es135 vs Starfire?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by dougdnh, May 16, 2008.

  1. dougdnh

    dougdnh Member

    Messages:
    1
    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I'm looking for a versatile archtop that can handle blues, rock, jazz, whatever. Since I live in a rural area, it's hard for me to try out a lot of instruments. Has anyone ever compared a Gibson es135 to a Guild Starfire II or III? I realize that the 135 has a solid block, does that make it sound a lot different than the full hollow Starfire? I currently have a '70's es175 in my collection, but it just doesn't float my boat.
     
  2. BigPapiFan

    BigPapiFan Member

    Messages:
    2,218
    Joined:
    May 16, 2007
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    Interesting question! I did once compare a Gibson ES-135 (2 x '57 Classic pups) with a DeArmond Starfire (2 DeArmond Goldtone pups). I thought the 135 sounded better. I have never had the opportunity to play an American Guild.
     
  3. henry_lee

    henry_lee Member

    Messages:
    228
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    hi there -

    I've had experience with all three you mention here.

    first I went with a Starfire II. I added a Bigsby B-6 and
    Bigsby bridge, vintage-style Grover Stat-Tites. Nice guitar.

    On the plus side of things, it played nice, stayed in tune
    and was well made. As I recall it sounded good both
    unplugged and plugged into an amp.

    On the negative side, I didn't care for Guild's humbuckers at all.
    Maybe I should've held out for the Starfire III P-90. The neck profile,
    radius and frets all seemed to be more "modern" and something
    about the poly finish and overall vibe of the guitar didn't add up
    for me, so I sold it.

    </>

    Then I got a 1997 Gibson ES-135 with P-100's. This was IT. Everything about
    the guitar felt / sounded right... the neck, the body, the fit, the nitro finish.
    all 100%. the pickups were underwhelming so I put in P-90's and never looked back.
    I have two now. They are outstanding guitars. The 1990's 135's are excellent guitars.
    The block gives you the sustain and gives you the right kind of feedback, etc.
    It works really well with a good tube amp. The push and pull with the P-90's reacting
    to the amp is really fun.

    On the other hand, I have a recent ES-175 with P-90's and that guitar
    is quite a machine. I added a sound block and pinned the bridge, so I
    can play it fairly loud without too much out of control howling.
    But it doesn't sustain exactly like the 135 naturally.

    </>

    that said, I guess it depends on what sound you're going after. I like the
    rawness of P-90's in semi-hollow and hollow body guitars. I like the older
    blues / rockabilly / country swing sound and these guitars do it all well.
    If you're going more towards the rock end of things, maybe an ES-135
    with 57's humbuckers would do the trick.

    </>

    finally, I gave up / went through a lot of different guitars to get to where
    I'm at now... I sold a couple vintage 50's / 60's Gretsch's, the 90's Guild,
    vintage 58 Dano's, AVRI Fender Tele's (52 AND 62's), vintage Gibson and
    Gretsch archtops, etc. I don't miss any of them.

    The only other guitar I often jones for would be an ES-125TDC or ES-225TD.
    And I don't think that's gonna happen any time $oon.;)

    Hope this helps.
    Henry Lee
     
  4. Jahn

    Jahn Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    27,296
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2007
    Location:
    NYC
    Ayep, but in the opposite direction! Below was my 90's ES-135, trapeze tailpiece:

    [​IMG]

    Just not happy with it at all, sounded compressed. So I went mod mad on it, got a Bigsby, roller bridge, locking tuners, Harmonic Design Z90s, you name it:

    [​IMG]

    And ended up with this, just a killer axe.

    [​IMG]

    But you know, something about that balsawood block in there was just bothering me, it didn't have quite the "freed" tone I needed. Having moved on I eventually got a 1966 Guild Starfire II Special (special order master volume one-off) with a harp tailpiece:

    [​IMG]

    This baby moves me. Something about a thinline hollowbody - woody airy, seems to get that almost acoustic pure tone across electronically somehow, and yet gets a nasty feedbacky grind going when pushed. Some days I think about putting a Bigsby on it to make it like a III, but then why fool with mojo? To be honest I'm not much of a warble bar user anyhow, I just use left handed finger vibrato.

    Long winded answer, but there you go. I think more than Gibson Vs. Guild, it was semihollow versus hollow - and thinline hollow, I felt the fullsize hollows were too "rounded" sounding if that makes sense.
     
  5. henry_lee

    henry_lee Member

    Messages:
    228
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Absolutely.

    A great second opinion there and nice guitars Jahn!

    One note about the balsa center block... I have two 135s:
    a 1990 and 1997. Interestingly enough, the block in the 1990
    model hardly touches the back at all. So this particular guitar
    resonates and sounds more like a hollow guitar than my
    later 1997 model. The '97 is way more solid / dense sounding.

    OP: If you go for a Guild, definitely try a vintage one.
    Or even an ES-137!:D

    HL
     
  6. henry_lee

    henry_lee Member

    Messages:
    228
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Another interesting thing... Jahn's Guild looks like it
    has a master volume... that's really cool. I thought about
    adding one to my 135... reminds me of a Gretsch.

    HL
     
  7. Jahn

    Jahn Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    27,296
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2007
    Location:
    NYC
    Oh yeah, Hans Moust, Guild guru, brought that up and said the Master Volume on this SFII was definitely a special order and probably the only one in existence that came from the factory that way, at least that he's seen (and he's seen plenty, heh). It's extremely convenient and has a great sweep to it. Believe it or not, that little extra option jacked up the price doublefold on a typical 60's Starfire when it sold from Rudy's Music Stop last year, I was lucky to grab it in an even trade for a 70's P-bass last fall.
     
  8. henry_lee

    henry_lee Member

    Messages:
    228
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008

    Nice score! So is that a mid-60's Starfire II?
     
  9. Carl_Tone

    Carl_Tone Member

    Messages:
    5,565
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Kailua, Island of Oahu, HI
    I have a closed top (no f hole) 135 and the block is mahogany.

    After bone nut, buzz feiten, and a few other details it is pretty good.


    The all blues, misty, mr 135, spooky, GTO, green dolphin, clips on my site were done with it..see link in my footer.

    It is a dark guitar which makes it sound bigger than it's size for jazz. I have kept 10's on it and use thumb & fingers for jazz.

    You have to cut lows and boost highs to get into 335 territory (like the mr 135 clip).

    Versatile guitar if you can find the no f hole one on ebay.
     
  10. Jahn

    Jahn Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    27,296
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2007
    Location:
    NYC
    Yep, a '66! Or a '65, I forget off the top of my head, heh.
     

Share This Page