Fans of the warm, round bass tones that powered many ’60s rock and psychedelic bands will find much to admire in this short-scale, semi-hollow 4-string.
Since setting up shop in early 1950s New York City, Guild Guitars has established itself as one of a handful of great, classic American guitar companies. Guild has seen its share of ownership swaps, direction changing, and relocations over the years, but the company has maintained its reputation amongst players as a manufacturer of solid instruments for the working musician. Attracting players from across the genre spectrum, Guild instruments have found go-to-axe status in the hands of luminaries from Mississippi John Hurt to Richie Havens to Kim Thayil, along with just too many others to mention.
While probably best known over the years for their acoustics, Guild has given us plenty of electric offerings too. And with the unveiling of the Newark St. Collection earlier this year, FMIC-owned Guild has brought back eight of their classic electric models from the ’50s and ’60s. One of them is the Starfire bass, a 4-string legend that first made its mark as the low-end-providing tool for bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and the Byrds. Here, we take this next-generation Starfire for a spin.
Crown of Creation
Opening up a new instrument’s case for the first time ranks up there pretty high on the scale of life’s pleasures. And popping the top of the Starfire’s deluxe TKL hardshell case didn’t disappoint by any stretch. This is an instrument that just oozes a classic vibe and begs to be held and played.
The modern-era, Korean-made Starfire bass almost looks like it was pulled out of a time capsule from 1965—the year Guild first introduced the bass version of their Starfire IV guitar. And like its ’65 inspiration, the Newark St. Starfire is a short-scale (30 3/4"), double-cutaway semi-hollow.
The slender 3-piece, U-shaped neck is constructed of mahogany and topped with a rosewood fretboard. Keeping true to its predecessor, the Starfire’s top, back, and sides are all constructed of laminated mahogany. Some of the other appointments that help feed the vintage vibe of the original include the rosewood tug bar and thumb rest, rosewood string saddles, ivory white binding for the neck and body, unbound f-holes, and the unmistakable Chesterfield inlay adorning the headstock.
Billed as “handbuilt,” the cherry red Starfire gave every initial indication that care and attention played a part in its construction. I didn’t come across any finish flaws, loose fitting hardware, or other red flags when first looking it over.
Powering the Starfire is a single, passive Bi-Sonic pickup that’s located in the bridge position. The pickup configurations of the original Starfire basses varied through the years but this solo Bi-Sonic setup in the bridge is true to the ’65 model. Also like the original, the two black control knobs for tone and volume each have position markers inset in the body next to their sides.
The original Starfires were intended to offer up an easy playing neck, and the vintage spec’d, skinny neck of this bass is no different. The fret dress was super clean and the neck felt fast and comfortable as I spent some quality time working the Starfire unplugged. And while doing so, I found this semi-hollow can resonate like there’s no tomorrow.
Once I stood up with the Starfire strapped on, it took the expected neck dive that’s typical of a semi-hollow bass. Getting used to the balancing act was a pretty quick process, however, given the Starfire’s light overall weight and short scale.
So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star I fired up the Starfire by plugging it into a Gallien-Krueger 800RB paired with a TC Electronic RS410 cab. I started out with the amp’s EQ flat to see what I could dial in using just the bass. Not surprisingly with a single passive pickup, the one tone knob didn’t provide much in the way of variation as I rolled it back and forth, so I just ended up leaving it dimed and relied on my amp’s EQ. With a press of the amp’s mid-contour switch, pushing up the treble to about 3 o’clock, and rolling the lo-mid knob down to 10 o’clock, I got to something I liked. And that was a woody, earthy tone with lots of warmth on hand, albeit not much punch.
I detected a markedly different response depending on my right-hand placement. For me, the angle and position of the thumb rest felt a little cramped when I anchored there, so I naturally gravitated toward my normal resting spot around or on the pickup. The tone was still totally usable here, but forcing myself to ignore muscle memory, I moved back toward the neck and rested on the rosewood bar again. This shift allowed me to pull a much fuller, rounder, and dynamic tone from the strings—so much so that it almost made my pickup-resting position sound thin in comparison.
Warm, old-school bass tone is what the Starfire is all about, and it certainly leans towards the lows and mids without a ton of brightness. I suspect this low/mid emphasis would be even more pronounced with a set of flatwounds, which would probably complement this 4-string nicely.
The Verdict With the reintroduction of this storied classic, Guild is no doubt going to make a number of bassists happy—especially those who have dreamed of adding a Starfire to their clan, but couldn’t muster the coin for a vintage model. That said, this bass will still set you back more than a grand. As much as I like the fact that Guild stayed so close to the original Starfire, I found myself thinking about the dual-pickup Starfire II and the benefits of having some more sonic options on hand.
The new incarnation of the Starfire bass is a nicely constructed instrument and it’s hard to find much fault with it. It won’t appeal to slap stylists, those looking for super-modern tones, or more aggressive players who might find the dual finger rests a nuisance. (They can be removed.) The Starfire, however, could become a go-to for many players because its rich, warm, mellow tones are more than fitting for R&B, jazz, and of course, rock ’n’ roll. This bass has a little bit of history there.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.