G&L ASAT Special - My Experience

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by Buckeyefans, May 27, 2020.

  1. Buckeyefans

    Buckeyefans TDPRI Member

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    There aren't a lot of G&L dealers and often those dealers have limited stock. So...that typically means purchasing online, which offers lots of options, but it's tough buying a guitar without holding, playing, hearing, etc. So, in that spirit, I offer my observations and experience regarding the ASAT SPECIAL guitars.

    About a year ago, I decided to buy a USA ASAT Special. Placed an order, selected the options I wanted and after about 10 week, my shiny new guitar arrived. The guitar looked good, played OK, but there were two hairline cracks in the finish at the neck joint. I decided to return the guitar. Another 10ish weeks, and a new guitar arrived at my house.

    1. The guitar looks very good, but again, a minor finish flaw where the end grain wasn't fully filled. I accepted the flaw and still have the guitar. 2 guitars - 2 finish flaws.

    2. After playing the guitar for about a year, there are four things that bother me about the guitar. 1st, the string height above the body is very high compared to similar bolt on guitars. Uncomfortably high and awkward almost like an arch top. 2nd, the G and D string generate ghost notes at the head stock. Next, the neck pickup is louder than the bridge pickup and can generate "wolf tones". Lastly, the “saddle lock” bridge, while a cool concept is sloppy.

    1st - Exploring the string height issue, I removed the neck to discover the neck had been shimmed with putty colored tape. I asked the dealer, they denied doing this, so that means G&L did it. Shimming isn't necessarily bad, but curious. I discovered that the "saddle-lock" bridge has saddles (unique to this bridge) that are way to tall for the neck pocket/depth and the fix is either filing down the saddles or shimming the neck. To address this, I removed the tape shimming the neck then filed and reshaped the saddles, and the guitar plays way better and more like a bolt on guitar should feel. So...does this affect all ASAT Specials? Seems like it would, but I've only owned one so i don't know.

    2nd – G & D string ghost notes, resonance. The headstock on the ASAT is longer than a tele or any 6 inline guitar I know of. As a result, the strings extend pretty far past the nut. The single string tree on the E/B string addresses this issue. However, the D/G does not benefit from a string tree resulting in a shallow break angle across the nut and both strings resonating. The simple fix is to add a second string tree. I have a piece a Velcro attached to the strings on the head stock muting the strings beyond the nut. But, the break angle remains unchanged. I may add a second string tree. G&L said an email this does not void the warranty as long as done correctly.

    3rd – The ASAT Special has the large MFD pickups. I both love and hate them. Tons of spank, very wide range, but can drive the amp so hard the clean can get dirty. I like the bridge pickup a ton. Twang for days with lows too! No mud. The neck pickup is great -- at times. But, it’s too hot to match the bridge pickup well. I understand G&L used to not wind these so much, I've read 300 fewer turns? I think that might fix this? G&L only winds them one way, according to an email I received from them. Too bad a less hot neck pickup isn't available.

    4th – The saddle-lock bridge. This is touted as Leo’s crowning achievement. And, it is a great concept, but it fails to deliver as well as it could. Fix the saddle height. They are nearly 2 x as tall as the need to be to permit effective adjustment without shimming the neck. Next, there is too much slop left to right in the bridge. When you set up the guitar and then lock the saddles, the strings move toward the low E 1/8” – 3/16” So, the strings become poorly aligned and the action is changed across the crown of the frets. Tighter tolerances could eliminate this unnecessary movement. I don't "lock" my saddles, they stay in place fine but I don't get the advertised benefit of this bridge. This bridge has unique screw pattern and is not easily replaced. A cool 3 x saddle half tele bridge would be really cool on this guitar!

    So, is the ASAT Special worth owning? Yes, it’s cool as hell. Tons of spank and in your face clean. The fret work is solid, satin neck is smooth and comfy, and the stock tuners have a unique taper forcing the strings to the lowest position on the tuner posts. But, don’t expect out of the box perfection. G&L could easily take this guitar from a solid player to an exceptional instrument with a few refinements and better quality control.
     
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  2. ben smith

    ben smith Tele-Holic

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    you would think leo ironed these issues out second time around, especially the need for a shim! sorry to hear about your bad luck with these guitars though.
     
  3. tonyw

    tonyw Tele-Meister

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    Had mine for 25yrs and have never had a problem.
     
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  4. ZenGuitarist

    ZenGuitarist Tele-Holic

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    I own two USA ASAT Specials and while I definitely prefer one of them over the other, I like them both and haven't had the issues you experienced. Every brand ships out guitars that are duds and it sounds like you had bad luck.

    As far as the MFD pickups go, the secret with them is to roll back both the volume and tone knobs to find the best sound. They don't sound that good if both volume and tone are set to 10.
     
  5. JDB2

    JDB2 Tele-Meister

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    I have three ASATs from the 1980s, which are like the current ASAT Specials with MFD pickups and saddle-lock bridge. I've had no problems with the saddle lock bridge. In fact I love it. Mine have the old-style three-bolt micro-tilt neck. Maybe that has something to do with the lack of neck angle issues?

    Also the large MFD pickups in mine are perfect IMO. The MFDs from the 1980s are less hot but as the above poster said, you can make the current ones sound great by rolling down the volume and tone. I've found that to be a benefit of the MFDs and Leo's wiring - the pickups produce a good tone throughout most of the adjustment range of the tone and volume knobs. They are great for rolling back to clean.

    My ASATs are my favorite guitars.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
  6. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I bought my nephew an ASAT for a world tour his band did. They played the vans tour and then the warped tour, they played the cavern club... japan... I worked on it 3 three times, minor tweaks after setting it up and that guitar was super stable, sounded great, played great and thrilled thousands...

    did you take the guitar to good tech to set it up and make sure everything was according to Hoyle.
     
  7. Buckeyefans

    Buckeyefans TDPRI Member

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    Again, I think the guitar is worth owning, I play mine all the time, now. But, a few simple details, and this guitar goes from solid to great!

    neck angle: if you read the old set up guide for g&l guitars, there is clearly a spec for the tilt neck feature on the 3 bolt and early 4 bolt necks. I suspect, when g&l removed this adjustment Feature from their guitars, they simply accomplish this by shimming at the factory, on my guitar they apparently used putty colored tape. Again, I guess that’s ok. Lots of necks get shimmed. I just want people to know what they might be buying. I didn’t care for the neck angle or string height on mine. The asat classic, which I own two of, do not need shimmed because the bridge allows for a wider range of adjustment from low to high.

    Saddle lock bridge: yes it is functionally ok. They have improved it over the years. They used to have zinc saddles, now they are chrome plated brass on the USA models. Tighten the tolerances And shave the saddles and the bridge Goes from good to great. Un-plated brass saddles would be cool too!
     
  8. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

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    Unless you are playing a pretty dirty amp.. than 10 becomes pretty useful.

    I have a very new G&L Doheny, 2019 build, got it the last week of 2019.

    Mine didn't have anything major like the OP.

    - I did adjust the nut
    - The pickup adjustable pole pieces on the MFD pickups were overtightened down into the pickup. The low E on the Bridge pickup is even stripped.
    - My pickup selector will flake out every once in a while. Switch pickups and get silence. Flip it back and forth and it starts working again.

    I didn't discover either of the 2nd two issues till we went into lockdown.. I am going to guess the dealer will take care of stuff if I want them too, though I don't really care about the pole pieces, it's fine the way it is. But still ridiculous that someone cranked them down. They're like 1mm bolts.. very delicate.
     
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