Guild Starfire I Bass: What is it?
Guild’s Newark St Collection is a superb entry point to the US brand’s electric and bass guitar lineup, particularly if you – like many players – believe all the best designs were made in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
We have seen this with superlative electric guitars like the Aristocrat and indeed the Starfire models, but here we have a Starfire bass that transposes that hollowbodied vintage mojo for the rhythm section.
The semi-hollowbody electric bass is an enigma. Modern players and styles have gravitated en masse to solidbodies. Looking at the Starfire I from a distance, maybe this caution owes something to the suspicion that these might be a little awkward to hold. Sure, they look cool, but there’s a lot of body.
That is one theory, but once you pick up the Starfire I, you’ll find it is anything but awkward, and for bass players with smaller hands – or indeed guitar players taking a break from six strings – its 30.75” scale is very inviting.
While there is more body to stretch your arms around, the balance is nice, the thinline form of the body, measuring 2.4” thick, and the angle of the neck all make for an instrument that is, if anything, forgiving to a fault. You might even think, ‘Wait, the bass is really this easy to play?’
But we’ll get to the playability. First, let’s look at the build. The Starfire I is available in Vintage Walnut and Cherry Red, with the former featuring a bound maple top, back and sides, with tidily cut f-holes, and the latter comprising a mahogany top, back and sides. Both have a glued-in mahogany neck topped with a 21-fret Indian rosewood fingerboard.
The chrome tuners and tune-o-matic bass bridge complement the finish nicely, with the harp tailpiece a classy touch.
A single-pickup model, the Starfire I has a BC-1 BiCoil in the middle position with, volume and tone controls, with a push/pull feature on the volume knob selecting a vintage mode that adds in a little more presence and cuts some low frequencies, which Guild says should offer sounds similar to parallel pickup configurations on vintage bass hollow bodies.
Guild Starfire I Bass: Performance and verdict
You have got to love the weight and balance of the Starfire I. You will be familiar with the evergreen complaints from any low-end enthusiast. The neck dive, we wail. The weight! There’s none of that buzz kill here. Guild has got the balance spot on; playing seated or standing, it’s an easy ride.
Some old-school enthusiasts might like a fatter neck profile than this but the comfort is there, and the slimmer profile makes the instrument a more accessible proposition. The nimble-fingered player will be able to ascend and descend the fretboard with no fuss, but maybe there’s an argument to be made for restraint, for playing it cool, minimalist, in the pocket or walking around the beat.
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The bass becomes more comfortable to play the more you return to it, and the bulkiness is soon forgotten, largely due to the highly playable neck. Speed merchants probably won’t give this a second look, but then it isn’t really aimed at that sort of player.
This, after all, is a natural fit for the Motown crowd, and all that ‘60s R&B sound that was constructed upon warm, plummy but defined bass tones. There is a nice range of tones on offer. Those who pluck the strings up close to the fingerboard might find the depth and warmth all there, but taking a little off the tone can achieve the same result without adjusting your playing style.
The Vintage switch on the volume pot is a simple but inspired feature and should sway anyone who is thinking one pickup is too minimalist for their needs. You can really dial in a cutting bass tone with enough midrange to bring tears to the eyes – or simply to assert yourself in a difficult mix. We’ve all been there, an uncooperative room, everything swallowing the bass notes; this could help.
We mentioned this as a Motown instrument, for the Jamerson disciples, but it could easily do a turn for rock and pop, and if we look through the ages as to who has played Hollowbody bass guitars – and in particular those from Guild – then the likes of Jack Casady et al would suggest that a revival of ‘60s psych-rock, Flower Power 2.0, could well be on the menu... Just a thought, but then that’s what basses like this do; they sell the illusion of the music history and give us the option to tap into that sound and aesthetic and apply it in a contemporary context. And that makes the Starfire I very exciting indeed.
MusicRadar verdict: Keenly priced with a tidy short-scale build and a plethora of old-school thump, the Starfire I is a welcome blast from the past that remains relevant today.
Guild Starfire I Bass: The web says
"There’s no doubt that Guild have crafted an appealing instrument with the new Starfire I. With a look that’s certain to appeal to vintage rockers as well as a younger audience, the instrument has an impressive range of tonal options considering its single pickup, and boasts a high level of build quality."
Bass Player Magazine
Guild Starfire I Bass: Hands-on demos
Guild Starfire I Bass: Specifications
- MADE IN: Indonesia
- BODY: Maple top back and sides with ivory binding on Vintage Walnut model, mahogany on Cherry Red
- NECK: Mahogany
- NECK JOIN: Set neck
- FRETBOARD: Indian rosewood, 21 frets
- PICKUP: Guild BC-1 BiCoil
- CONTROLS: Volume with push/pull Vintage Switch, tone
- HARDWARE: Guild tuners, Guild Tune-o-Matic bridge
- LEFT-HAND OPTION AVAILABLE: Yes
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
- CONTACT: Guild