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Guild Aristocrat HH and P90 review

A single-cut with class and bearing, the Aristocrat wears Guild's guitar-making heritage well

  • £795
  • €799
  • $799
Guild Aristocrat HH and P90 review
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

Vintage-styled, super lightweight, and offering a slick playing experience and some really cool old-school tones, the Aristocrat is a suave choice and a bargain at the price.

Pros

  • Lightweight build.
  • Excellent value.
  • Fine finish and setup.
  • The P90 is full of character.
  • The HH's humbucker with coil-split offers a multitude of voicings.

Cons

  • Not that many colour options.
  • The HH coil-split tones can be a little thin.
  • No gig-bag.
  • No lefthanded option.

What is it?

We last saw the Guild M-75 Aristocrat when it was released some years ago as a Korean-made, fully hollow single-cut, but the design – a more jazz club LP-style – has been around since 1954, and its 2020 iteration is quite a different electric guitar.

Part of the Newark St Collection, which mined classic Guild blueprints and reissued them at a more wallet-friendly price point, the most recent M-75 Aristocrat was fully hollow, and it was pretty special. These 2020 Aristocrats share much of the look. There's the rounded cutaway, the harp tailpiece, the open-gear tuners, the 1950s look, but, crucially, the construction is chambered as opposed to fully hollow. 

They are also a little cheaper two, shaving around 200 bucks off the price, and you'll notice the pickguards are different, with the old-school motor showroom Guild logo 'guard swapped out for a faux tortoiseshell number on the P90 model and there's no pickguard on the HH. 

The binding has been simplified too, and there is a different feel to the instruments, with the 2020 models featuring a 12" fingerboard radius where the M-75s have a more rounded 9.5" radius.

There's a stateliness to the Aristocrats that belies their price tag. These are guitars with pedigree.

But perhaps the biggest difference is the weight, with the hollow M-75s coming in at a light-featherweight 2.46kg (5.4lb), and the 2020 chambered models weighing 3.45kg (7.59lb) and 3.52kg (7.74lb) for the P90 and HH models respectively. It is a very noticeable difference.

That said, the chambering sure makes the Aristocrats a lot lighter than your regular solid-body single-cut, the process leaving a solid centre block of mahogany with plenty of airspace in the wings. It is a build reminiscent of Guild's Newark St Bluesbird, but the proportions are bang on for the M-75 (50mm at the rim, filling out to around ~60mm),

There's a stateliness to the Aristocrats that belies their price tag. These are guitars with pedigree. Take a look at the headstock. It features the Guild Chesterfield logo, in silver on the HH and gold on the P90, and while it is silkscreened in metallic paint, it has a pearlescent quality. 

On the rear of the headstock, you'll find open-gear tuners, branded Guild but reminiscent of Grover Sta-Tite and featuring metal 'butterbean' tuner buttons.

Image 1 of 4

Guild's Franz Soapbar P90s are made in Booheung, in Korea – as with the pickups we’ve seen on other Newark St Guilds. They are full of archetypal P90 character.

Guild's Franz Soapbar P90s are made in Booheung, in Korea – as with the pickups we’ve seen on other Newark St Guilds. They are full of archetypal P90 character. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 2 of 4

The HB-2 humbuckers offer a classy, refined range of humbucker tones, and while the coil-split tones are on the thin side, a little EQ/boost will get the best out of them.

The HB-2 humbuckers offer a classy, refined range of humbucker tones, and while the coil-split tones are on the thin side, a little EQ/boost will get the best out of them. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 3 of 4

The tuners are branded with the Guild logo and feature ‘butterbean’ buttons.

The tuners are branded with the Guild logo and feature ‘butterbean’ buttons. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 4 of 4

The Guild 'Chesterfield' logo is silkscreened in metallic paint.

The Guild 'Chesterfield' logo is silkscreened in metallic paint. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Performance and verdict

There's something liberating about shouldering a single-cut that looks like it is going to be a lumbar-mangler but feels like it's been leavened by helium. The Artisocrat's bulk and depth gives it a substantial feel, the gentle arch of its top something to get your arm around, and yet that chambering makes all the difference.

The C profile is generously proportioned, measuring a moderately svelte 21mm at the first fret before swelling to a good 'n' plump 23.3mm at the 10th. The bulky heel is squared, chunky and something you'll just have to work around when you're noodling past the 14th fret. But it's typical of the model, identical to that of the M-75's.

By now, you've probably made your mind up about which of these Aristocrat's you want to offer a reception to. There will be those who are firmly in the humbucker camp, with the HH's dual nickel-covered HB-2 humbuckers promising a thicker and hotter tone than the Guild Franz P90 soapbars, and there will be others who are here for the untamed electric heat of the P90s.

Image 1 of 4

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 2 of 4

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 3 of 4

The Guild reflector knobs are pretty cool. Both guitars offer a similar setup with independent volume and tone controls for both pickups – but the HH [pictured] has coil-splits on the volume controls.

The Guild reflector knobs are pretty cool. Both guitars offer a similar setup with independent volume and tone controls for both pickups – but the HH [pictured] has coil-splits on the volume controls. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
Image 4 of 4

The Aristocrat has a squared off heel as per the M-75.

The Aristocrat has a squared off heel as per the M-75. (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The Aristocrat wears P90s well; a little bit of rough beneath that suave exterior, with that bright, harmonic-rich punch. The bridge P90 is all sharp-edge treble and hot air. In the middle position, the P90s are hum-cancelling, thicker, while the neck position rounds out the tone nicely, and if anything offers a little more volume.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Future)

• Guild Newark St M-75 Aristocrat
The Korean-built hollow-body Aristocrat is one classy customer. It is considerably lighter than the 2020 models, and built much like an acoustic.

PRS SE Zach Meyers
Whether or not you want to emulate Shinedown, this is one superb-sounding guitar. From cleanish, bluesier styles through indie jangle to aggressive modern metal, there's little it can't handle. 

In comparison, the humbuckers are a little more polite. They are not as powerful as some vintage Guild pickups we've heard, but there is a lovely level of clarity, and with a little boost they really do sing. The coil-split tones offer more possibilities. They can be a little thin, but with some EQ adjustment on your amp and a boost they can be a sharp, articulate and potent weapon.

The setups on both guitars were impressive. These are stable, reliable guitars, serious guitars at a none too serious price. As with the M-75, we're surprised that these Aristocrats have not become more ubiquitous. The Guild name still has an aura about it; the guitars offer something different, and the Newark St Collection is aggressively priced.

If you are looking for a lightweight singlecut, call up the Aristocrat. The P90 or HH? Both have abundant charm. It's just a matter of whether you want the former's unruly charm or a little more refinement.

MusicRadar verdict: Vintage-styled, super lightweight, and offering a slick playing experience and some really cool old-school tones, the Aristocrat is a suave choice and a bargain at the price.

Hands-on demos

Guild Guitars

Specifications

Guild Aristocrat HH

Guild Aristocrat HH (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway chambered body electric
  • BODY: Chambered mahogany with carved figured maple (veneer) top
  • NECK: Mahogany (3-piece), ‘C’ profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Bound pau ferro, pearloid block inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Nickel-plated tune-omatic-style bridge with harp tailpiece, vintage-style open-gear tuners with ‘butterbean’ buttons
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: Guild HB-2 humbuckers with nickel covers, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume (with pull/push coil-splits) and tone controls
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.52/7.74
  • OPTIONS: See Aristocrat P-90
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Trans Black Burst (as reviewed) and Snow Crest White with gold hardware – all gloss polyester

Guild Aristocrat P90

Guild Aristocrat P90

Guild Aristocrat P90 (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway chambered body electric
  • BODY: Chambered mahogany with carved figured maple (veneer) top
  • NECK: Mahogany (3-piece), ‘C’ profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Bound pau ferro, pearloid block inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Nickel-plated tune-omatic-style bridge with harp tailpiece, vintage-style open-gear tuners with ‘butterbean’ buttons
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: Guild Franz P90 soapbar single coils, 3-way toggle switch, individual pickup volume and tone controls
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.45/7.59
  • OPTIONS: See Aristocrat HH
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Vintage Sunburst (as reviewed)
  • CONTACT: Guild Guitars