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Guild A-20 Marley review

Bob Marley’s songwriting tool reinvented

Guild A-20 Marley
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

A big-lunged dreadnought that offers an easy ride, this inspired Bob Marley model makes a superlative choice as a workhorse acoustic, with the updated spec choices arguably making for a better instrument.

For

  • Big dreadnought acoustic sounds.
  • Neck is very inviting.
  • Good price.

Against

  • Nothing of note, but no left-handed models.

Signature guitars are usually recreations of an artist’s most famous instrument, but here, Guild and the Marley estate pay tribute to Bob Marley’s favourite bedroom strummer.

Marley wrote many hits on his Madeira A-20 which he kept to hand around the house. Madeira was Guild’s ’70s budget brand. Guild based this model on surviving originals, slightly tweaked for modern tastes.

The signature accoutrements are subtle: a neatly installed 12th fret ‘Marley’ inlay and a pickguard signature. Marley’s original was adorned with a picture of the Rastafari Messiah, Haile Selassie, and a map of Africa beside the words, “Africa must be free by 1983.”

Marley diehards will have to supply their own decals, though, since Guild omitted them. The included gigbag contains a booklet featuring photos of Bob with his Madeira and a chord sheet for Three Little Birds.

We think the few changes from the original spec are improvements. Most importantly, Marley’s A-20 was all-laminate, while this has a solid spruce top. Guild opted for a contemporary C-shape neck rather than the original V, and we like it. The profile is chunky enough, but incoming electric guitarists will quickly feel at home.

Rosewood is increasingly endangered, and the pau ferro used here is perhaps our favourite alternative. It’s dark and attractive, and tonally similar to rosewood. The headstock and pickguard shape are Madeira originals. Their simple appearance confirms this is an unfussy working instrument.

Guild A-20 Marley

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The satin polyurethane finish reminds us of some of the most inviting electric guitar necks we’ve played. It’s light for a full-size dreadnought, which together with the smooth finish makes it feel deceptively compact. Action out of the box was low with no fret buzz anywhere on the neck and the fretwork was spotless.

Despite mahogany’s reputation for full midrange, the A-20 has slightly scooped mids and bright treble. There’s no greater joy than bashing out open chords on a dreadnought, especially when they sound bang in tune like this.

The low-end is more controlled than some, so there’s less thump on loud strumming, but plenty of detail for fingerpicking. It performs admirably for every style and technique we could think of, and the dynamic range is huge.

We can see why Bob Marley liked having one of these nearby. It’s inviting and fun to play. It’s affordable enough to leave on a stand, ready for when inspiration strikes, and because it plays superbly, you’re likely to keep coming back. It’s a strong choice whether you’re a reggae fan or just in need of a great-value workhorse.

Specs

  • PRICE: $399 / £359
  • TOP: Solid spruce
  • BACK AND SIDES: Mahogany
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE: 25.5”
  • FINGERBOARD: Pau Ferro
  • FRETS: 20
  • FINISH: Natural
  • CONTACT: Guild

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Jenna writes for Total Guitar and Guitar World, and is the former classic rock columnist for Guitar Techniques. She studied with Guthrie Govan at BIMM, and has taught guitar for 15 years. She's toured in 10 countries and played on a Top 10 album (in Sweden).