Guild''s latest Jumbo 12-string lives up to the company''s F-512

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.

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Open Chords
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Soft Riff
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Heavier Riff
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Riff
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 high expectations.

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 for atmosphere.”

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.
Buy if...
you want a top-notch 12-string for recording or live work.
Skip if...
you need a cheaper alternative or jumbos are too big for your style.
Rating...


Street $2600 - Guild - guildguitars.com

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