G&L L1000

G&L L1000

Year: 1980

Made In: USA

Specs: Mahogany body, maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: G&L MFD humbucking pickup, passive electronics

Controls: Volume, bass cut, treble cut, three way coil selection switch

G&L seem to be a brand which have largely gone under the radar until recently. The Tribute series is finally making people aware of the great instruments this company makes. It’s interesting to compare their earliest offerings with what Fender were putting out at the same time. In my mind, at least, what G&L were doing puts the big F to shame and, given the ongoing popularity of instruments made in their weakest era, makes you wonder what’s in the mind of those who pick a CBS era mongrel over something like this thoroughbred. It’s from about mid-way through the first year of production but G&L hallmarks like the heavy saddle-lock bridge and MFD were in place from the start.

Clearly an evolution of the Precision, the L1000 is the passive single pickup brother of the mighty L2000. It’s a very different beast with an identity of its own. Powered by a fire-breathing MFD humbucker, the controls are cut only, such is the output. It’s a clever design, featuring volume, bass and treble controls in an entirely passive circuit.

The three way switch offers an impressive variety of tonal options, going from humbucker to single (bridge coil) to what’s known as OMG mode, which runs both coils but with the high-end removed from the neck coil, resulting in a huge low-end sound suitable for generating earthquakes. It’s really a clever bit of engineering. The humbucker sounds like a cross between a Stingray and a Rickenbacker neck pickup.

The neck is surprisingly thin, I haven’t played anything like it from that era. It’s not quite Ibanez SR thin, but it’s a long way from the chunk you expect in a Precision influenced design. It’s really comfortable though. The whole thing feels familiar while, at the same time, offering a huge amount more than you really think it could. It’s a Precision but just a great deal smarter.

These are criminally underrated basses. Given the choice between one of these and a Precision I would pick the L1000 every time. Really, this is probably the greatest passive bass I’ve ever played.


G&L El Toro

G&L El Toro

Year: 1987

Made In: USA

Specs: Ash body, bi-cut maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: 2 x mini G&L Magnetic Field humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, bass cut, treble cut, three-way pickup selector switch, serial pickup switch, preamp on/off two-way switch

It’s quite a rare beast, the El Toro. The Jazz heritage is clear but, aside from the compact body, there’s an awful lot going on under the control plate which makes these very versatile and with enough to distinguish them from the L2000 too.

The narrower MFD pickups offer a slightly tighter low end than the bigger variants found in the L series, albeit with the same humongous output and, as usual with G&L, the bass and treble controls cut, rather than boost. It’s a shame G&L don’t make them any more, they do have a unique voice.

As with almost every Leo Fender designed instrument, it feels quite familiar when you pick it up, your hands know where to go. It’s the bass you grew up with, just refined and tweaked into a very versatile format with a wealth of tonal options.


G&L L2000

G&L L2000

Year: 1997/1982

Made In: USA

Specs: Ash body, bi-cut maple neck

Electronics: 2 x Magnetic Field humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, Bass cut, Treble cut, 3-way pickup selector switch, Series/Parallel switch, Active/Active with high boost/Passive switch

This one is a bit of a mongrel, a mid-90’s L2000 body mated to an early 80’s SB-2 neck. It’s a combination which really works, though, let me assure you. The L2000 is a wonderful design, arguably the culmination of Leo Fender’s evolution of the instrument. It’s certainly one of the most tonally flexible basses out there, in the guise of a traditional feeling, sturdy workhorse. The much maligned three-bolt neck and bullet truss rod adjuster prove to be perfectly capable when built well, a reflection of the high build standard of your typical G&L. The hefty bridge, again just a sensible evolution of the old standard, cannot be faulted. It’s the old bass you know, just made better with a lot of thought and experience behind it.

The heart of these basses are the thunderous MFD pickups, the output of which are so great that the controls are bass and treble cut, not boost. With the switching options factored in, the end result is an aggressive beast which offers more tones than you could ever realistically need. As production basses go, it’s hard to beat.

It’s hard to sum up this bass in words, they really have to be played and experienced in the flesh. The core of the bass is traditional and familar but it’s capable of so, so much. I’m tempted to say that G&Ls are the basses Fenders aspire to be when they grow up. There, I said it.

Basses of 2015

TECHNIKA SH-A366 Clockwise from top left: EBMM Stingray, G&L L2000, Charvel JP, Mightymite Jazz, Hotwire Custom, Warwick Streamer LX, Godlyke Disciple, ESP 400 Series Jazz, Warwick Streamer Stage I, Status S3000, Bacchus 02 Standard 5, PRS Electric Bass 4,  Alembic Orion, Bacchus 24, Warwick LX Streamer Jazzman, Bacchus Woodline P Classic