LaVoce 2: Single-coil bridge pickup setting w/ Piezo through Orange Micro Terror, Volume 10, Tone 8.5, Gain 5 with 1x12 Eminence Private Jack speaker and DigiTech Supernatural Ambient Reverb in spring mode; 3 passes switching pickups from bridge to bridge-plus-piezo to piezo alone.LaVoce 3: Single-coil pickup settings through Marshall Super Lead, Bass 5, Mid 10, Treble 10, Gain 10, Volume 2 with 1x12 Eminence Private Jack speaker and DigiTech Supernatural Ambient Reverb in spring mode; 3 passes switching pickups from neck to both to bridge.
LaVoce 4: Piezo only setting, Roland Cube 30, Acoustic mode, Treble 10, Mid 6, everything else at 0.
An episode of the 1950s TV comedy I Love Lucy featured Vitameatavegamin, an elixir that purported to cure everything. As it turned out, Vitameatavegamin was mostly booze, which made it more fun than the average medicine, and made users feel better temporarily about, well, everything.
Like Vitameatavegamin, the LaVoce Z-Glide Custom from famed guitar designer Dean Zelinsky is designed to be a hydra-headed cure—one that can cure the need, or compulsion, to take multiple instruments to gigs. It offers true humbucking and single-coil tones, plus a “stage acoustic” sound generated via a bridge piezo pickup. The piezo tone can be blended into the single-coil and humbucking tones, or played separately. Thanks to the LaVoce’s stereo output jack, the conventional pickup and piezo tones can also be sent to separate amps if you chose to play in stereo—which is a cool option. But like Vitameatavegamin, the LaVoce has its plusses and minuses.
What’s terrific about this guitar is that it looks sharp, is well built, and is a joy to play. The slim body gives the guitar a light, sleek feel not unlike my Stratocaster. And at a gig, the test model’s gracefully arched solid mahogany body and flame maple top (in trans-wine finish with natural binding) was attractive enough to draw questions from musicians and civilians alike. Hardware including the GraphTech piezo-acoustic bridge, stop bar, pickup selector, and four nickel speed dials all look as substantial and efficient as they proved to be in practice. The 20:1 locking tuners are easy to grip and held steady as I changed from standard to open tunings and gave the strings a beating. Making adjustments to the humbucker/piezo mix and the output volume was smooth and easy. The sole exception was a small crackling sound that occurred every time I switched the coil tap between humbucking and single-coil modes.
The Z-Glide Custom has a set 24 3/4" neck, with a rosewood, 12"-radius fretboard and 22 perfectly seated and smooth-ended frets. Tasteful-but-artful diamond inlays pretty up the fretboard. And the neck was every bit as comfortable and fun to play as my usual array of familiar Telecasters, Stratocasters, and Les Pauls. The guitar also weighs in at a groovy seven pounds, making the LaVoce a four-sets-a-night player’s dream.
I’m less sure about the merits of Zelinsky’s patented Z-Glide neck. I agree with his basic concept—that reducing the neck’s rear surface area via a waffle-style finish eliminates some friction that a lacquered neck can cause. But in practical terms, I didn’t feel like I ran faster or jumped considerably higher. (Admittedly, I’m no shredder.) It’s also possible that those tiny waffled spaces are going to fill up with grime over time (Zelinsky, for their part, asserts that a regular wipe-down after use prevents such accumulation).
I tested the LaVoce through a blackface Twin Reverb, my dual Orange Micro Terror stereo rig, and a Roland Cube 30 (which, of course, yielded the most acoustic-guitar-like tone). In general though, it responded best to my 1972 Marshall Super Lead. Given Zelinsky’s metal-centric design pedigree and the elevated temperature of the LaVoce’s pickups—10.2k for the SideKick neck pickup, and 15.4k for the Custom bridge pickup—that’s not especially shocking.
Relative to ’50s or ’60s Gibson-style humbuckers, LaVoce’s humbuckers are very mid-focused, an effect that was particularly pronounced on the neck pickup, where I prefer a lot of depth and warmth. There was also a distinctive snap, most prominent on the bottom string—with or without the piezo dialed in—that can be a little unflattering. (I did not, however, attempt to adjust the height of the pickups, which can sometimes subdue these percussive sounds.) Using the tone control to massage the output doesn’t yield profound shifts in this basic sound, and the tone control itself could use a more-gentle taper. Most likely, the two alnico pickups are simply too sizzling to achieve a lot of classic, low-output humbucker nuance. For those that like to keep the pedal to the metal, however, LaVoce’s humbuckers might well be set up in the sweet spot.
Things get hot in a good way with the single-coil settings. Impressively, there is no volume loss when switching from humbucker settings. And pumped through both high- and low-gain amps, the neck and bridge pickups produced very warm, Strat-like tones that were crisp and articulate.
“Stage acoustic” is probably the best way to describe the piezo tone alone, since it, at best, merely approximates the sound of an actual amplified acoustic 6-string. Overall the LaVoce’s piezo sound lacks the airiness, woody warmth, and delicacy of true acoustic tones. But—and I liked this aspect of LaVoce’s sound a lot—it did remind me of the hollowbody or semi-hollowbody electric guitar sounds found on ’50s and ’60s recordings by Fred McDowell or Lightnin’ Hopkins— snappy and articulate with a little edge. Cool—and an unexpected dividend.
Although the LaVoce Z-Glide Custom has a good core electric sound, it might not suit players that gravitate toward classic bread-and-butter tones. It’s probably a best fit for shred or heavy-rock inclined players that like hot humbucker tones and raw power with the flexibility of serviceable acoustic tones with some rootsier single-coil textures. And while it may come up short in its declared mission to be all guitars to all people, LaVoce’s solid build, joyful playablity, and nice single-coil sounds make the $899 street price seem quite fair.
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