REVIEW: G&L Legacy Special

The G&L guitar company was founded by original Fender legends Leo Fender and George Fullerton, along with Dale Hyatt, in the late 1970s. After taking some time out from guitar design, Leo initially worked with Music Man before deciding to start up a new company to further refine his classic designs of the 40s and 50s. To this day G&L guitars are hand made on Fender Avenue in Fullerton, California, the spiritual birthplace of Leo’s original guitar designs.

Leo’s original designs were quite revolutionary, and that’s why they’re still in use today, but with G&L he felt he could offer a new perspective on his old designs. Some of these innovations include the dual-fulcrum vibrato, which anchors on two pivot points to improve tuning stability and tonal transfer; the G&L Saddle-Lock bridge, which uses an Allen screw to lock bridge saddles in place (a design feature occasionally found in the work of some other companies); and George Fullerton’s patented tilt neck mechanism, which allows easy adjustment of the neck angle without having to hassle with shims and guesswork.

The G&L Legacy Special uses Leo’s 54 and 62 Stratocaster designs as a starting point, but adds the G&L Dual Fulcrum bridge, special bi-cut neck, and a combination of two G&L DualBlade pickups in the neck and middle and a PowerBlade humbucker in the bridge. The G&L Legacy model, minus the ‘Special’ designation, uses a trio of Magnetic Field Design humbucking pickups designed by Leo).

The Stratocaster inspiration is obvious from a quick glance at the Legacy Special, but the distinctive design of the bridge immediately sets it apart from its older brother. The sheer amount of steel looks like it would add gobs of sustain, something Strats aren’t traditionally known for. The headstock too is a departure from Leo’s earlier design, but if you examine it closely, it actually appears to be created by following a traditional Stratocaster contour until the B string tuning peg, where it juts inward to end with the standard smaller Telecaster scroll.

The locking Schaller tuners add further heft to the headstock while keeping tuning nice and stable in the face of wild whammy bar antics, and the fretboard radius is surprisingly flat compared to a Fender Stratocaster. Underneath the G&L logo on the headstock is written “Guitars By Leo” – a nice touch. Frets are absolutely flawless, with mirror-clean finishing and a very tactile rounding to the edges. It instantly gives the guitar a played-in feel. Also interesting to note is the massive depth of the neck itself. It’s one of the deepest I’ve seen on a bolt-on electric, second only to that of the original Jeff Beck Strat. It’s an impressive chunk of wood but it still fits snugly and comfortably in the hand, proving you don’t need a ruler-thin neck for playing comfort.

Finish on the review model is jet black, matched by a black/white/black three ply pick guard, and black controls and pickups. There are many colour options available, but perhaps my personal favourite is the butterscotch body with black pick guard, which reminds me of the custom Strat-style guitar Frank Zappa played in the 80s. The twin-blade pickups themselves look like exactly what they are: painstakingly handmade. There’s a roughness to the finish which, far from looking cheap, actually makes them look more impressive and ‘big-time.’ The blades also nicely echo the frets, adding to the visual flow of the instrument.

Picking up the Legacy Special, once again the impression is of a serious, ‘big boy’s guitar.’ It’s heavy and sturdy and it seems to have a presence about it that commands attention, and this impression is verified by a single unplugged strum. I’ve never heard an unplugged solid body electric sound this loud and full. You could just mic it up and have a perfectly usable clean tone for recording.

The flatter fretboard radius is especially well suited to huge wide bends with great pitch accuracy, and it also makes light work of big chord stretches.

The bridge pickup has a chewy, hot attack and nice warm overtones, and is surprisingly suitable for metal rhythms. The middle and neck pickups have a single coil vibe with hotter output and no noise, with a slight scooped mid tone and hairy highs. Despite its somewhat classic looks it puts out a rather modern tone, and while it can cover a lot of tonal bases, it always retains its own character. You can still hear the tone of the wood no matter what pickup selection or gain level you use.

The PTB tone system consists of a master treble cut and a master bass cut, instead of the pair of tone controls you would expect from this design. It’s an especially tidy solution for fine-tuning clean rhythm guitar tones, and can also take some of the wool out of the distorted tone at higher gain levels, opening up the sound a little more for increased dynamics.

The Legacy Special is a great jack of all trades guitar, yet it still retains its individual character. Like Leo Fender’s early guitars, it too feels like it would survive 50 years of use and still be at the top of its game. It’s also a good option for heavier players who want to dip their toe in the waters of Stratocaster ownership but want something a little more sleek and industrial.

PICKUPS: 2 G&L Dual Blade and 1 G&L Power Blade humbucking pickups
BODY WOOD: Alder on Standard and all solid finishes, Swamp Ash on all Premier finishes
NECK: Hard Rock Maple with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
NECK RADIUS: 12″ (304.8mm)
NECK WIDTH AT NUT: 1 5/8″ (41.3mm)
TUNING KEYS: 6:1 ratio locking machine, sealed lubrication, adjustable knob tension
BRIDGE: G&L Dual Fulcrum vibrato with chrome-plated brass saddles
CONTROLS: 5 position pickup selector, PTB system
FINISH: Standard finishes

I can’t seem to find a shopping link among my affiliates for the exact model reviewed, but I found this, which looks awesome: G&L Legacy Electric Guitar with Tinted Maple Neck Blonde


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