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Thread: Gsr t-400

  1. #1
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    Gsr t-400

    In support of the gear review section I'll post a brief review of my impressions so far, roughly ten days into ownership. A lot of the information presented will duplicate that found in my NGD thread, but hopefully this will provide a more easily searchable, less crowded location.

    First Impressions


    First impressions are always notable, even if not all that important in the long run. The overall appearance of the guitar is quite handsome, bright spruce under clear lacquer. When it yellows even slightly the effect should be breathtaking. The woodgrain is even, not particularly tight, but still well within the range of acceptable. The back and sides are figured, once again not textbook perfect, but certainly good enough to be attractive. The workmanship is excellent and the attention to detail more than satisfactory. The binding is perfect, the neck joint likewise and the finish is flawless.

    One thing I particularly like on this guitar is the pickguard shape. It has a classic, old school, Guild shape, but it's also very narrow which gives it a modern appearance. It's a minor design point, but it really adds to the eye appeal of the instrument.

    This is a very lightweight guitar, coming in at roughly 6.4 lbs, according to my $4, MIC, digital fish scale. When you're a young fellow weight is only a minor annoyance but at my stage in life I want my guitars as light on the shoulders as is practical. It's no coincidence that of the 13 guitars I own, the lightest ones get the most use. This is especially true when it comes to gigs, band rehearsals and other situations when I will be standing for any length of time. I have a lovely Gretsch G-6122-1959, basically a reissue Country Gent built to replicate Chet Atkins' own Gent. It's a great guitar, but at 7.9 lbs. it is passed over for many occasions because of its weight.

    Setup


    I was surprised, when it came from the factory, that the action was fairly high. The neck seems about perfect and the fretwork is above par so setting the action lower was no big task. The fingerboard is great and the action can get into Les Paul Custom territory with no worries. I installed a titanium Compton Compensated Bridge early in the game. The guitar was strung with EXL 110s from the factory which is definitely on the light side for this guitar. I installed my usual string set, 10, 13 & 17 plain strings on top with 27, 37 & 50 Thomastik Jazz Swing (flat wounds) on the bottom. The net result was wolf tones and an almost uncontrollable harmonic on the 5th string that would vibrate in sympathy with any A or D played on the guitar. It was literally unplayable at this point. I swapped to a Stainless Steel Compton bridge and that seemed to help. I have no idea why, but it could be that the resonant frequency of the titanium bridge worked in concert with the other components of the guitar to produce a wicked resonance right at A3.

    Once I swapped to the Stainless bridge the A3 resonance was gone but I had a symphony of wolf tones emanating from behind the bridge. It was amusing, for a few seconds, then just irritating. A set of 3/8" grommets dampened the wolf tones and the guitar when from an untamable, feedback monster that no one could play to being a docile instrument with no nasty surprises. I don't see harmonics and/or wolf tones as being defects, per se, they are the consequence of an acoustic instrument, which has a milieu of factors which contribute to the resonant peaks. Fortunately, as I mentioned, I was able to tame this beast for, literally, pocket change. I need to also not that there were no resonance issues that I noticed with the stock bridge. I prefer the greater sustain of a one-piece bridge, but the OEM tunable bridge was always a viable option.

    Pickups


    One of the major attractions this model helped for me was the small footprint Anti-Hum pickups. Mini humbuckers, of any sort, tend to have a more focused sound than their large footprint siblings. It comes down to bobbin spacing and the degree of cancellation caused by sensing string vibration over a wider area, versus a smaller area. Anyhow, the mini hums are great sounding pickups, somewhat like the Gretsch Filtertron, but not quite as twangy. There's a depth to these pickups that I find quite intriguing. In the higher end of the clean range these pickups come into full voice and make some beautiful sounds.

    Like most pickups, these seem happiest when the volume control on the guitar is turned up. The 8 - 10 range on the volume control seems pretty good, go much below that and the sound becomes less lively. They aren't particularly hot pickups, but they are powerful enough to let the front end of the amp know that they mean business. Conversely, they don't overwhelm the front end of the amp and they retain a great deal of touch sensitivity.

    I am very impressed by these pickups and feel that they are an excellent tool in producing the sound I imagine for myself. As I write, I've been playing for 48 years and have never found a pickup that I like any better.

    Hardware


    One thing I like about this guitar is the fact that it has chrome plated hardware and no gold plating. While gold plating is beautiful, it tends to wear through quickly and to require very little in the way of upkeep. The machine heads are Gotoh SG301s, which suits me fine. They have an 18:1 ratio which I find easy to work with. The feeling is solid and I expect them to last for a while.

    The tailpiece is a genuine, made in the USA, Guildsby, un-plated. Like every sand cast Bigsby I've ever played, it works smoothly and without even the slightest bit of friction. As it came from the factory it had a 3/4" spring and a nylon spacer. I found the handle a bit high for my liking but removing the spacer made it just about perfect. I tend to like the butter-knife handle to ride fairly low. I would imagine that many players would have been thrilled with it the way it shipped. The strap buttons were standard Guild fare, which I replaced with Schallers.

    Everything feels solid, the volume and tone controls are smooth and respond predictably. The pickup switch is noiseless and feels solid enough to last a long time.


    Sound


    Of course, sound is what it's all about. This guitar has a solid spruce top and laminate maple back and sides. It is not made for high levels of acoustic volume but it has reasonable volume unplugged and sounds good that way. Many thin-bodied guitars sound a bit pinched when played acoustically, this one does not. The sound holes are fairly small and one can barely see inside the guitar. The bracing is out of sight and out of reach. I'm not sure just how heavy or light the bracing is, but whatever level they have chosen works well for this instrument. If I were a guessing man, and I am, I'd guess that it's lightly braced.

    Once I chased down the overtone/wolf-tone problems I found it to play well through my various amps. It doesn't seem particularly prone to feedback, although I'm certain that it will if you push it hard and turn to face the amp. Actually, this strikes me as a very amplifier friendly guitar. The Guild hum buckers seem to be able to get along with anything I own which includes a DRRI, a TRRI (for outdoor gigs or toppling dictators), a '68 Custom Deluxe Reverb, an Excelsior, a Winfield Cyclone and a Winfield Typhoon. The Fenders all have the typical Fender preamp, the Excelsior is somewhat old school, think Supro and the Winfields have an EF86 pentode in the preamp stage, feeding EL 84 power sections. With this fairly diverse set of amps I've found that the Guild pickups go about their business and give the amp a solid signal to work with. This guitar is not picky about which amp it prefers.

    The output, no matter what the amp, is a pleasing combination of clarity and character. The pickups definitely treat the overtones coming off the strings with respect and pass along a complex, interesting sound; something quite different from any other pickup that comes to mind. I can get a Chet sound fairly easily, but if I use a flat pick and dig in a bit harder the glassiness dissipates and the pickup bares more of its soul. The characteristic sustain of the guitar, coupled with these stellar pickups, is gorgeous. One of my tests is to emulate the silky, but bluesy sound of Billy Butler's solo on Honky Tonk. I've found that not just any old pickup can produce this sound, it's an exercise in clean, but very mellow and lacking in any sharp edges. The T-400 passes this test easily.

    The pickup spacing is quite wide. The fingerboard is 20 frets long and the neck pickup is up there tight, quite a ways distant from the bridge. This gives a mellow, warm sound that holds up even in terms of old school Jazz guitar. The bridge pickup is quite close to the bridge and the sound of this pickup alone is spanky and bright. It's not a Tele, but it'll fool most of the people, most of the time. Combined, the sound sample comes from two disparate areas on the speaking length of the string which results in a mellow sound. It's not particularly dark, but it is warm, even gentle . . . until you dig in hard with the pick and out comes some serious Blues timbre.
    Last edited by krysh; 07-11-2015 at 11:34 PM.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

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    Closing Thoughts


    Every guitar is a compromise. My Tele is not so good at being a classical guitar, my classical isn't so good at being a Tele. My interests, at least these days, lie with finding guitars that are versatile and capable of letting me play a gig without switching instruments. Thin, hollow body, guitars seem to fit this bill very nicely and I'm pleased to say that this particular model offers a great compromise of versatility without falling into the trap of being equally bad at everything. I credit this, ultimately, to the fact that the pickup spacing is so broad and the the pickups are very touch sensitive. Between these two traits the result is a guitar that seems to sense your musical intentions and works hard to deliver.

    With the possible exception of a classical recital (which I'm not likely to be doing), I can't think of a setting this guitar couldn't handle and handle well. The ingredients are there for pretty much everything I would ever demand of a guitar and there are no major weaknesses that must be tread around.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

    Visit my non-monetized guitar website.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Walter Broes's Avatar
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    Nice review Synchro, but I think your guitar has a laminated spuce top, not a solid one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter Broes View Post
    Nice review Synchro, but I think your guitar has a laminated spuce top, not a solid one.
    According to the Guild website it's solid, but I've learned that the website is not always correct.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

    Visit my non-monetized guitar website.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Walter Broes's Avatar
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    It's possible of course, but it would be very "untraditional" for an electric Guild - just like epiphone before them, all the arch tops with pickups mounted to the top are laminated. (except the X700, but that's a relatively recent addition to the traditional Guild arch top lineup)

    A 60's T-400 (or DE-400 or 500) would have had the laminated top, in any case.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter Broes View Post
    It's possible of course, but it would be very "untraditional" for an electric Guild - just like epiphone before them, all the arch tops with pickups mounted to the top are laminated. (except the X700, but that's a relatively recent addition to the traditional Guild arch top lineup)

    A 60's T-400 (or DE-400 or 500) would have had the laminated top, in any case.
    It definitely has the resonance of a solid top. It's pretty decent sounding acoustically. In either case, I'm fine with it the way it is.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

    Visit my non-monetized guitar website.

  7. #7
    Would it be fair to say that GSR guitars are inspired by vintage models, but specification-wise, not necessarily the same?

    The factory website page for the GSR T-400 does mention a solid spruce top, in two places, even. Of course, it also says 22 frets and we know that's wrong!

    I never heard of a solid top DE-400/DE-500 back in the day, but that doesn't mean they didn't make one like that (I've owned one of each). I don't remember the DE-400 having spruce as a top lamination, either, although every DE-500 I've seen has the spruce top-laminate.

    Anyway, it should be pretty easy to figure out what the top is made of. You guys know the drill; small mirror in the sound hole, and inspect the bottom side of the top. If it is a laminate, it should have a maple (alder?) bottom-laminate, right? I mean, I guess it could be a laminate-top with spruce on top and bottom, but, I just don't think that would happen.

    What do you guys think? What have you seen before?
    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post

    And I like Harry's approach.
    '66 Starfire I SB bass, '67 Mark IV pear wood, '75 Mark 4 P padauk, '00 Bluesbird black,
    '66 Thunderbird amp, '68 Thunder 1 RVT amp, '70 Superstar Combo

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    Quote Originally Posted by gilded View Post
    Would it be fair to say that GSR guitars are inspired by vintage models, but specification-wise, not necessarily the same?

    The factory website page for the GSR T-400 does mention a solid spruce top, in two places, even. Of course, it also says 22 frets and we know that's wrong!

    I never heard of a solid top DE-400/DE-500 back in the day, but that doesn't mean they didn't make one like that (I've owned one of each). I don't remember the DE-400 having spruce as a top lamination, either, although every DE-500 I've seen has the spruce top-laminate.

    Anyway, it should be pretty easy to figure out what the top is made of. You guys know the drill; small mirror in the sound hole, and inspect the bottom side of the top. If it is a laminate, it should have a maple (alder?) bottom-laminate, right? I mean, I guess it could be a laminate-top with spruce on top and bottom, but, I just don't think that would happen.

    What do you guys think? What have you seen before?
    Unfortunately, someone was asleep at the switch when it comes to the website. I've seen similar problems on a lot of manufacturer's sites and I think it's bad form. Considering how minute the effort of posting correct data to the database that controls their website actually is in comparison with all the goes into designing and building a guitar I would think that they would be able to do better. While I am basically pleased with the guitar I am less than thrilled with FMIC's role in the marketing end. I'm fighting right now to get some info about the discrepancies in the serial number and a handful of other minor issues, no paperwork, etc. I know that they can do better, Gretsch certainly handles these matters more effectively. I think that they screwed up and sold me the prototype, which is fine, but I should have known that from the onset.

    While the guitar is quite serviceable, they basically tossed it in the case with no documentation and mismatched S/Ns. Right now, I effectively have no warranty. Poor form on the part of FMIC.

    I suspect that FMIC has come down with a case of IPO fever. It was formed as an employee buyout when CBS decided to get out of the guitar and amp business. They focused on quality and building guitars that were true to vintage spec and they flourished. As the years have worn on they have come to rely more and more upon custom shop instruments and special runs, choosing to rely on cachet and novelty more and more. Amazingly, their MIA line has less consistent quality than the instruments they manufacture in Mexico.

    I think that we're well due another shakeup in the music biz', not unlike what happened in the '80s. The saviors of the industry seem to have fallen into the same mentality that their predecessors had. Fender spent a lot of time and effort developing the Guild line and now has sold it, probably to reduce debt in anticipation of another attempt at an IPO. I just can't imagine walking away from all the work they put into the N.S. lineup, not to mention the fine flattops and other guitars built in New Hartford. FMIC's secondary brands (Gretsch, Jackson, Guild, etc) have suffered a real setback. I just hope that CMG respects the brand, respects the work that went into the N.S. reissues and makes wise use of their investment. I really fear for what will happen if they don't continue the N.S. series. Guild may continue to exist, but there will be no entry level path the to brand.

    But I digress.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

    Visit my non-monetized guitar website.

  9. #9
    Senior Member SFIV1967's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilded View Post
    What do you guys think? What have you seen before?
    The best to see if it is solid or laminated is when you take out one pickup. You see in the open wood cavity the cut of the top and would see multiple sheets if it is laminated or just one if it is solid. Synchro, I guess this is an "action item" for the next string change together with taking pictures if the bottom of the pickups.
    Ralf

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    Quote Originally Posted by SFIV1967 View Post
    The best to see if it is solid or laminated is when you take out one pickup. You see in the open wood cavity the cut of the top and would see multiple sheets if it is laminated or just one if it is solid. Synchro, I guess this is an "action item" for the next string change together with taking pictures if the bottom of the pickups.
    Ralf
    I've owned quite a few solid topped archtop guitars and the acoustic response of this interment is consistent with a solid top. If I can locate my small dental mirror I'll check and see if the grain matches but that's as far as it's likely to go anytime soon.
    When Guild guitars are outlawed only outlaws will play Guild guitars.

    Visit my non-monetized guitar website.

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