Guild D-50 Standard Review
A top-shelf dread’ built for dueling with a D-28 offers appealing tone alternatives.
Balanced voice. Cool interplay between low and low-mid registers. Nice attention to detail.
Loud but lacks a little push in bass frequencies. “Vintage gloss” finish looks more satin than gloss.
Guild D-50 Standard
Selling a USA-built rosewood-and-spruce in the vicinity of $3K is cruel, nasty business. Gibson and Taylor both make enticing, attractive options in the form of the Hummingbird Studio Rosewood, Songwriter Standard, and Grand Pacific models. And anyone who dares get tangled in this cage match must face off with the most legendary rosewood-and-spruce dreadnought of all, the Martin D-28. Guild has always had a seat at this table thanks to the D-50 and D-55. Both models moved in and out of the lineup as Guild changed hands over the last few decades. Now, with Cordoba at the controls, the D-50 Standard is back in the fold.
With few exceptions, Guild D-50s and fancier D-55s have always sounded and felt distinctive to me. Like any guitar, they can vary from specimen to specimen. But the best ones have left me with vivid memories: piano-like volume, balanced and booming bass, dry, focused, harp-like midrange, and, paradoxically, guitars built tough as Victorian mansions that ring like bells. Many of these virtues are present in the new D-50. And though they don’t always show up in knock-you-over-the-noggin fashion, there is a balance and cohesion in the D-50’s tone profile that is appealing. It certainly feels like a foundation for a satisfying, long-term relationship, and offers real tone alternatives to the canonical sound of a D-28.
I’m guessing a fair number of readers stopped dead at the sight of the D-50 photo here, because burst finishes on a big dreadnought body are super beautiful. The D-50’s prevailingly dark and amber burst is very J-45-like, which is a pretty great look to emulate. But while I’m probably in the minority, I would have loved to see the guitar in the orange-y burst I associate with Guild tops from the ’50s and ’60s,. (You can also buy the D-50 Standard with a natural finish.) Guild calls the finish used on the D-50 Standard “vintage gloss—a nitro finish which suggests gloss that’s been worn down after decades of use. To me, it looks and feels more satin than gloss, but it has a pleasing, warm glow. D-50 Standards from as recently as Guild’s New Hartford years did have a gloss finish, and you now need to leap to the fancier, more-expensive D-55 if you want gloss on a USA-built Guild dread’. That might be a bummer for some folks, but it makes the new D-50 Standards more competitively priced in a tricky market.
”The way the bassiest fundamentals and overtones intertwine with those in the low midrange gives the slighter frequencies more room to breathe.“
At the detail-level, the D-50’s construction quality rivals that of Taylor and Martin, which both tend to make near-flawless if not on-the-mark perfect instruments. The neck shape, which Guild calls a C profile, feels a little squarer at the shoulders than the D-28 I’m most intimately acquainted with, and a bit thicker than the J-45 I’m accustomed to playing, but it’s still highly playable and many guitarists will prefer the more substantial feel. It bears mentioning, too, that this D-50 Standard feels pretty light for a dreadnought. Compared to some of Guild’s hefty early ’70s D-50s, this new Standard is as light as a snowflake.
Shout and Shimmer
If you measure your dread’s worth in boom alone, the new D-50 Standard might come up short against some dreadnought standard bearers. But if the new Standard lacks a little something in pure volume and bottom-end mass, it also can sound balanced and piano-like. The way the bassiest fundamentals and overtones intertwine with those in the low midrange gives the slighter frequencies more room to breathe. This sweet interrelationship between low end and adjacent midrange spectra gives a lot of undulating overtone warmth and life to big chords in open tunings (particularly when ever-so-slightly out-of-tune strings throb against each other). It also makes the D-50 sound and feel like a killer rootsy, rock ‘n’ roll strumming machine. In the audio clip that accompanies this review, I recorded a simple, flatpicked, Stones-y sort of rhythm part, captured with a humble SM57, that I then mixed against a loud, bratty Telecaster. There’s a million ways to mix these two instruments together. But I loved the way I could push the Guild’s voice into bossy but articulate zones and emphasize it with a little preamp push and tape-style compression. Some big flattops will turn to mush in these mix images. Not so the D-50, which manages to sparkle and swing with muscle. If you play in a rootsy or garage-y rock ensemble or just love the way Keith Richards’ dreadnoughts sound on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, the D-50 could be a star. And while it may sound soft compared to some dreads, it is by no means timid. The D-50 Standard is responsive to a light touch as well, thanks in part, perhaps, to the scalloped top bracing and the very vocal way you can move between loud and soft. Feathered strumming also highlights the D-50’s excellent dynamic range.
Guild’s newest version of the stalwart D-50 Standard carves out a unique sonic space for a dread’. The low end is restrained, but meshes beautifully with the guitar’s rich, lively midrange. While it doesn’t pack the dynamite of some dreadnoughts, like the D-28, its slightly softer but still substantial voice is even, easy to record, and makes the D-50 a fantastic rhythm machine among other things. That combination could be a winning one for the right player—even in a field of top-flight title contenders.