Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

G&L ASAT Z3 – Leo’s Latter Days

G&L ASAT Z3 – Leo’s Latter Days

Sep 17, 2012

First of all, Six-String Samurai would like to warmly welcome MusicPlanet Wellington as our latest friendly local retailer to jump on board the Samurai Express and allow us to check out some of their cool gear! MusicPlanet does a wide variety of products ranging from keyboards and pianos to drums and PA/recording gear, but obviously what we’re interested in is guitar gear. So what do we choose as the first review from the MP catalogue?

The first thing I usually ask is – what gear do you have that you think should be squarely in the spotlight, but doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves? The instant reply was this beauty – the G&L ASAT Z3.

G&What?

Leo Fender was a busy man. After selling Fender Guitars to CBS in 1965, he began designing instruments for MusicMan (these days known as Ernie Ball MusicMan or EBMM for short). In the 70s, the relationship between Leo and MM began to sour, and so he said “Screw you guys”, and left. George Fullerton and Leo Fender opened up shop to continue Leo’s innovative work, and christened the new endeavour with their first initials – thus G&L Guitars was born.

G&L designs are at first glance pretty much along the lines of classic Fender stylings – you’ll recognize the distinctive curves of Leo’s Telecaster, Stratocaster and… wait, wait wait wait. WAIT.

I just have to say it before I go any further. And I know it’s what you’re all thinking (which is coincidentally what people usually say when they get called out for saying douchey or racist things, but that’s another rant).

That headstock… it’s just… kinda dorky.

Leo, you got it right the first time. But I guess you had to change it up a little, right?

Its not a dealbreaker

Personally, I know that I’ve always been a bit eeyurrghh? (both a feeling, and a word) about the G&L headstock, and I know that to many, it’s a bit of a deterrent from even trying out a G&L guitar.

When I picked up the Z3, you know what I discovered? That we’re all being bloody ridiculous, and as a result, missing out on some of the finest innovations that Leo Fender ever gifted to the guitar playing community.

Let’s talk specs.

PICKUPS 
3 G&L Magnetic Field Design Z-coil pickups
BODY WOOD 
Alder on Standard and all solid finishes, Swamp Ash on all Premier finishes
NECK WOOD 
Hard Rock Maple with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
NECK RADIUS 
7 1/2″ (190.5mm)
NECK WIDTH AT NUT 
1 5/8″ (41.3mm)
TUNING KEYS 
12:1 ratio, sealed lubrication, adjustable knob tension
BRIDGE 
G&L Saddle Lock with chrome-plated brass saddles
CONTROLS 
5 position pickup selector, volume, tone with push/pull function enabling additional pickup combinations of neck+bridge or all 3 pickups together
FINISH 
Standard finishes included
OTHER 
Chrome Hardware; 3-ply White pickguard; Deluxe Hardshell Tolex Case w/Fitted Interior

First up – pickups.

I definitely think I have a bit of an obsession with weird, triple pickup guitars (see Fret-King Esprit for reference), and so this is right down my alley. The “Z-coil” pickups are reminiscent of a P-bass pickup, and here’s the philosophy behind the funky split-wound pickup:

The patented Magnetic Field Design® pickups use a ceramic bar magnet installed underneath each coil, with soft iron adjustable pole pieces to transfer the magnetic field to the surface of the pickup. By contrast, traditional Alnico type pickups, such as used in the Legacy and George Fullerton models, use nonadjustable Alnico pole pieces leaving the only adjustment being pickup height. The Magnetic Field Design has this adjustment, but further offers individual adjustment of each pole piece, letting the player effectively adjust the output of each string on each pickup. Magnetic Field Design yield about twice the output per wind, making the pickup quieter while allowing a greater overall output. The sound of Magnetic Field pickups is slightly warmer with a broader frequency response.

I’ve highlighted a line in bold there. Go back and read it again, because that’s what makes these pickups downright amazing – it’s true single coil design, but it’s almost completely humbucking. It makes me wonder why no one else is doing it! But I’ll get to that a bit later on.

Most of the specs read like your standard vintage-radius Tele, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

However, another one of Leo’s innovations on the Z3 that I enjoyed was the bridge – it’s a nice, ergonomic design which doesn’t pinch and poke your picking hand like an old Tele bridge can.

Also, G&L took the opportunity to make full use of the 3-pickup layout, and not only gives you the full 5-way Strat style configuration, but a push-pull pot couples the neck and bridge pickups, unlocking an additional 2 sounds (neck + bridge and all 3 pickups) for a grand total of 7 switching options!

Built like a really well built thing

In my mind, the price point ($3xxx) and additional pickup switching options make the Z3 an almost direct competitor to the Fender American Deluxe Telecaster – and you know what? It’ll go head to head comfortably, any day. I usually don’t love tinted/finished maple necks, but this one didn’t feel sticky at all, and was just… comfortable. The neck profile isn’t overly chunky, sort of a medium/slim C, which suits me just fine.

The vintage radius didn’t bother me too much, which was a bit of a surprise since I bend a lot and usually end up fretting out. Also, vintage radius guitars are usually setup a bit higher action-wise out of necessity, but this one played just nice.

In summary, everything that you’d expect from a mid $3k guitar was well executed, and nothing felt shoddy or out of place. Yes!

Make some noise!

Yeah, so everything feels and looks awesome! I couldn’t wait to plug it in and check out the sounds. I plugged into my new DT25 head through a Mesa 1×12″ Thiele cabinet, and did some experimenting. Ran it through my Audix i5 and Focusrite Scarlett interface.

I found absolute bliss through the AC30 preamp, with the gain up high. The Z3 pickups are just SO dynamic, and yet so quiet and hum-free, that I could literally take it from blues to blistering gain just by changing my pick attack.

Before we get to that, let’s just quickly run through ALL SEVEN of the available pickup selections on the Z3, cleanish.

Here’s the sequence:

  • Bridge
  • Bridge + middle
  • Middle
  • Middle + neck
  • Neck
  • Neck + bridge
  • Neck + middle + bridge, and…
  • Neck + bridge again because I didn’t realize, at the time. Doh.

So… it’s not really a traditional Tele bridge tone, which in part must be because it lacks the brass plate and steel bridge that interact with the pickup to create that distinctive, twangy, trebly sound.

However, some might say that’s a good thing! There is certainly no icepick to be found here. If I had to describe the tone and timbre of the Z3 pickups in one phrase, it would be… piano tones. It’s just a beautiful, piano-like balanced tone that rolls off the guitar, similar to something like a Fender Custom Shop ’65 pickup, or Rio Grande Vintage Tallboys.

Woke up this mornin’

As I mentioned earlier, my absolute favourite thing ended up being the AC30 preamp of the DT25 with a decent amount of gain, and just controlling the dynamics with my fingers. Absolutely sublime for playing some ‘laxed out (and slightly clumsy, sorry) blues:
To further the case of awesome dynamics, here’s a snippet of a riff I’m working on for my band, where I use the Z3 to go all the way from piano tone quiet intro to big crunchy chording and back again – all on the same amp and guitar volume settings, and just changing from neck to bridge pickup.

Captain Crunch

Blues and sweet dynamics are not the only thing the Z3 does well. It can also crunch out with the best of ‘em. I switched to the Plexi preamp, and I got a tone strongly reminiscent of Izzy Stradlin’s crunching Telecaster tones from GNR’s heyday – the perfect foil to a girthier Les Paul. Tight, crunchy and percussive, kicking all sorts of ass. The best thing is that because the pickups are so low on noise, you can really get your crunch on without being bothered by background noise.

 

Final thoughts

Loved it. Absolutely loved it through and through. I’m so glad that this was put forward for the first review from MusicPlanet – a great way to start things off!

The only negative would be that it doesn’t quite get into humbucker territory – whereas with the S1 switch (basically series/parallel) engaged on an AmDlx Tele, it essentially turns both pickups into one, big, ugly humbucker ready for all sorts of sonic decimation. Also, it doesn’t quite do a Tele sound as the body shape might have promised, and it’s really more of a Strat in Tele clothing, but for me, that’s not a big deal – if you want a traditional Tele, Leo already designed one that works.

You should make yourself get over the slightly non-traditional aesthetics, and go play one today.

We give it 4.0 F*ck Yeahs. Oh yes.

Hope you enjoyed our first review with MusicPlanet, and here’s to many more to come!

Have you ever played a G&L? What did you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hamish (@hamo_d) says:

    Bro, keen to see the Samurai review the Jerry Cantrell Rampage, if you’re casting around for your next victim from Music Planet. :)

    1. thesamurai says:

      Is there one in the shop? I’ll have to go have a wander around this weekend…


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