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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

 

What fretboard material for your G&L guitar?

August 12th, 2015

With many electric guitars, the choice of fretboard material is often not an option. The manufacturer can have many reasons for choosing a particular material — cost, looks, feel — short of a custom shop model, most guitars are built with a certain fretboard material and that’s the end of it.

Any G&L guitar is available with a choice of three materials, with rosewood and maple being no-cost options, and ebony as an up-charge. In addition, there is the added option of selecting a gloss or satin finish on the maple fretboard (all fretboard materials are available with satin or gloss finish maple necks). Many players feel quite strongly about fretboard material, but in my own experience the fretboard material typically plays a small part in how much I like or love a guitar (I never hate a guitar, but I might find myself uninspired). Quite often I choose the fretboard material (and finish or tint) based on how I want the cosmetics of the guitar to come out, and the price point I am trying to hit. A satin finish neck is the least expensive and a gloss neck with ebony fretboard is the most expensive. Keeping that in mind, here is quick rundown of the options:

Maple

The original Fender guitars were solid maple necks, and this was purely a matter of cost. Maple is hard, stable and cheap. Traditional classical instruments used rosewood and ebony, but Leo Fender was first and foremost a keen businessman and manufacturer. Around 1959, Fender started offering rosewood to give his guitars a more high-end look.

A satin or gloss finish maple neck is felt to have a tighter and brighter tone than rosewood, and depending on the finish tends to feel quicker too. A satin neck has a nice dry feel that does not get sticky or sweaty, whereas gloss maple does give the guitar a more finished look. I often opt for a tinted satin neck as a good combination of looks and feel. That being said, my favorite personal ASAT guitars have had glossy maple necks. If I like a guitar, it’s a package deal.

HINT: If you are stickler for nicely polished frets, a glossy maple fretboard always had the nicest fret finish. Why? The gloss finish is sprayed on after the frets are put in, then then the finish is polished off. This extra amount of finish work results in extra-smooth shiny frets. It’s also why glossy necks cost more. Time is money.

Rosewood

Rosewood is likely the most common material for fretboards. It’s a traditional material that’s attractive, reasonably dense and easy to work. Depending on cost, rosewood can vary from a very light brown to a dark, almost greasy feeling brown-black. My personal preference both for looks and texture is the darker streaky rosewood, and G&L typically sources pretty nice looking stock. Less expensive guitars will often have the lighter, plainer looking rosewood. Rosewood has a little more “grip” than maple, and is a touch warmer and less percussive. I like rosewood with Legacy guitars, as it does have a tendency to round out the tone. Good rosewood is not as plentiful as it once was, and exports and harvesting are tightly controlled.

Ebony

While I’ve somewhat downplayed the difference between maple and rosewood, ebony does offer a noticeably different experience. Ebony is very dense, with a hard silky feel that sets itself apart from from even a glossy maple finish. Ebony produces the most percussive tone — is great for tapping and pulls — and works well with humbuckers or darker sounding woods. I specify ebony most often with ASAT Deluxe, Legacy HSS and Legacy HH guitars, as ebony tends to fit the tone, look, and ethos of these models. I had a customer order an ASAT Classic S Alnico with ebony and I really liked it. It made the neck pickup more snappy without making the guitar brighter overall. Ebony would not have been my first pick, but the net result was very pleasing.

While pricy, an ebony fretboard on satin maple with stainless frets practically plays itself. We’ve had a couple guitars built this way, and the glassy feel made a direct impact on how we approached playing those guitars.

Ebony is quite rare and the main source is Cameroon. Jet black ebony is most prized, but constitutes only a small proportion of harvest-able wood. Out of necessity “streaky” ebony is becoming more common, and it’s attractive in its own right. Taylor guitars co-owns an ebony mill in Cameroon, and imports of non-regulation ebony is what got Gibson heavily fined a few years back. Taylor has a very good video about ebony on YouTube, and it will give you a real appreciation about why it is so important to sustainably harvest this wood.

The Wrap

Looks are important, and when it comes to maple or rosewood, go with what “speaks” to you in terms of visual appeal and playing feel. If you like glossy, get glossy and don’t fret (no pun intended) about any tonal side effects. If you desire the fastest smoothest playing surface, or are looking at a humbucker model, ebony is definitely worth consideration.

 

 

G&L 2015 Mid-Year Model Changes

June 22nd, 2015

As of July 1st 2015, G&L is making some of the more significant model specification changes in quite some time. G&L has gone through their whole lineup, and practically no guitar remains untouched in some way or another. Pricing is changing too, both in the form of some increases, and how guitars are priced relative to each other. There is a lot to take in, but here is a rundown on the more notable changes to the guitars, along with some commentary.

Neck Profiles

For years the #1 “C” profile neck with 12″ radius has been standard on most G&L guitars. On the Legacy and ASAT line this is now changing to the “Modern Classic” neck. The Modern Classic neck is 1-11/16 at the nut with less of a taper than the #1 neck (now .830 at the 1st fret to .870 at the 12th). On the ASAT and Legacy line the standard radius is 9.5″.

Also of note is that G&L has separated neck shape from radius. And in the dealer price list there are separate options for fingerboard radius (7.5, 9.5, 12) and for profiles. So pretty much you can mix and match anything for one up-charge. You don’t get dinged twice for radius and shape.

Why the new profile on their most popular guitars? One thought is that a frequent question I get is, “which profile is most like a Fender?” The Modern Classic is a pretty close fit. In addition there were occasional complaints about string fall-off with the #1 neck, and the slightly wider nut width of the Modern Classic will help this. Most of the other profiles remain (C, Wide C, U, V, etc.) with slight name tweaks. G&L still offers more options than just about anyone on a production guitar. However, a couple guitars — namely Fallout and SC-2 — do not offer neck profile options.

Here is a quick rundown of the more popular guitar and bass models and their new profiles:

  • ASAT – Modern Classic 9.5″
  • Legacy – Modern Classic 9.5″
  • Fallout – Slim C 12″
  • Invaders – Modern Classic 12″
  • S-500 – Modern Classic 9.5″
  • Comanche – Modern Classic 9.5″
  • SC-2 – Classic C 12″
  • ASAT Bass – 1.5 nut width Medium C 9.5″
  • L-1500 and 2000 – 1-5/8 Medium C 9.5″
  • M-2000 – 1-5/8 Medium C 9.5″
  • 5- String Bass – 1-3/4 Medium C 12″
  • JB – 1.5 Medium C 9.5″
  • LB – 1-5/8 Medium C 9.5″
  • SB – 1-5/8 Medium C 9.5″

Discontinued Models

G&L has thinned the herd slightly, and here is what I noticed. Nothing really earth shattering here; and from personal experience these models have either run their course, or never took off:

  • ASAT Special Deluxe
  • Legacy Deluxe (No pickguard, Flame Maple Top)
  • S-500 Deluxe (Ditto)
  • S-500 Semi-Hollow
  • Will Ray Signature
  • MJ Series bass guitars (Back in – recently amended)
  • JB-2 Bass
  • “Rustic” series products

Pickups

While there are no changes to their single coil pickups, G&L will be using Seymour Duncan pickups only in the Rampage, Bluesboy and ASAT Deluxe models. All other models – Fallout, Legacy, Invader — will use G&L’s own Alnico humbucker pickups. G&L is of course known for their pickups, and there also some cost savings involved with using their own product versus sourcing from someone else. These are the same Paul Gagon designed pickups as used in the Tribute series, and they are made in Fullerton by G&L. The Duncan pickups will be available as an extra cost option, and if you must have them, the up-charge is well below the cost of going out and buying a set.

How do the G&L Humbuckers sound? We’ve played the G&L Alnico humbucker pickups, and in most cases we are talking about the bridge pickup in the Legacy and Fallout. The resistance is in the 13K range versus 16K for the Duncan JB. The G&L pickup is a little warmer in tone, with a softer high end. It lacks some of the top end sharpness of the JB which depending on your point of view is a good thing. When gained up it’s smooth with creamy tone, and again less sharp and buzzy than the JB. We recommend giving it a try, and of course there are a zillion aftermarket options.

The potential backlash with the G&L pickups is that some will say that this just makes the USA and Tribute models more like each other. I can’t argue that point, and my feeling is that while import guitars are important to the industry, (after all imports are >90% of the total US guitar market) using the same pickups in both the USA and import lines sends a confusing message to the consumer.

Model Name Changes

  • Legacy HB is now the Legacy HSS
  • Legacy 2HB is now the Legacy HH

Pricing

Prices have gone up, but also they have shifted. The basic Legacy and ASAT guitars now have the same MAP price. Historically the ASAT was always more money. The SC-2 and Fallout are also the same MAP as the Legacy, and the S-500 is still a little more. The MAP on all these guitars is $1299 (S-500 $1399), and includes the standard burst or solid finishes, alder body, satin finish neck with maple or rosewood fingerboard, white pickguard and tolex case. It’s also of note that the Legacy HSS and HH models are now the same price as the standard Legacy, so no penalty for humbucking pickups. The Legacy Special is still a little more, and last time we looked those pickups were supplied by Kent Armstrong.

There are also minor price changes on some of the options, but nothing game-changing. And yes, stainless steel frets are still expensive. Our understanding is that they chew up the tools very quickly and of course take a lot more labor and Plek time.

The pricing relationship between List and MAP is also different, and the MAP is now about 30% off list. Without going into great detail, buyers who typically assume they can strike a deal below MAP will find dealers more reluctant to negotiate than in the past. As Fender has done, the MAP price really reflects the true street price, and the battle continues to preserve price and brand value in the cyberworld.

Wrap Up

While nobody likes to see a price increase, G&L still offers a unique value in a USA guitar that can be made to order. As far as these changes go, I think most of them make sense either commercially, or in terms of what the market really wants. And if you really want a “Pre-July” G&L you can still option a guitar to come out that way. So nobody is left out in the cold. That is unless you want an ASAT Special Deluxe.

The G&L Fallout: A new rock voice

December 13th, 2014

fallout sonic blueIn 2013, G&L introduced a new model called the Fallout. The Fallout combines two things that I really like: The SC-2 body shape and G&L’s own P-90 pickup.

The SC-2 body shape means that inherently the Fallout is a guitar that weighs in at around 7.5 pounds or less. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the guitar business is that many players are obsessive about guitar weight; especially the idea of less weight. It’s the question I get asked most often, and while weight is not everything, as a general rule I don’t lecture customers about what they should want.

The second – and to me – more important benefit of the Fallout is G&L’s P-90 neck pickup. This is where I guess I do lecture customers: A good P-90 pickup is an essential music-making tool. There are several good ones out there: The Arcane ’57 Experience is excellent, the garden variety Seymour Duncan SP-1 is a bargain, and the G&L P-90 is up there as one of the best. Wound to a moderate mid-6K resistance, G&L’s P-90 combines richer, fatter single tones while retaining clarity, note definition, pick attack. No, it does not sound like a Strat, but it’s not supposed to. And in a live music situation how often does the Strat guy’s tone sound thin and weak? That’s a lot less likely to happen with a Fallout.

In the bridge, the Fallout uses the Seymour Duncan JB humbucking pickup. This is G&L’s go-to bridge humbucker, and while I’d rather have a Duncan SH-1, you could do a lot worse. Moderately hot with a manageable midrange peak, the JB is a modern classic, and is well suited to kicking out crunchy and harmonically packed rock tones. There is a pull option on the tone control to split the bridge pickup, which is pretty good by itself but blends especially well when combined with the neck pickup.

There’s not much else to say about the Fallout except that it’s attractive, nicely priced, comes with a tolex hardshell case, and is built to the same high standards as every G&L. Which I guess is saying a lot.

What should your G&L guitar weigh?

January 3rd, 2014

Of all the questions I get asked from prospective G&L buyers, “what does the guitar weigh?” is one of the most frequent. Besides reminding me that I should just weigh every guitar as soon as it arrives, guitar weight and its purported benefits is a hotly debated topic.

How much a guitar weighs has obvious implications such as playing comfort, but it has also been ascribed with many other qualities such as tone, resonance, and sustain. There are various theories and schools of thought: Some feel that lighter guitars are more resonant, other believe that heavy guitars have better low end, and so forth. My own experience — and this will seem like a cop-out to some — is that all guitars are “different” and that the tonal qualities of any guitar is the sum of its parts. Personally, having a lighter weight guitar is nice from the viewpoint of playing a 3-hour gig, but a guitar that weighs 8.5 pounds is not onerous either. After all, bass players survive often playing instruments that weigh upwards of 9-10 pounds. And let’s not forgot the Les Paul players out there, and very few of those guitars weigh under 8.5 pounds.

After working on a couple hundred G&L guitars, I’ve got a pretty good feel as to what they are going to typically weigh. So depending on the particular model of guitar, here is a rundown of what you can expect for guitar weights.

ASAT – The ASAT (Telecaster) body style is pretty good chunk of wood, and you can expect an Alder ASAT to weigh around 7.8 to 8.4 pounds. In terms of weight Alder is quite consistent, and these guitars do not vary that much. Guitars with premium transparent finishes are usually Swamp Ash, and this can run anywhere from 7.6 to 9.0 pounds. There is quite a bit more variability in Swamp Ash, and most guitars are in the 8 – 8.4 range, with fewer of them coming in under 8 pounds. There are examples of very light Swamp Ash guitars out there, but it’s difficult to source consistently lightweight material, and a medium-volume builder like G&L does not have the luxury of being that selective. While G&L does not advertise it, you can opt to get a transparent premium finish on Alder. The grain is not as striking, but they can look very nice in their own way, and will generally weigh less.

One way to trim a little heft from your ASAT is to get the optional top and rear body contours (like the Legacy/Strat contours). These contours can increase playing comfort plus shave a few tenths off the guitar weight. The consistently lightest ASAT’s are of course the semi-hollow models. These ASAT Classic and Special semi-hollows are always swamp ash — so there is a little more variability — but they never exceed 8 pounds, and are usually in the 7 – 7.5 range. A customer recently ordered a semi hollow ASAT Special, and was quite unhappy when it turned out to weigh 8 pounds (it’s the heaviest semi-hollow I’ve come across). Chalk this up to two factors: The variability of swamp ash, and that he ordered the vibrato bridge option, also a first for me on an ASAT. Steel weighs more than wood, and weight gain of the bridge is not compensated for by the extra routing of the body.

The Mahogany Body/Maple Top ASAT Deluxe models generally tip the scales at about the same weight as an alder model. The ASAT Deluxe semi-hollow is one of their lightest ASAT models, and ranges from 6.8 to 7.5 pounds.

The limited edition chambered Savannah series are real feathers. Made from Okoume with a Korina top, they rarely exceed 7 pounds. The solid body Korina series from 2012 were quite hefty, but that sure did not hurt how they sounded.

OLS Body Option – In 2015 G&L started offering the “Original Leo Spec” body thickness as a no-cost option for the ASAT. This body is about 1/8″ thinner and can shave off about 1/3 of a pound. It’s kind of a no-brainer in terms of comfort and weight.

Legacy/S-500/Comanche – Being slightly thinner and more contoured than the ASAT, an Alder Legacy with a vibrato bridge is consistently in the 7.6 to 8.0 pound range. As with the ASAT, Swamp Ash guitars will weigh a little more, sometimes in the low 8’s. Hardtail guitars are usually a tad lighter, and we have a hardtail Legacy Special in swamp ash that tips the scales at 7.2 pounds. As we’ve said, you can get lucky with swamp ash and get a really light guitar, but there is no way to predict it. We’ve never had a semi-hollow Legacy in the shop, but you can likely expect those guitars to come in around 7 pounds. There are other Legacy permutations such as the Legacy Deluxe and Invaders, both which have mahogany bodies and maple tops. Generally speaking, these guitars tend to weigh around eight pounds, but we have not handled enough of them to have a feel for the typical weight range.

SC-2 – Those who like the ASAT but are really concerned about weight will find the SC-2 easy on the back. Although it has the same pickups as the ASAT Special, the thinner body and slightly narrower waist is just naturally lighter, and the heaviest SC-2 the we’ve seen was a 7.8 pound swamp ash guitar. We’ve also seen them as light as 6.6 pounds. The new Fallout guitar is the same body as the SC-2.

Wrap Up

Light weight is often a desirable quality, but tends to get overemphasized in the buying process. It’s generally not a highly accurate indicator of tone, although like a lot of things with guitars, the intangible “feel” of an instrument is in the hands of the beholder. How much weight matters is related to how you plan to use the guitar. If you play clubs every weekend, a lighter instrument is a considerable advantage. If you play mostly at home or do studio work, an extra pound should be lower on the list of concerns. There are a lot of great instruments out there that deserved to be played. Don’t let a few ounces stand between you and a great musical experience.

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

What color for your G&L guitar? A few suggestions

August 18th, 2013

Shopping for a guitar, or even better ordering exactly what you want, can be a lot of fun. Considering that G&L offers a myriad of potential options, there are a lot of choices to make. One of the big decisions is what color for the body. While this is a totally subjective decision, we do have the benefit of seeing a lot of guitars pass through our hands. Some colors just look good no matter what they are on, while others are an acquired tasted. So without trying to fan any particular flames of passion, here is an unofficial subjective list. You can usually find examples of all of these colors on the UpFront Guitars site:

Good looking “safe” colors that I like:

  • Gloss Black – Hard to argue with black, except for the fingerprints, and it’s propensity to highlight any scuff or scratch.
  • Cherry Burst – Very attractive, and looks super on Legacy guitars. THE color for a flame maple top.
  • Tobacco Sunburst – Classic, looks good on anything. Also super with flame maple.
  • Three color Sunburst – You’ll never get grief for having sunburst, but if you’re going to special order a guitar, why?
  • Sonic Blue – Pale blue, looks almost white at a distance. Very attractive.
  • Belair Green – Greens are the hardest to photograph accurately, so I fret about getting it right. But people love it. It’s a 50’s color but not dated or tacky looking.
  • Blonde – The later 50’s style whiter translucent creamy blonde
  • Butterscotch Blonde – Way too many out there, but a classic finish of the early 50’s telecasters. Looks out of place on anything else.
  • Fullerton Red – A nice classic medium red. Not burgundy, not pale, and their most popular red. See my comments on satin frost option.
  • Honey/Honey Burst – Tasteful light amber, or as a burst finish with a slightly darker edge fade. Shows the most grain of any burst finish. Works with tinted maple or rosewood fingerboards.

Some interesting more adventurous colors:

  • Clear orange – A great shade that highlights the grain. Lovely with creme guard and tinted maple neck
  • Spanish Copper Metallic – A deep bronze, looks good with tinted necks, and creme or tortoiseshell pickguards.
  • Black burst – When you want black, but don’t want just black. Fades to a light black “wash” in the center. Kinda cool, and not as fragile in terms of fingerprints and scuffs.
  • Tangerine Metallic – Yes, orange does work. Good with rosewood, or tinted maple, and also with their satin frost topcoat option
  • Clear blue – Very classy and really shows the swamp ash grain well
  • Midnight blue metallic – Deep blue with a subtle sparkle, good with rosewood
  • Shoreline gold – More like a pewter, with a very subtle metallic sheen.
  • Emerald Blue – A nice blue/green metallic that is kind of 60’s looking. Goes well with white pickguard, rosewood or maple.
  • Two color Sunburst – Huh? The original Fender ‘bursts were two color, and the G&L two color burst is a black – to – yellowish brown that sometimes has almost a slight greenish tint. It’s hard to photograph and get the color right. It’s a complex and interesting shade, but not what you’d might expect. It’s so “period” in look it should only be on a Legacy or SB bass.

Colors that I find less attractive:

  • Blue burstGreen burst and Red burst – The black fade covers up too much of the grain and makes the overall finish too dark. Shows fingerprints like crazy too. Clear green is not bad, but risky stocking a green guitar. These colors all look better to me as just clear finishes with no burst.
  • Yukon gold – Brash, and winds up looking a bit too Vegas.
  • Candy Apple Red – Actually not a bad color, but someone once said to me, “people don’t buy red guitars.” I have actually found that to be somewhat true, and I don’t order red guitars unless it’s a customer order. Something to consider if resale is a concern.
  • Ruby red metallic – Deep rep with a tasteful metallic sparkle. Same problem as Candy Apple. If you like it, buy it. But I do have my Red Guitar Phobia.

Satin Frost Topcoat – G&L also has a satin frost option that can be applied to any finish. It kills the shine giving a traditional finish a low-sheen look. It’s sort of “vintage” without being aged. On metallic finishes it really changes the whole character of the finish. I have a Tangerine metallic bass with a satin topcoat. It’s kind of sexy and does not show any grime. If you want a guitar to look “older” without physically abusing it, the satin frost topcoat is a good option.

Neck Tints – G&L’s light tint and vintage tint are now available in both gloss and satin finishes. This is really nice because the feel of a satin neck is very smooth and dry, but looks “naked” without some type of tint or a rosewood fingerboard on top. Many customers opt for the vintage tint, but it’s deeper hue has a little orange tint to it, and it does not work with everything. So to me, it’s a matter of getting the best match with the body color. In general the light tint is the most adaptable, but the vintage tint looks dynamite with certain shades.

Satin or Gloss Light Tint – Best with Greens, Spanish Copper, Yellows, Cherry Burst, Blacks, Blues and Blonde. A lighter alternate for Oranges and traditional bursts too.

Satin or Gloss Vintage Tint – Butterscotch, Sunburst, Tobacco Burst, Two color Burst, Reds, Honey, and Oranges. Also a good alternate with Cherry Burst, and Blues.

Plain satin or Gloss – Best on natural finishes and Blonde. If a guitar has a rosewood or ebony fingerboard, plain satin is a very good and economical playing surface. It’s a good way to keep the cost down, as gloss and tint both add cost.

To see how color plays on G&L guitars from Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com

American Made Electric Guitars for around $1000

October 1st, 2012

Updated January, 2016

The solid body electric guitar is a uniquely American invention, but as most people know, very few of them are made in the USA anymore. As with many consumer products, the lure of low cost labor has drawn most manufacturing offshore. The first imports in the 60’s were from Japan, and then as costs rose there, manufacturing shifted to South Korea, then China, and now there is a growing industry in Indonesia. China is still the big dog in terms of guitar production, but as Chinese manufacturing costs continue to increase, more manufacturing will likely shift to Indonesia, and after that, who knows where?  Most players would be surprised to learn that South Korea accounts for only about 5% of electric guitar production, with the USA a couple points below that.

In practical terms, the average guitar player benefits from lower prices for musical instruments and gear. Given the combination of low labor costs and improved manufacturing technology, the bang-for-the-buck on guitars has never been better. About 44% of electric guitars purchased in 2011 cost less than $200. That’s just an astounding number, and even more astounding when you figure that these products are generally something you can actually play and that will stay in tune. Fully 80% of electric guitars purchased in 2011 cost less than $600. While I can’t be certain, I’ll wager that virtually none of these guitars were manufactured in the USA.

But what if you want to purchase something made in the USA, and you are on a budget? There are several options available, and if you are willing to head north of the border, the selection expands considerably. This is not meant to be a totally comprehensive list, but just some of the options out there for guitarists that want a good quality instrument and also support American manufacturing.

G&L – Barring a special release model, the days of a $1000 street price G&L are over. With new dealer and list pricing implemented in July 2015, your not going to see a 2015 G&L at this price; short of a desperate and/or math-challenged dealer blowing them out. There are still quite a few new 2014 models out there, and a base Legacy or SC-2 still might be had for around a grand. G&L continues to offer a unique value in terms of fit, finish, and the ability to special order. If you are willing to stretch your budget, you will be well rewarded.

Godin – Godin gets an honorable mention because while they don’t manufacture complete guitars in the USA, they assemble a variety of models in their New Hampshire facility from Canadian-made parts. Godin also uses a lot of locally sourced and sustainable woods like Maple, Basswood, and Cherry for their guitars. The Session and Progression and Core lines are examples of guitars assembled in the USA, and with a street price of around $500 the Session is a particularly good value. If you consider Canada as the 51st state, the all-Canadian Godin Core is our favorite both in P-90 and Humbucker trim. These street price for around $800, and there is just nothing not to like about them. They even use Seymour Duncan P-90 and bridge Humbucker pickups. Now for a $500 North American guitar don’t expect vintage Alnico pickups, and Godin does use PCB-mounted controls rather than hand-wired pots, but the setup and playability are first rate. All Godin guitars included a gig bag in the price.

Fender – One thing is for certain about Fender, and it’s that they offer a dizzying array of products that is both extensive, confusing, and often unnecessary.  But mixed in there is an assortment of Highway One and American Special guitars that offer good values and prices right at around $1000. Models seem to come and go in the Fender line with little or no warning, so what’s available at any given moment is hard to predict. The pickups in these guitars are decent if not awe inspiring, but overall these guitars are perfectly gig-worthy instruments and great platforms for hot-rodding. Keep in mind the price of these guitars either include no case, or a gig bag.

Gibson – Like Fender, Gibson suffers somewhat from product line schizophrenia. If you are browsing the major online retailers, models tend to come and go, at least from a standpoint of what’s being promoted at the moment. Gibson offers “faded” Les Paul and SG models with prices below $1000. There are also satin finish guitars both with flat and carved tops that come in under $1000. Gibson also offers Melody Maker and Les Paul Junior models, again with satin or aged finishes. We’ve tried the Les Paul Junior, and it’s pretty nifty with lots of bite out of the single dog-ear P-90, and good playing qualities. LP Juniors are fun guitars, and for a for pure elemental rock machine you can’t really go wrong. Gibson fit and finish can sometimes be a little variable, and if you want to mod the pickups or controls, you’ll likely be dealing with a printed circuit board (even if you spend thousands). As with Fender, gig bags may not be in the price, so consider that when you are shopping.

Carvin – By eliminating the retailer and going strictly direct, Carvin has been putting out a broad variety of attractively priced USA guitars for many years. Having never played their guitars I can’t say a wh0le lot, but my personal experience with their pro-audio and bass amplifiers tells me that they do deliver above average performance at a very competitive price. Provided you don’t option them up too much, their ST300, DC127, DC134/5, DC600 and Bolt-On  series guitars can all be had for under $1000. Carvin guitars can be custom built to order, and the array of options available from Carvin is pretty mind-boggling. For under $1000, your going to be looking at a fairly basic guitar — no quilt maple tops or Koa wood — but there is still a lot to choose from. Part of the option list is the case, and essentially you have to buy some sort of case, but the case pricing is very reasonable.

Summary – There is a good feeling about buying something made in the USA, and supporting American manufacturing. After all, the solid body electric guitar was born here, so why not buy one made in the USA? In this global world, made in USA is also subject to interpretation. For many product categories there are specific regulations that control whether a product can be labeled “made in USA” or “assembled in USA” etc. There is likely some amount of foreign content in any USA guitar, most notably electronic components, and of course certain woods like rosewood just don’t exist in the USA. Also, chances of finding a gig bag not made in China is pretty tough. So made in USA can sometimes be a fuzzy term, and certain components just cannot be sourced domestically. With that in mind, you can find a guitar in which the majority of the parts and labor come from domestic sources, and not break the bank doing so.

To see some of the American made guitars carried by UpFront Guitars for around $500 – $1200: www.upfrontguitars.com

 

G&L Guitar Sound Clips

February 16th, 2012

We are just getting started with this blog page, but it will include sound clips of the some of the many guitars that we currently have in stock or have carried at UpFrontGuitars. We’re on a steep learning curve recording-wise, so probably the clips will get better as we go!

ASAT Classic Custom Semi Hollow, Maple Neck – Recorded through Dr Z Remedy Head into pine 1×12 cabinet with G12H30 speaker, Shure SM57 microphone. JHS Charlie Brown Pedal used for overdrive tones. Recorded February 14th, 2012

ASAT Clas Cust SH

 

 

G&L Neck Profiles – Suggestions – 2015 Updates

December 13th, 2011

This is an update to an earlier blog post to cover the changes G&L made to their neck offerings during their 2015 mid-year model changes.

One thing that may not be clear to buyers is that neck profile and fretboard radius are independent. Meaning that while the Modern Classic neck that comes standard on most guitars has a 9.5″ radius, it’s available in 7.5″ or 12″ radius too. Any profile is available with any radius, with the exception that you can’t get the 7.5″ radius with a Bigsby. So by decoupling the profile and radius specification, G&L has actually expanded what’s available in terms of options.

As we cover the various neck profiles, we’ll discuss them as much as possible independent of fretboard radius, and we’ll also assume the neck has the standard Jescar 57110 fret. In parenthesis will be the old neck designation where applicable.

Lastly, all neck profile tolerances are +/- .015 (1/64th) relative to their stated dimension (it is wood after all not titanium). From the upper to lower end of the tolerance, this is a difference many people can feel. If you are on the fence about a certain profile but are super sensitive to thickness for example, opt for the thinner/narrower selection.

Modern Classic – The Modern Classic is now the standard neck on all popular Legacy, S-500, Comanche and ASAT models (.820″ at the first fret and .870″ at the 12th fret). On most guitars they use a 9.5″ radius, with the exception of the Invader Models which are 12″.  Think of the Modern Classic as a Slim C with a 1-11/16″ nut width, and the same string spacing. The “MCNK” addresses the two issues of: 1) Occasional string falloff with the 1-5/8 nut width, and 2) “What feels most like a Fender?” With the thinner profile and 9.5″ radius, the additional width is hardly noticeable, whereas on C Plus (Wide C) it can start to feel a little too manly. The MCNK is a good all-things-to-all-people neck, although I find it a little lacking in palm support in the upper frets (which my son really likes, and his hands are a little smaller).

Classic C (#1) – Up until July 2015, the G&L 12″ radius #1 neck was the standard. It is the only neck available on the F-100 and SC-2.  Measuring .830″ at the first fret and .960″ at the 12th fret, it’s mildly beefy and fits most people well. Versus the MCNK, I like the extra thickness in the higher frets to anchor my palm. Every once and a while some necks do exhibit some string falloff on the high E, but it’s rare. We’ve also tried this neck with the Dunlop 6230 vintage fret option, but the combination of flat neck with skinny fret makes the frets seem undersized, and they look a little lost on the wide flat fretboard. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Slim C (#1a) – This is your MCNK neck without the nut width. This is the only neck profile available on the Fallout (yes, really). The G&L #1a is about the same size as the #1 at the first fret, but only .870″ at the 12th. There is very little taper to the neck, so it feels quite slim as you move up the frets. Good for shredders and people who like to be able to reach around the neck and hammer the notes. (1-5/8th nut width)

Heritage ’86 (#1b) – Before the MCNK, when we intentionally wanted a slim neck, this is the one we’d order. The “Heritage C” profile is great for women, people with smaller hands, or folks who like a thinner profile. Feels instantly comfortable and tapers nicely up the frets to .910″. I’ve always liked the feel of this profile more than the #1a, and it’s still a nice option. (1-5/8th nut width)

Modern U (#1c) – This is G&L’s Modern “U” shape, which at .850″ is pretty beefy in the lower frets, but tapers less than most to .910″ at the 12th fret. We’ve only had one of these, and it feels very much like a “C” neck. If you like a more generous neck proportion down low — like a 50’s Gibson — this neck will do the trick. But if you have no strong opinions on neck shape, a Classic C is probably a safer choice. (1-5/8″ nut width)

 Deep V (#1d) – This is G&L’s Modern “V” neck, which is a shape that not a lot of players have experience with, but I’m a big fan. At .890″ at the first fret, it is G&L’s thickest neck, and it tapers to .930 at the 12 fret. The V shape provides a lot of “beef” but since it tapers more rapidly to the sides than a “C” profile, it does not wind up feeling bulky. So you get depth without the drawbacks of a large “C” profile. It’s a pretty neat feel, and personally I find it very comfortable and use it on my pine ASAT Classic. Players such as Eric Clapton have been proponents of this shape, and it’s featured on some of his signature guitars. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Classic C Plus (#3) – This is the Classic C neck with a 1-11/16″ nut width. A good neck for players with larger hands, as the combination of wider nut and classic profile is something you can really feel. Conventional wisdom is that “thinner is faster” but if you like a neck that provides generous palm support, the C Plus is the ticket.

Classic C Wide (#4) – The “Shrek Neck” which is 1-3/4″ wide with additional string spacing. We have not sampled this neck yet, but if you think you need it, you probably do.

Soft V (#2a) – Another neck that we have not tried, but it sounds intriguing given our infatuation with the Deep V profile. In theory it should be the solution for players who find the Classic C a little too chunky down low but want less of a taper than a Slim C. We might have to get one of these….. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Quartersawn versus Flatsawn Necks – All standard G&L necks are flatsawn. If you were to take off the neck and look at the end of the neck you would see that the grain of the wood is parallel to the fingerboard. This makes a stable neck, and also they also get more Flatsawn necks per piece of maple stock, which keeps the cost down. Quartersawn necks have the grain perpendicular to the fingerboard, so the wood is much stiffer in the direction that the neck typically bends. But cutting this way yields fewer necks per piece of maple stock, which increases cost.  Sonically, the stiffer quartersawn neck is felt to be more percussive, with a quicker attack and less note compression than a flatsawn neck (theoretically it makes sense). While it’s not practical to A-B two necks on the same guitar, personal opinion is that guitars I’ve played with a quartersawn necks have a little more attack, but maybe a touch less complexity. Some players swear by them, and if you live in an area that varies widely in temperature and humidity, a quartersawn neck may require less tweaking. Not a bad idea either on bass guitars with their longer necks and string tension. And if you are worried about “dead spots” on a bass, my recommendation would be to opt for quartersawn.