Guild jazz guitar
Mini Manhattan semi-acoustic
It's beautiful - a bit orangey, but beautiful. Even if it does look like it's being dipped in caramel, the Guild Mini Manhattan is one damn fine looking guitar.
This particular instrument is the flagship of a new Guild flotilla, leading these 100 per cent American machines across the Atlantic and back into British music shops. If you want to get technical, it's a wide-bodied semi-acoustic model, serial no. X170, and is based on the full size Manhattan X175, Guild's top jazz guitar.
If you want to know why the Mini Manhattan is so expensive, just grab a nail-file and try scratching the gold-plating which covers virtually every metal surface except the strings - no easy task. And it took ages to dig out all those mother-of-pearl inlays. The translucent amber varnish, which covers all of the body, and the back of the neck, is perfect (not a word I use lightly). The double pinstriped binding on both body and neck is subtle and flawless. The finishing on this instrument is the best I can remember seeing.
The 24¾ scale neck has 20 frets, a comfortable shallow profile, and a wide flat fingerboard. It's not a long neck, as it joins the body by the single rounded cutaway at the 14th fret, but it fits naturally into the hand for both fast fingered jazz stuff (someone showed me that bit), and thumb-round-the-neck rockabilly licks.
The Mini Manhattan's sensuously arched body (front and back) is roughly as wide at the edges as three of my fingers in the middle (2½in). It is wholly hollow, with the exception of mounting blocks beneath the bridge and front pickups. This compromise between the fully hollow jazz guitar with its floating bridge, and the semi-acoustic 335-type with a central sustain block works well: it's not as loud a hollow body (and presumably not as prone to acoustic feedback), and it sustains very well.
The 'Harp' tailpiece (so-called because it looks nothing like a harp) holds the strings firmly on to the rosewood bridge, and harboured the only blemished spot on the guitar (a slightly imperfectly gold-plated seam). Even though the bridge is fixed, the intonation was accurate right up the neck, even for chords with open strings.
The electronics are straightforward two volume/tone. They are well-placed, and work smoothly across their range. Excellent.
Stuff this jazz business, this guitar should have belonged to Eddie Cochran or Neil Young. At least that's all I could play on it.
I did one particularly sordid gig with the Mini-Manhattan and a 50W Marshall, during which the guitar fed back spectacularly, tremendous howls and squeals of shame issuing forth in protest at the way it was being played - great, and I haven't enjoyed a review so much in ages.
It's not normal Making Music policy to review such expensive items - but the X170 is an instrument that few guitarists would not aspire to (I know I do); and if the standard of manufacture is sustained by the rest of the new range of Guilds, solid bodies and acoustics, they should become much sought after guitars. Berr-illiant, even if it did smell of varnish.