Follow along while I give this guitar the full review treatment right down to the wiring inside this big ol’ hollow box o’ jazz.
Around 1964 or so, the catalog started showing the same old picture of the Franz-equippend X175, but now with an overlay showing that the guitar included Anti-Hum pickups, Guilds first foray into the world of humbuckers. Those Anti-Hum pickups would remain in the guitar (along with most of the electric guitars in Guild’s lineup) until about 1971 when the catalog starts saying that the X175 Manhattan comes with Guild’s new humbucking pickups, likely referring to the large HB1s that were to be the Guild standard offering for many years.
The catalog states that the X175 was available in either sunburst as shown in the catalog, or blonde which is obviously the finish seen on the guitar being reviewed here. Finally, the catalog states that Taj Mahal has one in his collection, to which I thought, “Who the hell is Taj Mahal?”, perhaps cementing the fact that I’m not a jazz aficionado. After figuring that out, I spent some time trying to find a picture of him with his Guild X175 but was unable to do so.
I do not have a 1983 price list, but in the March 1981 price list, the X175 is listed for $1075 with an additional $122.50 for a flannel line case and $142.50 for a plush lined case.
The X175 is more of a working-man’s jazz guitar in that it doesn’t have the fancy v-block inlays or magnificent wood grain of the X500s. The X500s also have gold-played hardware and the beautifully ornate harp tailpiece. The lack of those features doesn’t make this a lesser guitar in my book, though one could argue that the higher models probably used better wood. I could counter-argue that the wood is largely laminate on all of these models and so what you get with the X500s is mostly bragging rights. The X500s did have ebony fretboards where the X175 is rosewood, so the differences are not just flash, but if ever there was a guitar that wanted to prove itself the equal of its well-dressed brethren, this X175 is it.
If you ever wondered if I was as detail oriented, obsessive, and compulsive in real life as I am with these reviews, well I suppose there’s your answer.
If you read my review of my 1985 Guild D46, then you may recall my complaints about the case that had an odd sort of fabric strip that seems intended to keep the case top from over-extending and ruining the hinges. Well this guitar, being from the same era, seems to have the same awful design along with the similarly often inclusion of the locking briefcase latch commonly seen in the ’70s and ’80s.
My gut tells me this guitar is finished in poly. It’s from 1983 and doesn’t have a single lacquer check on it and that makes me suspicious. Plus, the guitar does not really glow under UV light. While all of the late-70s Guild electric guitars I’ve owned have been clearly finished in lacquer, in the early-mid ’80s many Guild electric guitars were coated in poly as clearly seen by the wear pattern on guitars I’ve reviewed like the X79-3 Skyhawk, and the S284 Aviators. While those guitars had a much thicker, candy-like coating on them, this X175 does not give that same impression which leads me to state that the finish doesn’t really matter, at least on this guitar.
Fretboard and Neck
The neck measures a solid 1 5/8″ at the nut, and while I generally prefer wider necks, when it comes to 1 5/8″ fretboards, the depth makes all the difference to me, and since this guitar is .79″ deep at the nut I find the guitar to be quite comfortable while playing. I used to have a Starfire IV that was .73″ at the nut and it was just awful for me. It amazes me how much of a palpable difference .06″ can make.
The headstock shows the Guild logo with the Chesterfield inlay unlike the higher-end X500 and X700 models that sport the G-shield logo.
This guitar has a three-piece neck but I’ve seen ’70s models like this one with a five-piece neck. The neck seems rock solid to me and I’ve not had to adjust it at all. The neck wood is not flamed like it is on the higher-end models like the X500 and X700s, but again that’s part of this guitar’s personality being a working man’s jazz instrument.
The neck joint is rock solid and of typical Westerly Guild quality, and the attention to detail in every facet of the build is as I’d expect from such a guitar. Though not a fancy guitar, I’d expect a US-made guitar of this quality to probably only come from a US custom shop these days, which says more about the state of US guitar manufacturing these days *cough* Gibson *cough* than it does about Guild in the ’80s.
The guitar is a hollow-body design and weighs a surprising 8 lbs 12 oz (3.97 kilos) but instead of giving the impression of being overly heavy, the guitar gives the impression of being a tough well-built instrument. The reasons for the weight are partly due to the guitars depth and partly because of the sound block.
The tone pots are 200k, and note that I didn’t write 250k because they are, in fact, 200k. This is fairly common on Guild guitars, though the model and year can change what you might see, but if you’re used to modern Strats and such, don’t assume that there should be 250k pots in here, though to be fair the difference when considering tolerance may be slight.
This guitar has the selector switch on the bottom bout where there is also a very Guild-like master volume knob that is smaller than the main control knobs. This master volume is nothing more than a 500k pot in-line just after the toggle switch and before the output jack.
All of the internal wiring is very well routed and wrapped up tightly using electrical tape. Tracing the wires can be a challenge because like all ’70s Guilds that I’ve seen, all of the wires are non-descript grey, but patience and a multimeter can be your friend if you find yourself needing to repair one of these guitars.
The strap pegs are generic and are in the proper spots for my tastes, being on the center of the bottom and on the upper bout right near, but not actually on, the neck heel.
One of the few things I dislike on vintage Guild hollow-bodies is the pick guard, which sits on top of the pickup rings and thus gets in my way when playing. I love the look of the stairstep guard, and I especially love that there’s no obnoxious logo on it, bit in theory that should be less of a problem on a guitar like this where (again, in theory) I’m not playing as aggressively as I might on a solid body guitar.
I loved the sound of the neck pickup with flat-wound strings, so naturally I did what any aging ’80s rocker would do and put round-wounds on. That’s when I discovered that I kind of disliked the sound of the neck pickup with round-wound strings. The bridge pickup is a rock monster, and to be totally fair I didn’t really dislike the tone from the neck pickup, but I will admit that it sounded much nicer with the flat-wounds. Options are a good thing, and knowing that the guitar can work well with either setup is a big plus in my book.
For each recording I cycle through the neck pickup, both pickups, and finally the bridge pickup. All knobs on the guitar are on 10 at all times. Sadly, this is one of those guitars where no matter what I recorded I just didn’t feel as if I was doing the instrument justice. Sure, I could make it rock, and I could make it sing… in a rock song, and I could certainly appreciate what the guitar was trying to deliver, but the guitar responds so well that I just felt inadequate with it in my hands. That being the case, the guitar does inspire me to try and learn more Jazz in a way that some of the other jazz-oriented guitars I’ve owned didn’t. It’s really a wonderful instrument.
This is a big instrument and it plays like a big acoustic guitar, so if you have trouble with those you’ll have trouble with these. Seated, the guitar requires you to wrap your arm around it to get to the strings, but with proper posture and position it shouldn’t be a problem unless the guitar is simply too large for you.
This guitar weighs almost nine pounds, so it can drag you down if played standing, just like a nine-pound Les Paul can feel like a ball and chain around your neck on a long gig. The difference here is that the weight is a little more distributed than it is on a solid-body guitar, but the fact remains that this is no light-weight acoustic.
Aside from the weight, my only complaints are the pick guard which sits over the pickup rings and sometimes gets in my way, and the 1 5/8″ wide neck at the nut, but those are both things that I adapt to pretty easily since I have so many vintage Guilds that have the same design aspects.
The strap pegs are where you would expect them to be if you’ve ever played an electric guitar, and the body of the guitar has enough mass so that it is not neck-heavy while standing. In the end, this guitar is a blast to play because it sounds divine, plays great, and looks great in the process.
I bought this guitar mostly because I was curious about the model and because this one became available. Since I’m a sucker for a pretty Guild and the price was right, I snatched it up thinking that I’d review it and then sell it. The problem is, it’s too good to sell, and that’s from the guy who sold his two X500s from the same era! Somehow, and I’m still not entirely sure why, this guitar works better for me than those X500s did.
This guitar’s got everything you probably want in a jazz box with the possible deviations from perfection being the laminate construction. If you’re OK with the dual pickup design, then the only way to get a solid top from Guild is with the pricey X700, so this model differs from the X500s mostly in the lack of luxury appointments and the ebony fretboard.
If you’re looking for a jazz-oriented guitar and you don’t want to pay the price for a Guild Benedetto, but you’d also like to own an American guitar from one of the world’s premier guitar makers, find yourself a Westerly Guild X175 because I’m here to tell you that this guitar is an absolute monster in every way.