Building a better (G&L Tribute) Fallout April 05 2022
Look at that thing! Isn't it a work of beauty? The surf green finish, the curves of the pickguard, saddle-lock bridge, small SC-2 style body paired with a 25.5" scale neck. These are such great guitars that only suffer in a few spots out of the box, but one of those spots is kindof a big deal. I've owned a lot of these Tribute Fallouts. I mean A LOT. Played them live and in-studio. One of my two "every day" players in my office is a Tribute Fallout. I've tried a lot of different pickup configurations in them. I've bought trashed ones and fixed them up. I can say that I know these guitars very well. As a result, this post will be a little shorter-winded than my typical review (maybe).
For Tribute Fallouts, try to find one pre-2019-ish, or at least make sure you're getting one with a mahogany body. These will most likely come with a gloss neck. Tape off the body and surrounding neck parts you don't play (headstock) and lightly sand the back of the neck with some 1200 grit wet dry, followed by 3000 to go from a gloss to matte finish. Don't sand through the finish, we're just controlling the gloss. Follow up with a little Birchwood Casey gunstock wax if you wish (not necessary strictly speaking). These typically come with a small neck shim (usually a little piece of cloth sanding belt material). It helps keep you from having to crank the saddle height. Not a big deal, just be aware if you take off the neck.
Saddle block bridge is great, and the top loading style gives this guitar a special sound and feel. Resonant yet slinky and bouncy. Sustain is wonderful, and the guitar is lively even unplugged. Tuners are fine. Nut has been a mixed bag on mine. Had to replace a few where they stuck the wrong nut on the guitar.
Let's get to the improvement needed. The bridge pickup. Jeez. Stock, it's the poster child for somehow inexplicably too hot and too muddy. I've tried dialing it in a million different ways, and lowered down (a lot) and raising up the pole pieces helps some, but it never seems to get it right. The coil split is wired to switch to the inside coil (toward the neck - who the hell thought that was a good idea?), so that doesn't help much either. The worst part is that the neck p90 is actually quite nice. Here's where the magic comes in. I have found a pickup that is the perfect mate for the neck p90. Best part? It's cheap. I give you...the GFS Surf 180. It's a direct drop in, just need to replace the tone pot. It has the sparkle, clarity, and output level all in the sweet spot to offset the warmth of the neck pup. Just...wow. It's the perfect mate for this guitar. Try it for yourself, see how much this $36 pickup can help. You'll be surprised.
With those little changes, you'll take this guitar from OK to freaking amazing. Satin neck, versatile pickups, amazing sustain and tone, super comfortable to play for long periods on stage. I can't recommend the post-tweaking Fallout enough, just be aware that the little big of investment and time will give you back major dividends. You won't want to put it down. Eagle-eyed shoppers can find these cheap, so the cost of a new bridge pickup is easily absorbed. If you don't want to go through that process, try one out in person and see if you can bond with that bridge pickup first.
2021/2022 G&L Tribute ASAT Classic March 29 2022
The G&L Tribute series have featured some real winners, and some...not so great options. I'm a firm believer that guitars that have "good bones" can be absolutely great with a little elbow grease and attention, regardless of how they arrive out of the box. By good bones, I mean a few things...
- Well balanced body with a wood that is hard yet resonant
- Neck profile you enjoy
- Neck pocket cut well
- Level frets (mostly) that are seated well
- Serviceable bridge
Most other aspects can be adjusted if you love the bones. New pickups, tuners, saddles, etc.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Only invest in upgrades to make YOU happy. Don't go in thinking you are increasing the resell value with upgrades. IT IS A LOSING PROPOSITION.
While you can do some upgrades fairly easily, it's a great feeling to have a killer guitar at a good price right out of the box. That brings me to the G&L Tribute ASAT Classic. When I say ASAT Classic, I mean the MFD pickup version. The ones that were popping up as MF Stupid Deal of the Day labelled as Limited Edition were not the same level of instrument and lacked the MFD pickups, which are one of the main attractions on this guitar. Add a sassafras body on the trans finishes, comfortable satin neck, and belly cut, and you have a much better instrument. Let's start with the fit and finish from the box.
The sassafras body on the sunburst model is absolutely beautiful. The grain pops with depth, and the burst is attractive. The switch from swamp ash to sassafras seems to help control the weight a little bit (this one clocks in around 8 lbs). Other ASAT Classic models I've owned from previous runs could be around 10.5 lbs! Aiding from both a weight and comfort standpoint is the belly carve added to the model starting in 2021. The neck pocket was clean and has a great fit to the neck. Not too tight, just right. No shims needed on this one.
The neck also features a pretty grain pattern, with the satin stain finish making it great for someone like me that dislikes sticky poly finishes on the neck. This was a change for the 2021-forward models. Let's talk about the bad for a minute. The fret ends were hideous. On this specific guitar, it wasn't just a case of the neck shrinking as it dries over time. Believe it or not, we're talking some barbs from when the fret tangs were cut with the nibbler. That's just sloppy to leave the door like that. Luckily, I have the tools to address the issue (fret end file, fret leveling file, and micro-mesh), but it's still a pain in the ass. On the positive, frets were level, and nut was cut nicely. I have another from this same line, and the nut had to be moved over a little on that one, so YMMV. The satin finish is fast, but to improve it even more I hit it with 3000 grit wet dry paper a little, and it was perfect. On another ASAT I got, the satin finish failed to cover some big open pores that left a spot feeling rough. Again, shouldn't have left in that condition. Luckily this one didn't have that type of issue. The QC folks should up their game a tiny bit on the necks. Up at the headstock, tuners are nice and solid.
The bridge is a classic box style, and the brass saddles with black springs looks super slick. Saddles arre nice and easy to dial in for dead-on intonation. Only weird thing is, the holes for the strings could benefit from being moved a tiny fraction toward the treble side, and that's common from all ASAT Classics I've owned.
Now we come to the star of the show. The MFD ASAT pickups are among my favorites. Superior clarity across all strings, bridge or neck, doesn't matter. Tele spank in the bridge, warmth yet clear bell-like tones in the neck. On top of it all, the design, with adjustable pole pieces and a unique magnet configuration, it super cool. Cannot sing enough praises of these pickups.
For a guitar that retails at $589, this guitar punches well above its weight. Know that you may need to polish frets and file the fret ends possibly, but in the end, you'll have a guitar that's better than a Fender Player, yet significantly cheaper.