I bought this guitar used on LTG along with a Newark Street (NS) X-175B, which I will review in another post. I’ve discovered that these import Guilds absolutely crush the competition in the same price range. Let’s see why.
Fretboard and Neck
The fretboard and inlay quality isn’t what I’d call high-end, but with some bore oil the rosewood darkened a bit. The edges of the inlays looks a bit rough, but the big deal to me is that I can’t feel those edges when I’m playing, so they don’t bother me at all. Remember, for me this is a $500 guitar, and in a $500 guitar I’ll take playability over cosmetics every time.
I discern no problems with the build of this guitar. None. The binding is perfect, there are no raised frets, the finish is perfect, the screws are all flush, the electronics work, the logos are straight, and all the mechanical parts work as advertised. This is a lot of guitar for the money.
The pickups sound great tone-wise. They’re surprisingly articulate which is a big deal for me. Usually when I pick up an electric guitar I play it unplugged for an hour or so, then plug it in at which point I often decide within seconds to replace the pickups and/or electronics. I did not get that feeling with this guitar, and let me tell you, that’s a big deal.
I should point out that I’ve played guitar since the ’70s, and as such I’ve played some stellar and some truly awful instruments. I am well acquainted with both excellent and crappy pickups, and when I say “fizz”, I don’t mean the kind of sound we used to get from terribly made import instruments from the ’70s. I mean the pickups sound great, but there’s a little bit of fizz.
I’m not sure what’s causing it, either. It could be the electronics, it could be something inherit to the pickups like different wire, different metal, etc., or it just may be the fact that after all, these are not vintage HB1s.
The electronics are comprised of four pots stamped “Made in Korea JSE 2013”. I find it amusing that there are multiple pieces of shrink-wrap tubing on the wires, of which only one has actually been shrink-wrapped. I thought maybe they were just being used as insulation, but they would work better if they had had some heat applied to them, not to mention the fact that some of them are not covering any bare metal.
The soldering is typical of modern import guitars and is functional without being elegant.
Even though the pickups have circuit boards which allows easy soldering on them like the original HB1s, the electronics cavity contains quick-release connectors for each pickup. This is fantastic for swapping out pickups, assuming you get replacements with the same connectors. I recently bought a replacement reissue HB1, and it did not have this connector on it. Still, it’s easier to wire on a connector than it is to solder a potentiometer.
I dislike the yellow plastic switch. I’ll likely replace it with a chrome one. This is purely a cosmetic preference.
I don’t like the goofy Guild logo on the pick guard. I dislike logos anywhere except on the headstock, so feel free to consider that another one of my personal quirks.
A quick word is in order about the case. The case is rectangular, and seems sturdy enough, but the latches are very loose. I do not feel confident that the latches will keep the case closed, so if possible when buying one of these, see if you can check out the latches to make sure they close securely.
My daughter is a huge Green Day fan, and she was pumping out Green Day riffs left and right, and they sounded *good*! She’s also a fan of Rocky Horror, so we had to play some of that. The problem is that not only did she fall in love with the guitar, but she also fell in love with my Axe-FX! Now she wants me to build her a Marshall clone. That’s my girl.
We cranked up the gain and played some Muse riffs and they sounded spot-on. With a nice drop-D this guitar makes that absolutely filthy sound that we were chasing. Naturally, that led to some SoundGarden of dubious riff quality.
My only complaint with the pickups is that they have a bit of “fizziness” to them that I can’t seem to dial out. I don’t really hear it in the recordings, so it may very well be in my head.
Naturally, there was a fair amount of just noodling around both on the neck and bridge pickups, followed by some mangling of a favorite song from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
And yes, I’m aware that all of the sound samples are using distortion. That’s what this guitar gets used for in my house, so that’s how I recorded it.
Playability is superb. The guitar has a nice low action, a nice modern neck width, and a nice neck depth that isn’t a baseball bat and isn’t shredder-thin either. My Gibson SG with P90s was a great guitar, but the neck was like a tree trunk.
I actually like a beefy neck, but the Guild NS S100 is just right. Of course, that means different things to different people, but for me not being at either extreme makes the guitar very easy to play.
This guitar has a retail price of over $1000, though I often see them in the $800 range. I scored this one used for $500. In my opinion, for $500 this guitar is an absolute steal.
I’ve been playing for a very long time (since 1979), and I’ve played a lot of truly terrible $500 guitars. Many modern import guitars in the sub-$1000 range, though fully functional, feel lifeless and dull to me. This guitar does not give me that feeling. In fact, I’ve spent far too much time playing with this guitar since it arrived, which surprised me because I never expected to like it.
At $1000+, I would opt to get a vintage Westerly-made Guild S100 because as good as this guitar is, it just can’t compare to the real thing. But that Westerly S100 will probably set you back $1200. I got this Newark Street Guild for $500, and I feel like I stole it.
Is it worth $800 new? In my opinion, the answer is, “Hell yes!”