Guitar Player (United States)

By Joe Gore

The Comanche ($1,500; $1,750 as reviewed with ebony fingerboard, painted headstock and pearloid pickguard) is a real looker.  Its two-tone blueburst finish looks stunning alongside the pearloid pickguard and chrome knobs.  Equally dramatic is the trio of offset ďZĒ pickups.

A revision of the Comanche model G&L offered in the Ď80s, the new version abandons the originalís shred-era lines and forest of toggle switches, but revives the earlier modelís split pickups (an idea borrowed from the old Fender Electric XII).  Aside from the split design, the Comanche pickups echo those of G&Lís ASAT Ė wide-aperture single-coils that are louder and fatter than Strat pickups.  The Z pickupsí separated-coil configuration enhances the highs and lows, and because the two coils are wound in opposite directions, each pickup is humbucking.  Itís a great recipe.

Construction.  The Comanche is an incredibly well-made instrument.  The detail work is superb, the nut and neck joint are airtight, and the finish is mirror perfect.  The sleek, shallow neck is exquisite, and the jumbo frets are immaculately set and rounded.  The feel is creamy and consistent.  The non-locking arrived superbly set up with two springs.  The trem arm pushes snugly into its socket without screwing or locking, and stays put until you tough it.  The entire assembly is light, accurate, and super-responsive.

Sounds.  The tones live up to the craftsmanship.  They are ringy and rich, with lots of top-end airiness.  At the same time, they deliver a low-end impact that far exceeds a traditional Stratís.  As on an ASAT, you get the graininess and acoustic-like complexity of a vintage Fender, but with greater power and an expanded  frequency range.

Wiring tricks.  Ingenious wiring enhances the Comancheís flexibility.  Along with a 5-way pickup selector, thereís also a toggle switch that lets you choose all three pickups at once, or the outside two together.  Even cooler are the pair of global, passive treble and bass controls.  The bass knob is especially handy for nudging the hefty Z pickups toward vintage Strat tones, and the treble control is great for dialing in smoky, jazz-approved colors.  The Comanche  delivers a surprisingly good faux-archtop vibe.  The flexible and intuitive controls make it easy to dial in just the right shading.

The Comanche is, in short, a superbly executed super-Strat.  Itís an exceedingly versatile instrument, a perfect choice for a session or casuals player who prefers to schlep just one axe.  Itís not inexpensive, but its materials, workmanship and tones make it well worth the price of admission.