View Full Version : Guild Starfire IV vs Gibson's_____

08-23-2007, 11:27 AM
I've been thinking about buying my first electric (semi) hollowbody. I always thought I would buy a Gibson 335 or similar. Yesterday I stumbled across a Guild Starfire IV sunburst allegedly manufactured in Westerly RI just before Fender took over. It has the newer bridge and humbuckers with silver hardware. It is in mint condition--as new or like new with hardshell case for $1,499.00. I played it and the neck and action are excellent. The volume & tone pots and pu switch all work silently--no problem. The body is perfect, has a heavy solid feel and no rattles from loose wiring or anything in the body cavity. I've played a similar Starfire at another store that is crap--rattles, feels like cheap wood and the neck is lousy.

So, this one looks and plays terrific. Honestly, better than 2 Gibson semi's I've played before.

Here are my concerns. The amplified sound(s) just didn't rock my world. I thought it sounded kind of flat, sort of two dimentional when played clean. With OD/Dist, it was awsome. Great full thick OD tones more to my expectations. I had a difficult time dialing in loveable tone from the neck pup. Seems I only liked the middle and bridge positions, clean anyway.

So, I love the looks and feel of it, but felt disappointed with my first testing. I played through a Fender Twin Reissue then an older Mesa Nomad I think it was. Everything sounded better through the Mesa.

I would really appreciate your experience/knowledge/opinion of the Starfire vs Gibson or another similar (semi) hollowbody. I would like to know if the price seems about right for a mint Starfire w/case from Westerly just pre-Fender that plays and looks like a dream.

Lastly, for perspective, I come from a mostly acoustic guitar background (collection). My favorite acoustic is my Guild concert grand jumbo body 6 string. I have a Fender Tele, Brian Moore i9.13, Gibson Nighthawk, and a Gretsch Duo Jet w/ Filtertrons. I adore my Duo Jet's tones and often think I might get a hollowbody Gretsch. But, I don't want to become redundant in my ownership. Hence my original focus.

Could I fall in love w/ the Starfire once home through my own equipment and with more time to understand it? Is my first impression similar to yours? Do you think I really am wanting a hollowbody tone, not a semi-hollowbody tone?

Oh great mystic gurus of TGP, Enlighten Me!

Bob E. from CT

08-24-2007, 06:39 AM

mad dog
08-24-2007, 08:48 AM
Maybe you should bring your amp to the store and try. Then, if it's not rocking you, you probably have the wrong guitar. I play an old 335 and love the thing. I have picked up a few starfires ... found I much prefer the old Gibson HBs to the Guild Goldtones, at least in the semi-hollow style. A very different story in full hollow-bodies, where a Guild X175 is just about the perfect HB jazz type guitar to me.

There are other choices. I'd really like to get a hollow or semi-hollow P90 guitar. Then there's the Dearmond Starfire Special, semihollow with 2K pickups and one hell of a sound. Keep trying stuff. Not everything is going to work equally well for you.

08-24-2007, 09:08 AM
I owned a lovely Starfire-IV in the late 1990s (also Westerly-made). They're a fine variation on the 335 thing, certainly, and quite a value.

But it was you that played it, and only you can determine if a guitar calls you by your secret name. Would the store give you a chance to buy it and return it if it doesn't rock your world, through your amps?

I think the store is a bit adventurous in pricing it; I sold mine w/ OHSC for about $1100 five years ago.

Another one to look at in 335-land is the Heritage 535. I owned one of those as well; excellent workmanship, and a darker, more woody tone than the Guild SF-IV. Sold it in the $1100 range as well.

There are many great American-made alternatives to the ES-335. There are also some excellent imports from Korea that cop 90% of the feel and tone for about 30% of the money.

But in the end, you'll know when a guitar speaks to you. You'll know.


08-24-2007, 09:25 AM
I tried a Guild Starfire IV back in June, also one of the last made in Rhode Island (new old stock). It was very nice indeed. I play clean 90% of the time so I only tried it clean on a Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue, one of my favorite amps. I thought the sound was as good as a 335, just little bit different. It was a natural finish.

Then I tried a Gibson Memphis ES-335 Dot Reissue and liked it better. Playability was better, it felt more comfortable to me. The flame was much nicer.

In my case, the difference in price wasn't quite as much. I think it was a $500 difference. In the end, I figured buying the Gibson was worth it. I had always wanted a Gibson and I thought that the resale value on a real 335 would be much better than the Guild if I ever have to sell it. I have not regretted my choice.

Now, if I already had one or more Gibsons and could buy a Starfire IV for half the price of a 335, it could be a different story.

08-24-2007, 09:41 AM
I only have experience w/ the old stuff but I have a '66 Starfire V and a '67 335

Both are EXCELLENT examples

I play the Starfire more - at least in the studio

go figure...

I love old Guilds !!

smiert spionam
08-24-2007, 09:57 AM
Another fan of Guilds, though the semis have never seemed as distinctive as their archtops.

An in-between possibility that you might consider is the X-170 -- it's a slightly thicker archtop than a Starfire III, but with soundposts. Fatter and fuller than the double-cut semis, but holds together better than a full hollow. I don't own one, but would like to.

08-24-2007, 10:04 AM
Hey, Thanks for the posts guys! I've usually known right away when a guitar is "the one". With this it almost seem more that I want to love it vs. trying to not love it. The difference between me selecting a guitar for conscious reasons instead of when the guitar chooses me and it won't be denied. Wacky, eh?

Bob E. from CT

08-24-2007, 12:24 PM
I've flirted with buying a SF 4 or 5 for years. The 5 has a Bigsby.
A friend has three of them, uses them for gigs because his 335 is more prone to feedback (and more expensive).

I looked at the Gretsch Tennessee Rose as well and finally bought a Gibson Dot Reissue ES-335, never regretted it for a second.

I later bought a hollow Starfire 3 with a Bigsby and I love it, so I've been trolling for a SF 4/5 again....

Get a Rhode Island guitar (before 2001) if possible. I'm really not aware of any differences in build quality, but the Fender made ones will always lag in collector value. Used ones are plentiful, I see them on Ebay all the time.
That's where I got mine.
SF 4 tends to be a little higher priced than the 3, $1,400 is a little high.
If it's really nice, I don't mind paying a little more.

I also own a Guild Blues 90 (Les Paul style chambered body).
I sold my Guild DCE-3 acoustic a couple years ago to get a Taylor, still miss it.

08-24-2007, 01:23 PM
Yeah, that store is way high. If you are struggling to love the guitar, it won't get better if you buy,especially priced at the very top of the market. I just sold a beautiful old 1971 Starfire IV for 1300.00 and it was a great guitar, the playability of the guitar were as good as a Gibby, the construction and assembly a tad better, but the tone was not as good, IMO as the 335. Still very good, and excellent for raw powerful blues soloing. They are only good if you really love playing them, a bargain that isn't what you want is no bargain.

08-24-2007, 01:29 PM
I'd play a bunch, then go for what moves you, as has been said. Last time I went to the store, it was to buy a Gretsch, but it was the Heritage H535 Classic that I played as an afterthought that grabbed me. Was NOT expecting to walk out of there with a semihollow that day, but like the man said, when a guitar "calls you by your secret name," you answer.