This is an update to an earlier blog post to cover the changes G&L made to their neck offerings during their 2015 mid-year model changes.
One thing that may not be clear to buyers is that neck profile and fretboard radius are independent. Meaning that while the Modern Classic neck that comes standard on most guitars has a 9.5″ radius, it’s available in 7.5″ or 12″ radius too. Any profile is available with any radius, with the exception that you can’t get the 7.5″ radius with a Bigsby. So by decoupling the profile and radius specification, G&L has actually expanded what’s available in terms of options.
As we cover the various neck profiles, we’ll discuss them as much as possible independent of fretboard radius, and we’ll also assume the neck has the standard Jescar 57110 fret. In parenthesis will be the old neck designation where applicable.
Lastly, all neck profile tolerances are +/- .015 (1/64th) relative to their stated dimension (it is wood after all not titanium). From the upper to lower end of the tolerance, this is a difference many people can feel. If you are on the fence about a certain profile but are super sensitive to thickness for example, opt for the thinner/narrower selection.
Modern Classic – The Modern Classic is now the standard neck on all popular Legacy, S-500, Comanche and ASAT models (.820″ at the first fret and .870″ at the 12th fret). On most guitars they use a 9.5″ radius, with the exception of the Invader Models which are 12″. Think of the Modern Classic as a Slim C with a 1-11/16″ nut width, and the same string spacing. The “MCNK” addresses the two issues of: 1) Occasional string falloff with the 1-5/8 nut width, and 2) “What feels most like a Fender?” With the thinner profile and 9.5″ radius, the additional width is hardly noticeable, whereas on C Plus (Wide C) it can start to feel a little too manly. The MCNK is a good all-things-to-all-people neck, although I find it a little lacking in palm support in the upper frets (which my son really likes, and his hands are a little smaller).
Classic C (#1) – Up until July 2015, the G&L 12″ radius #1 neck was the standard. It is the only neck available on the F-100 and SC-2. Measuring .830″ at the first fret and .960″ at the 12th fret, it’s mildly beefy and fits most people well. Versus the MCNK, I like the extra thickness in the higher frets to anchor my palm. Every once and a while some necks do exhibit some string falloff on the high E, but it’s rare. We’ve also tried this neck with the Dunlop 6230 vintage fret option, but the combination of flat neck with skinny fret makes the frets seem undersized, and they look a little lost on the wide flat fretboard. (1-5/8″ nut width)
Slim C (#1a) – This is your MCNK neck without the nut width. This is the only neck profile available on the Fallout (yes, really). The G&L #1a is about the same size as the #1 at the first fret, but only .870″ at the 12th. There is very little taper to the neck, so it feels quite slim as you move up the frets. Good for shredders and people who like to be able to reach around the neck and hammer the notes. (1-5/8th nut width)
Heritage ’86 (#1b) – Before the MCNK, when we intentionally wanted a slim neck, this is the one we’d order. The “Heritage C” profile is great for women, people with smaller hands, or folks who like a thinner profile. Feels instantly comfortable and tapers nicely up the frets to .910″. I’ve always liked the feel of this profile more than the #1a, and it’s still a nice option. (1-5/8th nut width)
Modern U (#1c) – This is G&L’s Modern “U” shape, which at .850″ is pretty beefy in the lower frets, but tapers less than most to .910″ at the 12th fret. We’ve only had one of these, and it feels very much like a “C” neck. If you like a more generous neck proportion down low — like a 50’s Gibson — this neck will do the trick. But if you have no strong opinions on neck shape, a Classic C is probably a safer choice. (1-5/8″ nut width)
Deep V (#1d) – This is G&L’s Modern “V” neck, which is a shape that not a lot of players have experience with, but I’m a big fan. At .890″ at the first fret, it is G&L’s thickest neck, and it tapers to .930 at the 12 fret. The V shape provides a lot of “beef” but since it tapers more rapidly to the sides than a “C” profile, it does not wind up feeling bulky. So you get depth without the drawbacks of a large “C” profile. It’s a pretty neat feel, and personally I find it very comfortable and use it on my pine ASAT Classic. Players such as Eric Clapton have been proponents of this shape, and it’s featured on some of his signature guitars. (1-5/8″ nut width)
Classic C Plus (#3) – This is the Classic C neck with a 1-11/16″ nut width. A good neck for players with larger hands, as the combination of wider nut and classic profile is something you can really feel. Conventional wisdom is that “thinner is faster” but if you like a neck that provides generous palm support, the C Plus is the ticket.
Classic C Wide (#4) – The “Shrek Neck” which is 1-3/4″ wide with additional string spacing. We have not sampled this neck yet, but if you think you need it, you probably do.
Soft V (#2a) – Another neck that we have not tried, but it sounds intriguing given our infatuation with the Deep V profile. In theory it should be the solution for players who find the Classic C a little too chunky down low but want less of a taper than a Slim C. We might have to get one of these….. (1-5/8″ nut width)
Quartersawn versus Flatsawn Necks – All standard G&L necks are flatsawn. If you were to take off the neck and look at the end of the neck you would see that the grain of the wood is parallel to the fingerboard. This makes a stable neck, and also they also get more Flatsawn necks per piece of maple stock, which keeps the cost down. Quartersawn necks have the grain perpendicular to the fingerboard, so the wood is much stiffer in the direction that the neck typically bends. But cutting this way yields fewer necks per piece of maple stock, which increases cost. Sonically, the stiffer quartersawn neck is felt to be more percussive, with a quicker attack and less note compression than a flatsawn neck (theoretically it makes sense). While it’s not practical to A-B two necks on the same guitar, personal opinion is that guitars I’ve played with a quartersawn necks have a little more attack, but maybe a touch less complexity. Some players swear by them, and if you live in an area that varies widely in temperature and humidity, a quartersawn neck may require less tweaking. Not a bad idea either on bass guitars with their longer necks and string tension. And if you are worried about “dead spots” on a bass, my recommendation would be to opt for quartersawn.