What is it?
Guild's Newark St series draws upon the its classic electric guitar designs of the '50s and '60s, builds them in South Korea, and prices them so regular players might find them affordable.
It's a winning formula that has seen an expansive range expand apace, and the Starfire II St Dynasonic is the latest to be drawn from the archives and put into mass production.
The Starfire design dates back to the late '60s, when the T-100 'Slim Jim' was renamed. In 2016, we saw the Starfire II with LB-1 mini-humbuckers join the Newark St series as the most-affordable semi-hollow in the range, and this month's review model takes that bodyshape and design and replaces the LB-1s with a pair of DeArmond Dynasonic singlecoil pickups.
The Starfire Dyansonic feels like a slightly more upscale version of it's humbucker sibling. The gold hardware contrasts nicely with the high-gloss Royal Brown finish. And yet, without a pickguard, it still feels stripped down.
It certainly isn't downsized, measuring 416mm (16.4-inches) wide, with a thinline depth at the rim of 48mm. Guild has it down in its Semi-Hollow section but in truth it is somewhat of a hybrid between a semi-hollow and hollow build. The standard tune-o-matic and stud tailpiece (from which it takes the 'ST' in its name) are supported by two stacked wood blocks that connect the top and back.
A demi-semi-hollow? That could work. Either way, it makes for a super-light guitar. Elsewhere there is a dual-volume/dual-control setup and a shoulder-mounted toggle switch. As far as the electrics are concerned, the only change to the 2016 Starfire is the DeArmond pickups.
The Dynasonic was originally called the Model 2000, and was introduced in the 1940s, with the likes of Martin, Epiphone and Gretsch early adopters. The latter originally called it the Fideltone before rebranding it as the Dynasonic. According to the Guild historian Hans Moust, Guild also used the Model 2000 from 1961.
Is the contemporary DeArmond Dynasonic faithful to the orignals? Yes and no. It sure looks the part, but the originals had fully-adjustable magnetic polepieces, and the new design only allows for limited adjustments.
Performance and verdict
The impressions of anyone picking up the Starfire II ST Dynasonic is just how light it is. The second might be just how resonant and loud it is when played acoustically. It might be quite a shallow thinline design but it's got plenty of width to its tone. And third, well, it's that the fit and finish of the neck and frets is high-quality for a mass-production model.
The tune-o-matic makes quick intonation a breeze, and combined with the stud tailpiece offers plenty of scope for setting the instrument just as you like it – just as you might expect from a contemporary piece of hardware. Tonally, though, that's where we are going back in time.
The Dynasonics are singlecoils, so you are going to get a bit of hum. But selecting them both together, with the toggle in the middle position, offers a hum-free experience and offers a good platform to investigate the Starfire's sounds.
Compared to the LB-1s, we found the Dynasonics a little more aggressive in their attack. The mids retreat a little in the mix. But play around with the volume and tone knobs and you'll find plenty of range there. Played through a Fender and Vox combos, the Dynasonics made for a transformative experience. You'll have to check the clock to check it isn't the '60s.
If you are looking for a lightweight instrument that's fun to play, that'll bowl you through the nexus of jazz and rock 'n' roll as the '50s gave way to the '60s then you can't really go wrong here. At this price we would have expected at least a gigbag. A Guild Polyfoam case is £92 extra, a humidifed hard case £139. Perhaps a friendly dealer might throw one in if you're nice to them.
But for a taste of vintage tone, a deluxe finish, and an alternative to the smoother-sounding LB-1 version, the Starfire II ST Dynasonic is a smart option.
MusicRadar verdict: A deluxe addition to Guild's Newark St series that evokes the end of the jazz era and the start of rock 'n' roll.
- PRICE: £999
- ORIGIN: Korea
- TYPE: Single-cutaway hollowbody electric
- BODY: Laminated mahogany with bridge block
- NECK: Mahogany, Vintage Soft ‘U’ profile, glued-in
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech NuBone/43.1mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony, pearloid dots, 241mm (9.5”) radius
- FRETS: 20, narrow jumbo
- HARDWARE: Gold-plated Adjusto-Matic bridge with stud tailpiece, Grover Sta-Tite open-backed tuners
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52mm
- ELECTRICS: 2x DeArmond Dynasonic single coils, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.78/6.12
- RANGE OPTIONS: The Starfire III has the same thin single-cut design but with Bigsby, LB-1 humbuckers and wooden-foot tune-o-matic bridge from £1,090. The double-cut Starfires start with the IV from £1,090. DeArmond Dynasonic pickups cost £75 (nickel) and £80 (gold)
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Royal Brown (Gloss polyurethane)
- CONTACT: Guild Guitars