When one thinks about buying an acoustic jumbo 12-string,
only a few brands spring to mind. Guild is undoubtedly one
of them. The company has a long production heritage dating
back to 1953. Their first 12-strings, the F-212 and F-312,
debuted in 1964, and the first F-512s were introduced in
1968. Well, here we are in 2010 and they are still building
the same basic instrument, the F-512 Jumbo 12-string. I
recently took a factory-fresh model for a spin and was able
to hear what modern can do when it meets up with classic.
It was a Christmas-morning-type moment when my review
model arrived in its plush hardshell case. As a long-time
Guild player with several nice ones in my collection
(including a 12-string JF4-12), I had some idea of what I
was getting into. These jumbo 12-strings are known for
their big, thick sound, and they have a nice balance of
highs, mids, and bottom. I was curious if the new Guild
factory in New Hartford, Connecticut, was putting out
instruments that would meet, and hopefully beat, my
The Features Rundown
Picking it up, I was first struck by the solid
feel and weight of the guitar. This is not a
small, frail instrument. With its 17" wide x 21"
long by 4.8" deep construction, it projects an
attitude before a single note is played. Laid
out more ornately than my JF4-12, it features
nice abalone inlays—blocks in the neck and
the classic Guild shield on the ebony-capped
headstock—and gold-plated, open-back
Gotoh tuners. The beautiful grain of the AAA
Sitka spruce top is clearly visible, and the
faux-tortoiseshell pickguard leads the eye to
the solid rosewood back and sides.
The neck, body, and headstock feature
multi-laminate white purfling, and both the
saddle and 1 13/16" nut are made of bone.
The neck also uses a three-piece design
that sandwiches a piece of walnut between
two pieces of mahogany, and its rosewood
fretboard features a 12"-radius and 20
frets. The 25-5/8"-scale F-512 also has a
dual-action truss rod with graphite neck
reinforcements, and the internal bracing is
rendered in scalloped red spruce. Combine
all that with its high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer
finish, and it’s clear this is a carefully
crafted instrument. The model I received
had a natural finish, but an antique burst is
also available for an extra $50.
Damn Good in DADGAD
Since I play acoustics in DADGAD, I gave
the F-512 a quick tuning and hit the first
open chord. “Damn!” was literally the first
word out of my mouth. It sounded fantastic,
and I also admired the setup job as I moved
up the neck. Twelve-strings are notorious
for having bridges that lift up due to the
constant tension, so I’ve grown used to relatively
high action on them. But this guitar
was like butter, and I could easily fret even
complex chords up to the highest reaches of
the neck. The intonation was spot on, and
the frets were smooth and polished.
Comparing the sound of the new F-512
side by side with my old JF4-12, I found
that the F-512 had a deeper, rounder sound
with noticeably more volume. It has a more
focused, direct attack on the notes, which
almost didn’t make sense to me for a brand
new instrument. I was amazed how settled
and broken-in it sounded right out of the
box, and others who heard it felt the same
way. When I recorded some TV cues with
fellow guitarist Scott Moore, we both had
similar emotions about the instrument. “I
hadn’t played it yet, but I couldn’t help
but notice some of the bling,” said Moore.
“There are some real boutique cosmetic
touches, like the gorgeous inlays and bindings,
and that signature Guild bridge in
matte rosewood against the spruce top.
Then I put on the headphones and started
playing. Wow, it was really balanced, with
a luscious and warm low end. Despite the
guitar being brand new, it sounded like it
had opened up considerably already. We
wound up letting the 12-string do most of
the work—we only added a distant lap steel
When you can hit a full open chord and hear
it resonate inside for well over 15 seconds,
it’s a testament to the quality of an instrument.
That’s what happened with this guitar.
The playability and action were so smooth
that I even took it to my guitar tech, Rob
DiStefano at Fret Tech, to look at so he
could take note of its setup and apply it to
all my acoustic guitars.
The Final Mojo
This Guild F-512 Jumbo is undoubtedly the
easiest-playing 12-string I’ve ever come across. It projected with a huge, deep tone that shined through even when I was playing fingerstyle.
Bravo to the production crew and craftsmen who made this fine instrument. If I could
find a weak spot, it’s only the cost. With a street price of $2600, it’s not cheap. However, this
is not a cheap instrument in any way—it’s a superior, living, breathing guitar.
you want a top-notch 12-string
for recording or live work.
you need a cheaper alternative or
jumbos are too big for your style.