Whether beefy strong-arm rhythm or delicate fingerpickery is your style, Guilds all-solid offshore guitars warrant a good look. Review by Jerry Uwins
From large to quite little, this concert-size strummer has a lower-bout span of just under 13.75", its square-shouldered Martin-like lines resembling a scaled-down 000. The maximum rim depth of 103mm is fairly generous for the body size.
Compared to the plainness of the DV4 Dreadnought, the GAD-F20E is all shiny with handsome all-gloss lacquer and some upmarket touches including purfled maple body binding, a heel-capping of the same wood, and a mosaic zipper-strip down the centre of the back.
A rim-mounted second strap button is again fitted: good news. Construction is quality-looking all-solid spruce and mahogany and, relatively unusually on a guitar of this price, the 629mm-scale mahogany neck is one-piece – that is, if you don’t count the two side pieces that, as on the dread, make up the span of the rosewood-capped peghead. Suiting the guitar’s retro origins, the tuners are open-geared Grover Sta-Tites.
Smaller-bodied acoustics these days often go for wide fingerstyle necks, but the F20E sticks with a regular 43mm across the nut and has a string spacing at the bridge of just under 53mm. This, then, is a guitar compact in playing arrangement as well as size, though fingerstyle is perfectly feasible.
The neck’s fairly flat C profile is a little deeper further up than the dread’s but otherwise similar, and again the edges of the unbound rosewood fingerboard are bevelled for comfort. The frets, rather than the usual thin acoustic wires, are medium-ovals which feel really good, especially if you’re more used to playing electrics.
The F20 is also available acoustic-only, but our electro model carries a Fishman Acoustic Matrix active endpin system. Guild‘s website states that powering is the VT version with soundhole volume and tone controls, but our sample’s is the standard system with no onboard controls. Maybe the VT is a very recent spec change.
Acoustically, the GAD-F20E performs well for its size. Volume is up to par within an understandably tight focus, the tone is quite sunny though not without reasonable low-end depth and balance, and there’s a hint of breathy hollowness in the mids that pleasantly adds character and expression to the overall sound.
The Fishman predictably does an excellent, simple job with ample gain, good inter-string balance, and a strong, largely natural voicing that lends this compact guitar the stage abilities of a much larger-bodied instrument.
The stripped-back DV4 is purpose-designed to compete with dreads from the likes of Martin and Taylor, and with its steroidal sound it's a tough rival. The GAD-F20E straddles the divide between parlour and auditorium, and does so with class, especially as an electro. At this price, there are few other choices.