Tribute S-500 Review

manufacturer: G&L date: 05/05/2011 category: Electric Guitars
G&L: Tribute S-500
The G&L Tribute Series S500 is a strat styled guitar designed by Leo Fender and George Fullterton with innovations that puts the S500 in a realm of its own. Innovations include MFD single coil pickups and the PTB system.
 Sound: 9.6
 Overall Impression: 9.6
 Reliability & Durability: 9.4
 Action, Fit & Finish: 8.6
 Features: 9
 Overall rating:
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 Users rating:
reviews (5) 11 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8.8
Tribute S-500 Reviewed by: Gofishus, on march 13, 2006
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 340

Purchased from: Ebay

Features: Manufactured in Korea I believe, USA electronics. 22 frets, maple neck, solid top, swamp ash body in tobaccoburst. This guitar is a strat-style guitar that has been upgraded with magnetic field coil pickups, a mini-toggle Switch, pearloid pickguard and dual-fulcrum G&L bridge. In short: better than your average Strat. // 9

Sound: I play classic rock and blues and it's perfect for nailing the Hendrix/Clapton and SRV tones. I play with a Vox AD30VT and it simply sounds amazing. I had a Squier before and this guitar literally feels 100x better. It is the greatest guitar I have played, bar the USA G&L's. In my opinion, it blows the Mex Strat out of the water and is about equal to the American Strats. Single coil pickups are very versatile. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: Pickups were swapped to Alnico V's from the magnetic coils to get that 'Vintage' feel. It plays like gold Lace sensors now. There are no flaws on this whatsoever besides the swapped pickups. // 8

Reliability & Durability: I will gig with this no problem, and yes I would use it without a backup. The finish seems pretty fine and looks like it will last at least 10 years. // 8

Overall Impression: This guitar fits of fine perfectly, and is sweet for nailing all those styles of music strats and single-coil guitars have been known for. I've been playing 2 years, and I play this through a Hendrix pedal and the Vox AD30, when I play little wing it sounds almost exactly like the SRV version. I would definitely buy it again if it was stolen/lost. I love the finish, very beautiful, nothing I hate about it at all, I really like the extra mini-toggle Switch to to get extra combinations, and like I said, blows the competition away at the price range I got it for. I got the one with a giant tribute logo on the headstock but the newer ones have the G & L on them, so I wish mine had that. Other than that, it's perfect. // 9

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overall: 10
Tribute S-500 Reviewed by: vantage4, on february 10, 2006
2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 489

Purchased from:

Features: The guitar came with a tag saying it was made in May, 2005, and the name of the factory guy who set it up. The Tribute models are mostly assembled in Korea but the electronics are installed in the US. It has 22 frets, a maple neck, the blueburst finish, and a white pearl pickguard. There's an extra pickup toggle Switch for extra pickup combos which aren't featured on Fender strats. It has a dual-fulcrum tremolo, two tone knobs and one volume knob, and three single coil pickups, all the knobs are metal. Comes with only two springs in the trem but it's easy enough to stick more in if you feel like you need to. Also came with tools, a whammy bar, and a G&L logo soft case which is excellent, never detunes the guitar, provides good protection, and has a strap to hold the headstock in place. The blueburst finish is black around the outside of the body and toward the center it fades to a dark blue through which you can see the grain of the wood. It's got a swamp ash Strat body made by G&L. // 10

Sound: I play mostly blues and classic rock, which suits this guitar perfectly, but it can put out a strong variety of tones. The combination of the tone knobs and both pickup toggle switches allow you more freedom than any other guitar I've played. I won't list every tone you can get but for what I play it works the whole range from sharp distorted tones to mellow cleans. If you want a ridiculously heavy tone for metal then of course there's better, but you could still do worse and as I said it's very flexible as far as sound goes. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: The guitar was well packaged, and definitely tuned from the factory although after shipping it was off by a bit, as is understandable. The pickups were adjusted perfectly, the finish, wood, hardware, and everything else was perfect with no flaws. The neck is smooth and personally fits my playing very well. It's small enough that it doesn't hold me back as far as speed, and thick enough to provide support for bends. It feels very natural to play, there's very little effort. The action of the strings came set high enough that sweep picking might be difficult but for fast runs it's no hindrance and the height makes bends very easy. I know string action is pretty much personal style and preference but it's a good balance and wouldn't take much lowering if you wanted it faster. // 10

Reliability & Durability: I don't play live but I wouldn't hesitate to gig with this guitar. I've been playing it for almost a month and everything's solid. Of course having a backup is always preferable to no backup, but you could definitely depend on this guitar without one. As far as construction goes, although the guitars are made by machine in Korea to cut costs, they are held to the same quality control standards as the normal, upper level G&L guitars, and they use the same electronics, which are installed exactly the same way in the US. G&L cuts costs for these models only by limiting the number of available options and using overseas machine assembly rather than in-country hand assembly. // 10

Overall Impression: I'm 18 and have been playing for over two years. My other guitar is a Takamine acoustic and my first guitar, which I still have, is a Squier Strat. Needless to say, this thing blows the Squire away, and I would put it even or above most Fender Strats I've played, especially considering the price. I play through a little Fender Frontman amp but the guitar still manages to sound good. If this guitar were stolen I would hunt down the guy that stole it and personally see to it that he eats the rest of his meals through a tube. It's built on par with much more expensive guitars and plays and sounds great, I would highly recommend it to anyone. // 10

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overall: 9
Tribute S-500 Reviewed by: Wally53, on april 27, 2006
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 622.2

Purchased from: Guitar Shop ,Birmingham

Features: Made in Korea with the american pickups and fantastic swampash body maple neck rose wood finger 21 frets, has a 5-way selector but with a extra flick switch you can have neck and bridge or all three pickups on. // 8

Sound: The first thing I noticed about the G&L was the sound. I played one in the music store, and something about it grabbed my attention. Even though I thought I didn't need another guitar, I went back and bought my first one the next day.These pickups fill the bill for me. To my ear, they resemble the richness of the early Gibson P-90s more than anything else. I've been a Strat man for nearly 30 years and never thought there could be anything better than a Stratocaster. When I played the S-500, I learned what I was missing. I think of it as Leo Fender's final evolution of the Stratocaster. In my opinion, it leaves everything by his former company in the dust. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: I love the quality of the G&Ls. I didn't think anything could look nicer than the S-500 in blueburst with a white pearl pickguard, they are gorgeous. // 8

Reliability & Durability: The G&L Tributes are pretty much bulletproof. Having been made by Leo Fender, Although I don't abuse guitars I would say that the G&Ls will stand up to a lot. I've had the shop replace a volume and tone pot on one of my G&L, and these were replaced free of charge, and the distributor was informed, so they may have upgraded to better pots by now. Either way, they stand behind their product. // 10

Overall Impression: I've been a Strat man for nearly 30 years and never thought there could be anything better than a Stratocaster. When I played the S-500, I learned what I was missing. I think of it as Leo Fender's final evolution of the Stratocaster. In my opinion, it leaves everything by his former company in the dust. What comes out resembles a cross between the fullness of Santana's guitar in 'Smooth', and the excitment of Hendrix's guitar sound in 'All Along The Watchtower'. It's a killer blues sound too, having the sweetness of the single coils, and a fullness. You can get many sounds out of the guitar, but I just like to find one really great sound and then use either the front pickup to get those really full sounds or change to the rear pickup if I want more bite or to bring out the scream of jumping harmonics a la Roy Buchanan. If you want jazz, the front pickup with the treble control rolled off works nicely. If I could, I'd rate the G&L an 11 or 12 for sound. // 10

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overall: 8.8
Tribute S-500 Reviewed by: unregistered, on may 05, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 649.99

Purchased from:

Features: The G&L Tribute Series S500 is constructed of Swamp Ash with a Hard Rock Maple neck. The fingerboard is available in maple or rosewood with 22 frets. Mine is rosewood. The S500 has a 9" neck radius which took a little getting used to, as I have previously played with mainly 12" radius necks, but it grew on me fairly quickly. The tuners are closed and non-locking, but really seem to do the job nicely. The Bridge is a G&L Dual Fulcrum vibrato which is awesome, as it lets you bend both ways (with the Fender strats I've messed with, the spring tension is usually lessened so the Bridge sits at an angle so you can pull back on the tremolo arm) while the Bridge rests flat and you can have more control of the spring tension you prefer. The tone block attached to the Bridge is full sized and made of cold rolled steel. The G&L Tribute Series S500 comes in three different finishes, which are Blueburst, Natural Gloss and 3-Tone Sunburst. Mine is the 3-Tone Sunburst. All 3 finishes are really great, the wood grain shows through beautifully and the finishes seem to be tough. The G&L Tribute Series S500 also has a "Non-Compression Truss Rod" which was explained to me as using spring steel with the truss rod to keep all the pressure from being at one point of the rod making it much less likely to break. There are 3 single coil pickups, and these are a Fullerton design called MFD or G&L Magnetic Field Design pickups. The Bridge pickup is angled and the middle and neck are parallel with each other. The MFD pickups have a ceramic bar magnet under the coil of each pickup, and also allow individual pole piece adjustment or pickup height adjustment. This is great as far as allowing you to really tweak the output per pickup and per string to get the optimal string clarity at each position. The tone knobs are actually G&Ls PTB system, which stands for Passive Treble and Bass. The way this works is each tone knob is actually wired to all three pickups (this means the Bridge pickup, too unlike some other similar guitars) and the top tone knob allows you to control only treble and the bottom tone knob allows you to control only bass for all three pickups. I also immediately noticed that there is an even response for both knobs, which seems to be really rare. In my experience, the tone pots on a guitar seem to do 80 percent of their work with the last 20% of turn left in the knob, but the tone pots on the G&L have a really nice and refreshing even response really giving you more power to shape your tone to your liking. The Treble Knob is also a pull knob that allows you to activate the neck pickup, which allows two more pickup configurations. You have the normal 5 way position pickup switching, but pull up the treble knob and put the selector on the Bridge and you have the Bridge and neck pickup together, and put it on Bridge and middle with the treble knob pulled up and you get all three pickups at once. This is far more useful than I thought it would be initially, allowing me to find some really interesting rhythm tones using these different configurations, and a few really worthwhile lead tones. I also find that I use the EQ on my amps far less because I have so much control at my hands instead. Included with the G&L Tribute Series S500 was a very nice G&L padded gig bag, allen wrenches, a cheap guitar cable and the push-in vibrato arm (whammy bar). I bought a hard case separately from the guitar, because I can't bear the idea of storing a guitar in a gig bag, but this is a super nice gig bag. I think it would have been nice to get a hard case included with this guitar, and I would have been willing to pay a little extra for the G&L hard case to be included. // 9

Sound: I fell in love with the sound of the G&L Tribute Series S500 immediately. The Magnetic Field Design pickups, the Passive Treble and Bass system, and the 7 selection pickup configurations really allow you to sculpt your tone to your own personal preference. The S500 absolutely can sound like a strat, but you can also get a warmer sound than you can from other single coil pickups I've played with, and you can really get closer to a good metal tone than I've been able to get with any other set of single coil pickups. I still feel as enthusiastic about the G&L Tribute Series S500 as when I first received it. You can get glassy to warm, you can get the Strat quack, and it is really super easy to get an almost percussive piano-like tone out of the G&L. I have been really amazed at how distorted I can get the tone and still have good single string clarity. The full sized cold rolled steel tone block really gives you solid sustain for a Strat style guitar with a tremolo bridge. I initially bought the G&L Tribute Series S500 to have specifically when I needed a single coil sound for something I was working on, but as I've used it more and more I find myself neglecting my other guitars. I won't say the G&L S500 will play everything well, but I will say it plays more styles better than I thought a Strat style guitar could. I got on a Hendrix kick that then progressed on to an early Joe Bonamassa and Robin Trower kick, which got me into Clapton, Jeff Beck, etc. And I felt like I really needed a Strat and my style changed from primarily playing early thrash metal style music to playing overdriven blues. Since I've got the G&L about six months ago I've progressed into playing much more eclectically. I've played a lot more outlaw country, reggae, folk, folk metal, classic rock since I started playing with the S500. It really handles everything well except metal, which it still handles better than any single coils I've played before. The MFD pickups are not silent single coils; there is some 60 cycle hum but not too much. I imagine that this could be fixed by shielding the pickup cavity in the body, but I'm not sure why G&L wouldn't do this during construction. This is something that it seems like should have been done, but I guess there are people out there who don't like their guitars shielded. Again, this isn't too bad, but I will probably go in and shield it at some point I have just been too lazy to do it so far. This is also a fault I've noticed with a lot of Fenders, unless it is a model that comes with the noiseless or noiseless HOT pickups. I still prefer the tone of the MFD pickups to the Fender Noiseless and Fender HOT Noiseless, though the Fender HOT Noiseless pickups are nice. With the individually adjustable pole pieces, extra pickup configurations, just the awesome tone from the MFD pickups and the dual fulcrum tremolo there is so much diversity of sound you can get from the G&L Tribute Series S500, and I absolutely love this guitar. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: The G&L Tribute Series S500 I got has the 3-Tone Sunburst finish, which was absolutely immaculate. The bolt-on neck has an awesome satiny finish and the neck pocket is super tight. The body is contoured and is really comfortable to play, sitting down or standing up. The finish is thin but seems pretty durable. The action was good when I received it it could have been just a tad lower to fit my personal preference, but it was really excellent and after playing it like this for a few days I decided to leave the action like it is. The intonation was almost perfect, and I seriously got it spot on in less than 15 minutes. It feels a little better for rhythm playing that for lead playing because of the neck radius, but this is pretty much Standard for Strat necks. I've played several Fender strats before and since I got this G&L and the only one with a better neck for lead playing I've found was a $1400 Deluxe Player's Strat with a compound radius neck, but I still preferred the G&L pickups, Bridge and just general comfort of the G&L. The frets, of course, had no rough edges and were very comfortable. I believe that they are medium jumbo sized and they feel nice. The nut is just a plastic nut, and I would have preferred a graphite or imitation bone nut but to be honest I haven't had any issues with keeping the G&L in tune, even using the tremolo. I don't really understand why any guitar over $250 or $300 dollars would have a plastic nut. The good thing is that replacement nuts are abundantly available for the G&L Tribute Series S500. I probably will get around to changing the nut out at some point just for peace of mind, but I haven't had any problems with the plastic nut that came stock. I don't normally like tortoise shell pick guards but I guess the combination of the pick guard with the 3-Tone Sunburst just seems to have a lot of character to me, and the lines of the wood grain under the transparent sunburst finish really come across in a complimentary way. I might some day decide to change out the pick guard for a white or black pearloid, which is what I had planned to do when I initially ordered the G&L, but for now I'm really digging the tortoise shell pick guard. // 8

Reliability & Durability: I always have a hard time writing about the reliability and durability of a guitar, because theoretically, I don't ever want to put a guitar in a situation to really test out these qualities. I can say that it feels like the G&L Tribute Series S500 could take a lot of abuse, and I've read many owners talk about theirs taking a lot of abuse including falls, cigarette burns, collisions, etc., and I'll just take their word for it. I do think this guitar will last virtually forever. I jam with friends and I'm not worried that my G&L will get hurt in this setting. While I think this guitar would survive a lot of things with the really superb padded gig bag that came with it, I still store it in a locking hard case. I don't really gig, but I do jam with friends a lot, and the G&L travels with me and it holds up fine. I've used it for jamming and recording and it hasn't had a single problem. The strap buttons are fine they are full sized, and the hardware seems like it will be around after the apocalypse. The guitar and neck are actually manufactured in Indonesia, but the electronics, wiring and hardware are all constructed and installed in the U.S., and the quality control happens in the U.S. I guess the construction in Indonesia allows G&L to keep the price down. As far as the electronics and hardware are concerned, they are identical to the U.S. Made version of the S500. I will tell you this the input jack does not come loose. Why can't Fender make a Strat that can keep an input jack from coming loose? // 9

Overall Impression: The G&L Tribute Series S500 is possibly my ideal guitar. I find myself going to the G&L over my other guitars 90% of the time, and I've absolutely developed a relationship with this instrument. I think it is very important to find a guitar that isn't just a hunk of wood and strings, but is an instrument that you can identify with, and the G&L fits the profile for me. This is an ideal instrument for overdriven blues, classic rock, funk and progressive rock, etc. It is very versatile though there are guitars that are going to do metal much better. I still occasionally want to play with humbuckers and stop tailpiece or string thru body, so now I'm on a Quest to find the perfect LP style guitar for me preferably with a string thru body, but for virtually everything but metal, the G&L Tribute Series S500 delivers, and it can handle metal much better than you think. It seems like it just takes a good deal more work to get a good metal tone out of single coils. If my G&L Tribute Series S500 were lost or stolen, I would possibly go with the actual USA Made S500 instead of the Tribute Series because you have a few more options that way, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy the G&L Tribute Series S500 again. The three main guitars I've compared this to are a Squier Bullet, a Fender MIM Strat and a Fender Deluxe Player's Strat. The Fender Deluxe Player's Strat is the only one even remotely competitive, and that all comes from the compound radius neck on the Fender being super nice, but to me it didn't compete in tone. In my opinion, the only improvement I can readily think of would be for the S500 to have a compound radius neck. As it is, it is still very nice. // 9

- Brandon East (c) 2011

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overall: 9.6
Tribute S-500 Reviewed by: beckershredder, on may 04, 2011
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 650

Purchased from: Oregon

Features: Korean-cut, 22 fret rosewood fingerboard, maple neck, swamp ash body, strat-style body, clear finish with pearl pickguard, tremelo, 3 G&L magnetic-coil pick-ups, 2 tone and 1 volume, 5 way +2 pick-up selector, soft yet sturdy gig bag, tools and whammy bar. // 9

Sound: An incredibly versatile instrument. I traditionally play metal tones, but also enjoy blues and rock styles, as well as the occassional clean/acoustic sounds. The sound and feel of the instrument is what made me purchase the guitar, as I bought it at a time when I did not need a new instrument, and now over 2 years later I almost exclusively use this amazing piece of equipment. I play through a Marshall MG-150FX setup with an array of pedals/effects, which can make this baby scream. I tend to use the neck pickups the most, although the middle and settings are excellent for rhythm and Acoustic or classical tones. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: The action is very fast yet sturdy, and great for tapping and quick movements around the fretboard. My speed is restrained by the rate at which my brain can make my fingers move, not by the effort to pick or finger the strings, as a guitar should be. Everything feels very sturdy on the instrument, and bends come very natural and slide effortlessly over the fret margins. The only flaw in the action as it is easy to bend the high-e down off the fretboard, although I have adjusted my playing to bend the string only upwards by now. The feel of the guitar in your hands is what makes this a true selling point, as the feel is so natural and confident, and the instrument seems strong. The clear finish makes the guitar look gorgeous, and the woodgrains Shine amongst the chrome hardware. All knobs, bridge, switches, and adjusters are very sturdy and all made of metal, no plastic garbage. // 9

Reliability & Durability: This guitar most certainly withstands live playing; you could beat fans off stage with this axe and not damage the instrument. It seems so incredibly strong and solid it is mindblowing. All hardware seems like it will stand the test of time, and I cannot imagine doing much maintenance for many years. The guitar is not going to break down on you unless you go Hendrix-style and light it on fire. This guitar sees several hours of practice daily and there is no sign of wear on the finish; I imagine it will be another 10+ years before I will have to look into having it recoated. // 10

Overall Impression: I play primarily metal, but also blues, classical, and rock music. I have been playing for 12 years now, and this is the instrument that receives 95% of my attention. I have owned a variety of guitars, but today hold on to aJackson DXMG, Fender Tele, BC Rich Warlock, and an Ibanez RG350, as well as my first electric that I will never be able to part with, the good ol' Epiphone Les Paul Special. Something about the G&L just feels right in my hands, which is why I prefer it to all other instruments I have owned. I would buy this guitar again if something were to happen to it, or maybe update to the American Made version out of tribute to Leo. There is nothing I hate about this guitar, and I love everything about it; its sound, feel, action, reliability, and look embody everything I was looking for in an instrument, which is why I simply had to buy it after playing it only once. I would recommend this instrument to anyone, as it is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that truly enjoy playing every time I pick it up. In every way this guitar has exceeded my expectations, and I cannot imagine it disappointing me at any time down the line. And at around 650 bucks for the premium setup, I doubt there is another guitar that can compete. // 10

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