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Dearmond, Guild Newark St, or recent US Guild?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by whirledpeas, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. whirledpeas

    whirledpeas Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Sittin' Here in Limbo
    Hey TB,

    I've been thinking about picking up a short or medium scale hollow/semi-hollow 4 string bass.

    I'd love to snag a vintage Guild Starfire II, but I think I may be better served with a more economical option.

    I've considered a late 90s Dearmond Starfire II, a more recent Guild Newark St Collection Starfire II, or perhaps a recent US Guild M85.

    I dont have any experience with these basses and was hoping the brain trust here might be able to weigh in with opinions on build quality, playability, tone, etc?

    I'd most likely be looking at used instruments and prefer something under 9 lbs that balances ok on a strap (if possible).

    Would probably get the most use playing old country, folk, Americana type stuff.

    Any experiences or advice to share? Open to other manufacturers/models as well...
    chris merrill likes this.
  2. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Its worth noting that the dearmonds are 34" while the vintage and new guilds are 30.5". Don't know if it matters to you but should be mentioned
  3. whirledpeas

    whirledpeas Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Sittin' Here in Limbo
    Hmm, that does matter to me with the bridge placement.

    Are you sure about that? I thought I had read several places that they were shorties (30.75 inch IIRC).
  4. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Well I thought i was sure but i have found sources that say 32" med and 34" long but Im not totally sure.

    Based on your profile pic and location I figure your a Phil Lesh fan? Ive been eyeing up the new guild reissues with early dead tones in mind as well
  5. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    I can say i have played a deArmond strafer before and i didn't think the build quality was up to snuff so i passed
  6. The DeArmond Starfire that I owned for a few years was definitely short scale (slightly longer than 30", IIRC), and I've never seen a long scale version. But, because of the bridge placement and body design, the reach to the first fret was similar to that of a regular long scale Precision. It was a nice instrument, though.

    But, if I were to buy a Starfire today, I'd probably look at a Newark St. version, due to the fact that it has Bisonic pickups.
  7. whirledpeas

    whirledpeas Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Sittin' Here in Limbo
    Thanks for the feedback.

    After more research it seems that the recent M85s are MIK, and US models haven't been made in years. But maybe someone will correct me on that.
    chris merrill likes this.
  8. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    As a fan of 34" scale, I'd put the Jack Cassidy in your "try 'em" list.
  9. chris merrill

    chris merrill

    Dec 14, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    Endorsing Artist for: GHS Strings, Lakland Basses
    Any other opinions?
  10. Siggy

    Siggy Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    My DeArmond Starfire is 30.75" scale
  11. Mustang Surly

    Mustang Surly

    Jul 10, 2013
    I have a Guild NS Starfire I (MIK), which I bought new instead of a NS Starfire II because (A) the SF-IIs were all but impossible to find at the time and (B) I got the SF-I at quite a substantial discount. The price of all the decent, MIA Starfires I've encountered has exceeded my budget.

    I play only short scales (mostly a Fender MIJ Mustang RI when I got the Starfire) so the Starfire felt big and awkward by comparison when I got it (because the body is about the same size as an ES-335 and also because of the bridge placement, as noted by others). But I hung with it because it looks great and, more importantly, I really loved the way it sounded. In fact, once I got used to the Guild, the Mustang started feeling "small". Now the Guild is my favorite and I've totally adapted to it. Love the neck profile and width and the build quality of my example is superb.

    NOTE: because of the distance between the bridge saddles and string anchor points, Starfires pretty much need to be loaded with medium-scale string sets (just as a Mustangs do because of the string-through bridge design). This may have led to some of the confusion as to whether Starfires are short or medium-scale basses. As far as I know, they are all shorties.

    I am still planning to pick up an NS Starfire II when finances allow. Will be interesting to see how much broader a tonal palette it offers over my SF-I. So far, I've never run into one in the flesh so haven't had a chance to A/B them.

    Good luck with your quest: hope you find something that rings your bell!
    wisconsindead likes this.
  12. Mvilmany


    Mar 13, 2013
    Upstate NY
    I have a '64 Guild T-50 Hollowbody guitar. This thing never leaves the house.

    Personally, if I found a good deal on a late 60's Starfire, I would snag it in a heartbeat. It would never leave the house.
  13. blacktocomm

    blacktocomm Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2013
    I have a Korean built Newark St. Starfire I and love it. Its extremely well made and sounds absolutely wonderful. I agree with Mustang Surly that the body takes a little getting used to when compared to the feel of a solid body bas. Its a very comfortable instrument with a bit of play time though. I cant see parting with mine anytime soon. Its a great bass.
  14. Holdsg

    Holdsg I should be practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    Endorsing artist: Remic microphones
    In the past 18 months, I have owned a Newark Street Starfire I (with a single bisonic pickup), which I liked but ultimately sold to help fund purchase of a 90's era US Starfire II (dual bisonic pickup).
    I knew I would like the tone, because I love the darkstar/bisonic tone, and these had that in spades.
    Build quality was pretty close on the MIK vs. MIA, although you could tell the difference. Much like difference between a "good" Skyline and US Lakland.
    Ultimately, I did not jive as well with the shorter scale, seemed like I need to go "T-rex" arms to play it correctly, so I ended up selling the US for something else.
    I've dabbled since with some other shorter scale basses, such as a Hofner and a Mustang (inbound as I speak). So I'm still scratching my short-scale itch, but for me, I'm thinking that a Fender body shape will be better for me ergonomically, than the larger hollowbody shaped basses. YMMV.
    chris merrill likes this.
  15. I own a 68 Guild Starfire II. It's been my only bass for almost two years now. I'd suggest getting it. It's certainly not for everyone; not a bass for someone who wants to slap or whatever. But for what you've stated I'd definitely try to get my hands on a new Starfire II (60s Starfire II rarely show up for sale) Or maybe the M85 but I've never played one. Both have the bisonic pickups. I also would go for the two pickup model.

    Also, the DeArmond Starfire has slightly wider string spacing. The 90s guilds have thinner bodies and not the bisonic.

    @Bassman8416 @edwinhurwitz can both probably provide thoughts on the Starfire. also bassman might still be selling his modded DeArmond.

  16. Mustang Surly

    Mustang Surly

    Jul 10, 2013
    Note also that, unless they have been modded, DeArmond Starfire-II basses have separate volume and tone pots for each pup like a Guild Starfire II bass, but not the master volume pot that the Guilds have.
  17. JxBass

    JxBass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    I still own my '66 Guild Starfire I. Scale length is 32".

    Jim Carr and wisconsindead like this.
  18. Such a nice burst on that.
  19. JxBass

    JxBass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    What's also cool is that it has the somewhat rare Guild Mickey Mouse pickup.
  20. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    @whirledpeas — Just got an MIK Guild Starfire Chris Hillman reissue. It was the last new one I could find anywhere in the US, so finding another may be difficult, unless it is used, and will likely not be "on sale."

    It equals or excels the Starfire I that I had in the late 60s—which had a Mickey Mouse pickup like the lovely '66 @JxBass has. The Hillman is an excellent bass, and the Bisonic pickup is very much to my liking. There is a review thread here: NBD Guild Starfire Chris Hillman reissue

    Chris Hillman Signature Byrds Bass – Guild Guitars

    AFAIK, the Hillman reissue is just a Newark St. Starfire I with a different finish (sunburst), a Hillman signature on the truss cover, and a "Byrds" inlay at the 12th fret. So? Well, you can't get a sunburst Starfire I or II unless it is an older instrument or a vintage bass. That said, I recommend an MIK Newark St. Starfire I, any color.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
    chris merrill likes this.