Fret buzz on new G&L ASAT Special

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by RandomPrecision, Nov 22, 2019.

  1. RandomPrecision

    RandomPrecision TDPRI Member

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    For my first foray into Tele-style guitars, I just bought a new (2019) G&L USA-made ASAT Special. I really like everything about this guitar, except it appears to exhibit a fair amount of fret buzz on the low (wound) strings. The worst is the A-string, particularly around frets two through seven or eight.

    This was purchased brand new online. The seller did a set-up before shipping, but I can expect some geometry change due to different climates (southern California versus Chicago). I have done a little tweaking of the truss rod, both tightening it and loosening it. I have increased the string height. But I can't seem to tame the buzzing.

    As this is brand new, and USA G&L guitars are Plek'ed at the factory, I am assuming the fret work should be perfect.

    This is my first time messing with a guitar's geometry adjustments, but I feel like the setup is reasonable. Initially, the height of the low-E at the 12th fret was 5/64 of an inch (G&L factory height); I have upped it to about 6/64, according to my string action gauge. I upped the A- and D-strings the same amount. I really don't want to go any higher. I put a capo on the first fret and fretted the last fret, and used my feeler gauge to measure the distance between the low-E and 8th fret (to check relief): came up with about 0.013" or 0.014", but I've also tried with adding or subtracting 0.001".

    When the strings are open, I don't get any buzz, except on that A string on a fairly hard strum. But almost all fretted notes buzz on all wound strings, and it's worse towards the nut-end of the neck.

    Here is a video I made that demonstrates the buzz/rattle. This is just a quick cellphone video, but you can hear the buzz plainly.

    I've researched this a bit, and it seems to be a somewhat polarizing topic, with some people saying all guitars do it, and others saying no guitar should ever do it. But it's hard to quantify any of that without measurements of the setup and videos of people playing. I.e., if I play with a very delicate touch, it doesn't happen.

    It doesn't seem to come through a normal amp, but it does come through a little on headphones when playing on a headphone amp (Mooer GE-200).

    I have two other guitars for comparison, a 1999 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and a 2016 Kiesel CT324. Both have only the slightest amount of fret buzz, and only when strummed fairly aggressively. Both also have lower action than the G&L.

    Lastly, I'm not 100% sure this is actually fret buzz, but I don't know what else it would be. I have held the guitar up to the light, where I can see the "light gap" between the string and frets, and strummed, causing the buzz. But I can't see the string actually hitting any frets. I've also even tried using my continuity meter to see if it detects contact between the string and the frets. If it's truly hitting the fret, it's too quick for my eye to see and the meter to pick up. But I've also checked all over the guitar for sources of rattle, and can't pinpoint it.

    Thank you for any thoughts or suggestions!
     
  2. AAT65

    AAT65 Friend of Leo's

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    Are those still the strings it came with? You need to put fresh strings on before you can make any clear decisions about this. (They sounded quite dead in your video, I thought.)
     
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  3. RandomPrecision

    RandomPrecision TDPRI Member

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    In the video, those were the original strings that came with the guitar. I actually put fresh strings on last night, same issue.
     
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  4. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Holic

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    Before you shall measure (or at least estimate) the amount of neck relief.
    The buzzing you describe between frets 2 to 8 really sounds like a neck adjustment related issue: it may very well be too much relief, giving the neck a ski slope curve, and the strings are buzzing on the frets closest to the bridge.

    While holding both E strings at first and last frets, look how much and where the neck goes away from the strings. That should tell you wether or not your issue is related to a truss rod adjustment.
     
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  5. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Holic

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    Also another tip: check your action when pressing at first fret. If your nut is cut too high, you may think you’ve got a perfect action, but as soon as you fret any note on the neck your action is in fact too low.
     
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  6. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Everybody plays differently. I find that factory setups and setups by techs are always ridiculously buzzy with the way I play. I usually need to add at least 50 percent to the string height, and sometimes more. Factories and techs go low, to make the guitars seem amazingly easy and fast when you pick them up the first time. But you need to have a soft touch to make that work.

    Start by cranking everything up one full turn on the bridge saddles, and seeing how it feels.

    Additionally, be practical about it. Always judge through an amp, not unplugged. If it doesn't take away from the amplified sound, then it doesn't matter.
     
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  7. Treadplatedual

    Treadplatedual Tele-Holic

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    Is it nominal fret buzz, or is it translating through to the Amp?

    I set my guitars up low enough that there's always some fret buzz, but not enough to transfer through to the Amp. Is it audible during loud playing, or only unplugged?
     
  8. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's

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    Your relief is a bit on the high side. I don’t measure relief on my guitars. I just touch the string with the first fret capoed and holding down the last fret or sometimes the last fret to the body, then at the 8th fret I like the string to just about noticeably move. That usually translates to about .01” for a 10” radius. I then set my action, also by sight and feel, but once set, measurements usually fall into the same action you described (5/64-4/64). Keep in mind, although the guitar might have been plekd when it left the factory, wood is a natural thing that expands and contracts with temp and humidity changes. This will change the levels of the frets in relationship to each other. Therefore, you might benefit from a fret leveling and crowning to get the best results. Invest in a good fret rocker and check to see if you have any high or low frets. If so, a trip to your tech for a leveling and crowning would be in order. Best of luck to you.
     
  9. RandomPrecision

    RandomPrecision TDPRI Member

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    I don't have enough experience with this to feel comfortable sighting it, so I was trying to use my set of feeler gauges to measure the height of the low-E to the 8th fret, when fretting that string at the first at last frets. When I posted initially, that was up around 0.013" or so. Based on the replies here, I reduced the relief (i.e. tightened the truss rod), and took it down to around 0.009". This seemed to "move" the worst buzzing down towards the nut, i.e. instead of frets two through eight being the worst, one through six or so became the worst. But it's still there, and overall, not really better.

    So I guess that brings up another question: from one guitar to the next, should the same action height result in roughly the same amount of buzz/rattle? What I'm getting at: my two other guitars have lower action than this new guitar, and while they have a little buzz, it's significantly less. In fact, I never really noticed at all, only when I got the new guitar did it prompt me to start checking other guitars. But they do have different scale lengths, one is a Les Paul, with the 24.75" scale, and the other a Kiesel, with a 25.0" scale.

    Agreed, but I do a lot of playing through a headphone amp, and I can hear it through that.

    Definitely comes through a headphone amp, which I use quite often. But I don't notice it coming through a standard "open air" amp. (Family doesn't always want to hear the real amp, even at modest volumes!)

    I didn't mention in my original post, I took this to a G&L dealer (not the one from which I purchased, since that seller is in a different state). He mostly shrugged it off, saying all guitars do that. He did mess with the truss rod a little bit, but didn't really change anything. I played on the G&Ls he had in the store, and indeed they did buzz like mine... but, he had only the Tribute series, which is the lower-cost, built overseas line; he didn't have any USA-made G&L's to compare to.

    Today I took it to a local store (not a G&L dealer). While I waited, the owner basically went through yet another round of what I've been doing, that is, playing with the truss rod and string action height. He couldn't improve it either. So I left it with him, he has a tech that will come in and do a deeper dive. As has been suggested above, maybe the climate change has indeed affected the frets, and they are no longer "Plek perfect". I've also read that some guitars sometimes need a shim at the neck bolt. Hopefully this tech can remedy the buzz. (I've used this tech before, I didn't realize that some guitar stands can react with the nitro finish on guitars. I learned the hard way when I found the finish on my Les Paul had been eaten down to the bare wood. This tech did an outstanding job matching the original color and re-finishing the entire backside.)

    Thanks again for the help and feedback!
     
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  10. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Holic

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    You did the right thing. I hope the tech will sort this out. Fingers crossed!
     
  11. RandomPrecision

    RandomPrecision TDPRI Member

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    Well, it came back from the tech last night. I had a bad feeling when he called and said the setup and fret level/polish was all done, and I asked if that got rid of the buzz. He said, "If there's any buzz, it's not because of unlevel frets." Yup, still buzz. In fact, he lowered the action even more, so now, if anything, there is more buzz, including open string buzz. I've messed with the geometry enough to be able to add a bit of relief to mostly fix the open string buzz. But that doesn't fix the fretted string buzz. I was trying to ignore it last night and play it, but it's so distracting. I was playing through a regular amp, but set very quietly (like conversation level), and while I don't think the buzz comes through the amp, I can hear it over the amplified sound. I have to play extremely delicately to prevent the buzz. At this point I'm pretty much set on returning it. If it weren't for the buzz, I would really love it.
     
  12. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Firstly, never trust any setup other than your own! Now...

    Redo the first part of the setup, as per Fender's setup spec's (found on their website), capo'ing the first fret (which eliminates the nut from the equation) to establish neck relief.

    After setting up the neck relief, adjusting string height and tuning the strings, remove the capo and pluck each string.

    If you get fret buzz, then the nut (that is, the nut slot) is the likely culprit.
     
  13. AndyPanda

    AndyPanda Tele-Meister

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    How did this turn out? What disturbs me about this story is that you bought a new guitar that was Plek'd as part of your new guitar cost. And now you have a fret level done by the setup guy at the dealer. So in my opinion you've thrown away a couple hundred dollars worth of Plek that you paid for... and you still have the buzz. If you return it, it should be sold as a used guitar now.
     
  14. RandomPrecision

    RandomPrecision TDPRI Member

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    Just to be clear, the technician/setup guy I used was not affiliated in any way with the seller. I bought the guitar from an online seller (in another state), and the setup guy was local.

    But you are right, I have paid for the setup (either directly or implicitly) at least twice now.

    I noticed the buzz pretty much as soon as I received the guitar. I contacted the seller, confirming they did a setup at the store (they did, or at least they claimed to). I said it seems like there's an awful lot of buzzing given that it was Plek'ed and and in-store setup was done. The response was that due to different climates, the wood could have expanded/contracted, affecting the geometry, and therefore require another setup.

    Both manufacturer and the seller are in southern California, and I'm in the Chicago suburbs, so it is a very different climate, and some amount of climate-related geometry changes seems reasonable to me.

    So I did some research, and attempted to make adjustments both to the neck relief (via the truss rod) and string action height adjustments (via the bridge saddles). I had minimal success. I took it to two different local guys, both who essentially did the same.

    I then took it to a tech who did a full setup, including fret level and polish. A forum member sent me a private message, suggesting that was likely a mistake: the tech will just do what I pay him to do (fret job and setup) but not make any guarantees as to whether or not it will fix the issue. So in hindsight, I agree, I probably should have found a true luthier, or at least a tech who was willing to guarantee a fix to the problem. That is, someone willing to do an actual root cause analysis, rather than just do some work and hope it fixes the problem.

    At any rate, I ran up against the 30 day refund window with the seller. I told the seller that if they would facilitate the dialog and return to the manufacturer (G&L) for their review, I'd be willing to give that a try. So currently waiting to hear back on that.
     
  15. AndyPanda

    AndyPanda Tele-Meister

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    Well I hope it works out for you. I have the Tribute version of the ASAT Special (same pickups) and I love it!
     
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