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Guild Starfire I DC and Guild Starfire I SC GVT review

Classy but affordable semi-hollow electrics from a company on a hot streak

  • £479+
  • €599+
  • $499+
Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

Both make great options for blues, jazz or rock 'n' roll but there's a nice versatility to these Starfire models' voice. Allied to the cool looks and sound materials, they make for excellent value in what is a crowded market for semi-hollow electrics.

Pros

  • Quality builds at reasonable prices.
  • Vintage voices expanded by coil-splits.
  • They look cool.

Cons

  • No case.
  • Factory setup needs a little more finesse.

What is it?

Whatever can be said of 2020 it has at least come through with a number of affordable options for semi-hollow electric guitars, with the likes of Epiphone and Guild leading the charge.

The Starfire models we have today retail at around 500 bucks but you would not know it to look at them. There's a classiness to their design that dates back to the 60s, when Guild was actually behind the curve on electric jazz boxes and was trying to get a toe-hold in the game.

Before he found his thrill with polka-dot Strats, a young Buddy Guy would tote a Starfire when he played the Chicago club scene in the late 60s. So you have jazz, blues, and what works for blues typically works for rock 'n' roll. If you've ever found yourself writing the semi-hollow format for rock styles, you might be surprised at guitars like this can do.

In terms of build, there are some notable similarities with both our review guitars. Obvious differences first: Starfire I DC is a doublecut, the SC GVT a single-cut with a licensed Bigsby B70 that's Guild-branded – the so-called "Guildsby". The SC GVT is available in Seafoam Green as reviewed, Snowcrest White and Antique Burst, while the DC comes in Cherry Red as reviewed, and Pelham Blue. 

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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

These very cool colours are finished in gloss polyurethane. The DC has a laminated mahogany top, back and sides with mahogany centre block, a set mahogany neck in a "Modern Thin U" profile. The SC is laminated maple, with a bridge block, set maple neck carved in the same shape as the DC.

Both fingerboards are Indian rosewood with a flattish radius of 12", small (as in 5mm small) dot inlays. The DC has 22 narrow tall frets, the SC has 20.

In terms of pickups and electrics, both come equipped with a pair of Guild HB-2 humbuckers, 3-way toggle switches and a pair of volume and tone controls for each pickup. A coil-tap is secreted in the volume control and activated via a push-pull action.

There is a set of Guild openback vintage style 18:1 ratio tuners applied to both guitars. While the SC offers a hard-tail model, the DC's tune-o-matic bridge with stud tailpiece is your only option.

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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Performance and verdict

The SC has the slightly more characterful voice of the two. At least, it wears its coil-split function a little better, with an extra level of snap and pop at the neck pickup and a bit more depth on the bridge pickup.

The HB-2 is an underwound 'bucker, a more restrained proposition. The mellow vibe comes to the fore on the DC for jazz comping. If it is a tad too harsh, especially when compared side-by-side with the SC, whose bridge pickup sits a little further from the bridge, the middle position has a lot of room for manoeuvre. We'd imagine more than a few players would find the sweet spot somewhere between both pickups.

As far as look and feel goes, the SC has a little more luxury to it, with a darker fretboard, but both have a neck shape reminiscent of some of Guild's more expensive models.

Also consider...

Best electric guitars under $/£1,000: Guild Starfire II

(Image credit: Guild)

• Guild Starfire II
Okay, it is mostly hollow, so feedback can be an issue, but get it right, hit a clean boost into the front-end of a Fender-style amp and the thing damn near takes off. Glorious.

Guild Starfire II ST Dynasonic
A deluxe addition to Guild's Newark St series that evokes the end of the jazz era and the start of rock 'n' roll.

A few finish niggles such as file marks on the neck binding and frets that could use just a little more polishing are not enough to sour us on the deal. At this price, it is very hard to argue with what Guild is offering here.

They are both very good fun guitars, perhaps because they are blank slates when it comes to expressing your style upon them. Sure, metal is out, but make a good fist at everything else. Whether you are dialling in slapback delay and some spring reverb for a rockabilly set or playing new wave and punk, both can work the shift.

On balance, though, the SC is the harder of the two to put down. A lot of this is down to the Bigsby. That wobble, especially when allied to a loud overdriven tone that's just flirting with the idea of feedback, is very musical, inspiring and very difficult to quit.

To have Seafoam Green on a semi-hollow format is a lot of green, but there are more sober finish options available. The DC, meanwhile, looks the business in Cherry Red. For many, the return of the Epiphone Casino and Riviera will be the big semi-hollow talking points of the year, but if you are in the market for an affordable model  with classy DNA, this pair of Starfires should be on your shortlist.

MusicRadar verdict: Both make great options for blues, jazz or rock 'n' roll but there's a nice versatility to these Starfire models' voice. Allied to the cool looks and sound materials, they make for excellent value in what is a crowded market for semi-hollow electrics.

The web says

"Our showier-looking SC won’t be to everyone’s taste but in terms of its sounds it covers a lot of ground, the bridge pickup placement making more sense for the split-coil voicing, too. A little fine-tuning might be necessary to get them up to gigging level but again that’s not exclusive to this pair. They present a very retro style with more than competent sounds and very little to dislike."
Guitarist

Hands-on demos

Guild

Specifications

Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

Guild Starfire I DC  (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: £479 / $499 
  • ORIGIN: Indonesia
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway, centre-blocked thinline semi
  • BODY: Laminated mahogany top, back and sides with mahogany centre block
  • NECK: Mahogany, ‘Modern Thin U’ profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Composite/42.85mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Indian rosewood, pearloid dots (5mm), 320mm (12.5”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, narrow tall
  • HARDWARE: Guild tune-o-matic bridge with stud tailpiece, Guild openback vintage style 18:1 ratio tuners – nickel plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 51.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Guild HB-2 humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume (with pull-push coil splits) and tone controls
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.15/6.93
  • OPTIONS: Available with licensed Bigsby vibrato as the DC GVT, £569
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The double-cut Starfires start with the IV at $1,299 / £1,135 with harp tailpiece; the IV ST has direct mount tune-o-matic with stud tailpiece at $1,199 / £1,090 and as a 12-string at $1,299 / £1,180. The Bigsby-loaded Starfire V costs £1,180
  • LEFTHANDERS: Not this model; the Starfire IV ST Lefty in Black is $1,199 / £1,090
  • FINISHES: Cherry Red (as reviewed), Pelham Blue – gloss polyurethane
  • CONTACT: Guild Guitars

Guild Starfire I SC GVT (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: £569 / $599 
  • ORIGIN: Indonesia
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway hollowbody w/ bridge block electric
  • BODY: Laminated maple top, back and side, with bridge block
  • NECK: Maple, ‘Modern Thin U’ profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Composite/42.5mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Indian rosewood, pearloid dots (5mm), 320mm (12.5”) radius
  • FRETS: 20, narrow tall
  • HARDWARE: Guild tune-o-matic bridge with stud tailpiece, Guild open-back vintage style 18:1 ratio tuners – nickel plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 51.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Guild HB-2 humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume (with pull-push coil splits) and tone controls
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3/6.6
  • OPTIONS: Available with tune-omatic bridge and stud tailpiece as the SC at £479
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Starfire III: thinline single-cut design but with Bigsby, LB-1 humbuckers and wooden-foot tune-o-matic bridge (from £1,090 / $1,199). Starfire II: direct-mount tune-o-matic and stud tailpiece (£819 / $899); with Dynasonic single coils (£1,125 / $1,099)
  • LEFTHANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Seafoam Green (as reviewed), Snowcrest White, Antique Burst – gloss polyurethane
  • CONTACT: Guild Guitars