The new Starfire V is a popular part of Guild’s Newark Street Collection, which gives new life to the American brand’s classic guitars of the 1950s and 1960s. The Starfire models were originally introduced as a competitor to Gibson’s iconic ES-335, with the V being the first to feature a Bigsby tremolo. Compare this modern reissue to the original and it looks like little has changed – which can only be a good thing! Let’s see what this semi-hollow bodied guitar has to offer guitarists of the 21st Century…
Starting with the basics and this reissue looks very similar to the original, with the soft double-cutaway Starfire shape, Guild-branded pickguard, and arched top and back. With a center block, the entire body is made from laminated maple, with unbound f-holes in the top. This wood comes enrobed in a choice of three glossy colors, comprising a sophisticated black, a pristine white and – our favorite – the tasty cherry red finish.
While the price tag is higher-end, it’s actually a Korean-made model. However, the flawless fit and finish, along with the pro setup, is a testament to how good overseas models can be these days.
The neck is set into the body at the 18th fret and features a three-piece mahogany and maple construction, with a more modern soft U shape and a high gloss finish. It’s a pleasure to play, whether you are a gently accompanying a vocalist or taking the lead with a bluesy solo. The neck is capped with a bound Indian rosewood fretboard, which is home to 22 ‘jumbo narrow’ frets and a handful of aged pearloid block inlays to keep it authentic.
Guild ensures the hardware is period correct too, although with some upgraded components that provide an all-round smoother experience. This is apparent with things such as the set of Grover Sta-Tite open-gear tuners with a precision 18:1 gear ratio, along with a genuine bone nut and D’Addario EXL115 strings. Tuning stability remains intact, with an adjustable tune-o-matic bridge design, while there is also a Guild vibrato tailpiece.
Electronics-wise, this modern-day Starfire is fitted with two passive Alnico 5 ‘Little Buckers’ at the bridge and neck positions, which kind of sit somewhere between a traditional humbucker and a single-coil in terms of tone. There’s a little more sparkle than a normal humbucker, while retaining the warmth that suits this guitar so well.
The pickups are controlled by two control knobs each – one for volume and one for tone – along with a separate master volume control and a three-way selector toggle slightly further up on the face. Ultimately, this delivers great onboard versatility.
The Starfire V may be a contemporary take on the famous guitar of yesteryear, yet it still features the authentic Guild hollow-bodied voice that works so well for blues, rock and jazz styles. Cleans are lovely and warm with a clear, defined bass and vibrant treble, which doesn’t come across as brash.
You can easily find some gritty dirty tones through the bridge pickup with a little gain. Overall, it’s a soulful guitar, with the tremolo allowing for extra expression. Sustain and feedback control are both decent too. All round, very sweet.
You can drop more than $3,000 on an original Starfire V (if you can find one) or a third of the price on this modern reissue, which can claim to be one of the best blues guitars around. As we have emphasized, it has killer looks which are true to the original, as well as enhanced playability and a versatile tone that any true blues fan would love.