||G & L Guitars Comanche Solid Body
Review Setup: Solid Swamp Ash Body, Hard Rock Maple Neck with Rosewood fretboard. Z-coil pickups.
Price as configured: $1700.00 (custom setups available)
Summary: I give this 4.5 Tone Bones! The G&L Comanche is an excellent, hand-made, versatile guitar from the shop Leo Fender and George Fullerton started after Leo sold the Fender company. Incredible playability, and sweet, sweet sound from the Z-coil humbuckers. Not only that, with the flick of a mini-switch, you can engage all three pickups at once for a truly aggressive sound. This is a guitar that is not for the faint of heart. It wants to be played, not babied. Read on!
I love writing this blog because it forces me to check out gear that I wouldn’t otherwise take a second glance at, and sometimes make new discoveries of gear that I didn’t even know existed. This entry is the result of one of those chance discoveries.
I thought I knew my guitar builders beyond the mainstream and semi-mainstream such as Gibson, Fender, PRS, etc. So it came as a HUGE surprise to walk into a small shop in Sacramento yesterday and see what looked like Stratocaster and Telecaster knock-offs hanging on the walls, only to be informed by the shop owner that the guitars were made by the prototype shop that George Fullerton and Leo Fender (hence, G & L) started after Leo sold the Fender company. Building on the traditional Fender body shapes, their creations extend the lines with solid and semi-hollow versions with various pickup configurations that reach far beyond their corporate counterparts. The results are guitars that push the envelope with design and innovation, while retaining the visual pedigree that made George Fullerton and Leo Fender famous in the first place. Also, all G & L’s are hand made. I know that alone may deter some players from even considering this brand, but amazingly enough, they’re not as expensive as you might think; more on that later. I had the chance to play the solid-body Comanche with tobacco sunburst through a ultra-sweet Rivera Venus 3 (I’ll write a review on that later 🙂 ).
At a distance, when you first the see the Comanche, you recognize the familiar body shape and pickup positioning, and you might say, “Hmmm… nice Strat.” Then, as you move forward, you see that the headstock is slightly different from a Strat, the bridge is really different from a Strat. The body is also a little narrower. Then you notice the absolutely weird-shaped pickups. These are an invention of Leo Fender. They’re actually two, hand-wrapped and offset three-string, single coil pickups with reverse polarity to eliminate hum. They’re almost like hybrid humbucker.
Look and Feel
The Comanche I played had a gorgeous tobacco sunburst finish overlaying a swamp ash body, with a hard rock maple neck and a rosewood fretboard. Surprisingly, this wasn’t a light guitar. In fact, it felt a little heavier than my own Strat, but the feel was luscious. The only ding that I gave the Comanche was that the back of the neck is gloss-lacquered. I personally prefer a silk finish, especially with a maple neck. It might be psychological, but that’s what I like. Speaking of the neck, it was a nice, C-shape, and the rosewood fretboard was a dream to play. I’m a big fan of rosewood fretboards. They provide great tactile feel, plus add warmth to the overall tone.
The best way to describe the tone of the Comanche is “a bit thicker than a Strat, but thinner than a Les Paul.” It’s this balance that is very appealing about this guitar. Just like the body style, with the sound, you recognize the pedigree, but it’s… different. Since I’ve played it , I’ve read some other reviews and most mentioned that the Comanche has an aggressive tone. It does, but that aggressiveness can be easily tempered by dialing back tone and volume controls; plus, tone also depends on the amp you’re using. I happened to test the Comanche out with a Rivera Venus 3, and the tones it produced were sweet and clean, owing a lot to the high amount of clean headroom available in the Venus 3. In typical Class A fashion, increased input gain produced nice pre-amp clipping, and with all three pickups engaged, this guitar could get as dirty as the best of ’em.
Unlike a Strat, the “hybrid” Z-coil pickups add nice amounts of sustain, which is further helped by the resonant swamp ash body. Bends and slow vibrato created nice, subtle overtones. On top of that, the touch sensitivity, even at lower volume levels, was very, very nice. All in all, I didn’t find the Comanche as aggressive as other reviewers found it; certainly more aggressive-sounding than a Strat, but as I mentioned, not as fat as a LP.
Click here to listen to some audio clips.
The audio clips sound really Texas-twangy, which is actually quite cool, but the clips don’t really show what this versatile guitar can do. The Comanche is capable of showing many faces, depending upon how you adjust it.
As I mentioned above, this baby wants to be played. The action is just right, and the neck is real fast despite the glossy lacquer finish on the back. The rosewood fretboard is especially nice, providing excellent tactile feedback. As I mentioned above, this guitar is not for the faint of heart. It’s meant to be played and coaxed and caressed to produce its wonderful song. While it’s easy to coax incredible tones from this guitar, its versatility might scare away those who won’t take the time to discover all its virtues.
I recommend this guitar for serious tone freaks who are in search of a “fatter” Strat sound, but want to retain that natural high-end ring. While not cheap, it’s also not unreasonable, especially for a completely hand-made instrument!
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