Guild Starfire I-12

Budget Jangle
Guild Starfire I-12
Price: $649

Twelve-string electrics were ubiquitous in the swinging ’60s, popularized by bands like The Byrds, Beatles, Searchers, Turtles, Beau Brummels, and many others. Though they eventually fell out of fashion as heavier music took over, electric 12s never totally disappeared and were given new life by artists like Tom Petty, The Smiths, R.E.M., The Church, and others, all of whom discovered not only that gorgeous high-end jangle, but lush, full tones that added considerable depth to rhythm tracks.

Guitarists on a budget typically have had very few choices when it comes to 12-strings, but Guild has taken a step to help remedy that with its Starfire I-12.

Constructed of mahogany, the semi-hollow Starfire I-12 sports classic Guild styling, arched top and back, a Modern U-shaped neck, rosewood fretboard with 12.5″ radius, a 111/16″-wide nut, 243/4″ scale, and closed-gear nickel-plated tuners, plus a Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece.

Generating tones are two Guild HB-2 pickups with individual Volume and Tone knobs, along with a three-way toggle.

Straight from its case, a careful inspection showed great attention to detail. The guitar immediately felt comfortable and well-balanced, both sitting and standing. It tuned up effortlessly and stayed there. The Modern U-shaped neck felt comfortably chunky, and the nut width was ideal. Budget guitars often ship with annoying little issues that require a luthier’s attention, but not the Starfire I-12. And, it passed the outdoor-gig test with flying colors.

Both Volume knobs allow coil splitting, giving the player an impressive number of tonal choices including crisp and airy jangle aplenty for lead runs, as well as smooth, mellow chordal response. But did it pass “The Byrds litmus test?” With added compression from a Janglebox compressor, the Starfire I-12 got very close to that classic tone. The intro to “Mr. Tambourine Man” rang clear, with bell-like highs, and the psychedelic-raga Coltrane lead licks to “Eight Miles High” were equally satisfying. Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart” rhythm pattern sounded nearly exact. Impressive.

Made in Indonesia, the Starfire I-12 won’t break the bank, but it does deliver all the classic jangle, and chime any 12-stringer could want, while also being very versatile.

This article originally appeared in VG’s December 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

No posts to display