Ever think to yourself “I really want a Porsche 911” but then you see the sticker price and think “The Boxster is cool, and it’s kinda like a 911 ?” Yeah, that’s a $1000 Les Paul. It’s the Boxster of Les Paul guitars. For starters, plastic nut ? WTF. Second, the internal electronics are comprised of a circuit board and wiring harnesses for everything. The setup was horrible, it had fret buzz that had to be corrected and the intonation was out. I mean, this was a guitar that was built in Nashville and came with with a photo of the guitar on the QA bench. It was a lesson in Don’t cheap out on a Les Paul. So I swapped pickups, put locking tuners on it, gutted the control board and replaced it with real CTS pots and a 50s wiring setup. I rocked it out for a while with DiMarzio Titans in it – those pickups are amazing. I’ve got an Epiphone Les Paul Pro with split coils, gloss paint, and gold hardware for less than half what I paid for the Gibson, and it sounds just as good. For the record, if the Les Paul doesn’t have binding all over it, high-gloss paint, and cost $4000, it’s probably not one I want to own.
But I found myself playing another guitar more often than not, one that cost me a whopping $79 used. The Squier Affinity Stratocaster by Fender. I really enjoy the hell out of the guitar. It just feels great. It’s got a skinny 9.5 radius neck, that solid Strat spank and it’s light. It’s also the first guitar I did a setup on. Fret leveling, truss rod adjustment, rounded fretboard edges, and I even put locking Fender tuners on it. It is damn near a working-musician’s guitar now. But the feeling when I play it is just sensational. I wanted that feel from a more polished professional guitar, so I started looking at Fender Strats.
Initially I was looking for a Fender Strat, but I had read about the G&L line of guitars so I stopped by my local guitar store and checked out a few. The G&L Legacy USA guitars are beautiful and comparatively priced to the Fender Strat. I played a couple of the Tribute series, but the 12 inch radius didn’t feel right. Plus I wasn’t trading a U.S.A Les Paul on an Indonesian-made guitar. Then I picked up an antique-white/cream colored USA model and jammed on it for about a half hour. It had the feel and the sound of my Strat, but also had a really nice fulcrum tremolo and the Passive Tone and Bass (PTB) system as a bonus. All 3 pickups benefit from tone and bass control. It also had nicely polished frets, no buzz, correct intonation and a bone nut! I had the store work up the numbers on my Les Paul Gold Top (the trade-in value is about 70%) but I wasn’t even mildly interested in the LP anymore, and I wanted the G&L. So I’ve got a new baby that I play every day.
Well, I did actually make some changes to this. First, I put locking tuners on it. Those are just required. They are factory G&L locking tuners, and they dropped right in place. I also had the guitar tech install a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails because, in the words of said guitar tech “Single coils at the bridge give me the blues.” So I went from a 10.1 output single, to a 16.6 output Humbucker that fits in a single-coil slot. And … it… screams! Below is a sample with the guitar plugged straight into my VOX AV30 amp and the overdrive cranked. He also partially blocked the tremolo because I tune dropped-D frequently and a floating tremolo with alternate tuning is a nightmare. I’m really happy with this guitar, and glad I bought it. I really like the (unfinished?) maple neck and fret board, it’s so fast and smooth.
So wait, why not a Fender? Well, this is technically a “Fender”. G&L is “Guitars by Leo.” I do want an American Fender with the big fat 70s head stock but those are custom. Until I have the cheese to buy a 70s Strat or a Custom Shop I’ll stick with the G&L. But as much as I use the PTB system on this guitar, I doubt I’ll need a 70s Strat any time soon.
Check out the sound sample below. No, I am not a guitar god. I just love guitars and playing. Like most everything else in my life, I’m highly mediocre. 😀