sides are book-matched Indian rosewood, with a mosaic wood-stripe inlaid in the center of the back. The neck is three-piece mahogany. The top is AAA grade solid spruce with scalloped bracing. It is bound top and back with multiple white-, black-stripe ivoroid. The fretboard, bridge and bridge pins are ebony, with the pins having abalone inlay*. The fretboard is bound ebony with rectangular mother-of-pearl inlays with wedge abalone inserts. The headstock is bound domed style with Guild- and G-shield inlays. The finish is natural high-gloss. The tuners are 1930's-style Art Deco Grover Imperials*. The pickup is a passive Martin Thinline, installed under the bridge. The body style is a "traditional" Grand Concert. ... 16" across at the bout, with a 5" depth, and 1-11/16" at the nut. This is an inch smaller in width than the jumbo model, but wider than a dreadnought, and smaller across the waist. It's very similar to the JF55 available today ... without the abalone rosette around the sound hole. The nut is ivory (carved by a local luthier with access to some very old supplies), and the saddle is bone.
*Note: Originally the bridge pins were white plastic with black dots, and the tuners were standard gold Grovers.
The action on this guitar is fairly low. I had no difficulty adjusting the action to my preference ... it is set up for light phospher-bronze strings. (I prefer DR strings.) The neck is fairly fast, for an acoustic, and fits comfortably in my hand, even though I don't have large hands. I have only played one instrument I thought that was comparable, a HD-28LSV Martin, which cost nearly twice as much. (Updated note -2008: I did recently play an old Martin D-41 that was superior, but for $4000.00, that was just too rich for my blood!)
I have two amps I like to use, a Fender Princeton Chorus, and a reissue of a '59 Bassman. I use these together, with a Fishman Pro-EQ for added boost along the line since the Martin Pickup is passive. For stage work, I stuff the guitar with sound-dampening foam (foam rubber), and use a feedback suppressor, because the guitar is particularly sensitive to A440 when near a bass guitar. The sound is similar to playing two Les Pauls, at the same time, with acoustic overtones ... very rich, and powerful. It sounds very good when playing southern rock, blues, and country. I have received many compliments on the unique tone, and from other musicians about how well the guitar blends with electric instruments, such as a Stratocaster. I think it to be an equally good instrument, for stage or studio work. (The guitar also sounds terrific when used just for acoustic playing!)
It is more than reliable for steady, live playing. The guitar stays in tune ... and always sounds good, no matter what the venue. The truss rod has only been adjusted once ... the guitar came set up from the factory ready for slightly heavier strings than I prefer. The intonation is so close to perfect for an acoustic that I still marvel over it. The original tuners were fine ... but I wanted to replace them with heavier Grover Imperials, partially for looks, and partially because some of the fancier Artist models came with these kinds of tuners and I really liked them.
I have played the instrument in different climates with no ill effects ... but I have been careful, and never under adverse conditions.
(Update: I recently (*2008) had the frets dressed and leveled, and that's the first work done to this instrument in many years.)