Guild hit its stride in the 1950s and ’60s with a line of steel-string guitars that, while more competitively priced than their Martin cohorts, stacked up quite nicely. Guitars like the D-40—which the late singer-songwriter Richie Havens played for much of his career—were and are known for their straightforward design, hearty build, and fine sound.
Guild offered something a bit swankier with the release of the D-55 dreadnought, in 1968. Initially only available as a special order, this top-of-the-line guitar was seen in the hands of Tom Smothers on the Smothers Brothers Show, and was even dubbed the TV Guitar.
Almost 50 years and a handful of factories later, Guild has added the D-55 to the lineup of guitars crafted at its shop in Oxnard, California. This rejuvenated version, which captures many of the details of the original while offering a few enhancements, is the new shop’s fanciest guitar to date. And it performs just as well as it looks.
An Opulent Guitar
The D-55 ships in a deluxe humidified case with a faux reptile covering—a case that hints at the luxuriousness of the guitar inside. The vibrancy of its sunburst top is striking, as is the lustrous, glossy, nitrocellulose lacquer finish, and the opulent abalone-and-pearl “V-block” inlays on the fretboard. Gold open-gear Gotoh tuners are another rich touch.
But more important, the sound-producing components are top-shelf. True to the original D-55, the new guitar has a solid Sitka spruce top (AAA-grade at that) and solid Indian rosewood back and sides. The improvements come under the hood in the form of a refined dovetail neck joint, for the best contact between neck and body, and scalloped Adirondack spruce bracing, known to lend power to the sound. Though our review model didn’t have a pickup, the guitar is available with L.R. Baggs Anthem electronics for an additional $200 street.
Our tester D-55 was impeccably built. Its 20 medium frets are cleanly seated and polished, and the bone nut and compensated saddle are perfectly shaped and notched. The soundboard’s sunburst pattern is beautifully shaped and shaded; the nitrocellulose lacquer finish is optimally thin and free from imperfections.
‘I’m as impressed by the guitar’s volume and projection as its clarity and note separation.’
Highly Playable Powerhouse
My first playing impression of the D-55 is that it’s one powerful guitar—one that will hold its own with other acoustic instruments. The notes at the low end are rich and well-defined, and I find myself gravitating toward G runs and walking bass lines.
When I threw down some basic open chords, I found the D-55 to be one of those ideal strummers that you can really feel vibrating against your chest when you dig into it. Strumming through the examples in this magazine’s recent Neil Young lesson feature, I was impressed by the guitar’s volume and projection, as well as its clarity and note separation.
That’s not to say that the D-55 doesn’t do subtlety. When fingerpicked gently, whether in standard or an open tuning, it had a dulcet voice and a generous amount of sustain. The guitar’s sound was relatively dry, so it never sounded muddy, even when I played complex, ringing chords. And the natural harmonics are brilliantly sparkling, at all locations. It felt terrific to play the guitar as well. It was comfortable to cradle in seated position; there’s something that feels reassuring about this large-bodied guitar. The C-shaped neck is fairly shallow, but not overly so; the fretboard’s edges were smooth and comfortable; and the action was just right. Though at 1-11/16 inches wide, the nut was on the narrow side, the string spacing felt ample for my fretting fingers as well as my picking fingers.
With a street price of over three grand, Guild’s D-55 isn’t cheap—if you’re patient enough, you can find a “player-grade” example for about half the price. On the other hand, the guitar is a good value for a US-made, all-solid dreadnought with a gloss nitro finish. In fact, it just might be the best D-55 to date.
BODY 14-fret dreadnought size; solid AAA Sitka spruce top with scalloped Adirondack spruce bracing; solid East Indian rosewood back and sides; ebony bridge with compensated bone saddle; gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish (Antique Sunburst or Natural)
NECK Mahogany neck with walnut center strip; ebony fretboard; 25-5/8″ scale length; 1-11/16″ bone nut; gold Gotoh SE700 open-gear tuners; gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish
EXTRAS D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053); Guild premium humidified case; optional L.R. Baggs Anthem electronics
PRICE $4,255 list as reviewed/$3,399.99 street
Made in the USA. guildguitars.com
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.