Review: Guild Surfliner Deluxe

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Review: Guild Surfliner Deluxe

Guild Surliner Deluxe
Words by Christopher Hockey

Guild Surfliner Deluxe | Zenith Music | RRP $1499 

Every now and then, you pick up a guitar that reminds you of why you fell in love with them in the first place. The Guild Surfliner Deluxe is one such guitar. For many of us, what was once an alluringly glamorous and foreign object, full of mystery and promise, has become a tool of the trade, an extension of ourselves that we take for granted. We forget how utterly romantic, how nuanced and beautiful the instruments we spend our time holding and playing once were to us.

Guild Surfliner Deluxe review

Whilst our passion hasn’t dwindled, it perhaps lacks the fiery, curious edge that tends to only inhabit us at the beginning of our musical journey. The more our ability develops, the more our knowledge of equipment expands and the more comfortable we become in our little six-stringed world, the more at risk we are of drifting away from the feverish, youthful excitement that set us on this path to begin with.

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There’s no better way to reignite that spark than to pick up a new guitar, but it has to be truly special to do the trick. Well, this new offering from Guild is as special as it gets. Its shapely offset body, long scale length and striking headstock are reminiscent of many things at once, all of them good. The classic offset surf guitars of yesteryear certainly spring to mind, as does a certain fiery avian model out of Kalamazoo. However, all in all, the Surfliner Deluxe is distinctly Guild. Garagey enough to be eternally cool and yet punctuated with dazzlingly classy appointments.

Guild Surfliner Deluxe finish

From its sparkling black finish and nickel hardware to its pearloid block inlays, everything about this guitar is aesthetically perfect. Its groovily asymmetrical tailpiece, the white binding on its generously wide fretboard and the closed-gear locking tuners adorning its headstock are all important features that add up to an enticing and inspiring instrument. Flip it over and prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the enticingly dark brown colouring and grainy look of the Surfliner’s roasted maple neck, a first for the brand and a fine addition.

Guild Surfliner Deluxe finish

In the hands, the Surfliner Deluxe feels long and broad in a way that fans of aforementioned comparative guitars will be very familiar with. The C-Shaped neck feels velvety smooth to the touch thanks to its natural matte finish, making for a delightful and freeing playing experience. The 25.5” scale length, 1 11/16” nut width and 10” radius of the neck gives the impression of an almost baritone-like scope, but it never feels clunky. Rather than hindering the agility of one’s digits, the proportions of the neck evoke a luxurious degree of comfort rather evocative of a stretch-limousine (and for only a fraction of the price).

Guild Surfliner Deluxe pickups

The Guild Surfliner Deluxe is blessed with an incredibly versatile HSS pickup configuration and a 5-Way pickup switch that work in conjunction to create a myriad of tonal possibilities. The HB-2 Humbucker in the bridge position features Alnico II magnets, recreating the rich, warm tone of vintage Guild humbuckers. Exhibiting a mid-focused but fairly even frequency response, the HB-2 is cool enough as to not overpower its DeArmond single-coil friends but hot enough to do some serious damage if pushed into distortion. In the fourth position, the bridge and middle pickups combine to create a slightly scooped, quacky sound. Fragile yet funky, this position allows for a subtle tone that will be familiar to fans of S-Style guitars. Set clean, you’re in Knopfler territory, set dirty, this position is capable of both classic honk and some grimey, garagey goodness.

Guild Surfliner Deluxe sound

The middle pickup in the Surfliner is where its most powerfully raw tones can be found. Bright, edgy and dynamically wide open, this position really grinds on full blast and simply screams rock and roll. Whilst certainly capable of some very naturalistic, almost acoustic tones at low volumes, when pushed, this pickup absolutely howls and could quite confidently cut through the densest of mixes.

The second position provides the classic hum-cancelling effect found between the neck and middle pickups. Cool, smooth and jazzy, this position shines when utilised for clean, funky rhythm parts and provides a smooth velvety lead tone when overdriven. From Cory Wong to John Mayer, this is a timeless and familiar tone that has been utilised by many classic players the world over.

Guild Surfliner deluxe pickups

Finally, in the neck position, the Surfliner provides a spanky yet smooth tone that doesn’t lose its edge. Warm and full, the neck pickup in this guitar is gloriously velvety and yet remains bright and bell-like enough to still shine through. Perfect for clean jazz and blues tones, this pickup also excels at smooth, sustaining leads when distorted.

Most importantly, the Guild Surfliner is downright fun. From its uber-cool, timeless aesthetic that doesn’t take itself too seriously, to its wide-ranging sound, it truly does rekindle that youthful spark of excitement we all yearn for. The sleek, sparkling finish, the daring shape and the retro-futuristic design are all as eye-catching as they are unique. The spacious fretboard, extra long tremolo arm that never knocks you out of tune and the overall feeling of the Surfliner is certainly that of a surf guitar, and yet it’s so much more. Try it out and it’ll likely steal your heart, but after all, who doesn’t want to fall in love?

For local enquiries, visit Zenith Music.