G&L Tribute Series Fallout Review
Essentially an SC-2 with a retro scratchplate, no vibrato and a new pickup combination, the Tribute Fallout offers post-punk action at a keen price. Review by Marcus Leadley…
Description: Solidbody guitar. Made in Indonesia
Contact: gotoguitars – 01925 444696 – www.gotoguitars.com
After Fender and then Music Man, Leo Fender set up G&L Guitars. Riffing off years of experience, he continued to experiment with new designs that mixed up the best of the old with the latest innovations. By keeping production relatively small scale, G&L was able to offer a mixture of custom options and superior workmanship that really caught the eyes and ears of the discerning player.
In 1983, the SC-2 joined the pack. This no-frills model carried the new Magnetic Field pickups, and it became a hit in the US with alt rockers such as Devo’s Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Robert Poss from Band Of Susans. After being out of production for around 20 years the SC-2 re-entered the G&L catalogue in 2007, while the Fallout – an updated SC-2 with a hot humbucker in the bridge position and a P90 at the neck – followed in 2013. However, with both guitars sporting price tags above $1000, the appeal was a little limited. At £399 (without in-store discounts) this new Indonesian-built Tribute Series Fallout version is definitely something to shout about.
You can definitely feel the Fender heritage here. The lightweight body is reminiscent of the Musicmaster/Duo-Sonic/Mustang family, but with a 25.5″ scale length the Fallout is a proper grown-up guitar. The body is made of mahogany (unlike the contemporary US-made Fallout, which uses swamp ash or alder) and the bolt-on neck is hard rock maple – a particularly nice piece of wood, as well. It’s not the first time we’ve noticed that Indonesian factories seem to have good access to real quality timber. The rosewood fingerboard is also a fine piece of wood, and the 22 medium jumbo frets are well installed and finished. The neck is not bound but the edges are nicely rounded, which enhances the vintage-like sensation.
The Fallout feels exceptionally nice to play; the combination of the medium C-shaped profile and gloss urethane finish takes you back to the ’60s very effectively. The feel is snappy and bright, and the chunky G&L Saddle Lock bridge ensures that the guitar vibrates like a good ’un – it’s a really zingy and loud acoustic performer.
As delivered from the factory the action is currently a little high at the nut, but this makes sense as player preferences vary and it’s a lot easier to lower the action than it is to install a new nut. Overall, the guitar is well set up; however, the design of the heel is quite chunky, so access up past the 18th fret is somewhat restricted.
When it comes to pickups the Fallout is really aiming to please everyone. The bridge AW4470B humbucker is splittable for single coil tones, and the vintage-style AP4285B P90 riffs on the early Gibson design renowned for both mellow and raucous sounds.
One of the Fallout’s selling points is that these are genuine American-made G&L pickups, the same as you’ll find on some US-made models. In the middle position you can mix all the different options for a set of potential unique sounds, so the guitar appears to be very flexible. Otherwise, the electrics are straightforward: master tone and volume controls and a three-way pickup selector switch. Despite the hotrod pickup mixture, the Fallout has a no-nonsense kind of character that’s immediately appealing.
The impression that this is a guitar designed to please jangle merchants, hard rockers and all points between becomes pretty clear as soon as you plug in the Fallout. The high-output humbucker is voiced for rock, so there’s a significant midrange emphasis and the tone is too coloured for clean chords, which sound a bit boxy.
There are plenty of other settings, however, and the first option is to pull up the coil tap, which gives a bright, wiry ringing tone. Our favourite clean option is the middle position setting with the coil-tapped AW4470B and the AP4285B. This is warm, bright and just a little bit quacky in the upper mids – so it’s very good for country-style licks.
The neck P90 sounds very nice on its own. There’s plenty of warmth and a surprisingly full bass response, which makes it great for big, piano-like chords and the smoother side of rhythm playing. It’s also a great sound for underpinning vocals. Adding pedal or amp distortion to the P90 brings on authentic blues-rock and old school heavy tones aplenty.
Adding in the humbucker increases output and sustain, delivering a fine all-round solo tone. Mixing the P90 and the split bridge pickup with distortion makes for great choppy, punky chord playing; it’s tight and exhilarating. For a guitar that’s closer to the budget end of today’s market the tone control is quite musical and it can be used to nuance your treble effectively, especially with the P90 if you are looking for a mellow funk or jazz lead sound.
On its own the bridge humbucker delivers a solid rock sound with plenty of sustain. Given its SC-2 heritage the Fallout is definitely a good starting point for sonic exploration, and you can dig deep into that pedal bag without losing the sight of where you’re going. Add some basic tremolo and a short delay and you’ll find a range of convincing swamp tones, while coaxing feedback out of an amp is a lot of fun.
With an appealing no-frills approach and a neck which would feel genuinely excellent at any price, the Tribute Series Fallout is a very likeable guitar. It may look unassuming, but it can really dish up some really out-there sounds. This is an instrument that tries very hard to have a broad appeal, and for the most part it succeeds, with a far greater tonal range than most of its competitors. At the same time you could split this model in two: at some point in the future we’d quite like to be reviewing a hardtail with two P90s and humbucker/P90 model with a vibtaro bridge. Look elsewhere for super-fast widdling up past the 12th fret – but otherwise this is a great go-anywhere guitar.
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