Guild Surfliner Review
Verdict and Review Summary
The Surfliner is a Guild design that mimics the Fender Jaguar but is far cheaper. For a guitar in the Squier price range, it sounds and plays more like a real Fender, and would certainly be one of our top picks if the sub-$500 price category is what you're working with.
To test the Guild Surfliner I did not use any pedals or effects. Instead, I hooked it straight into my Mesa Rectoverb combo, dialed in a small amount of reverb from the amp and got down to business. You can see some of this setup in my dining room, via the photo below.
First, this guitar is incredibly affordable, especially in today's market (see the pricing charts below for live updated numbers.
When compared to the guitar it's modeled after - the Fender Jaguar specifically - it's a small fraction of what you'd pay to snag one of those. At the time of writing this article, the Squier Jaguar was actually more expensive than the Guild Surfliner, and I'd much rather have the Surfliner.
So it's clear that we have a good deal and good value in this guitar, allowing you to get an electric that would work for beginners and lower tier intermediates at a cheap price, but with the feel of a more professional instrument.
But how does it play? What does it sound like?
I'll address it all on this page from a first-hand experience.
While based on a first-hand account, my Guild Surfliner review should be understood as primarily opinion. In fact, these are the rantings of a lunatic (me) and are probably wrong. Consider this before you comment. Also be aware that we partner with Sweetwater to support our site at no extra cost to you. If you decide to shop/buy, use the orange Sweetwater buttons to click through.
Compare the Guild Surfliner to Similar Guitars
Given the similarities to the Jaguars in the Squier and Fender lineup, we've added a comparison table so you can see the difference in price and features. Of the three, we'd say the Surfliner provides the most value.
Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar ('70s version)
As I mentioned earlier, we've included price tracking tools for the Guild Surfliner. Note that the price alert and price history track with Sweetwater, since Sweetwater tends to be a fairly a good barometer of market retail. Also keep in mind these charts update in real time, so you know you're getting the latest numbers.
Current Sweetwater Pricing (price updates automatically)
Additional Vendors (price updates automatically)
Price Alert Tool (based on Sweetwater Retail)
Price History (based in Sweetwater retail)
Price History for Guild Surfliner Solidbody Electric Guitar - Catalina Blue
|Current Price||$449.00||March 30, 2023|
|Highest Price||$449.00||August 30, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$449.00||August 30, 2022|
Last price changes
|$449.00||August 30, 2022|
IDEAL FOR: Beginners looking for a Squier alternative, and not wanting to spend Fender Jaguar money.
Overall Tone Quality
The guitar is smooth, perhaps with a little less edge than the Fender Jaguars. It's also bluesy, with a little bit of pop when a string gets picked. This makes it easy to put some dynamic variety into your playing, especially on the lead side, by simply shifting picking intensity.
Going into different levels of gain, the guitar maintains those characteristics. It doesn't give you a lot of sustain, but that's not something you typically get out of more mellow guitars with single coils.
It's definitely bluesy and subtle.
The clean tone provides a nice rhythm layer, even on the more treble-focused settings. I was able to get a lot of warmth and gentleness out of open chords, while clean palm mutes we not quite as satisfying. Again, this is common with single coils, that aren't really made for chunky rhythm. So I'd say the clean tone is most at home with lighter chord progressions, arpeggiated patterns, and even bluesy lead.
For most of my testing I did not use a high-gain setting, simply because that's not what this guitar is designed for. The Mesa has a gain control for the clean channel and a crunch setting, both of which sounded great, even with a just a slight amount of breakup.
With a small amount of overdrive, switching through all the pickup configurations gave me a lot of variety to work with, and actually kept me busy trying different sounds for quite awhile.
Again, there wasn't a ton of sustain, which I think is inherent to this particular guitar.
Though some of that could be due to lower gain/distortion levels as well.
Pickups and Versatility
The on/off switches (near the top of the guitar's body) are a really cool feature that makes it easy to isolate the sound you want.
All three of them turn one of the pickups off. Flip them all to the off position and the guitar is muted, which could be helpful when performing live.
The humbucker is a Guild stock job, but it sounds decent. I liked the single coils a bit better, especially with the neck pickup the only one switched on. You get a surprising amount of warmth from that pickup, especially when running a clean signal.
I found myself tinkering with those switches quite a bit.
Between the two, this guitar has a ton of versatility before the signal even leaves your guitar.
How it Compares to the Fender and Squier Jaguars
Given that the Fender and Squier versions of the Jaguar are the two closest alternatives: How do they compare to the Guild Surfliner?
Fender Jaguar (Cobain signature)
First, and perhaps most obvious, the Fender version of the Jaguar - particularly their Kurt Cobain signature - is far more expensive. It's a part of Fender's Relic line, with a much weightier roster of features, but even the non-relic Fender Jaguars are pricey.
Here are just a few upgrades you get in the Fender Cobain Jaguar when compared to the Surfliner:
- DiMarzio humbuckers (neck and bridge)
- Gotoh sealed tuning hardware
- A vintage Fender floating tremolo bridge
- High-grade alder tonewood for the body
What about the Squier? It retails around the same price (a bit more expensive, as I mentioned) but how does it differ?
First, it has two single coil pickups instead of the HSS variation in the other guitar. It also moves the pickup off/on switches to the bottom of the lower bout, while the Surfliner has them on the top.
It also uses a Fender stock pickup at both positions with an alnico pickup, breaking ranks with the DeArmond rails in the Guild.
One notable similarity is poplar tonewood used in the body.
The neck plays quick and feels small. It's 1.653" at the nut, which is .003 off from the two Jaguars (both are .1650").
It's also easy to hold and maneuver, without any weight distribution issues. Sitting down and standing up both feel fine.
It plays easy enough to help you get through practice sessions without any discomfort, and will allow you to work on your lead work without getting frustrated by a "draggy" or uncomfortable fretboard.
In same vein, sliding and string-bending feel particularly good.
Overall Value (price)
This is where the Guild Surfliner really comes through and makes its case.
At the time of this review, it was $449, cheaper than most Squier electrics, including their version of the Jaguar. While that $449 can change, it's an extremely cheap price point for an electric guitar these days.
As a beginner electric guitar, it should be considered one of the highest value options, giving you an almost perfect balance between quality and cost.
Ideal Fit and Context
Beginners or those looking for their second guitars are going to be ideal fits for the Guild Surfliner. We also like it for blues styles, classic rock, and maybe even contemporary Christian spaces. We wouldn't recommend it for serious recording, though could perhaps be a good fit for smaller live venues.
I'd argue it also has potential to be a "long-term" guitar that outlasts its original skill level at the time of purchase.
In other words, when you're no longer a beginner, you'll likely keep it employed.
Given the Surfliner's price, there's little to complain about. Even if it were more expensive than the Squier, I wouldn't necessarily fault Guild for that. They've simply produced a solid guitar at an extremely reasonable price. If you're in the earlier stages of your guitar playing career, the Surfliner is an option you can be confident in.
If you have questions about our Guild Surfliner review or our review process, feel free to reach out via the comments section below.
Keep the disclaimer in mind and we'll see you there.
Pete Thibault says
I have the “white” Surfliner. I did a few mods to it and it is definitely come together wonderfully. I replaced the tuners with some decent-quality brass-post locking tuners from Guyker. I replaced the bridge with a roller saddle bridge also from Guyker. Finally, I dropped in an adjustable, rolling nut. This thing stays in tune all day now. The one remaining upgrade I plan is to drop a P90 in the bridge. Even without all of the upgrades the guitar sounded great. I just wasn’t able to keep it in tune or intonate it well.
Bobby Kittleberger says
Thanks for sharing, Pete. I was really impressed with this guitar, given the price. Sounds like once you get the pickups squared away you’ll be good to go.
I’ve got a blue one coming in the next couple weeks. Exciting!
You mentioned the traditional pickup selector a couple times, but actually, it doesn’t have one 😎. Only has the on/off switches. I wish it did though!
That’s exciting. These are honestly great guitars for the price.
And yes, you’re right about the switches. I guess I just called it a “pickup selector” out of habit. Corrected.
Thanks for the edit.
Derrick S says
I’ve been playing the Surfliner for a week now, and I think it’s a true bargain. It’s really good looking, pickups are terrific, and once you get the strap adjusted just right, it’s very comfortable to play. This is my second Guild (other being a 1976 D35), and I have to say, these guys know what they’re doing.
I was super surprised, to be honest. Crazy that they’re cheaper than the Squiers. I’d prefer the Guild by far. Thanks for sharing your experience.