The S-60 is the entry-level into the Guild electric guitars of the era and if you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I have a thing for high-end Guilds, but as you’ll read I have a soft spot for these guitars as well. Let’s take a look and see if this 1977 Guild S-60 holds up to my fond memories.
The S-60 was the entry level model of these guitars and if you look at the one in this review you’ll see that it has a number of differences from the S-300 including the most obvious fact that the S-60 has only one pickup.
One-pickup guitars are sort of an anomaly in the world of rock music because most of them were designed to be entry-level or beginner guitars, much like the S-60 itself. Consider the Gibson Les Paul Junior. With its non-bound fretboard, single P90 pickup and utterly simple operation, it was basically a Les Paul stripped down to its bare necessities. The reason I call them anomolies is because the low-cost beginner level guitars make some of the most iconic hard-rock sounds in the history of the genre. They are absolute tone monsters in a simple inexpensive package and have been favored by some of the most popular rock bands in history. So it is with the S-60, you know, except for the part about being favored by famous people.
Some of the parts are the same, though. The Guild HB-1 pickup is the same model used in the S-300, as is the bridge and tailpiece. The build quality of the guitar (covered later) is also at the same level as the pricier S-300. It plays damn-near as well, too! It doesn’t have things like fancy phase switches or high-end headstock laminates, but you know what? Headstock laminates don’t make guitars sound better.
Just as I have a soft spot for Guild S-300s, I have thing for these lower-prices S-60s, too, because my first nice guitar was a sunburst S-60 that I bought from a friend back around 1979. That guitar is the reason I love Guilds. It is also the reason that I lusted for years after the beautiful Guild S300A-D hanging in Mikes’ Music that I finally bought and kept as my only instrument for over 20 years. The Guild S-60, though, was my first.
That first S-60 came in a terrible chipboard case that more or less protected the guitar from something, I guess. Man, how I hated that case, but it did the job for years until I gave the guitar to my cousin. The chipboard case was another means of keeping the price of the guitar down, and it worked because it was probably worth about twelve dollars, though to be fair, those were twelve 1977 dollars and not the recession-riddled psuedobucks of today.
That original Guild S-60 served me well, and it was my main guitar through much of high school and was the guitar on which I learned the seminal rock song of the time: Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull. One of my favorite memories (aside from the great overdriven tape deck distortion via coily cord one illustrated here) comes from my days in the high school stage band. Allow me to digress.
There were two jazz bands in high school. The first, called the Jazz Band, was for the kids who could do things like read music. The kids who couldn’t make the Jazz Band but who sill wanted to play ended up in the Stage Band, and of course that’s where I ended up. It was the Jazz Band for losers, and I was their lead guitar king.
Yes, my mother was a saint.
At any rate, one day for Stage Band practice I pulled one of those columns out of the back seat of my 1969 Ford Torino and proceeded to haul it into the band room, hook it up to the head, and plug in the Big Muff Pi. I then sat down, and when the conductor gave the queue I blew away not only the solo to Caroline And Her Magic Cello Enter The World Of Jazz Rock, but also all of the sheet music from all of the music stands in the room. Hey, it’s not like any of us could read those charts, anyway. I’m sure I’m a legend to this day, though I still doubt the veracity of the comment given me by a Jazz Band judge some time later that year who told me that, “You have a good feel for the Rock idiom.”, which I always assumed meant, “please stop playing jazz.”
What can I say? This is simply not a jazz guitar. That’s why I was stuck in the stage band; I blamed the guitar instead of practicing more. Hey, why practice when you can just buy more speakers? Did I mention how loud it was?
I found this guitar on eBay with some less than stellar pictures and a description that included the following: “The color is a stained red, wood grain can be seen through the stain.” Um… what? Did someone strip this guitar and then stain it red? I’ve seen some wacky things in my day, but this guitar looked like it might be original, and since the S-60 originally came in cherry, black, walnut, natural, or white, I took a chance that this was the original cherry finish. Score! The guitar was much better than expected. Let that be a lesson to all you eBayers out there: Take good pictures and describe the guitar well! This guitar would have likely sold for hundreds more with better pics and an accurate description.
This guitar does have a bit of what looks like finish cracks at the nut which runs for a fret or two and follows the fretboard. I didn’t even notice this while playing it, and they only became obvious after very close examination. Examination with a UV light shows no signs of repair, though it does show a bit of wear that’s not obvious in regular light. This is a forty year old entry-level guitar after all, so it can be forgiven the odd wrinkle.
Fretboard and Neck
The neck’s width at the nut is 1 21/32 which is halfway between 1 5/8″ and 1 11/16″. The neck is actually *just* a bit wider on this guitar that it is on my S300 but it’s not something anyone would notice unless they’re as nutty about neck widths as me. The neck is one-piece maple 24 3/4″ scale and came to me as straight as could be. It is also a 24-fret neck just like all the S-series from this era, so there are lots of notes to be had way up high if you dare.
After my fingers hurt I turned up the light again and measured once more with my magnifier and I have to say that this guitar has a 7.25″ fretboard. This is the first Guild electric I’ve measured with such a curved board, and since the prevailing Internet wisdom is that a rounder board will fret out when bending strings, I had a hard time believing it. That’s when I remembered that a well set-up guitar will not fret out, and this guitar is set up remarkably well.
The guitar is amazingly resonant, the neck joint is beautiful (just like my S300), and the fretwork is very nice with no rough spots or snags anywhere to be found.
One of the things I dislike about the Strats I’ve played is that the pickguard feels hollow to me and that makes the guitar feel cheep. I have an American Deluxe Strat from 2008 that feels like this and for the $1200 I paid for it back then, it’s really a very disappointing experience every time I play it. With the large pickguard on the Guild S-60, I was a bit worried that I would have the same experience, but there is nothing like that going on with this guitar. That could be due to the roughly 384 (16) screws holding that pickguard onto the guitar or it could be the fact that there is no additional routes under the guard. Either way, I love the way it feels.
Why anyone would replace the chimey articulate Guild HB-1 with the most generic of “I wish I was a real PAF” Gibson wannabe pickups is beyond me, but the original pickups is back where it belongs. Thank you to whoever decided to keep the original in the case. People like me really appreciate stuff like that.
The HB-1 in this guitar measures 6.76k Ω which is nicely in the low-wind range but a bit lower than I’m used to seeing in a bridge HB-1. Since there is only one pickup, the guitar nerd part of my brain is doing all sorts of machinations insisting that the guitar should sound better because there’s no neck pickup pulling on the strings. Is it true? I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I know is that this guitar rocks. Notice how I didn’t say that this guitar jazzes? That’s the lack of practice talking. Hang on while I make it louder…
Since everything is mounted to the pick guard it’s very easy to examine the components, which of course I did with gusto. The tone pot is marked 004029 3047441 and measures 179k Ω making it a 200k Ω pot (pots are generally sourced with +/- 20% accuracy.
The volume pot is marked 004020 3047149 and measures 458k Ω making it a 500k Ω pot. The capacitor is a green polyester film cap marked as 100v and .047pF. Again, note the conspicuous lack of giant snake oil super-caps in Guild electric guitars.
There is no shielding in the cavity of this guitar which is another difference from the high-end S300 which had its control cavity completely shielded in copper. My guess is that this to reduce costs for an entry-level instrument, though maybe the beginner would complain about buzzing and want to step up to a nice 300! I’ve seen marketing do stranger things, but in this case I’ll follow Occam’s lead and believe the simpler answer.
The strap pegs are typical of this era Guilds and the end strap peg is like the one on my S300 and M75 in that it is press-fitted into the guitar. This one appears to be quite snug, but in the low humidity winters of NJ it wouldn’t surprise me to have it pop out like all the others I’ve owned.
That actually brings up a point I’ve made before, which is the fact that during the ’70s damn-near everything in the US was declining in quality, but even this, the lowest end of the Guild electric line circa 1977, exudes quality in almost every way. Yes, the tuners are a weak spot, but the guitar is still great. In fact, the rest of the guitar is so well made that it makes the tuners seem worse than they probably are.
Later examples did include the iconic G-shield knobs, but the early S-60s had these sort of Fenderish knobs while the early S-300s actually came with odd-looking knobs as well. I think it was around 1979 that they both changed to the G-shield knobs, but don’t quote me on that as I have absolutely zero proof other than the fact that I owned a ’79 S300A-D that had the newer knobs.
As I recorded the sound samples I noticed a lack of oomph while trying to push a high-gain amp which may be why the previous owner swapped out the pickup for something more substantial (The Classic ’57 I removed measured at 8.5k Ω). I like my bridge HB-1s to be very close to the strings and this helped a great deal, but this guitar doesn’t quite have… something… that my S300 has. I felt like I had to work a little harder to get this guitar to sing whereas my S-300 makes that absolutely effortless.
A very observant member (Zelja) of the Let’s Talk Guild forum noticed that the bridge pickup seemed to be closer to the bridge on the S-300 than it is on the S-60, so I pulled them both out and measured. I found that the S-60’s pickup is indeed 1/3″ farther from the bridge than it is on the S-300 which could have a fair bit to do with the difference in tone and feel between the two guitars.
Since this guitar has no switches, I did something a little bit different. For this guitar I recorded each selection with the tone set to 10, then 7, then 0. I chose 7 as the middle because the majority of the tone change happens between 5-10 so 7 is the real middle of the sweep. This test reminded me why I rarely use the tone knobs on my guitars. I love the tone on ten, I’m more or less ambivalent about the tone on seven, and I flat out dislike the tone on zero.
I’ll be honest and say that while I like the tone, I’m not wowed by it though an overdriven amp, but I do like it a lot when played through a clean amp. The chimey nature of the HB-1 really shines through on the Tiny Tweed and the same is true when I play it through my clone home-built tweed Champ. When I try and push an amp, though, the guitar seems to fight me a bit and the effortless sustain I’m used to from my S300 seems to be lacking. That could be due to the lower mass in this guitar or maybe because the pickup has lower output. I’m not really sure, but I think this particular guitar may be more suited to clean or edge-of-breakup tones instead of the higher-gain stuff.
Remember, this is the lowest resistance I’ve ever measured on an HB-1, so that could have a lot to do with it. This is also the lightest of the similar type Guilds I’ve played, so that could also have an impact. Hell, the two factors together could be the reason for the lack of power.
Remember, too, that I’m being super critical as a guy who’s owned scores of Guilds and has meticulously analyzed all of them. This is not a boutique instrument. Like I wrote above: this is not a guitar for measuring. It’s a guitar for playing, and it does that well because it’s still a tremendously well-made instrument.
This guitar is a pound lighter than my S300, so it’s more comfortable to play for long periods. The shape, while odd looking to some, is actually really well designed for standing or sitting and with it’s long neck and thin body is just a joy to play. With it’s very curved fretboard there is no fatigue while playing and with its excellent setup there is no fretting out.
With its single pickup there’s plenty of room for me to abuse the strings without hitting anything I shouldn’t, and with a lack of controls to get in the way, I can wail on this thing like nobody’s business, which I do. A lot.
I like this guitar, and though it’s not the equal of the high-end S300, it wasn’t meant to be. To be honest, there is a fair bit of nostalgia in these models for me, but the fact remains that they are still great guitars. They are also very simple guitars and that can have a charm of its own. There’s no high-end bling to distract you from the fact that you should probably practice more.
My only real complaint is the tuners. I really don’t like them and I remember not liking them as a teen who barely knew any better. I even like the simple headstock with its lack of veneer or sexy inlays because it matches the color of the body. The guitar is simple, honest, and delivers, though depending on your musical style you might want a pickup with more output. For me, the jangly character of the HB-1 is everything I need in a guitar and while I won’t be using this one for my George Lynch impressions (he was the guitarist for the hair-band Dokken for those not obsessed with the genre), it definitely has its place where less power and more character is the order of the day.
The only problem I see in buying one of these is that too many people want too much money for them. In 2017 I bought a mint Guild S-300 for $1000. If an S-300 is $1000, then an S-60 shouldn’t be $1200 – I don’t care how good it looks or what condition it’s in.