In my last post I made it clear that I'm rather disappointed by my new G&L guitar - especially the piss-poor job that they've done on the nut. and other sloppy manufacturing issues.
Well I've decided to let a professional sort them out, so I'll get a new nut fitted, and I'm also going to have a new 50mm spacing neck pickup installed: that's what it should be, but the pickup in there right now is 52mm spaced, which is why the strings are out of alignment.
(I can't ignore it, any more than I can ignore a wonky picture hanging on a wall).
What put the idea of a "Strat" in my head in the first place was this thing - the JHS Vintage Reissued V6:
So I've bought one.
I found one new on Ebay for a good bit less than the (already cheap) RRP - I got it for £219 - and now that I've done some fettling, it's a blast to play.
I'd hoped to give the EZ-Lok tuners a proper chance, but the shafts on the lower staggered tuners were too low, meaning that only one of the two holes was accessible, so I've stuck on some of my favourite HipShot locking tuners - a shame really, as the guitar stayed in tune remarkably well anyway, but HipShots were always in its future, so...
It sounds fantastic through my Yamaha THR10X: even though it's very much a raaaawwwwkk! amp, I'm finding some beautiful chimey, responsive, clean-to-dirty tones in it with this guitar.
The tones are nicely responsive to backing the volume off, too (no mean feat in a solid state amp), so I can get from clean to overdriven simply by tweaking the volume knob. Think Michael Landau, Scott Henderson [video links].
Joy of joys, unlike a real Strat, the V6 bridge pickup is wired to a Tone pot, so I can knock excessive top off the tone from the guitar.
And yes, the strings and the pickup poles are in line..!
I mention above that even with the (flawed) stock tuners in place the guitar stayed in tune very well, and the HipShots have just enhanced the trem's performance: tuning simply stays bang-on regardless of what I do - and I'm an habitual trem user. I set the trem up floating, to give me a whole-tone up-bend on the G string. On this guitar it limits down-bends - the block hits the back of the body rout when the trem is set up to float - but I'm not dive-bombing anyway, so it's not a problem for my playing style.
Very happy about the trem's perfomance, then. It feels good too, with the arm being just the right length, height and bend to suit me. I've had to adjust my use a little bit, because the volume pot is in the "traditional" (which is to say, in the way) Strat position, right up against the bridge pickup, which puts the knob directly below the trem arm.
A bit of a pain, but easy enough to adapt to (although I might reposition the pot at some point anyway).
What else? Well the frets are in the "Jumbo" range, but although they're Jumbo-wide, they're not very tall at all - and I prefer a taller fret. But they're no less playable for all that - very well finished, and the strings are sufficiently far inboard of the fret edges that there's no risk of the top E sliding off the board mid-solo.
The fretboard itself is lovely. It's not Rosewood, but it looks and feels just like the real thing: it's called (ahem..!) Lignum Rosa (which coincidentally is Latin for the words "Wood" and "Rose") but regardless of which tree (or machine: according to some sources, it's a kind of "manufactured" wood) it's off, they've done a damn' good job with this sustainable Rosewood-a-like alternative.
It's even nicely figured, and looks like a very good example of the real thing, even (literally) under a magnifying glass.
In fact, even under very heavy scrutiny (nearly every guitar I've ever owned had a Rosewood board - I've seen and played umpteen of them) this passes for a high quality piece of Rosewood.
The big problem I had with the G&L was the nut, and how it was cut. No such issues with the V6, which comes as standard with a GraphTech Nubone XL nut, and it's perfectly cut. I don't know whether it adds extra bass or harmonics to the tone, but it's a hard, slippery material, and very trem-friendly.
The V6 is giving a very good account of itself so far - any major downsides?
Well, in a word, no.
Yes, there are a couple of things which tell you it's not a £2k guitar, like the very scrappy half-inch wide drill hole for the earth wire to the trem claw (a 2mm hole would do the job); and the lower side of the neck pocket being a tiny (I do mean tiny - you feel it more than see it) bit wider than it needs to be, leaving a very slight lip between the neck and the body - but the first is a hidden cosmetic non-issue, and the second isn't noticeable when I'm playing, so there's really not much to complain about.
Oh - and the finish is perfect. And unlike the G&L, pleasingly free of any stress cracks in the paint around the neck pocket.
The only thing I'll need expert help with is the action.
Nothing wrong with it as it stands - it plays really well, with a supple, responsive feel under the fingers that I like a lot - but I like a somewhat lower action, and I can't get it down to where I'd prefer it without the strings beyond the 12th fret losing sustain (caused by the slightest contact with frets higher up - not enough to cause a buzz, but enough to dampen their vibration): I've improved things slightly by replacing the strings with a new set of 10 - 46, but my tentative tweaks of the truss rod haven't helped,
I'm sure there's a solution to be had though - I'd like the strings about 1mm lower (enough to make a noticeable difference under the fingers) so I'll ask a guitar tech to see what can be done.
I don't want the frets stoned, though - as I say above, they're plenty low enough now - so if push comes to shove and truss rod fettling can't sort it, I'm happy enough to leave well enough alone: it slows me up a bit, which rather suits the Landau/Henderson style of music I'm gravitating towards these days, but I can still play fast legato flurries easily enough when the urge takes.
So there you go - a lot of happiness for under £300..!