Anyone into vintage (60s - 80s) Guild Starfires

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by gitarzilla, May 31, 2005.

  1. gitarzilla

    gitarzilla Member

    Sep 8, 2002
    In the garage, fixing stuff my kids broke
    I've played a few here and there along the way, and there's no doubt about their quality, etc., but I haven't played one in a while. I recently played a Starfire VI that really blew me away with its fat warm bridge pickup tone -- pretty sure it was original, not rewound, etc. I was always under the impression that they were lower output and thinner/brighter sounding.

    Anyone here really into vintage Starfires? ANyone ever taken dcr readings on the pickups? Anyone know about any chronic "issues" with those guitars? Anyone know about any Guild Forums or appreciation pages?
  2. Lex Luthier

    Lex Luthier Member

    Jan 21, 2004
    3rd stone from the sun
    I had a mid 60's Starfire III, excellent guitar.
  3. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2005
    Boston, MA
    I've currently got a '66 Starfire V, with Bigsby. Owned several over the years, this one is probably the nicest; it's got a medium chunky neck very reminiscent of a '63 or so ES-335.

    The humbuckers on these measure 5.8k-6.0k; similar to a Firebird mini-hummer. They sound a little fuller than mini-hummers, but not quite as "snarly". I really like the clean tones; on the neck pickup, with a little roll-off, my guitar gets a great archtop style jazz tone. Interestingly, I've seen some people use these pickups retrofit into high end archtops.

    I like Starfires; they're well built, quality materials, reliable. My only reservation is that they just seem a bit "clunky" next to their Gibson brothers.

  4. 57special

    57special Member

    Jun 7, 2003
    I've forgotten the exact year, but sometime in the late 60's the SF IV's turned into SF 4''s, and more importantly, the pups went from the little ones mentioned above that give an instant "Ya really got me" sound to full sized HB's more similiar to a Gibson PAF type. Later in the 70's they went to a stop tailpiece also, distancing it even further from early SF IV's. I sold my 65 red SF IV to fund my 59 ES335, and i regret it to this day, as it was a 'special " guitar, and sounded very different from a Gibson 335.
    The later SF4's with the full humbuckers are very nice guitars, arguably better, but don't have the character of the old ones, IMO. Those mid 60's one have this very cool out of phase type sound in the middle position.
  5. george4908

    george4908 Member

    Jan 6, 2002
    Bethesda, MD
    Starfires are nice guitars, but like 335s, they vary and you may have to play a few to find the right one. Guild's pickups are a little brighter than Gibson's, but still warm. Most Starfires are maple, some are mahogany and the weight can vary quite a bit; some are real boat anchors. Build quality is generally more consistent than Gibson. What to look for: the binding on many older Guilds dries and shrinks, pulling it away from the body; not an easy fix. Also, neck carves have varied over the years, some have been very thin in the past, and the frets were smaller.
  6. oldguitar

    oldguitar Member

    Jul 20, 2003
    Land of the Giant Cacti
    I bought a new Starfire IV in about '71. Had it for probably 10years or so.

    The only problem I remember was the little E string liked to fall off the edge of the board now and then. I believe that could've been fixed with a new nut though.

    To my ears the Starfire always sounded warmer than any of the 335's I tried at the time.

    And now, one more time . . . "I wish I still had that one!"
  7. ~el gringo loco

    ~el gringo loco Member

    Apr 29, 2005

    I just bought a clean '66 Starfire III, and it's a really cool guitar.

    It's a hollowbody like a Gibson 330 rather than a semi-hollow like a 335, and when I hold it next a '56 ES-225 I have they appear to be very similar in terms of design and construction. The woods and build quality are as good as the Gibson, but one area that Guild cheaped out on were the tuners -- they look to be Japanese, and while they work ok after almost 40 years they have a "cheap" guitar feel.

    The pu's are brighter than PAF's for sure, and while I'd have a hard time describing 'em it's the best thing I can say is that the guitar has a quintessential '60s tone. It has a really cool old Excello swamp blues tone, and it's a really vibey guitar to play. Both pu's measure out at 4.5k ohms on my DMM, but they're in no way weak. They don't sound like anything else, but what they sound like is really good, at least, IMO.

    The guitar itself is nicely built, the neck is thin in comparison to a '50s Gibson but isn't skinny, and the Bigsby is really sweet . . . it's a really fun guitar to play and it's got some great tones. The bridge pu has a lot of treble content, and I really like how it bites when you dig in hard and yet it's really sweet and mellow on the neck pu.

    The best part is that old Starfires are a bargain in vintage guitar terms; the one I bought is dead stock and all original in very good condition, and it set me back all of $850 from a well respected internet dealer. A Gibson 330 of the same vintagein similar condition would run around 3 times that, and in my experience it's not a significantly better instrument than the Guild.

    I sure like my Starfire . . .

  8. Radax

    Radax Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Broomfield, Colorado
    Starfire IV was my 1st "Real" guitar, I gigged with it full time for 2 years (67-69) Covered Hard Rock, Blues, Soul, even a little Psychodelic Rock and EARLY Bee Gees. Great Player.

  9. Bluzsteel

    Bluzsteel Member

    Nov 28, 2004
    Ft Worth Tx
    on of the best blues guitars I ever owned
  10. drpoyer

    drpoyer Member

    Apr 10, 2008
    Bought my first beater, 67 SF V from a Hoboken vintage shop for 500.00 in the late 90s. I have had some really nice ones since then.

    The 60s-early 70s often Suffered from shrinking plastic parts especially around the headstock and binding. Finding clean versions is a bit challenging. Although build quality was to have suffered through the mid 70s. I have to admit the ones I have owned were generally fine instruments and the 70s guitars seem to be wear cosmetically Better then the early ones. Though they did seem to get heavier as time went on

    SF's used to be sleeper guitars, but they have crept up In price and seem to be holding. You can still find USA Hoboken and Westerly made SF's in several vintages (usually 80-90s) for well under 1.5k. Many with killer, albeit, laminated tops.

    The fender made Guilds are not bad guitars, but I see no reason to seek them out. I generally look for NYC and NJ made guilds when I can.

    These are great guitars...

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice