“Just the ticket for those aspiring to recreate the monstrous riffs from across Thayil’s remarkable discography”: Guild Polara Kim Thayil review

It took three decades, but the wait is finally over, the Soundgarden icon has got his name on a Polara. Was it worth it? You bet

Guild Kim Thayil Polara
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Guitar World Verdict

It’s a given that this beautiful guitar can nail Kim’s unmistakable tones, but the sheer versatility of the Polara should most definitely not be outshined by the name on the headstock.

Pros

  • +

    Classy design with nice Soundgarden flourishes.

  • +

    HB-1 humbuckers are well-balanced and have a phase switch.

  • +

    Versatile.

  • +

    Excellent upper-fret access.

Cons

  • -

    Case sold separately.

  • -

    No left-handed models.

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Kim Thayil is not just grunge royalty, he’s one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. While Thayil may not be spoken about in the same breath as Eddie Van Halen or Jimmy Page, the Soundgarden great has had a huge effect on alternative rock. 

His masterfully crafted riffs and beautifully chaotic lead work would go on in part to define the Seattle sound and, in turn, inspire everyone from Alice In Chains to Nirvana, creating a sonic shockwave that is still felt to this day. 

Grunge fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of a Kim Thayil signature guitar since the Soundgarden axe-man helped breathe new life into this almost-forgotten model in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Now, while the project may have been plagued with bad luck over the last three decades, we are glad to see the partnership finally bear some fruit. 

Inspired by Kim’s prized ’78 S-100, this guitar is simply stunning. Not only does this all-mahogany six-string wear its gilded gold hardware and jet-black getup well, but its attractive body style is as practical as it is handsome. 

Guild Kim Thayil Polara

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

We found the Polara to be incredibly comfortable, and the build quality here is commendable. This guitar feels as solid as a rock and the chunky body means there’s no neck dive for this double-cutaway. 

Speaking of the neck, Thayil has opted for a “vintage soft U” profile, which certainly has some girth to it. Okay, it’s not as rounded as a vintage Les Paul, but it’s substantial enough to satisfy fans of ’70s guitars. 

Importantly, the Polara feels just at home playing D-tuned sludgy riffs as it does wailing solos and everything in between. That’s thanks in part to the unparalleled upper fret access. Just like a certain devil-horned Gibson, there’s no note on this neck that isn’t obtainable – this results in a truly inspiring guitar to play. 

As you’d expect, this new guitar seeks to equip players with all the tones they require to nail Thayil’s signature sounds. The Alnico II loaded humbuckers are full, warm and pack plenty of punch – just the ticket for those aspiring to recreate the monstrous riffs from across Thayil's remarkable discography. 

Turn down the gain and lighten your touch and this Guild will gift you shiny and sparkling cleans that are perfectly detailed and expressive. In the middle position, with the onboard phase switch engaged, the sound becomes noticeably thinner and more nasal – perfect if you want a lead line that cuts like a knife. 

It’s a given that this beautiful guitar can nail Kim’s unmistakable tones, but the sheer versatility of the Polara should most definitely not be outshined by the name on the headstock. 

Specs

  • PRICE: $899 / £859
  • BODY: Mahogany 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 24 3/4” (629mm) 
  • NECK SHAPE: Vintage Soft “U” 
  • NUT WIDTH: 1 11/16” (43mm) 
  • FINGERBOARD MATERIAL: Indian Rosewood 
  • FINGERBOARD RADIUS: 12.5” (320mm) 
  • FINGERBOARD INLAYS: Blocks – Pearloid 
  • FRETS: 22 Narrow Jumbo 
  • BRIDGE: Tune-O-Matic w/ Guild Compensated Stopbar tailpiece 
  • TUNING MACHINES: Grover Rotomatics 
  • PICKUPS: 2 x Guild HB-1 Dual-Coil Bridge 
  • CONTROLS: Neck Volume & Tone, Bridge Volume & Tone, 3-way Toggle Pickup Switch, and Phase Switch 
  • FINISH: Black
  • CONTACT: Guild Guitars

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Daryl Robertson

First and foremost, I'm a guitar enthusiast – a fanatic, some might say. I'm a firm believer that most of the world's problems can be solved with a Gibson SG and a catastrophically loud amp. As a Senior Deals Writer on Guitar World, I write about guitars for a living, but in a past life, I worked in music retail for 7 years, advising customers on the right guitars, basses, drums, pianos, and PA systems for their needs. I also have a passion for live sound; I'm a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland, where I live with my wife and dog.