From the January 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY GREG OLWELL (video demo by E. E. Bradman)
Interview ten bass players and there’s a good chance that nine of them will tell you they started playing the instrument because somebody in their band had to. It’s often the way things are, and for those guitarists who shift to the low end, it’s not a banishment but an opportunity to lay the all-important foundation. If my time with two new Guilds—the B-240E and Jumbo Junior—is any indication, any guitarist would feel comfortable being god(dess) of the groove with these instruments. The company has a long history of producing some of the most desirable acoustic bass guitars out there and that tradition continues with these two basses.
Both instruments will be a natural fit for guitarists, on account of their relatively short scales. The fretboard of the larger B-240E, with its full-size jumbo body, comes in at 30.75 inches—about the length of many classic electric basses, like the Guild Starfire and Gibson EB-3. The Jumbo Junior, on the other hand, has an even shorter scale than most guitars. Its small jumbo body has a 23.75-inch-scale neck—a pairing that puts it in the same category as the Taylor GS Mini-e Bass—and it uses low-tension, nylon-core D’Addario strings to deliver those soothing bass pitches.
The Jumbo Junior’s short-scale nylon-core strings have a little bit of the roll under your fretting hand you sometimes get with a classical guitar string, but in the Junior’s case, I found that the picking hand took a few minutes of adjustment. Easing up a little on my attack did wonders for the bass’ tone, making it bloom and boom more than when I played with the same effort I’m used to on steel-core strings. Also, the Junior really sang when played with a little fretting-hand vibrato.
I love the Junior’s look, with its natural finish imbued with a touch of aging toner lending it the appearance of a new-old-stock vintage bass that has aged just a little bit. The bass’ mini-jumbo body and short-scale neck make it really comfy for playing in any situation—particularly for noodling at home—though on a strap, it was slightly headstock-heavy.
Any old hot-rodder will tell you that there is no substitute when it comes to cubic inches. That saying is just as true when it comes to body size on acoustic guitars. With its full jumbo body—and arched back, like the Junior’s—the B-240E moves a lot of air. It’s a large instrument, but I didn’t find it bulky or anything less than very comfortable to play. Plucking with the same intensity that worked well for the Junior delivered pleasingly plump bass notes, but when I dug in just a little harder, the B-240E responded with a punchiness that was forward and confident, but not aggressive. It’s right in that sweet-spot of what you could ask an acoustic bass guitar to do—be responsive and present in a mix, but also able to throw down when you need some oomph to blend with a band.
As pleasing as these basses are acoustically, they really stepped out when plugged into a portable Fishman PA. Both instruments share a similar sonic thumbprint of rotund, robust bass goodness, but each has an identity that might appeal to one player over another. The B-240E sounds big, and with the steel-core strings, has a zinginess that would help it be present in a live mix—think of a massive acoustic guitar with seemingly bottomless low end.
The Junior’s tone is slightly thuddy—in the best possible way—and leans more toward the upright bass spectrum, which is enhanced by cutting highs via the onboard Fishman preamp. It also creates a huge thrust in the low-mids, and it’s a bit of a mind-bender when you consider the tone coming from this petite powerhouse.
For comfort, looks, and portability, I might give slight favor to the Jumbo Junior, but the B-240E might be your bass if you crave big acoustic tone and a rounder electrified sound for an unplugged-style gig. In either case, with the Jumbo Junior and the B-240E, Guild has two very appealing basses that make going low truly fulfilling.
Jumbo Junior Bass
BODY 14-1/2″-wide jumbo junior body shape; solid Sitka spruce top; laminated flame maple back and sides; scalloped Sitka spruce braces; cream binding; 4.125″ body depth; satin polyurethane finish
NECK 23-3/4″-scale maple neck; 19-fret ebony fingerboard with 16″ radius; 1-5/8″-wide nut; dual-action truss rod; MOP dot inlays; chrome-plated Guild closed gear tuners
ELECTRONICS Guild AP-1 active acoustic piezo pickup
OTHER Ebony bridge with ivoroid plastic bridge pins; bone nut and saddle; D’Addario EXPPBB190GS coated phosphor-bronze nylon-core strings (.037–.090); padded deluxe gig bag
PRICE $499 (MAP)
MADE IN China
BODY 17″-wide jumbo body shape; solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X-bracing; laminated mahogany back and sides; cream ABS binding; tortoiseshell pickguard; satin polyurethane finish
NECK 30-3/4″-scale mahogany neck with pau ferro fingerboard; 1-5/8″-wide nut; dual-action truss rod; MOP dot inlays; chrome-plated Guild closed gear tuners
ELECTRONICS Guild/Fishman Bass Sonitone
OTHER Pau ferro bridge with ivoroid plastic bridge pins; bone nut and saddle; strap pins; D’Addario EXPPBB170 coated phosphor-bronze light-gauge strings (.045–.100); padded deluxe gig bag; B-240EF fretless version also available
PRICE $499 (MAP)
MADE IN China
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.