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Sound Quality

It has taken me a while to get used to the SD-1 humbuckers, which are undoubtedly a demanding mistress. For the past few years I've been playing mostly single coils, Fender or P-90s, and have found the "out of the case" tone to be very good on these guitars. I've found that the SD-1s are capable of a very good full, rich jazz tone and also a very bright sound on the bridge pickup. However, when not tweaked, I've found that the sound can be very muddy, and initially I struggled with this muddy tone. Tweaking on the amp and volume/tone controls on the guitar is necessary to find "the" tone, but when you do, it is very full, well-voiced, and noiseless to boot. I play jazz/blues, and also early British Invasion like the Beatles, and find this pickup to be capable and versatile - once the proper settings are found. I play through a Fender Cyber-Twin, so I am able to model amps and effects which best support this pickup.


I've not gigged it, but it seems gigworthy. Construction is absolutely solid - as strong as a semi-solid can be anyway. I wouldn't try to drive a nail with it like with a Telecaster. The finish is good, with thick lacquer. I don't think it harms the sound, as it is a laminate, just like any ES-335 series type guitar. Strap buttons seem solid - though I prefer bigger buttons like on my PRS. Tuners are Grovers, the arm is a Bigsby - as close to bulletproof as you get in guitar hardware. Would I gig without a backup? Practice safe gigging. Always have a backup.

General Comments

I've been playing on and off for 15 years, on for the past 3 or so. I also have a PRS Custom 22 Soapbar and two Gibson Montana acoustic-electrics, a J-160E and an J-100 Xtra. Over the years I've had several dozen different guitars - Gibsons, Fenders, Guilds, Martins, Ricks, etc. I currently play through a Fender Cyber-Twin. In the past I've had mostly Fender and Vox... though I've pretty well decided that I'm a Fender man, mostly because there is nothing like the clean sound of a Fender amp.


This is an excellent guitar and an excellent value. It is unfortunate that the Starfire V was discontinued with the drawing down of the Guild line when production was moved to California. It was the top of their semi-solid line (main enhancements over the Starfire 4 being the block inlays, the Bigsby, and the master volume - I also think the body is 2.5" thick as opposed to 2" thick on the SF-4). I compared it to Gibson 335-series guitars and Gretsches prior to purchasing. The Gibsons didn't have the Bigsby, which I was looking for. They were also very expensive, with no noticable improvement in sound or construction. The Gretschs were interesting guitars, but I did not think their construction was as good, and also I found disturbing defects in the strap buttons on one which I played - as in the strap button failed. That turned me off quite a bit.


The main things I like about this guitar are the value, the excellent construction and outstanding flame, the master volume, and the Bigsby. My main dislike is the pickups, but this is slowly going away as I learn the intricacies of the SD-1. I've done some reading on the bulletin boards about the SD-1, and some are finding them actually brighter than Gibson humbuckers. Its been a while since I've really dug into Gibson humbuckers - or any for that matter, so I really can't compare them in depth. One annoying "feature" of the Guild humbucker is that they are mounted with 3 adjusting screws as opposed to 2 like on most others. While this feature goes back to 1960s Guild, which allows more flexibility in adjusting the pickup, it makes it a real b*tch to replace the pickup since you have to drill a hole for a standard adjusting screw. I'm not looking to drill into my 1500 dollar guitar any time soon....


If it were stolen, I'd be pretty POed, as this is a discontinued model and hard to replace. I'd probably stick with a semi-solid. If I couldn't get an SF-5, I'd possibly look at one of the Hamer Newports (though I don't know if like the smaller body). Other options might be a closed f-hole thin hollow body like the Gretsch Country Classic '62 reissue (double cutaway, humbucker) or new Tennesee Rose '62 (single cutaway, single coil) - but I'd have to replace the strap buttons, definitely....

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