October 11, 2011
A handsome, cost-effective alternative to the Fullerton-made ASATs, packed with features that reflect both a muscular posture and a sense of refinement.
Just over 30 years ago, George Fullerton and Leo Fender started G&L Musical Products to realize the ideas and innovations they weren’t able to explore at the end of their tenure at Fender. Leo never stopped pushing forward as a designer, and his time with G&L was no exception. An unquenchable thirst for perfection led to such developments as the Saddle Lock Bridge, Magnetic Field Design pickup, and Dual Fulcrum Vibrato. Named after an anti-satellite missile, it was the ASAT that put the new company on the map, generating interest as a refinement of Leo’s Telecaster that was produced at a refreshingly small scale of manufacture.
Today, the ASAT remains the standard bearer in the G&L product line, and the company continues to foster the instrument’s evolution by offering models with various tonewoods, finish options, and electronics configurations. This time around, we checked out the Deluxe Carved Top from the Tribute Series—a handsome, cost-effective alternative to the Fullerton-made ASATs, packed with features that reflect both a muscular posture and a sense of refinement.
Ready to Attack
It’s hard not to be struck by the ASAT’s gorgeous carved flame maple top, which is finished in a deep red that looks great against the white binding. The mahogany body, rosewood fingerboard, and dual humbuckers seem to suggest that G&L’s intent here is a warmer kind of T-style guitar. And certainly, the Alnico AS4250C neck and AS4370C bridge pickups, designed by industry veteran Paul Gagon and built with coil-splitting capabilities, are key to the guitar’s snappy-to-warm range and versatility.
The guitar sports Leo Fender’s beefy and comfortable Saddle Lock Bridge, which locks the six individual saddles into place for tuning stability and improved sustain. The build quality level is high for an instrument at a mid-range price, though the finish work at the binding edges of our review model could have used a little more attention. Fretwork is excellent, with fine crowning and a silky polishing job that’s evident across the entire fretboard. The fret ends are well dressed, too, giving the neck a comfortable, high-end feel. I found the satin finish on the C-shaped maple neck super comfortable and smooth. And the medium-jumbo frets combined with the relatively flat 12” fingerboard radius make this neck perfect for lead playing, while still comfortable for chords.
Heat Seeking Tone
The ASAT Deluxe’s light body weight and fast neck had me excited to start ripping through a high gain amp, but I took a level-headed moment to appreciate its acoustic properties unplugged, and you can sense immediately that this instrument had an excellent blend of clarity and richness—no doubt due to the combination of the 25 ½” scale and warm tonewood choices made by G&L. Body resonance and acoustic volume were perceptibly better than average and the strings emitted a great percussive snap and sustain.
I plugged right into a Carvin V3M to get an idea of how these characteristics would translate through some fully saturated tubes. I switched to the bridge humbucker and dialed in a modern high gain setting, and that same killer punch you could hear acoustically jumped off of the 2x12 cabinet.
It was a surprise to hear this much bass and lower midrange emphasis from a bolt-on neck guitar. And I couldn’t help but think that Leo would be proud—the combination of a more robust bridge, Les-Paul-like mahogany body with maple cap, and a fairly hot humbucker results in an exciting transformation of the Telecaster platform. While the tone is thick there’s not a hint of mud from either humbucker, and it’s simple to dial in as much bite as I needed using tone controls on the guitar and amp. Engaging the coil tap function further accentuated the high end and opened up the sound noticeably, lending a more expansive harmonic palate at even aggressive gain settings.
I wanted to get an idea of how much traditional T-style DNA there is in this hot-rodded ASAT, so I switched to a cranked Fender Champ for some classic blues and rock tones. The bridge single-coil gave me a sweet and raunchy early Zeppelin tone, rich with cutting and musical texture. The Champ loves T-style guitars and the ASAT was no exception, getting 90 percent of the way to what I’d call an entirely authentic Telecaster bridge pickup sound—it’s definitely warmer than your average Telecaster and doesn’t have the full dose of twang many look for in that style guitar. Dropping the volume a bit to get rid of the grit, and engaging both single-coils from the middle position gave me a convincing classic Tele tone that was great for some Ricky Skaggs-like leads.
The ASAT exhibited excellent clarity on the wound strings and great balance across the unwound strings that ranged to warm jazz tones. The neck pickup in both humbucking and single-coil configurations yielded sweet, rounded-out tones that you can shape further by rolling back the Tone knob.
There is no shortage of love for the Tele-style guitar. It’s an incredibly versatile instrument in its own right, used for 60 years as a workhorse in every genre imaginable. Many tweaked Tele-style instruments have hit the market in the past, but the ASAT Deluxe Carved Top shines as an outstanding example, not only for its ability to offer a smoother, beefed-up take on an archetypal electric guitar sound, but for its ability to offer it at such an accessible price. And the versatility of the coil tapping feature makes the move from Larry Carlton’s ES-335 sonic territory to Bill Frisell’s Tele sound achievable on the same instrument.
It’s got a great neck that’s exceedingly easy to play, and getting a range of killer tones is effortless. From ferocious grunt to bell-like shimmer, this ASAT hones in and nails almost anything you put in its sights.
you love the Tele format but want more versatility or a warmer tone.
you’re a purist who’d rather stick with the more traditional T-style models.
Street $499 - G&L Musical Instruments - glguitars.com