by Teja Gerken
Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor. Here’s our review of the Guild M-120.
First introduced in 1959, Guild’s all-mahogany M-20 became a favorite for bluesmen and folkies alike, and the company’s current M-120 is modeled on that instrument. With an all-mahogany body, the guitar differs from the other instruments in this review, which all have spruce tops. The M-120’s 13 3/4-inch wide body is slightly smaller than a Martin 00 and, combined with a short 24 3/4-inch scale, is quite compact overall. The craftsmanship, fit and finish, and selection of materials are superb; the mahogany used on the body has attractive figuring. The guitar’s neck feels narrow and slim and has a rounded profile. Mahogany-top guitars often have a somewhat compressed voice with a strong midrange, and the M-120 fits this stereotype; Madsen immediately said that it had “that classic vintage mahogany sound.” What it might lack in dynamics and complexity, compared to a spruce-top instrument, it makes up for with a bluesy growl and assertiveness that would sound great for slide playing or recording parts on a sonically busy track. With its vintage mojo and great playability, the M-120 is not only an unusual sounding and looking guitar for entry-level players, it will also be of interest to experienced players looking for classic all-mahogany tone at an affordable price.
SPECS: Solid mahogany top, back, and sides. Two-piece mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. 24 3/4-inch scale. 1.6875-inch nut width. 2 1/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Chrome open-back tuning machines. D’Addario EXP light-gauge strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $739.99 list/$530 street.
MAKER: Guild Guitars: (480) 596-7195; guildguitars.com.