Red Special
Comparison between the Guild (1993) and the Burns (2001) Red Special replica


A comparison of the new Burns Brian May with the 1993 Guild Brian May
by Peter Michalowski of Sweden

I have read the reviews of the Burns that already are on the site and I think, instead, I will do a comparison of the Burns BHM with Guild BHM.
Therefore I will not go too deep into it.

First impression:

I must say that when I opened the case I was very surprised at how they had made such a nice job with it. The colour is more or less identical to my Guild. I looked at it for a long time and fell in love with it.

As many of you have already seen there are some differences.
The tremolo arm (because of that the plastic cover below the bridge) and the black slide switches makes the guitar look empty somehow (in my eyes).

One thing you donít see, unless you remove the pickguard, is that the pickups are not screwed to the body. They are fixed with two height adjustment screws like a Strat. Personally I think the pickups should be screwed TO the body. I think some of its tone comes from the wood.
The pickups on the Guild are fixed like the Old Lady.
On the other hand this makes the pickups easier to adjust. I will fix mine to the body, like on my Guild. (More about this later.)

It is a nightmare to tune this guitar. After a while you get used to it. The Guild isnít like a Les Paul either but a lot easier and faster to tune. I found out that itís not a good idea to make a quick drop-D tuning. I found the tremolo holds tuning very well. I guess all guitars with a tremolo system are difficult to tune.


The Burns neck is fatter than the Guilds. I prefer a fatter neck. But around the 12th fret it seems like the shape is becoming a little different and fatter. On Guild itís about the same all way up. Which is the best?  Itís a matter of taste. The neck is very straight and the frets are very good and well mounted. The neck on the Burns is more straight mounted to body than on Guild. This makes it feel very much like a Strat.  If you love the Strat youíre gonna love this. Iíve played only Les Paulís before my Guild so I feel more comfortable with the Guild but I am getting used to Burns more and more.

Machine heads:

The machineheads work very well. I guess locking tuners are a must on this guitar because of the tremolo system.

Playing unplugged:

If I compare the sound unplugged I can hear that the Burns has a more solid body tone. The Guild sounds more semi-solid. The sustain is very good. I donít know why but the unplugged tone is also brighter on Burns. I guess itís because of the wood (basswood). The Burns feels a little harder to play. I guess the reason is that the tremolo springs push a bended string back much harder than on my Guild. This also affects playing on two strings if you bend one of them the other goes out of tune. This also happens on my Guild but not as much. The unbended string will be a lot lower.

Playing plugged:

Here I can see that the Burns is a lot brighter. I do know that the Tri-Sonics are brighter sounding. My Guild has a much warmer sound, but which is the best is a matter of taste. Playing the out of phase sound is much better on the Burns. There is a very nice screaming sound here. The output from the Tri-Sonics is also a little higher. Here I can also hear that the tone is much more of the solid body type, but still very good. I also discovered that if I knock on the body there isnít the same resonance as on the Guild. I had to make some adjustments, of course, on the bridge and also set the pickups to Greg Fryerís specs. I think that because of the Burns sound I will change Seymour Duncan pickups on my Guild for a set of Kent Armstrong Tri-Sonics.

The volume and tone pots are about the same as on my Guild. I did change them on my Guild to have a more linear decreasing of volume.
Also this is a matter of taste.
The tremolo works very well but is a little too hard. You can really dive and it stays in tune. Iím very impressed. My Guild also stays in tune but sometimes it is a little high so I have to push the tremolo back a little. I think I read that Brian has to do the same on the Old Lady.

If you want a more exact replica of the real thing then you either should buy a Guild or a replica from RS guitars. If you want a very good guitar and love the shape then the Burns is a very good buy. Real value for money. You could get 4 or 5 Burns for the same price as a second hand Guild. If you love a Strat you will love this one. A guitar collection isnít complete until you have this one.

I play in a tribute band in Sweden and I use my Burns for the drop-D songs. It works very well for me. My Guild is still my baby.

Buying the Burns:

If you live in Scandinavia you should by this guitar somewhere else. Here in Sweden they want £662 or 1111Euro. I bought mine from the UK where the price is £475 to £499. (Just like it was announced to cost from the beginning). Shipping to Sweden was £40. There is no VAT or duty between the countries in the EU. If you buy from the US you have to pay and extra 37% which includes VAT, shipping and duty.

I you have any questions you are welcome to e-mail me on: