Guild's GAD (Guild Acoustic Design) Series instruments were first introduced back in 2005, at a time when many big name manufacturers were diversifying production to China in the interests of price economies.
Initially offering just a modest handful of designs - all based on traditional US Guilds - the range grew considerably, to the point where earlier this year there were around 30 steel-strung models plus various colour options. An implied risk of Chinese sourcing was compromised quality control, but the range sported high build standards from the word go, and all the guitars featured solid woods throughout and came with hard cases.
This remains so today, as Guild introduces a brand new line-up that kicks off with 19 models. Some are largely renumbered versions of previous incarnations - albeit with a few trim alterations, such as plastic instead of wood binding - and the GAD prefix has been dropped from the revised catalogue designations. Within this tally, however, sit eight entirely new instruments, three of which we'll be reviewing.
Based on the F-30, one of Guild's early instruments back in 1954, the F-130CE is an OM-size cutaway electro has a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, cream bound with simple three-ply black/white purfling around the front, a style echoed in the pearl-inlaid soundhole rosette.
With evident cross-silking on the top, timber quality looks good and internal vertical reinforcing strips on the rims affirm the all-solid build. The high-gloss finish is immaculately buffed and the internals are pristine and tidy.
Unlike on first-generation GADs, the full-scale mahogany neck is satin rather than gloss, but save for a separate heel portion and narrow wings making up the full width of the headstock, it's a one-piece affair. Another minor economy is that the headstock, as on all new GADs, no longer bears the 'Chesterfield' motif, a cosmetic marker Guild also dropped when it introduced the US-made Standard Series last year.
Topped by open-geared Waverly-style tuners and usefully having a second strap button at the heel, the neck is semi-wide, commencing at 44.5mm across the nut and offering a generous, fingerstyle-friendly 56mm-plus bridge string spacing.
The grip feels comfortably snug and slick thanks to the shallow, flat-back 'C' profile and low-ish action, and fretting along the unbound rosewood fingerboard is very well dressed. The only minor irritation is sharp nut corners, but these are easily rectified with a few strokes of a file.
Like other GAD electros, power comes from Fishman's Sonitone undersaddle pickup with active endpin preamp and soundhole volume and tone controls. The 9V battery is housed in a velcro'd pouch on the face of the neck block.
The acoustic delivery is OM-like, with clear, precise articulation, an open-toned, sustainful blend of warmth and brightness and commendably good dynamics for the body size.
Fired up, the Sonitone is a very able performer. Gain is enthusiastic, cross-string output balance is spot-on, and the voicing pleasingly natural. There's plenty of travel on the tone wheel, but the difference between min and max is fairly subtle, although it's sufficient to add a nice sparkling edge from a neutrally toned starting point.
As we have seen, there are detail aspects, compared with the previous series, that reflect Guild's keeping a beady eye on production costs: loss of the Chesterfield motif, satin rather than gloss neck, and plastic not wood bindings. But none of these ought to be a deal-breaker because essential quality remains tip-top. The F-130CE is a very capable OM picker with a simple yet effective pickup system. If the rest of the series musters similar merits, continued success for the GADs is a cert.