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Review: Guild M-120 - is this concert sized guitar a good buy? 1

Review: Guild M-120 – is this concert sized guitar a good buy?

Guild are one of those solid brands that have been around a while. They perhaps lack the market presence of the likes of Gibson or Fender, but they’ve been there, just quietly doing their thing.

Their thing is making great guitars.

If you’re more familiar with Guild’s electric guitars, you might be surprised to see and learn that their acoustic range is actually pretty traditional. They’re the least weird shapes imaginable! Especially when you think about the likes of their Thunderbird electric model. Now there’s an interesting looking guitar.

Here, we have one of said traditional looking acoustics, the M-120.

If you’re not super-familiar with acoustic guitars, you might be intrigued by the shape of the M-120’s body. That shape is called a concert guitar, but we’ll get to that later. The M-120 that’s currently available is one if the models in a range that Guild have called the Westerly.

The Westerly range launched in 2015, and it’s named after Westerly in Rhode Island, which is where Guild made their acoustic guitars between the 1960s and 1990s. The guitars from that era and factory are well-regarded, so why not use the name to lend some prestige to a contemporary offering?

Core features and specs

What body shape does it have?Concert
What’s the top made from?Solid African mahogany
What’re the back and sides made from?Solid African mahogany
What’s the neck made from?Solid African mahogany
What’s the fingerboard made from?Pau Ferro – earlier models have rosewood
Does it have any electronics?If you really need it, you can get an electro-acoustic model is available with Guild/Fishman AP1 with a Sonicore pickup, Volume and Tone controls

You’ll notice in that specs list where I mention that earlier models had rosewood fingerboards. Well, that’s because of the CITES agreement, which regulates rosewood, because it’s been classed as an endangered wood species. So, the likes of Guild, and other guitar manufacturers have to work out alternatives, in this case, Guild have opted for Pau Ferro.

Who should play this?

Review: Guild M-120 - is this concert sized guitar a good buy? 2
Image credit: Guild Guitars

The Guild M-120 would cover a lot of ground for a lot of different players.

You can pick one up for around $700, give or take, which places it in the intermediate range. So, I would pitch this as being a good instrument for beginners who are absolutely committed to learning, or people who have been playing for a few years looking to drop a few bucks on an upgrade from their learning instrument.

It might seem a lot of money to a beginner, but, if a beginner opts for a totally cheapo guitar, it won’t be nice to play, and then they won’t want to play it, and then they’ll never learn. You see?

At the same time, from my own perspective, $700 seems a lot of money to drop on a Chinese-made instrument. I’m not sure I’d pull the trigger on that one.

I mean, obviously, Guild is a great brand, and they’re not going to let garbage guitars on the market with their name on the headstock. But I do have to wonder how much of that price tag accounts just for having their branding on it. Some of it at least, I’d wager.

Let’s see if we can find anything further for the M-120 to win its favor with us.

Parts?

The specs list above didn’t really highlight anything special for the M-120. But, it’s hard to come across as exceptional when you’re aiming for something relatively traditional.

First impression: this is a classy instrument, and it comes across as having the quality that you should expect from a $700 guitar. However, I do believe that the devil is in the detail, and with that price tag, I’d like to be sure.

Again, going back to the specs list, I’m not convinced. And, even after a closer inspection, I’m not 100% convinced.

When you think about the amount of parts that go into an electric guitar e.g. electronics and the like, it’s difficult to give anything as comprehensive in terms of discussion, because the parts are so simple on an acoustic. And in electric guitars of this price, you’d expect to see at least some of the parts outsourced, like the pickups and machineheads.

But that’s not the case here. For example, the machineheads on the M-120 are Guild’s own. I feel like it’s not unreasonable to expect a set of Grovers at this price point.

With Chinese guitars, the reason they’re so cheap is that they use generic unbranded parts. That’s fine, but don’t expect anything special for them. We’ve all seen those $50 guitars on eBay and Wish. And generic, unbranded parts are fine at that price. But at $700? I absolutely expect something a little bit special.

Construction

Review: Guild M-120 - is this concert sized guitar a good buy? 3

Reading over the last section, perhaps I was a little unkind. But I’m trying to be honest here.

Let’s take a different angle, and see what the M-120 looks like from a construction perspective.

I always feel the neck joint is the best starting point in evaluating a guitar’s construction. And the neck joint on the M-120 impresses me. It’s clean: no scratches or scrapes, and there’s no glue residue. I can’t see any sign of “making the neck fit” either, for example, large chunks of glue or wood filler in gaps.

For all my picking on the machineheads in the last section, I can’t deny that they’re securely fixed to the headstock. It’s a very clean and neat job. I can’t fault it at all.

Moving onto the fingerboard, and the fretwork looks excellent. I’m not a professional guitar tech, but it sure looks good to me.

Looking at the body, and I do like the finish. Guild describe the finish on the M-120 as “natural gloss.” Whatever. What I like about it is that it isn’t a thickly layered application of lacquer. You can still get a feel of wooden earthiness from the instrument.

I appreciate the sustainability concerns around the manufacture of guitars. But I also appreciate being able to feel the wood.

As with the rest of the parts mentioned, the bridge and scratchplate have been attached carefully and cleanly.

Tones

Evaluating the tones of acoustic guitars is so binary compare to electric guitars. There aren’t things like different amps with different settings that will affect how it’ll sound for every single different guitarist who plugs it in!

Acoustic guitars sound good or bad. The only real thing that can influence that natural sound is your own location when you’re playing it.

Anyway, with the M-120, I playing it in my living room, as most regular guitar players will be, so it’s not a bad place to assess its sound.

I start out with some low end power chords, because I play with a grunge influence, and that’s how I play verses. It sounds fine to me. I run up and down the fingerboard, throw in some higher power chords and some open strings. It sounds perfectly pleasant. There’s a warmth to it. No real aggression, and the volume isn’t excessive – I’m not sure it’d cut it for a gig.

With open chords, where I let the treble strings ring out, there’s a brightness that complements the lows of the power chords. This hints that the M-120 might be a handy all-rounder.

Because of that evaluation, and for other reasons, I feel this places the M-120 as a guitar you might have in your living area or lounge for anybody to enjoy playing.

Playability

m-120

Because of the reasons outlined toward the end of the last section there, and despite the initial misgivings in my evaluation of the M-120, at this stage in the review, its overall friendliness as an instrument makes it so playable, I don’t think I can dismiss it, and its prospective value completely.

In the right home, this could be an engaging and enjoyable centerpiece.

And that goes beyond the sound and size. The frets are very comfortable and smooth right along the neck. There’s nothing catching or any kind of sharpness. It’s not always a given with Eastern-made guitars, but this is all good.

The M-120 has a nice action, which shouldn’t cause complaints or any difficulty for any players with any bit of experience at all. If you’ve played any of the cheap and nasty Eastern-made guitars, you’ll feel me.

Like the action, the neck of the M-120 is just right. It’s a comfortable thickness, which again, will appeal to large cross-section of players, including ladies and children or teenagers, making it an ideal family guitar at the center of your family area.

Staying in the neck area, and in line with my comments about the top of the M-120’s body, the neck isn’t overly finished, with layers of lacquer. However much I hate it on the top of a guitar’s body, I hate it even more on its neck and fingerboard. I feel it adds a sticky feels to it, which, quite frankly, I just don’t want.

ProsCons
  • It’s a fine looking and constructed instrument
  • Lovely to play, with a versatile appeal
  • Great to have as an all-rounder if you have players of different ages and skill levels about
It’s so lovely, but I can’t get past the price for a Chinese-made instrument – I feel I’d either look for a cheaper alternative, or keep my eyes peeled for sales

Conclusion

So there you have it.

To summarize my findings: the Guild M-120 is a lovely instrument, but I’m not convinced it’s $700 lovely.

It’s a versatile guitar, so it, or something similar might be useful to have around a recording studio, or somewhere lots of different guitarists might go to play lots of different styles.

I like the mellow warmth. The size, action, and neck make it a very comfortable guitar.

Guild M-120

Parts
Construction
Tones
Playability

A versatile guitar for where one is needed

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Review: Guild M-120 - is this concert sized guitar a good buy?
Review: Guild M-120 - is this concert sized guitar a good buy? 4
Guild are one of those solid brands that have been around a while. They perhaps lack the market presence of the likes of Gibson or Fender, but they’ve been
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