Unfortunately there isn’t a catalog that I can show you because Guild hasn’t distributed a catalog this year, possibly due to the whole Covid-19 mess. As a catalog junkie that makes me sad, but such is life here in the future.
The X175 Manhattan model is one of the earliest Guild electric guitars and appears in the 1954 catalog as shown here. Back then the guitar was a bit different with its master volume and tone, it’s Franz pickups, and very ’50s-looking knobs, not to mention the obviously different M175 moniker. The guitar would evolve a bit as time went on, but the basic shape of the instrument with its Venetian cutaway would remain basically unchanged over the years, and you can see the clear similarity in the shape of this guitar to the one in the catalog from 66 years ago.
The X175 (or really any Guild) doesn’t seem to show up in the catalogs with DeArmond pickups, but according to The Guild Guitar Book by Hans Moust, the DeArmond 2000 pickups were outfitted on the Starfire line starting in 1961 and became available on other hollowbody models soon thereafter. Indeed, there are many excellent photographs of beautiful vintage Guilds with DeArmond 2000 pickups in that book, but I have been unable to find any with the iconic pickups in an X175. That in no way means that none exist, but rather just that my ability to find one exceeded my attention span. You can read more about the history of the X175 model in this review of my 1983 X175.
Historical accuracy has never been a requirement in Newark St. Guilds, and so the appearance of reissued DeArmond pickups (more on that later) should not in any way be considered a problem for this beautiful blue guitar. In fact, I think these pickups are a perfect fit on this model, especially when you consider the color scheme which is clearly blue, white, and black. More on that later, too.
I’ve seen people ask if this guitar is similar to the old US-made X160 Rockabilly, and looking at the pictures it’s easy to see why people might think that, so let’s look at the differences:
- US Made (Westerly and Corona)
- DeArmond 2000 or 2K pickups (depending on year)
- Flame maple top, back, and sides
- Mahogany 3-piece neck
- Finish in Tennessee Orange, Metallic Blue, Black, and Fiesta Red
- 16 ¾” lower bout (Westerly)
- 15 7/8″ lower bout (Corona)
- 3 ½” depth (Westerly)
- 3″ depth (Corona)
- Master Volume/Tone
- Rocking Bigsby bridge (not shown on this one)
- Impossible to replace stair-step pick guard
Newark St. X175 Manhattan Special
- Made in Korea
- Korean copy of 2000s era DeArmond 2k pickup (not the original 1950s model)
- Spruce top
- Mahogany with maple center strip
- Only comes in satin Malibu Blue
- 17″ lower bout
- 3″ depth
- Individual Volume/Tone controls
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
- Standard Newark St. hollow-body pick guard
Additionally the X160 Rockabilly has better tuners, better electronics, better hardware, a more robust finish, and a very different feel and sound due to the construction of the guitar. They also sell in the $2000 USD range used and are very hard to come by, so for right now this is probably as close as you’re likely to get in a new Guild. It is also in no way being sold as a replacement for the X160 Rockabilly; I just figured I’d address the question since I’ve seen so many, and honestly – I totally get why!
Then again, the Guild Newark St. A150 looks like it shares the same superstructure, too. Maybe some enterprising person at Guild found a clever way to refinish white guitars that had failed QC in such a way as to make them even better than the originals! That’s definitely the kind of thing that happens in large production lines whether it be guitars or restaurants, so that’s not a knock on Guild at all. I just like to try and figure out how things work which, as it turns out, I have not accomplished in the slightest.
This guitar comes with a Guild Deluxe Wood Case case, and I have to say that the case is pretty nice! It’s also enormous to properly protect the deep-bodied X175 Manhattan. It doesn’t hurt the overall aesthetic of the guitar when you open the case and see the beautiful blue instrument nestled into the nice blue lining of the case, either.
Aside from the a cool new Guild badge on the case there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it, but I felt the need to mention that it seems robust enough to last a while.
The finish is gorgeous, but I worry that it won’t hold up well to abuse. In order to explain why, let me first reveal an important detail about this specific guitar with the caveat that I could be completely wrong.
Indeed, looking at the previous photo of the screw holes for the pickups, it looks like there is a white undercoat evident there as well. I think this is a clever way to get the bound f-hole look of a high-end guitar without the skill and labor necessary to accomplish such an upgrade, but given the finish’s possible proclivity for flaking, I fear that the f-holes may end up with some ugly wear patterns over time. Again I need to point out that this is pure speculation and the only place I found issues was where screw holes had been drilled through the finish.
I should point out that aside from the screw holes, I have not had a problem with the finish. My concern is that I might, but until a year’s worth of data comes in from people gigging with these things, the jury is, and will remain, out for the duration. The guitar’s finish is freaking beautiful and I absolutely love the way it looks. It is my fervent hope that the guitar remains freaking beautiful forever.
Fretboard and Neck
The specs say that this guitar has a Vintage Soft “U” shape, but I just don’t feel that which is why it says “C” in my notes. That’s not to say that the specs are wrong by any means, but for me a U-shaped neck has definite shoulders and I just don’t feel them on this guitar, so let’s just agree that I’m a cantankerous old fool and move on.
The frets measure .09″ wide by .06″ high making them narrow jumbos. I like the frets but I can see why people used to vintage wide and flat frets might not. To those people I advise that you learn to play with a lighter touch and then you won’t pull the strings out of tune on guitars with higher frets. Hey, if I did it then so can you. The fretwork is very nice and so consistent that I have to imagine that it was done on a machine. If not, then good job to the fret dresser!
The inlays are very nice with a lot of character, with a very pearlescent look which really works quite well on this guitar, again because of the color scheme.
The width at the nut is a solid 1 11/16″ and the neck is .83″ deep at the first fret, making this a very comfortable neck in my large hands. The fretboard radius is 9.5″ which matches the bridge perfectly.
The body is bound on the front and back and the black/white binding looks fabulous, again adding to the black/blue/white color scheme that looks so great.
My guitar weighs in at exactly 7.0 pounds (3.18 kg) so it weighs a bit less than my 1994 X170 (that has a sound post) and a full pound or even two pounds lighter than the vintage X500s I reviewed. The top is spruce and there are two braces that run lengthwise from the neck block to the end block just on the outside of the pickup route which is pretty standard for a fully hollow-bodied guitar.
As a “Westerly Guilds are Best!” snob, the juvenile petty part of my brain desperately wanted to find something to complain about in the build quality, but I just don’t see anything to sound the alarm about. This is a well-made guitar that rocks the house and has a little bit of blue paint inside. Stand down from Red Alert.
These are Korean copies of earlier copies of the authentic DeArmond 2000 pickups made in the 1950s. Why aren’t they Dynasonics? Because Dynasonic was a Gretsch marketing name for their version of the DeArmond 2000. Dynasonic is not a DeArmond name, and when I see the word Dynasonic I expect to see black covers because Gretsch DeArmond 2000s had black covers while Guild DeArmond 2000s had white.
If you’d like a detailed read about the history of Guild and its reissued DeArmond pickups, check out my article on the subject entitled, Identifying DeArmond 200, 2000, and 2K Pickups which I will likely update with information about these pickups.
Now let’s look at this image showing three DeArmond pickups. From top to bottom they are, a Guild reissue DeArmond 2000 from the early 2000s, a Guild reissue DeArmond 2K from the 1990s, and finally an original DeArmond 2000 from the 1950s. Looking at the pickup from this Newark St. Guild, it’s quite obvious that this is a remake of the top one which is the DeArmond 2000 from the early 2000s which is already a remake of the original DeArmond 2000 from the 1950s! Confused by all the stupid names? I can’t imagine why. The closest match is to the top one which was made in the early 2000s, and not to the original vintage one on the bottom which was made in the 1950s. That may not be such a bad thing, though.
While a remake of the originals would have been very cool, of the two Remakes that Guild used in the 1990s and 2000s, the one from the 2000s sounds and behaves more like the original while the 2K from the 1990s sounds and behaves more like a Gibson P90 pickup. These DeArmond 2000 pickups from the early 2000s (yes, I know that’s confusing) are what’s in my X160 Rockabilly, and it does OK, though if I had to complain about the pickups in this Newark St. X175 Manhattan Special, I’d say they’re missing some of the [pick from list: balls, grunt, oomph, hutzpah, magic, mojo] that the originals seem to have. From what I’ve read others felt the same way about the X160 Rockabilly which may add credence to the idea that these pickups are copies of those 2000s from the 2000s.
None of that makes these bad pickups, but I felt the need (as I often do) to set the record straight after reading the authentic DeArmond Dynasonic neck and bridge pickups nonsense. Hell, I could argue that these “authentic” DeArmond pickups are copies of copies of copies of the originals, but I won’t. For now.
The controls for the guitar are the 1-9 knobs commonly seen on Newark St. Guilds, but the cool thing is that the guitar uses the little metal marker studs that are probably nothing more than escutcheon pins. I love these markers because they add a subtle bit of elegance and make the guitar feel like a Guild.
At any rate, I have no complaints with the electronics, especially after working with the mess that I found in that Starfire I SC. Oh wait – I almost forgot about the black wire!
On this guitar there is no way to get to the output jack for replacement. I have to assume that the electronics were added before the guitar was completely assembled, but that doesn’t seem right since it was clearly finished with the top on (see previous overspray picture). It could be that it was wired up and then too much excess was removed when the tailpiece was installed. I don’t know, but it’s one of those things that no one would care about until the output jack needs to be replaced.
To be fair, the black wire could likely be removed by removing the tailpiece, pulling the jack and ground wire out, threading a longer new ground wire in, and then reassembling it all. To be doubly fair, this may well not be an issue with this model but with all the Newark St. hollow-body guitars. Looking back at my own notes, I did not pull the harness for my Newark St. Starfire III or X175B (no doubt due to being smarter than I am now), so this could just be an odd part of the Guild design for these guitars.
I may be dense (may be?) but I just noticed that the Guild logo on the Guildsby is different than it used to be. Not only does it now include the Registered Trademark symbol (®), but the font is a bit thinner and, I don’t know… sexier? Maybe? Also I may not have been sleeping well… At any rate, here’s a Westerly Guildsby from my X160 Rockabilly to compare it to.
[Writer takes a short break]
On top of the wooden base sits the Tune-O-Matic bridge which works well enough and was properly intonated from the factory. It is also the same radius as the fretboard which is nice, but I’m not a fan of Tune-O-Matics on Bigsby-equipped guitars, so I’ll likely replace it with a Compton at some point.
The pick guard is the same ugly generic guard from all the other Guild hollow-bodies, and clearly that shows my own personal disdain for the design as there’s nothing functionally wrong with it. I know they’re supposed to invoke the vintage Guilds from the early 1960s or late 1950s, but I think those are ugly, too. Really, though, there’s nothing wrong with the pick guard from a functionality standpoint unless you count the fact that the little spacer under the screw seems to be a bit of plastic tubing and not the felt washer or spacer found on vintage guitars, but that’s the norm on Newark St. Guilds from what I’ve seen.
I’ve seen a fair number of people asking how these compare to Gretsch Electromatics, and while it’s been a while since I’ve played an Electromatic, I always found them kind of dead sounding when compared with the Japanese (61xx) Gretsches. I don’t get that impression from this guitar, and while it certainly doesn’t ring out acoustically like an X500 or X700, unless you’ve played a high-end American made Guild you’d never notice the difference. I think if I saw one of these in a guitar store and plugged it into a nice amp I’d probably end up taking it home. Hell I bought this one because OMG BLUE! so I’m an easy mark to begin with.
I went to great lengths to point out the differences between this guitar and my Westerly X160 Rockabilly guitar, but honestly that’s the guitar that this guitar reminds me of most. Looking at my notes for that guitar I have almost the same comments about this one from the bridge pickup sounding a bit brash to the middle position being absolute magic.
Remember, those are single coil pickups in the guitar, so the middle position is more like the in-between 2+4 positions in a Strat or like the middle position in a Telecaster in that it has much more character to my ears than the middle position in a dual-humbucker guitar.
While I spent probably 80% of my play time with the guitar in that middle position, The bridge and necks positions were absolutely a joy as well. While the bridge pickup can be a bit “bitey”, or harsh, that’s easily dialed out or even taken advantage of if you throw some gain into the mix. The Sleepwalk intro recording was played on the bridge position. The neck pickup is wonderful and round-sounding without getting woofy.
Honestly, as an absolute boutique pickup snob who’s paid more than he’d care to admit for a pair of pickups, I was kind of blown away that these Korean copies of a copy of the original real DeArmond 2000s could sound this good.
Oh, and if you like to see and hear someone who actually knows how to play some Rockabilly on one of these guitars, check out Walter Broes rocking one at The Guitar Bar on YouTube.
When standing, I almost immediately found that I didn’t like the position of the pickup selector switch because I couldn’t see it over the girth of the guitar (my own girth notwithstanding). While sitting I had the same problem, and felt like I was reaching around feeling for the selector switch that I couldn’t see. While I have to assume that eventually muscle memory would take over with enough practice, I must also comment that I have many Starfire and X500 guitars with the switch in this position and it never seemed to bother me before. Then again, we are now at week #473 of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown and I may have eaten more than I’ve exercised by a ratio of probably ∞:0 (Yay Jello!), so girth may be the problem after all.
It’s pretty common for me to take the pick guards off of my guitars because I don’t like the way they thump under my fingers and I can usually play just fine without them, but on this guitar I actually much preferred the guard on. I don’t know if it’s the carve of the top or the neck angle or what, but this is one of the few guitars I own where I actively disliked playing it with the guard off.
Aside from the impact of my recently opulent diet, the guitar responds like a dream and I just enjoy the hell out of playing it when I can fit in some play time between snacks.
Let’s sum up the possible negatives:
- The ground wire is too short: Really, nobody cares. This can be resolved by removing the tailpiece and running a new wire if the output jack ever needs to be replaced, and how often does that really happen?
- The finish might not be as robust as other guitars: we won’t really know if that’s a problem until we see these guitars in use for a year or more. To be fair the only place I saw issues was in screw holes, and those are terribly abusive to the finish anyway.
Now let’s list the positives:
- It looks amazing
- It plays great
- It sounds divine
- I liked it so much I added a bonus no-pick-guard pic
If I were to swap any hardware it would be the tuners (which is mostly a “me” problem) and the bridge because a Bigsby deserves a better bridge. Would I swap the pickups? Maybe if I had a pair of originals lying around or felt like buying a set of TV Jones. Would I also be perfectly happy with the guitar as-is? Yeah, I think I would, especially about 20 minutes after Jello Time®.
I’m going to flat out say that this guitar kicks ass. It’s rare for me to have an import guitar end up in my “keep it” pile, but this one absolutely did. Even my 20 year old daughter who thinks that f-holes “look stupid” loves this guitar, and let me tell you, that is some high praise!
I had an X175B that I reviewed back in 2016 and I liked it, but it didn’t really inspire me so I sold it. This guitar is more fun and I am amused at my own impressions because they’re pretty much the same damn guitars, only this one has DeArmond pickups and a killer satin blue finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed this guitar and I have a feeling that you will too.