The Big Review: Guild Surfliner – A Goofy Guitar For Modern Players |

The Big Review: Guild Surfliner – A Goofy Guitar For Modern Players |

For the first time in nearly four decades, Guild Guitars has developed an all-new electric model. The Surfliner represents a leap into the 21st century for Guild, thanks to its size-offset design and modern interpretations of retro-futuristic switching, drawing on the American brand’s esteemed heritage of solid and semi-hollow guitars. past.

This heritage comes in many forms, though you’d be forgiven if the name mostly reminds you of acoustic and semi-hollow instruments. Guild was also building esoteric solid bodies such as the S-200 T-Bird – used by Muddy Waters and more recently Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys – as early as the mid-1960s. This design, along with the S-100 Polara type SG, seems to have influenced the thinking behind the Surfliner.

This Indonesian-made guitar features an asymmetrical poplar body with what Guild calls the “staggered call” and a trio of pickups: two newly designed DeArmond Aerosonics in the neck and middle positions, plus a humbucker LB-1 – with a footprint that puts it close to mini-humbucker status – at the bridge. Guild says these are a recreation of vintage Guild buckers from the 60s; all three pickups feature Alnico V magnets and nickel covers.

Elsewhere we find a tune-o-matic bridge and, rather than the usual stopper tailpiece, offset ferrules for a through-body configuration that echoes the more angular Polara and Guild S-300.

guild surfer

There’s a satin C-shaped all-maple neck, which isn’t the thinnest but feels perfectly comfortable in the hand. Our review model has noticeable flaws on the third and fourth frets, but they in no way hamper performance or affect our ability to play chords. The look is completed with an oversized headstock design inspired by the company’s Jetstar model that features vintage-style six-line tuners and an understated cursive logo that dates back to the 1980s.

Rounding out the specs we have the rocker switch system, featuring three satisfying tactile plastic switches. Their inclusion here acts as a neat gateway to the sometimes alienating world of offset switching: they may be above the neck pickup but there is no “rhythm” circuitry, and the main tone and volume controls by the output jack are quite familiar. These switches are simply toggled on/off for each individual mic, giving you access to seven configurations in total: three singles, three pairings, and all at once.

guild surfer

While all of these get-togethers are both friendly and inspiring, we think the use of the word “surf” in the guitar’s name is a bit misleading. You might notice the offset size and think it’s just right, but the 25.5-inch scale length and hardtail bridge push this instrument a bit outside of the comfort zone of your standard surf-twanger. Mind you, Tommy Tedesco from The Wrecking Crew spent the majority of his sessions with the Beach Boys et al on a standard Telecaster, and you don’t get more hardtail than that…

guild surfer


While it’s comfortable to play in a seated position thanks to its streamlined body, the Surfliner shows a slight dip in the neck, which could be due to its large headstock size. But it is reasonably light, don’t worry if your back would collapse after long rehearsal or performance.

Plugging in a 1968 Selmer Treble & Bass 50 through a Fender FR-1000 reverb tank—as is our custom with any surfer-looking guitar—and engaging the single-coil neck, we encounter a crisp, smooth sound that has some noticeable hit in the low end. It’s perfect for rhythmic passages and even jazz progressions, and responds well to a few extra growls from the amp. Pair that with the middle pickup and you’re in very Californian territory, enjoying all the spanking you’d expect from an S-Type but without the added high-end zing.

guild surfer

But the LB-1 humbucker is the standout candidate of the trio: in isolation, it has an airy nature that reminds us of hollow-body guitars, and that provides the perfect tonic when paired with one or both Aerosonics. . On previous guilds we’ve found the LB-1 to be a bit anemic, but not here. All three pickups are well balanced, and with the number of combinations on board it’s hard to think how you could need more from a guitar, especially when recording – although an extra tone knob would have been beneficial.

This is a well-thought-out instrument straight out of the box, but while its versatility is indeed impressive – three pickups in seven configurations are nothing to sniff at – we can’t help but feel that the addition of A tremolo system would improve its usability even further…although of course it would surely drive the price remarkably low.

Still, it’s always heartening to see seemingly dyed-in-the-wool makers push themselves and develop compelling guitars that feel contemporary while honoring their past.

Main characteristics

  • THE PRICE £395 (including bag)
  • THE DESCRIPTION Double cutaway offset size solidbody electric guitar, made in Indonesia
  • TO BUILD Contoured poplar body, bolt-on maple neck with 10-inch-radius maple fingerboard, 23 medium jumbo frets and composite nut
  • MATERIAL Tune-o-matic bridge, string-thru-body, vintage-style tuners
  • ELECTRIC 2x DeArmond Aerosonic middle and neck pickups, 1x Guild LB-1 bridge pickup, 3x master pickup, tone and volume switches
  • LADDER LENGTH 25.5″/648mm
  • NECK WIDTH 43mm at nut, 51mm at 12th fret
  • COLLAR DEPTH 22mm at 1st fret, 24mm at 12th fret
  • STRING SPACING 35.5mm at nut, 52.5mm at bridge
  • LESTER 3.3kg/7.2lbs
  • FINISHES Sunset Orange (as revised), Catalina Blue, White Sage

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