BY GREG OLWELL
While Guild has managed to not only maintain but improve the quality of its guitars through several changes of ownership, one thing remains the same: the company tends to change model names, seemingly for no reason. This fluid identity for a guitar of the same specs is the kind of thing that Guild fans claim to hate but really kind of love. It separates the dedicated Guildophiles from the newbies. Which brings us to a recent reintroduction of the company’s much-celebrated maple jumbo 12-string. What was historically known as the F-412 is now called the F-512 Maple, and it sits up at the top of the company’s US-built line, alongside the rosewood jumbo known simply as the F-512. Still with me?
When my colleague Pete Madsen reviewed the rosewood F-512 in AG’s August 2018 issue, he praised the guitar’s comfortable feel, excellent build quality, and warm, orchestral-like sound. It took the Cordoba-owned Guild a while longer to get the F-512 Maple ready for the public, and after spending a few weeks with this new guitar, I can report that the wait was worth it.
Like the rosewood version that Madsen reviewed, the F-512 Maple is an extremely well-built instrument that is unusually comfortable to play for such a large guitar. It’s a little over 17 inches wide at the lower bout and has a wide but highly playable neck with a C-shape profile that felt supportive to my hands, not chunky. Guild jumbo 12s are known for their tank-like construction. While the new F-512 does indeed feel solid, it’s substantially lighter than its predecessors, owing to more svelte neck and end blocks, scalloped Adirondack braces, and Gotoh open-geared tuners in place of closed-back Grovers.
The result is a dynamically responsive guitar that sings. My tester could be a house-filling howitzer if I wanted it to be, but it also proved to be a sensitive and surprisingly delicate-sounding guitar when played softly after the family had gone to bed.
Warm and Sparkling
In standard tuning, this guitar was great for cranking out my inner jukebox of classic-rock riffs from the ’70s and ’80s. Sure, you’d expect a large maple 12-string to be bright and glittery, and indeed this Guild delivers sparkle, though it does so with little of the harshness that you might anticipate. The F-512 Maple’s low-end was also focused and warm, which made runs on the lower strings authoritative and clear. Perhaps due in part to a laminated arched back—a feature long used on Guild’s maple 12s—the guitar’s substantial frequency range projected very evenly. The low-end definition led me to playing plenty of boogie-woogie style bass lines. It’s no wonder that Stevie Ray Vaughan used a maple Guild 12 for his high-octane MTV Unplugged performance in 1990.
Though I didn’t have the rosewood F-512 at hand for a direct comparison, my memories of it make me think that its maple counterpart might give players a little more cutting power—which would come in handy for those who play in a band or want to command an audience, compared to the slightly warmer rosewood, which might suit a soloist slightly better.
The Bottom Line
The Guild F-512 Maple’s $3,699 price tag is a significant investment for many players, but if you’re looking for a 12-string with professional-quality tone and construction, you can hardly do better than this guitar; it’s an iconic calliope of an instrument with a sensitive side, made in the US. For pure, sterling 12-string sound that can cut through an ensemble or suit a solo gig, you’d be hard-pressed to find a finer guitar at any price.
BODY: 17-1/4″-wide jumbo; solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped Adirondack spruce bracing; arched, laminated flame-maple back and laminated flame-maple sides; tortoiseshell pickguard; black-and-white purfling with white binding; gloss nitrocellulose finish, natural
NECK: 25-5/8″-scale mahogany neck with dual-action truss rod and walnut center strip; 1-7/8″-wide bone nut; 20-fret ebony fingerboard with mother-of-pearl and abalone V-blocks position inlays; white binding; 12″ radius; gloss nitrocellulose finish
OTHER: Indian rosewood bridge with compensated bone saddle, bone bridge pins; ivoroid plastic endpin; premium hardshell case with humidifier; gold Gotoh SE701 open-gear tuners; D’Addario EXP38 coated phosphor bronze strings (.010–.047); Lifetime limited warranty; available with LR Baggs Anthem pickup (F-512E Maple, $3,999 street)
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MADE IN: USA
PRICE: $3,699 (street)