Price paid: $ 1299
Purchased from: Carlton Music Center
Features — 10
Made in USA! My serial number is 318. It's in the style of a Gibson Les Paul but has the belly cut of a Fender Stratocaster. It has a mahogany body with a arched maple top (some a thin laminate), mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard. They come without fretmarks, which I prefer. The finish is nitrocellulose and is nice and glossy on the front of the body but satin on the neck and back of body. I've got the "Stripey" which has a solid piece of maple that runs all the way through the body parallel to the neck. It makes it look like a racing stripe was painted on, only it's another piece of wood turned 45 degrees. The cutaway is a little deeper than a Les Paul which allows better access to the highest frets. It has passive electronics, dual humbuckers, and a 3-way switch. The pickups are Frogdog Flatface and the volume and tone pots are Bourns, which have excellent taper. It has a tune-o-matic style roller bridge and 18:1 ratio Grover tuners. It came with a hybrid style gigbag.
Sound — 10
It is an incredibly versatile guitar. I play mostly rock and hard rock professionally but play blues and metal as well at home. My two amps are a Peavey 5150 head through a 4x12 cab and an Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo 2x12. Pedals: vintage '83 Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer, Svi Sound Fuzzozoid fuzz, Analogman Prince of Tone overdrive, Dunlop UV1 Univibe, DigiTech Polara Reverb, DigiTech Obscura Delay, TC Electronic Polytune.
With my assortment of amps and pedals, this guitar allows me to achieve any sound that I strive to play. The pickups are pretty flat and have range for me to go clean and pretty all the way to heavy and dirty. Awesome versatility. Mostly, more than any other guitar I owned or have owned, this guitar allows my amps to be my amps. I'm so happy that I didn't drop my usual Duncan JB/Jazz combo in it! It's not that I don't love that combo but these pickups were literally designed to go in this exact guitar and they just plain work like a dream. I don't have feedback issues whatsoever running it through my Orange and only occasionally with my 5150, which is more due to the higher gain I tend to run it at with the tubescreamer pushing the front end.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Mine was set up great "as is" when I bought it off of the sales floor. I didn't have to intonate it and the setup was how I like it as it was. Often, guitars will need minor adjustment after shipping due to changes in temp and humidity, especially here in the humid south, so I'm not sure if I just got lucky or if the mom and pop store I bought it from set it up before displaying it. They are the type of store that would do that. The quality of wood is extremely high. While I had already played a different CMG and loved it, I wasn't in the market for a guitar at all. That changed when I saw this one. The "Stripey" design spoke to me. This one was special to me. It's not some light, chambered guitar but a solid mass of mahogany and maple. It's got some weight to it, which I prefer big time.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's well built and sturdy. So far, I haven't had an issue in live playing or heavy practicing. Since I bought it 6 months ago, it's the only guitar that I've played during a show or rehearsal. It has been transported more times than I care to count and has been a champ. As for using it live, without a backup, I have. That was an accident, as I simply forgot to take a backup. I wouldn't play any guitar without a backup on hand. That's not out of distrust for my guitar but purely out of professionalism. Things can happen. I could break a string, for instance. No guitar is chaos proof! I swapped the strap buttons for strap locks but I will say that the factory strap buttons were nice. They didn't use those thin, short screws but use a long and wide screw. This made using Schaller strap locks impossible as they can't accommodate the width of the screw. I ended up using a DiMarzio straplock strap system, which fit perfectly fine. I think that it has an appropriate amount of finish on it. The front is nice and gloss and the back is satin. This is a must for me with necks because I can't stand glossy necks. They're slow and get sticky and gross when I play under the hot stage lights.
Overall Impression — 10
This is my favorite guitar I've ever owned, period. I've owned several Gibsons, from Les Pauls to a Flying V (not the cheap ones), two American Strats ('93 Strat Plus and a 60th anniversary Diamond Edition), Schecter C-1 Classic (later heavily modified), and a multitude of others. This one dusts them, in my opinion. EVERYTHING in guitars is subjective but my CMG "Stripey" Ashlee just fits me. It fits me better than the Warmoth build that I recently finished building that I built entirely custom to the specs I wanted lol. It's the first guitar that I haven't modified in any way, though I have considered putting locking tuners on it. The stock tuners are Grovers and they're great. I just like locking tuners for the ease of changing strings.
Most important of all, CMG has STELLAR customer service. I can't overstate that enough. If you are remotely interested in one of their products, I challenge you to contact them. You will be contacted by Chris Mitchell, the owner of the company. Chris is a straight up and genuine guy. He also owns Frogdog pickups and DevilCat Amps. These aren't mass produced and the level of care really shows. I plan to buy a hollow body Ashlee from them soon.
(I'm in no way endorsed by CMG nor do I know anybody involved personally. They're just good people that make a good product and I feel that they really do business the right way.)