Proving that Leo Fender's design genius didn't vanish when he sold his first guitar brand to CBS, and that G&L continues to perfect Leo's principles, here's the G&L Tribute Legacy. The clue is in the name. Tom Quayle checks out a very affordable Strat alternative.
The G&L Tribute Legacy represents all of the classic single coil, Alnico V tone of the '50s Stratocaster and its countless imitators but has been updated to address many of the problems inherent in the original design. The Legacy takes the modern refinements of G&L's S500 and Comanche guitars and combines them with the company’s CLF-100 Alnico V single coils, designed by Paul Gagon, G&L says, to sound as good as the best examples from the classic era of single coil tone. That's the theory - so let's check it out.
The basic construction of the Legacy is very familiar, with a swamp ash (translucent/burst finish) or basswood (solid finish) body, bolt-on hard-rock maple neck with either rosewood or maple fingerboards and 22 medium jumbo, nickel frets. The neck features a 12” radius for a great compromise between chordal and lead work and has a very approachable medium C profile that should be very comfortable for most players’ hands. Three CLF-100 single coils and a 5-way switch give the classic '50s tones but are matched with much more modern hardware in the form of a Leo Fender designed 'dual fulcrum' tremolo and passive treble and bass dials for more tonal control. These controls allow the player to dial in a bass or treble filter for each pickup position, making for much more tonal control than the standard we're all used to.
Construction quality of both the woods and hardware on our sample was superb, with great finishing and fretwork matched with professional level hardware. Our example featured a basswood body finished in Candy Apple Red with a 3-ply crème pick guard, colour matched headstock and rosewood fingerboard. Translucent and burst finishes are available too in a variety of classic colours to match most tastes.
Other than the superb pickups, the Legacy's stand out feature is the dual fulcrum tremolo, offering much better tuning stability and smoother operation in both directions than the vintage, six screw variant. A thick and more solid feeling, aluminum tremolo arm adds to the level of control, although I felt that the tremolo angle was setup too close to the body for my personal preference - this is easily sorted with a quick set-up though.
Played acoustically, the Legacy is a surprisingly loud and resonant guitar, boding well for its plugged in tone. Running into the clean channel of our studio amp this lovely acoustic quality translated into a great bell-like single coil tone with plenty of quack and bite and a great dynamic response. These pickups really feel superb to play and translate every element of your playing accurately and musically in every position. The passive treble and bass controls work very well to refine the tone in each position and offer way more control than a standard Strat-style tone control.
Overdriven sounds have that classic single coil chime, cut and detail but are also thick and full sounding without ever feeling weak or lifeless. These are certainly fantastic pickups for a guitar in this price range and would be welcome even in far more expensive guitars. In fact every aspect of this guitar seems to punch above its weight - the materials, hardware, build quality all seem to belong to a far more expensive instrument.
So who is the Tribute Legacy for? Well, it is a much more versatile guitar than the average Strat style instrument, thanks to the more detailed tone control and the high quality tremolo, so I would say it should appeal to a wide range of players looking for an updated and modern variant on the obvious competitor but who wish to retain all the classic, single coil tone of the '50s original. G&L has certainly created a very attractive package here at an equally attractive price point. If you’ve never considered moving beyond the obvious choice in single coil guitars then the Legacy could be the one to make you do it. Of course, brand loyalty among guitarists is strong but there comes a time when when you need to be brave in your quest for the perfect instrument.