BY NICK MILLEVOI
By name alone, Guild’s Westerly Collection had me fantasizing about cowboys singing songs like “Red River Valley” while they cook beans under a starry night sky. As fitting an image as that might be for these instruments, I was wrong. Rather than a reference to America’s cinematic Western expanse, the Westerly name is actually a nod to the town of Westerly, Rhode Island, where in 1966 Guild moved production from its Hoboken, New Jersey, location. The company manufactured instruments in Westerly until 2001, when it relocated to California. In 2015, Guild introduced the Westerly collection as a way to commemorate those 35 years of operation in Rhode Island.
The recent Memoir series, part of the Westerly Collection, plays up a throwback vibe that seems to imply both interpretations of the Westerly title, subtly evoking both a home-on-the-range vibe and a 1960s folk feel. The small-bodied P-240 Memoir and the dreadnought DS-240 Memoir both sport a script headstock logo that imagines what Guild, which started making guitars in 1953, might have used had it been around in the 1920s.
Similar Specs, Different Personalities
When it comes to functionality, these relatively affordable guitars—made far from Rhode Island, in a Chinese factory—play more like modern instruments than their appearance indicates. The accoutrements on the small-bodied P-240 and the large, sloped-shouldered DS-240 are the same: a scalloped, X-braced solid Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides and ivory binding. The necks are made from mahogany, their pau ferro fretboards marked with understated mother-of-pearl inlays. Each guitar sports a pau ferro bridge and NuBone saddle. Despite these similarities in construction, the experience of playing these guitars couldn’t be more different.
The P-240 is a smart parlor guitar with a 12th-fret neck junction and a slotted headstock. It’s comfortable and lightweight, just small enough to be easily portable, and compact enough to leave sitting out on the couch without it getting in the way.
I found the P-240 to be a great-sounding and handsome guitar, with a strong midrange that would allow single-note playing to cut through a mix without being too harsh. However, my first impression was that the wide, C-shaped neck is a bit cumbersome and hard to navigate. Its 1-3/4-inch nut width feels spacious and rewards playability in the first position, where sparkly open chords really sing, but it’s less comfortable and too wide at the higher frets—at least for me. However, I was eventually able to get used to the feel of the neck and find my way around a bit better. And at the price, this is a fair tradeoff for a guitar that sounds so nice.
The DS-240, on the other hand, felt immediately recognizable to me. I’ve long been a fan of vintage Guild acoustics, with their unique, full-bodied, throaty tones. When I got my first vintage Guild dreadnought in the 1990s, it was a much more affordable than its vintage Martin and Gibson counterparts, yet it sounded every bit as cool. All of that is to say that when I picked up the DS-240, despite its economical price point and overseas provenance, my hands knew they were holding a Guild.
Featuring open-backed tuners and a gloss polyurethane sunburst finish, the DS-240 has a refined and classic look. The body, which has a 15-7/8-inch-wide lower bout and four- to five-inch depth, feels large. And that big box does wonders in producing low end with lots of headroom.
It seems as though the neck on the DS-240 received extra attention in the finishing stages of production, as it’s the thing that really set this guitar apart and made it much easier for me to bond with. Though both guitars have a 16-inch-radius fretboard, this instrument feels a little rounder than its parlor-style counterpart, making it easier to dig into bluesy bends and single-note runs. At 1-11/16 inches, the nut is narrower than on the P-240, making the DS-240’s neck easier to jump around on.
The DS-240 is especially fun and easy to dig into. While I really like the way this guitar sounds in just about any context, the thing that really stands out are low-voiced chords up the neck, everything in first position, and strummed open strings. Richie Havens had the right idea when he chose to play his Guild D-40 at Woodstock, and the DS-240 seems capable of handling the same duties required for that gig, supplying loads of headroom for maximum strumming and heavy picking. In fact, the low end is so pronounced on this guitar, playing in the treble quarters can feel a little less dynamic. On their own, the high notes sound just fine; it’s just so much fun to hear those low strings sing.
The Bottom Line
Guild has done a fine job with the Memoir series, creating a pair of guitars that will appeal to players looking for vintage aesthetics at affordable price points. The P-240’s sparkly high end and midrange and the DS-240’s loud, bass-heavy sound offer two very distinct voices. In a shootout, the DS-240 might manage to outshine the P-240, but both guitars have their place and ultimately look and sound great.
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BODY: 14-fret, slope-shouldered dreadnought; solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X-bracing; mahogany back and sides; ivory ABS binding; gloss polyurethane vintage sunburst finish.
NECK: 24-3/4″-scale C-shape mahogany neck; 16″ radius; pau ferro fretboard with 3mm mother-of-pearl dots; Guild 18:1 nickel tuners; 1-11/16″ nut width; NuBone nut.
OTHER: Pau ferro bridge; NuBone saddle; tortoiseshell pickguard; D’Addario EXP16 strings (.012–.053).
MADE IN: China
PRICE: $499 street
BODY: 12-fret parlor; solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X-bracing; mahogany back and sides; ivory ABS binding; gloss polyurethane natural finish.
NECK: 24-3/4″-scale C-shape mahogany neck; 16″ radius; pau ferro fretboard with 3mm mother-of pearl-dots; Guild 18:1 nickel tuners; 1-3/4″ nut width; NuBone nut.
OTHER: Pau ferro bridge; NuBone saddle; D’Addario EXP16 strings (.012–.053).
MADE IN: China
PRICE: $499 street