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G&L: What’s new for 2018?

February 10th, 2018

Doheny SH 2017 was a very active year for G&L and they’ve gained steam, rolling into 2018 with a lot of new products, features and a whole new look on their website. Let’s take a quick look at what’s new for 2018:

New Website – G&L has launched their new website, and it’s cleaner, more modern and better pictures and images. G&L is also clearly promoting their heritage, and the Leo Fender story in a more obvious fashion. Makes a lot of sense when your founder invented the modern solid body electric guitar and bass. They also have a new “CLF Research” Instagram and Facebook page.

It’s still a work in progress, and there are some guitars and options in my price book that are not on the site, and vice versa. So we are working through that, and if you have any questions, just check with us and we’ll get an answer.

NAMM – G&L had a booth at NAMM for the first time in many years. It was packed, very active, and they had some great one-off guitars on the wall (we snagged a couple). Phyllis Fender was on hand to sign copies of her new book about Leo Fender the man. It’s the story of Leo, not a history of Fender guitar. It’s a pretty quick read and quite insightful about a very unique and creative individual that did not even play guitar.

G&L Custom Shop – G&L has launched their Custom Shop concept, and there is a dedicated section on the website for custom shop guitars. There a new finishes — the nitro option is back — the availability of hand-wound and signed pickups off Leo’s original CLF pickup winder, mild aging if you want it, and in general a much higher level of attention and hands-on TLC. Considering how good the “factory” guitars currently are, this is a pretty high bar. It’s not clear how “custom” you can get, and this is a work in progress. I don’t have a enough detail to know if you can put P-90’s in a Doheny, make a single pickup Fallout with Solamente wiring, etc. It’s baby steps as they feel out the process, and if you are interested give us a shout and we’ll work through the process with you.

What’s Out – The SC-2 is gone for 2018. My feeling is that once the Fallout came along, that really took the air out the SC-2. It’s fun guitar but they still have the ASAT special and it’s the same pickups.

What’s New  – The Doheny was new for the fall of 2017 and they’ve now rolled out the Doheny Deluxe and Doheny Semi-Hollow. The Deluxe is a Flame Top guitar with wood binding and rear-mounted controls. But you don’t have to get binding, and what we also like about the Doheny is that Fixed or Vibrato bridge is the same price. Also the MAP for this guitar is $200 less than then similarly outfitted ASAT Deluxe.

The Doheny Semi-Hollow comes standard in swamp ash and also includes wood binding and rear mounted controls. Our feeling here it to opt for an Okoume back when ordering this guitar. Semi-hollow guitars tend to gain some nice harmonics, but lose a bit of low end. The Okoume back will add in a bit of roundness and warmth.

Also note there are no neck profile options on the Doheny. It’s a Modern Classic, but you can opt for a different radius. The Doheny has its own 21-fret neck, and it’s not tooled to handle all the other profiles. The “MCNK” seems to be very popular, so I think they are sticking with what most people want anyway.

Also new is the CLF Heritage L-2000. This is a throwback L-2000 with an 80’s neck profile, the cool 80’s metal control plate, glossy neck finish, and “Heritage” MFD pickups. It’s available in four colors and no options. To keep the weight down they are using Basswood on the solid colors and Okoume on the bursts. Both woods work very nice on a bass, with punchy and clear fundamental notes.

Not Sure – The Invader and Invader XL are still in my 2018 price book but not on the new website. I don’t think they are dead, but that there is a make-over in the process in terms of a more shred-friendly neck profile and other features. The Anderson/Suhr market is something G&L has yet to crack, and they’ve got their eye on it. The ASAT Fullerton Standard is on the website but also not in the price book, and I know that’s currently not in the plans.

While I’ve not scoured the prices in excruciating detail, nothing pops out, and all the base guitar MAP prices appear unchanged. Rosewood is now a $50 MAP option and “Caribbean Rosewood” (Chechen) is now the standard “brown” wood. We really like Chechen, and while it’s not as dark as Rosewood, it’s got really interesting grain and it feels nice and smooth. Due to CITES regulations Rosewood has become problematic, and the supply is erratic.

Neck Profiles – The 2018 book is not listing the V-profiles, U, the Wide C, or Heritage profile. But the website is. We’ll have to sort this out, and it could be that the wide range of profiles will be reserved for Custom Shop. I will lobby for the Soft-V though….

New Colors – Rally Red (sort of Fiesta), Galaxy Black (jet black with a subtle light metallic flake), Shell Pink, and Surf Green joins the permanent ranks. Yukon Gold Metallic is out, and they are working on a better replacement. Nobody really liked Yukon Gold, including G&L.

Overall we like what G&L has been up to, and while sometimes they run before they walk, it’s all with good intentions. They also maintain a presence on Social Media, which a lot of companies just don’t bother to do. That’s good for the brand image, brand value, and ultimately resale value. We think 2018 will be a great year for G&L, and let us know if you have any questions or comments at studio@upfrontguitars.com

 

Upfront Guitars – My personal rig rundown

August 12th, 2017

Players always like to see what other players are using, so just for fun here’s my current gigging and general playing setup.

Typically I bring a “Fender” style guitar with me, and for many years that’s been some type of G&L. Currently it’s a G&L ASAT Classic “S” with spalted alder top, swamp ash back, carmelized ebony fretboard, 12” radius Classic C neck and stainless frets. It did not start life an “S” but I realized that I really needed the middle combinations and modded it for the middle pickup (it did not have a middle rout). I’m a big fan of the neck-middle and middle-bridge much more than I am of the traditional Tele neck+bridge (which it does not even do…for now). It also has an Emerson wiring assembly which I put in every guitar I play.

ASAT Classic S

Prior to this I was using a Knaggs Severn which had a Strat type pickup arrangement with David Allen Strat Cat pickups. While the tone was great, I always hit the volume knob on that type of guitar, plus the fuller output and more mids of the G&L MFD pickups just “gig” better and work great with pedals.

The other guitar that has been in service for a while is a Knaggs Kenai. This is hands-down the best Les Paul style guitar I have played, and is much more open and articulate that most guitars of this ilk. And it’s very comfortable and only about 8 pounds. It also has Emerson wiring, a David Allen P-51 bridge pickup and a Sheptone Heartbreaker neck pickup. The P-51 is hands down my favorite bridge humbucker and you can do almost anything from country to heavy rock. The Alnico 5 Sheptone is a little more percussive than the P-51 neck, and sounds great with a touch of gain. Frankly, the stock Duncan SH-1 sounds very good too, and I could have easily used that.

deluxe and knaggs

For a long time I’d been playing through a Dr. Z Remedy and a Mojotone Pine 4×10 cabinet with Jensen P10R, C10Q speakers. I still love it, plus it’s light and actually not too loud for smaller venues. But after all these years I finally discovered the Fender Deluxe Reverb, and the combination of tone and portability won me over. This particular edition came with a Celestion Blue and a matched set of groove tubes. Other than a Mullard GZ-34 I have so far left it alone. I’m tempted to stick it in a Mojotone Pine Deluxe cabinet to cut the weight a bit and round out the tone a little. I plug into the “2” jack on the Vibrato channel. For tone and ease of transport, no wonder it’s a fixture on so many house backlines.

With the Deluxe I use a Radial JDX to run an XLR line into the mixer. This does a great job of capturing the amplifier’s tone and is much more consistent than using a microphone. The line out is as much for the monitors as it is for adding a little guitar to the overall house mix.

The pedalboard is pretty simple affair and starts out with a Voodoo Lab Giggity. It’s essentially a boost and mild EQ. But for me it’s always on, as everything just sounds better that way (I have it just barely boosting the normal signal level). It’s also an easy way to tweak levels between guitars.

pedal board

The Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive is my “mild” gain pedal and I’ve been using them for probably 15 years. The deal with the pedal is that you can mix in clean signal to maintain attack and dynamics. I’ve also had the Lovepedal Kalamazoo for a number of years and this is my higher gain pedal, although not high gain by popular standards. While it’s in theory a TS-inspired pedal, it has more gain and is not as midrange heavy.

The Keeley Seafoam Chorus is a recent edition. It’s easy to use and can add a nice clean sounding chorus without cluttering things up. The Catilan Bread Belle Epoch tape delay gets used on a couple numbers, and the Lee Jackson Mr. Springgy Reverb only gets used with the Dr. Z. I may try one of the Keeley Tone Stations to consolidate the Reverb and Delay functions and make a little more room on the board.

Lastly, the Solodallas TSR is another “always on” item that acts as a line buffer, and also makes everything sound a little bigger, more 3-D and tactile, especially with pedals. It’s initially subtle, but you know when it’s off. I don’t use it to boost the signal, just condition it. The Strymon Zuma power supply is expensive, but it’s built like a Mercedes and can power just about anything. The Solodallas needed 300mA at 12VDC, and the Strymon is one of the few power supplies that will do this.

The patch cables are the UpFront Evidence Monorail cables that I have made for UpFront Guitars, and the guitar cables are Evidence Audio Melody.

While there are some new pedals that I’d like to try out — such as the Keeley White Sands and some of the Tone Stations — I’m wary about using a new pedal live without getting very familiar with how a new pedal interacts with the board, guitar, and amp. Lately we’ve been playing out more than practicing, and experimentation time has been limited.

 

The G&L Bluesboy: Traditional Bluesboy or Bluesboy 90?

March 23rd, 2015

Belair Green G&L Bluesboy 90

The G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy™ has been around for many years, and is very much analogous to the Fender Telecaster Custom, which comes and goes at times the Fender lineup. The concept is simple: Create an option for players that like the idea of a Tele® style guitar but find the traditional Tele neck pickup lacking in dynamics and flexibility.

It could be said that G&L already solved this problem by creating the MFD ASAT neck pickup, which pretty effectively “fixed” the Tele neck doldrums. But there’s a market for a humbucker equipped ASAT, so why not fill it?

The original ASAT Classic Bluesboy uses a Seymour Duncan Seth Lover pickup, which emulates the construction of the early PAF pickups developed by its namesake. With a fairly low output and Alnico 2 magnets, it has a smooth top end with good clarity, but the wound strings are on the warm side and lack a strong attack. It’s a “loose” sound that has a definitive old-school vibe, and it’s always seemed to me more of a Jazz tone than a Blues tone. It’s a very good pickup, but the contrast to the ASAT bridge pickup is rather stark to the point of being a challenge to find an amp EQ that works well for both (although the sound of both pickups together is rather heavenly).

The G&L Bluesboy 90

A few years back G&L developed a great P-90 pickup that they used in some of their limited edition ASAT Junior II guitars, and even some Tributes. Originally created by Gibson in 1946, the P-90 fell out of favor with the advent of the PAF humbucker. The P-90 lived on in the Les Paul Junior and other less prestigious Les Paul models, but the PAF was clearly viewed as the “better” pickup. So G&L has this really nice pickup and no standard USA production model to stick it in. Enter the Bluesboy 90 (and the Fallout too, but that’s another post).

My totally subjective theory is that P-90 pickups are not very popular because as builders responded to the commercial desire for higher output pickups, the P-90 did not respond well to higher octane techniques. High output P-90 pickups are often dull, one-dimensional, and at the bridge take on a grating nasal bark. Somebody trying a P-90 for the first time would not be favorably impressed.

Much to their credit, G&L developed a very moderate output P-90 pickup that measures in the mid-6K range, which is a “weak” reading for a P-90. While resistance is no guarantee of tone, the G&L P-90 is a clean sounding pickup, with good note definition, even midrange response, and the wound strings have a pleasantly percussive attack. It’s not the scooped glassy sound of a Legacy, but a fatter, firmer tone that is warm, clear and expressive. The pickup handles pedals well too, taking on a slightly creamy note, but not collapsing into mush. Or just turn up your amp – always a good idea – and the G&L P-90 will create it’s own natural crunchy personality.

It’s also a great tonal match with the ASAT bridge pickup. In terms of overall response, the P-90 and ASAT Bridge are more akin to each other, and if you tend to work both pickups in equal amounts, it’s more likely you’ll find a common ground amplifier EQ.

Traditional G&L Bluesboy or Bluesboy 90?

If you delve into Jazz or smooth pop, and typically don’t rely on the bridge pickup in large amounts, the traditional Bluesboy is a very nice guitar. No denying it looks cool too. There are a wide range of tones that you can get with the Duncan pickup, but be advised that what amp EQ works for the neck may not be optimal for the bridge.

If you like to tinker with your guitar, the opportunities for replacement humbucker pickups are limitless. A quick pickup swap with possibly a moderate output Alnico 4 or 5 pickup may be all that’s needed to bring sonic harmony.

My personal opinion is that out of the box (or the case) the Bluesboy 90 is a more harmonious package. For reasons previously stated, the G&L P-90 sounds good by itself, and plays nicely with the bridge. It’s a single coil, but it doesn’t sound like a Strat®, and chances are you already have one of those. There are fewer options in terms of pickups tweaks, and yes P-90 pickups can be noisy under stage lights. Thankfully, LED stage lights are on the rise. Once the drummer starts, who can tell?

It’s not difficult to find happiness with either guitar, but if you’ve never tipped your toe into the P-90 pool, the ASAT Bluesboy 90 is a very positive introduction.

The G&L ASAT Classic Solamente: One pickup is enough

January 28th, 2014

In 2013, G&L surprised some ofsolamente us by coming out with the ASAT Classic Solamente. Solamente means “only” in Spanish, meaning that G&L had finally come out with their own version of a Fender Esquire type guitar. For quite a while I had been quietly pulling for a single pickup version of the ASAT Special, but this was close enough.

Historically, the Fender Esquire has been part of the Fender lineup almost as long as the Telecaster itself. The Esquire was mostly a way to sell a guitar a lower price point, and less so a recognition that many players never used the neck pickup. The original concept of the Tele neck pickup was to emulate a bass guitar, and the “true” tone of a Tele neck pickup was dark, and murky. I remember getting my first Tele in the 70’s and wondering what the heck was going on with the neck pickup. I quickly swapped it out for a Velvet Hammer Strat pickup and was much happier.

Over the years Tele neck pickups got more “normal” as players expected that a two pickup guitar should have two useable pickups. A modern Telecaster neck pickup is much more versatile than the vintage stuff, although they are still somewhat a mixed bag. The G&L MFD ASAT Classic neck pickup overcomes nearly all the shortcomings, and is a good blend of clarity, traditional tones when you need them, and more punch when you don’t.

But we are really talking about one pickup guitars, specifically the Solamente.  It’s an odd move to emulate a fairly unpopular guitar, and through the years there have not been many Guitar Heroes wielding an Esquire. Brad Paisley and Bruce Springsteen are the only ones that come to mind, and The Boss is not really a Guitar Hero. But G&L did it anyway, and should we be glad they did? Yes.

Guitar pickups by the very nature of their design create a magnetic field. In order for them to create a signal, strings need to have some proportion of iron in them to disturb the magnetic field. This also means that pickups have some amount of damping effect on the strings. This is precisely why setting your pickups lower tends to improve tone and sustain, while having them close to the strings makes them louder but can create some odd sonic artifacts (and even make them sound out of tune).

Single pickup guitars – especially those without neck pickups – dampen the strings less, and they just ring out better with a cleaner, bigger tone and more sustain. The Les Paul Junior is a great example of this, and players like Keith Urban get a huge range of tones out a little mahogany plank and a single P-90 (and he has some interesting single pickup custom Fenders). The Solamente has that same open chime, and there is more richness to the notes. It’s bright like a bridge pickup, but with more character and dimension.

You’ll also notice that there is still a pickup selector switch. There are a myriad of “Esquire” switch wiring schemes, and Fender has used a few variations over the years. The Solamente uses a fairly traditional version in which the “neck” position uses a resistor/capacitor network to emulate a neck pickup. It’s a darker treble tone and is reminiscent is a bridge humbucker. The middle position is a normal volume/tone circuit, and the bridge position bypasses the tone control. In effect, even though there is just one pickup, you can preset three different tones. Recently, Premier Guitar magazine devoted several articles to variations on Esquire wiring, and they are available online.

The Solamente is also available with either the G&L MFD design bridge pickup, or their traditionally designed Alnico pickup. In our opinion the MFD is the only way to go. Simply put you can just do more with it. It’s got the output, midrange punch, and upper end complexity to be a country pickup, a rhythm pickup, and a rock and rock pickup. It drives pedals really well, and in the “neck” position with some gain does a great rendition of a P-90 or Humbucker. I play an ASAT Classic S (modded with two large MFD’s in the neck and middle) in a cover band. When I think of it, there are about three songs all night when I’m not of the bridge pickup. With a Solamente and a little tweaking, I go could probably go all night.

There are not many players who will own just a one-pickup guitar. But I know very few players who own just own guitar. Single pickup guitars have a magic all their own, and part of their charm is their simplicity and their tone. Sometimes having less to work with makes you more creative, and you rely more on yourself than on the guitar to be creative. I’ve owned a Les Paul Junior for several years; it still surprises me on how versatile and massive it sounds. The G&L Solamente is very much the same, but with a G&L flavor. It’s a worthy addition to your collection for home or stage.

For more information on the ASAT Solamente:  www.upfrontguitars.com

 

 

 

Which G&L: Legacy or S-500?

August 19th, 2013

Hands down, the Fender Stratocaster® is the world’s most popular guitar, and has spawned probably hundreds of copies. Being also designed by Leo Fender, the G&L Legacy is what we can assume to be the evolution of the Strat: Improved floating bridge, updated tone controls, and slightly fatter pickups (compared to a vintage style Fender anyway). The Legacy looks and feels a lot like a Strat, but the tonality of the bridge, slightly beefier neck and the pickups gives it the G&L vibe. Plus you can pretty much spec out your own G&L, but that’s for another day.

The “other” Legacy — the S-500 — often gets left out of the conversation. With it’s G&L Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups, the S-500 has slightly different, more industrial look. And while rock ‘n roll is supposed to be the music of rebellion, guitarists can be very conservative, and things that deviate from “vintage” often get rejected. With the exposed socket head pole pieces of the S-500 pickups, the guitar looks just different enough to get passed over by some players as “not right.”

But is the S-500 a better guitar?

Possibly “better” is the wrong word choice, but the S-500 is possibly a more useful guitar in the context of playing and performing. It’s in the best commercial interests of G&L to produce something that is essentially akin to a Stratocaster. While I can’t say for certain, it’s probably G&L’s best selling model too (though I sell more ASAT’s than Legacy’s). But the G&L MFD pickup is intended to be an improvement over the conventional Alnico pickups designs, and in theory the S-500 is supposed to be an evolutionary step forward.

The basic concept behind the MFD pickup is that it’s really built more like a P-90, with a ceramic bar magnet underneath, and with six adjustable steel pole pieces. The MFD pickups also have a fairly low coil resistance, but a stronger, broader magnetic field. The low coil resistance results in a more even frequency response, but the magnetic field creates a greater signal output. The result is a fairly “hot” single coil with a full frequency response, and none of the peaks and hot spots characteristic of an over-wound conventional pickup.

Sound Comparison

The overall sound of an S-500 versus a Legacy is that it’s a little fatter and warmer. The tone is slightly darker, there is less midrange scoop, and they are not as glassy and bright on the top end. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Well not really, especially given the fact that nearly all rock music these days is played with some amount of overdrive or distortion. The greater midrange, output and lack of icy top end of the S-500 makes it a great choice for more modern sounds. Overdrive tones with the S-500 are rich, harmonic, and much fuller than than a guitar with conventional pickups. The bridge pickup is absolutely more useable than a Strat bridge pickup, and the in-between tones of the neck + middle and middle + bridge are also punchier and less brittle. The higher output and slightly attenuated high end works great with pedals too.

In the context of playing live, the S-500 holds up very well, and can be heard in the mix without getting shrill or piercing. The extra heft of the MFD pickups and their fuller, creamier overdrive tones project very well, and fit many styles of music from classic rock to progressive. Bedroom tone and live tone are very different animals, and while the S-500 may lack some of the glassy cleans of a Legacy, it’s a great tool for covering a wide range of musical styles.

I will reference a story that has been told several times in different publications: Jimi Hendrix was known for using a long, cheap Radio Shack coil cable with his Strat. Coil cables are notorious for having a lot of electrical capacitance, which cut high frequencies, boosts the midrange, and makes the tone darker. The net effect of Strat + Coil cable is a warmer, darker Strat with less high end.

Blues legend Buddy Guy has often performed live with a Stratocaster equipped with Fender Lace pickups. These are noiseless dual coil (humbucking) designs that sound very clean but have a lot body and output. For years Clapton Strats have used active EQ and noiseless (humbucking) pickups. While I hesitate to drop names like these in this lowly blog, they are good examples of true guitar heroes that don’t always adhere to tradition and pure vintage setups.

Cheap Advice

If general jamming, low volume playing, or traditional blues, funk and rock tones are your bag, the G&L Legacy is great choice. You’ll hear the sound you hear on the records. And as there is a plethora of aftermarket pickups that will drop right in, you’ve got huge leeway to experiment. If you really like to rock and can deal with the look, go for a Legacy HB with the bridge humbucker.

If you tend to play out, use effects, and cover a wide range of music (such as a cover band) the S-500 is worth serious consideration. While it can’t cop the pure scooped glassy tone of a Strat or Legacy, it’s still single coil in nature, but can morph in many different directions with ease. You can experiment and mix MFD pickups with conventional pickups, but visually the guitar may look a little mongrel. Personally, MFD’s respond differently than conventional pickups, and I don’t mix them.

The S-500 is meant to be in some ways a “better” guitar, and depending on what your needs are, it really is.

For guitar offerings at Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com