Price paid: $ 425
Purchased from: C.B. Perkins- San Jose, CA
Sound — 8
So far, the guitar has been run through Bogner, Blackstar and Laney tube amps, and Line 6 Flextone II HD and III XL solid state amps. Tone is such a subjective thing that I can only say the Ascari sounds good to my ears, not stellar, but good. At this price-point "good" is pretty good in my book. The bridge pickup can be fat with some nice raspiness and the neck can be round and mellow. Tapping the coils adds some variety with a little added brightness, although you're not going to get true single-coil, Fender chime and shimmer out of them, nor should you reasonably expect to. They must have done a very good job potting the pickups because even at high volume, I have not experienced any microphonic squeal from them. The pickups have more character than I would have expected and the guitar sustains remarkably well for its relatively thin body and light weight. I use a lot of Boss effects because I've always liked the way they sound. Along with their stompboxes and a GT-6, I've also used this with the Line 6 POD HD500 and stomps by Vox, Tech21, DigiTech and Seymour Duncan with good results.
Overall Impression — 8
I had some specific requirements for this guitar purchase. It had to play "like" a Les Paul, it had to be lightweight, it had to be capable of producing an acceptable and slightly brighter tone than the average Les Paul, and above all, it had to be expendable. The current project I'm involved in takes the band into some 'dangerous' venues and since we're also the road crew, there can be some gaps in watching over the equipment at load-in/load-out. I'm not interested in getting ANY guitar boosted at a gig, but better a $425 G&L Tribute than a $3000 Lester. I needed a workable guitar that wouldn't break my heart if it walked off and the Ascari fit the bill perfectly. I've been playing Les Pauls for over 40 years now and they are the only guitars that feel "right" in my hands. It's kind of ironic since almost every single one of my favorite guitar players favor Strats. I love the way they sound in the right hands, but I've just never been able to play one to save my life (despite buying and selling a dozen of them over the years). My most loved and played guitars are my Gibson Standards and Custom, but I am not a guitar snob by any stretch. Back in the late '70s, I bought a Burny Les Paul (paying very nearly a Gibson price for it) over a Gibson Lester because it kicked the stuffing out of everything that was being grunted out by Norlin-era Kalamazoo at that time. A few years ago, I picked up a set-neck MIJ Memphis Les Paul from the '70s for $200. It's not built to anywhere near the standards of the Japanese Burny/Greco/Tokai guitars, but it plays well and puts out one of the sweetest, most authentic Les Paul tones I've ever heard. Years ago, I bought one of the first Hamer MIK Sunburst Flattops on closeout from Musician's Friend. It plays like a Vintage Les Paul Junior and is one of my all-time favorites. Honestly, if I was forced to part with it or my Gibson LP Custom, I would have a hard time choosing. I would have an easier time replacing the Custom, because despite looking for years, I have yet to find another Hamer Sunburst Flattop like mine. If I could, I'd be on it like a duck on a June Bug. Other guitars in the woodpile are a Hamer Studio Custom, a Heritage 150CM-CL, a Godin LGX-SA, a MIM Standard Stratocaster, and a recently-purchased PRS SE Paul Allender (bought used for the same purpose of llive-playing expandability). I am pleased with the G&L Tribute Ascari GT. For the reasons I purchased it, I couldn't be more pleased. And yeah, if it does get stolen, I'll buy another one. That would be fitting, since in a way, I bought it to get stolen. LOL.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The guitar is solidly-built and up to the task of live playing. The hardware is of sufficient quality, but like all things, is going to wear with use. I would expect at some point the toggle and pull-push pot will fail, and the tuners will loosen up. Top-quality components will need replacing over time, too, it's just that the parts on budget guitars usually wear out quicker. It's expected and acceptable. The finish is nice on the Ascari, but like all guitars for this kind of money, it's not going to age gracefully and develop that Vintage patina that we all know and love.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Not sure about the factory setup because the shop I bought this from goes over their guitars before selling them. I went over the guitar when I got it home and readjusted everything to my liking. For this style of guitar, I don't care for super low action. For a "Les Paul" scale length neck, I string my guitars with D'Addario EXL110 strings (which is actually the factory brand and gauge on this guitar) with the action set at 5/64" on the bass side and 4/64" on the treble. Set up this way there is no fret buzz and no fretting-out on this guitar. The nut was properly cut with no binding in the slots and the guitar plays correctly and comfortably at the first fret (as well as up and down the fretboard). I hate to sound like a broken record where price is concerned, but it's something you have to take into consideration when evaluating an instrument. From that standpoint, everything is about as good as can be expected. The hardware and electronics are obviously of the "economy" variety, with the Tonepros bridge and tailpiece being the name brand exception. Everything works as it should, but tolerances are of the typical "asian" variety. The pickup selector does its job, but doesn't have that the nice tight feel of high-end switches. Likewise the pull-push tone pot for the coil-tap. It's a little "wiggly", likely due to the plastic pot stem, but again, it works. The machine heads are no-name, but they function smoothly and the guitar holds its tuning. The input jack was loose, but that's a 45-second job to correct. The top has an attractive flame (even though it has to be a veneer) and is nicely bookmatched. The paint is smooth and evenly-applied. They did a good job with the trapezoid fretboard inlays, as well as the "G&L" and decorative inlay on the headstock, both nice touches for the money. I agree with the other reviewer that the neck binding is a little spotty, but not a deal-breaker. The most glaring flaw on my guitar is the pronounced fret sprout, it's all the way up and down the fretboard on both sides. I'm going to give G&L the benefit of the doubt and say the fret ends were likely finished properly at the factory. I'm guessing the fretboard shrunk some between Indonesia and here. There is also the fact that the guitar had been hanging rather high up in the shop where I bought it and the rising heat may have contributed to drying out and shrinking the fretboard. It was definitely in need of some conditioning when I got it home. Boiled Linseed Oil darkened the rosewood a little and helped make the grain stand out. I agree that a darker rosewood or ebony would have made the whole guitar pop a little more, but the board is not horrible by any stretch.
Features — 8
The other reviewer covered all the bases. Coil-tapped humbucking pickups were custom-designed by Paul Gagon. For a "generic" pickup they are pretty versatile and sound good, although some might be disappointed that the neck and bridge pickups cannot be tapped individually. Grover Jackson contributed to the design of the mahogany/flamed maple body resulting in a guitar that looks and feels very balanced. The top is very attractive, but as you can imagine, in this price range, it has to be whisper thin. The guitar came with a very nice G&L gigbag and allen wrenches for the truss rod, Tonepros bridge and tailpiece.