“The G&L’s ability to deliver subtle timbral nuances would be impressive on a premium domestic guitar, let alone an affordable import. This guitar gets it done.”
“Like the ASAT, the S-500 feels anything but cheap, and delivers the solid performance you’d expect on a much more expensive guitar. These guitars play like old friends, stay in tune under real world conditions and sound fabulous.”
important, the Tributes deliver all the subtlety and expression of the
original guitars. They may not have the individual personality of handmade
American G&Ls, but the Tributes are outstanding instruments in their
own right, and deliver unbeatable value.”
Among the major electric guitar manufacturers, G&L is probably the closest in spirit to the pioneers of the Fifties. Founded by Leo Fender late in his life, G&L has kept to many of the construction designs and methods established by the master. Key components, including necks, are shaped by hand, and as a consequence every G&L I’ve played has possessed its own feel and personality.
The guitars in G&L’s new Tribute Series are constructed with more modern building methods, using computer-controlled machines to cut necks and bodies to exacting specs. These Korean-made beauties may not boast the individual homespun feel of U.S.-built G&Ls, but in terms of quality materials and execution of design they come extremely close to capturing the feel and personality of their domestic counterparts.
Each of the Tribute models is available in Standard, Plus and Premium trim lines. The main difference among the classes is in the finish options and body materials: Standard and Plus models are basswood, whereas Premium models are Swamp Ash. All three versions sport similar key features, including smooth hard rock maple necks.
This month, I tested two models from the Tribute Series—the ASAT Special Plus and the S-500 Premium.
ASAT Special Plus
My test guitar sported a rosewood fingerboard (a maple board is also available) with 22 jumbo frets and had a nice silky touch. Finishing details, including fretwork, intonation and action, were spot on. Although it felt a little fatter than other G&Ls I’ve played, the neck of the Tribute ASAT Special had the vintage roundness of a nine-inch radius and fit very comfortably in the hand.
Like domestic ASAT Specials, the Tribute version boasts some modern innovations on the original theme, including G&L’s patented Saddle Lock bridge, which eliminates the hang-ups caused by the traditional string-through-body Tele bridge and contributes to the guitar’s mighty sustain. Perhaps the biggest departure from tradition is the Magnetic Field Design pickups—large, high-output single coils that look less like traditional Tele electronics and more like soap bars.
ASAT’s pickups offer a very broad tonal range. They can be very
bright and chicken-pickin’ funky, but roll back the tone control
and they deliver a fat, searing lead tone that has enough body for the
blues. It’s like having several generations of Tele sound at your
fingertips. I was impressed with the linear feel of the volume and tone
controls. The G&L’s ability to deliver subtle timbral nuances
would be impressive on a premium domestic guitar, let alone an affordable
import. This guitar gets it done.
My Tribute S-500 Premium test model boasted a handsome, if somewhat heavy, swamp ash body with a sweet Cherryburst finish. Despite its weight, the guitar was comfortable to hold and play, thanks to the smooth maple neck and nicely trimmed rosewood fingerboard. Although the neck specs are similar to those of the ASAT, the S-500 has a slightly flatter 12-inch radius, which might be more appealing to hard rockers.
S-500’s controls—five-way selector, master volume knob and
two tone knobs—are traditional, but they have a G&L twist, a
mini-toggle that provides two pickup combinations not available on a traditional
Strat: neck/bridge, and neck/middle/bridge. As with the ASAT, the controls
have a smooth taper.