The Company Line
Guild didn’t start out as Guild. It started out as Alfred Dronge Music in New York, 1945. Guild became Guild in 1952, and built their first guitars in 1953. They built bass guitars in the 1960’s, but it wasn’t until the mid 1970’s before they came out with an acoustic bass, the B-50. One of very few acoustic bass guitars at the time, it had a jumbo body, and arched back. The B-50 was very popular with acoustic players wanting to add bass to their toolkit, and is the design the Jumbo Junior is based on.
Guild Guitars has been through a lot of change over the years, purchased by Avnet Corp in 1966, Fender in 1995, and its current owner, Cordoba Music Group, in 2014. Manufacturing has literally been moved from coast to coast here in the USA, but they also have manufacturing abroad. For example, the Jumbo Junior Bass is made in China.
They’ve also worked with a number of truly great artists over the years from the New York jazz scene in the 50’s, to people many of us are very familiar with, such as Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Hank Williams Jr., David Byrne (Talking Heads), Stevie Ray Vaughan, Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Brian May, Kim Thayil (Sound Garden), Johnny Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls), Tom Petty, Sheryl Crowe, and more. While they may be best known for their guitars, their basses are really quite good. I remember playing one of the B-50 basses a while back and was surprised at how well it played and sounded for such a relatively small body (prior to that, the only acoustic bass I’d ever played was an upright). I’d also later played one of the Ernie Ball “Earthwood” basses, but the body was so big, it was really uncomfortable to play – and to my ears, did not outperform the B-50. With the Jumbo Junior being based on the B-50 design, but small enough to add great portability – and at a very affordable price – I was excited to check it out.
The body is made of flamed maple, with white binding on the front, back, the side by the end pin, and the bottom of the neck heel. The back is also arched, which I’m sure improves its sound. The top is solid spruce, with a nice compliment of inlay around the sound hole, including some mother of pearl. A one-ply tortoise shell guard lies below the sound hole, and is thin enough to allow the top to work properly, while protecting it from damage. The bridge is beefy, made of ebony, with a bone saddle and plastic pins. The neck is maple, with a bone nut, 19 banjo style frets, with an ebony fingerboard, mother of pearl dot inlays, and even an adjustable truss rod! The machines are Guild, and the design reminds me of Schallers. The 18:1 ratio makes it really easy to tune with precision. The mother of pearl Guild inlay on the face of the headstock is also a nice touch. The strap buttons are the usual cone-shaped buttons, but it’s nice that they added a second pin down on the heel of the neck, so you don’t have to use a traditional acoustic strap with leather ties at the nut if you don’t want to.
The electronics are pretty basic. It has a sound hole mounted piezo system based on the Fishman Bass Sonitone, but with some Guild customizations, renamed the AP-1. It has discrete volume and tone controls in the sound hole (just as all Guild acoustics do), which are easy to get to. There’s a combination output jack and battery box on the side of the bass below the end pin, but there is no built-in tuner.
Fit and finish
As mentioned before, the bass is made in China, where quality control can vary a lot, depending completely on how involved the OEM is, and their selection of resources over there. I’m looking at this bass with a pretty fine-toothed comb, and despite its extremely affordable price, it’s really hard to find something to complain about. All the joints are tight and smooth, the finish is excellent, and the wood choices are spot-on.
In particular, not only am I surprised they’re able to use ebony on an instrument at this price, but the ebony wood selected for the bridge and fingerboard are really beautiful pieces. The frets are seated well and the level is good. I never had to adjust the truss rod (a good indication they’re using highly stable woods). The tuners work great and the nut allows smooth string movement for reliable and easy tuning. If I had to pick at one thing, the fret ends on the review piece are sticking out just a tad, so it feels a little “sharp” sliding your fingers up and down the neck, though it does not affect playability. In fact, this is something that happens pretty commonly when the fingerboard wood dries, and it is easy to address by dressing the fret ends
On the gig
It took a little getting used to on the shoulders. This bass is extremely different from anything else I typically play, including my other acoustic basses. The super-small size made it almost feel like a toy, honestly. I was a bit concerned that the slinky feel of the strings might make it difficult to play with authority – noting I play electric the vast majority of the time – but it was surprisingly easy to play. Playing along with tracks at home, the acoustic sound of this bass is really great, and even from high to low. The E string really sounds great. I didn’t get a chance to jam with others acoustically, but I imagine it’d do just fine, depending on any percussion instruments present.
I also gigged this bass out in my cover band (the usual compliment of classic to modern rock, country, funk, pop, etc.), intending to only play a few tunes to see what it did in a loud-ish electric setting. It was so much fun to play, and sounded so good, I ended up playing it for the entire first two sets! Imagine a guy playing this bass getting down and rocking hard playing Night Ranger’s “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” Other band members refused to look at me because they couldn’t keep a straight face, but the audience loved it. In fact, the title of this review comes from one of the audience members, because the size of this bass made it look like a third guitar! The sound of this bass is classic piezo: huge and round on the low end and crispy up top, but with pretty subdued mids. Of the piezo systems I’ve played, this is among the best for mids I’ve ever heard, but I still needed to adjust my amp to drop bass and add mids for the band to even things out a bit more. Also, much to my surprise, I didn’t have any feedback issues whatsoever, despite lack of an EQ on the bass or sound hole cover.
The Bottom Line
This bass is legit. I’m surprised at the playability, as well as the authority and consistency of the sound, despite its size, and especially its price. And while the electronics are a bit limited compared to other preamp-outfitted acoustics (no tuner or EQ/feedback-buster), it really does work well. I didn’t miss the other typically included features, at all. This isn’t the only quality mini-acoustic bass on the market, but if you’re in the market for one, you really need to check one out!