Sometimes it seems like there is nothing new out there, and each year guitar manufacturers come out with new versions of the same old Stratocasters, Telecasters, and Les Pauls that they have been building for the past 50 years. This is the reason why I was so excited to get a chance to play the new Guild S-200 T-Bird re-issue. When is the last time you saw one of these?
The original S-200 guitars were built between 1964 and 1968, and they featured a unique body shape and a crazy electronics package. Maybe you have seen Buddy Guy, or Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) playing one of these. Vintage versions of these guitars are hard to find and when they do come up for sale they are really expensive. Guild has solved this problem, and this Korean-made instrument is a nice guitar and a solid value.
Looking over this re-issue Guild, the first thing anybody comments on is the body shape. This asymmetrical chunk of mahogany is dead sexy and looks equally fine in either antique burst or black, the two glossy poly finishes that are currently available. This body is loaded up with a whacky tremolo and more switches than you can shake a stick at, and I will get into these a bit later.
The neck is also mahogany, and this is a comfy C-shaped chunk of lumber with a 24 ¾-inch scale length, like a Gibson. The 12-inch rosewood fretboard is really pretty with its pearloid block inlays and ivory binding. There is a 1 11/16-inch bone nut and 22 medium size frets sunk into the board. The classic looking headstock has a pearloid thunderbird inlay on the front, and a set of cool 3 on a side Grover Sta-Tite open gear tuners (kind of like Waverlys).
Another unique feature of the S-200 is the vintage-correct Hagstrom Tremar vibrato. This hardware was originally introduced in 1961, and was installed on most solid-body Hagstroms up to the early 1970s. It became a popular piece of hardware for many other guitars of the era, as they were cheap and easy to install. This is a simple tremolo, with a horseshoe-shaped base-plate hinged to another plate connected to the arm; both plates are connected from below with a tension adjustment screw. There is not much pitch variation with this style of bridge, but generally they return to pitch well and do not break many strings.
Lastly, there is the cool electronics package that comes with this Guild, and it is built around a pair of reproduction LB-1 Little Bucker Alnico 5 humbucker pickups. These are wired through 2 volume and 2 tone knobs, as well as slider switches for ON/OFF, rhythm/lead mode and tone. This allows for a variety of sounds, as it is possible to select single coil or humbucker sounds, as well a circuit that uses a tone capacitor.
This all comes together well. The guitar has a comfortable neck that is easy to play, and I have been able to find a lot of Les Paul-like sounds that are good for rock and excellent for blues. The craftsmanship is good, with a nice finish, and well set frets. Plus, it just looks awesome! The only downsides are that it is heavy (10 pounds+), and it does not fit in most guitar stands very well.
The Guild S-200 falls squarely into the mid-priced guitar realm, with a list price of $1010, and a street price of $799. This includes a nice padded gig bag. For this price it is definitely worth giving one a try, especially if you are tired of having a guitar that looks like what everybody else is playing. Let me know what you think!