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more... GearAmpsGear HistoryAugust 2010Guild

Guild Amps of the 1950s

Early Double-Twins featured a nine-tube complement powered by 50L6s, as well as two 12” Jensen P12P Concert-series drivers and two switchable Jensen 4” tweeters.

The ultra-clean Model 200 Double-Twin shown in this article dates from late 1955 and belongs to collector and historian Lynn Wheelwright. It’s on display at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California, through 2010. The amp seems to be all original, which gives us a neat look at the type of components Guild used in their Masteramps. The speakers are Jensen P12P C5 775s, which feature an alnico 5 permanent magnet and were cutting edge hi-fi technology at the time. Guild, like Gibson, used home hi-fi as the benchmark for sound and quality, which explains the use of two Jensen P3VH C5 628 tweeters. In addition to the standard controls noted above, the Double-Twin has a Standby/On/Tweeter rotary knob. Connected to a ganged pair of potentiometers, this control allows for operation with or without the tweeters. Also in the tweeter circuit are two 1.0 μf capacitors that serve as a crossover, in effect allowing high-end signals to be sent only to the tweeters.

Riding out the 1958 Recession
These first-series Masteramps were made at Guild’s factory on New York’s Lower East Side. Rumors persist that Multivox, which was located nearby, made Guild amps, but this is most likely untrue. Hans Moust, author of the excellent Guild Guitar Book (Hal Leonard, 1999), states that former Guild employees remembered amplifiers being built at both the original New York City factory as well as at the subsequent facility in Hoboken, New Jersey, using components supplied in part by Ampeg. This does not completely eliminate Multivox from the picture, however. If Guild used Ampeg components in New Jersey, it is entirely possible that they used Multivox components while based in Manhattan.

From 1955 to 1958, Guild’s guitar and amp lines remained almost identical from year to year. The 1958 Guild catalog shows the same line of amplifiers as the previous three years, all still with the same covering and the small Masteramp logo just under the company logo. Masteramps hadn’t set the industry on fire (no 50L6 pun intended), but they remained a valuable part of the Guild business. As mentioned previously, the one-two sale of an electric guitar and amplifier was new for the ’50s and something that dealers demanded.

Going into 1958, the US guitar industry felt the effects of a severe economic downturn. The Recession of 1958 would prove to be the worst such event between World War II and 1970. Auto sales fell 31% from their 1957 levels, and unemployment in Detroit reached 20%. Consumer prices rose 2.7% and continued to rise through the end of 1959. Regardless, American industry forged on with bigger, bolder, and wilder designs in everything from household appliances to automobiles and electric guitars.

As such, the dichotomy of 1950s exuberance and the stark economic conditions of the day were reflected in the 1959 Guild catalog. The number of electric guitars being offered nearly doubled, and new additions were made to the archtop and flattop acoustic lines. A new amplifier— the new 100-J—was added to the original three. The 100-J was similar to the 99-J (model names began incorporating “J” over the intervening years), with the exception of having an extra tube, five additional watts, and a 15" Jensen speaker. The Masteramp brand was gone, and all amps were simply referred to by the Guild brand name. The catalog describes the look as a “Light Brown ‘tweed’ with a Dark Brown fabric covering on a ¾" hard plywood lock joint cabinet.” Grille cloth was a white swirl pattern on dark cloth, similar to Ampeg amps of the time. The speaker opening was trapezoidal, a design theme that would appear again in future Guild amps. By and large, the guts of the amps were the same as they had been since 50L6 circuits had been abandoned.

The real shocker in the ’59 catalog was the price. The ’58 recession had clearly made its impression on the Guild business. The 66-J, the smallest amp of the Guild line—which had held steady at $145—was listed at an eyebrow-raising $210. That’s an increase of more than 40%! The other amps in the Guild line also jumped in price, with the 200-D Double-Twin (note the name morphing) topping out at $395—that’s a $3000 amp in today’s dollars. Considering the competition, a Guild amp at a premium price had little chance on the market.

The Double-Twin Goes Stereo

In late 1959, the 200-D Double-Twin became the 200-S. This new variation was a dual-amplifier stereo model similar in theory to the Gibson GA-79. Each amp had a separate control stack with Volume, Bass, and Treble controls. Channel 1 also featured tremolo. The amps could be run separately, with signals coming out of each speaker, or the guitarist could use the stereo jack that drove signals to both amps. The 200-S did not appear in the 1959 Guild catalog, although there are 1959 versions of the 200-S. These units are covered completely in tweed, with a tweed-covered vertical bar bisecting the rectangular speaker opening. In 1960, Guild revamped its amp line yet again. The catalog describes “scuff-proof Blue-Grey vinyl,” but the 200-S cabinet was the same as 1959 versions except for the new covering. Interestingly, the 200-S carried a list price of $350—$45 less than the previous year’s model. This may have reflected an improvement in economic conditions or, more likely, may have signaled an attempt to attract more dealers and buyers with a more affordable offering.

Throughout the 1960s, Guild would struggle with low amp sales. As the company attempted to capitalize on the massive boom in demand for electric guitars and amps, it moved further and further from its roots in acoustic guitar making and invested more in the largely unrelated market of low-priced electric instruments. Ultimately, the company would be sold to a much larger—and equally unrelated—corporate parent, which would eventually culminate in the complete dissolution of Guild’s electric lines.

For more information on Guild and its amplifiers, read Guild Guitars by Hans Moust and Guitar Stories Vol. 2 by Michael Wright.
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