Hailing from Guild’s Westerly Collection, the B140E promises a classy angle on the sometimes-gaudy acoustic bass format. The concept behind this particular range is to re-invigorate the Guild name and use some of the richer qualities of builds from their Rhode Island era to bring about a guitar that, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, simply feels like a confident nod to the heritage that made them such a reliable, quality guitar maker in the first place. There is a real sense of honest craftsmanship in these guitars, which is clear from the moment you pick one up. For me, playing an acoustic bass is always an odd experience. Sitting somewhere between their hefty orchestral predecessor and cooler, electric cousin they occupy a strange, almost opulent space in the history of stringed instruments. You really have to know what you’re doing with one in order to convince it not to get away from you. Given the chance though there is a sublime harmonic world hidden behind those 4 strings that few other instruments are game enough to venture into. The B140E is no exception.
It’s bright, really bright! The Sitka spruce on the topside is the main tonal influence, while the mahogany back and sides round out the sound ever so slightly. Played with a pick the character is bristling and sheer, inches away from being accused of excessive shrillness. It begs a little softening of technique to clean up what has the potential to be a clear, soaring note. Once I took it on a few walking finger-style runs it started to open up and really play along. I get the feeling it would marry well with other, warmer instruments around it, as Guild is going for absolute clarity here, almost to the point of paying too little attention to the lower mids, but it works. It’s a vibrant and individual voice that is more at home in conversation than playing on it’s own.
Having said that, it’s not an incredibly loud instrument. Sure it has swathes of tonal bite in the density of the woods employed, but it’s the aforementioned clarity that it hangs its hat on as opposed to thunderous, rib rattling volume. Not to understate it at all, you’ll definitely hear every note you play as clear as a bell. But if you’re looking for the ribbons of low-end that are usually the bread and butter of acoustic basses, you won’t find it here. It’s an economical tone at play, and honestly makes for a welcome change from the ‘all bass, no treble’ idolatry that many other builders rely on.
QUALITY IS KEY
All of the Westerly Collection guitars come loaded with Fishman pickups mounted just inside the sound hole, in this case the Sonitone Bass with Sonicore. Tactfully tucked just out of sight, the Fishmans offer as much transparency as they do stealth. Being able to roll off the tone here should bring on some of the warmth hidden in the ribs of the jumbo-sized body without tempering any of its moxie too much; another wise choice from Master Builder Ren Ferguson.
Guild set a pretty stern line in the sand in the 70’s with their B50 model and the B140E sits assuredly as a cocky, modern update on that lineage. These are player’s guitars built with craftsmanship in the forefront of the design that absolutely won’t wreak havoc on your back pocket, but will chew up a good portion of your spare time.
For more details, head to zenithmusic.com.
Hits and Misses
Exceptional build quality
Fishman pickups are a plus
Clarity of tone