Depending upon your view of automotive iconography, the G Force is either hot-rodder cool or car-show dilettante dorky. But wherever your aesthetic values may lean, it’s unlikely that anyone will deny the G Force’s dragster-inspired “curb appeal.” From the checkerboard graphic to the pumpkin-orange finish to the bug-eye pickups and chrome exhaust pipes, this guitar cries out for attention, and it’s not much of a stretch to envision Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen collecting a few hundred to decorate the walls of his pinball and video-game rooms.
Construction quality is average to good. The paint job had two or three ragged spots (and a few chips due to shipping or handling had me questioning the robustness of the paint), the neck pickup rattled against its mounting bracket, and the neck-pickup Volume-knob post was about as loose as it could be without falling off. Everything else was tops, and the thick,
D-contour neck boasts very nice jumbo frets (although the ends aren’t buffed smooth). Playing the guitar is, of course, a standing-only affair—especially as the usual trick of placing the V-shaped wings between your thigh as you sit down to play is somewhat compromised by the exhaust pipes. (Wafer-thin guitarists will be able to pull off this stunt with ease, however.)
True to its racer pedigree, the G Force loves to rev up and roar. The pickups hit an amp’s front end with a fair amount of muscle, and the tone is always articulate and evenly balanced across the strings. Whether played through an amp (a Fender G-Dec, a Marshall half-stack, a Vox AC15, and a B-52 AT-100) or recorded direct (via a Line 6 PODxt Live, and an M-Audio Black Box and FireWire 410), the G Force delivered a pretty fearsome snarl, and its clean sounds
possessed a nicely aggressive skank. The guitar is very responsive to the dynamics of your attack, and it handles volume manipulations without a significant loss of highs or low-end content. The Tone knob? Forget about it. It won’t do much for you—which makes it difficult to pull convincing jazz timbres out of this baby. But as this machine was obviously built for rockin’, the emphasis on in-your-face tones is both expected and welcome.
I had a blast riffing around on the G Force, and if “fun quotient” were the sole rating for a guitar, I’d give this fastback a 9.5. But even with some construction issues dampening the jollies a tad, this is still a fabulous ride for any player with the balls to rock on while sporting exhaust pipes.
Cosmetically, the Z600 is a somewhat amusing mix of a streamlined shred rod (its slim, torso-hugging body and sharp cutaways) and a whacked-out, pawnshop Italian job (the D-contoured, almost-baseball-bat-thick neck and wonky headstock with way cool “hologram” logo). I found the neck a bit too thick for consistently comfortable shredding, but Associate Editor Jude Gold and Senior Editor Art Thompson had no problem with its girth. Similarly, I was more bothered by the guitar’s sharp fret ends than was Art, who found the frets to be reasonably well seated and dressed for an instrument in this price range. There was no debate, however, about the appearance of some dead spots around the fretboard. The buzzes and dinks can be eradicated with a comprehensive setup, but this condition leads me to suspect that Z600s may not be ready to rock right off the shelf.
There were also some poorly sanded edges on the body, a paint glop in the slot for the pickup-selector switch, and the otherwise stunning blood-red finish was a bit murky in spots. With the exceptions of (once again) a neck pickup that clatters against its bracket and a rutted Tone knob, the sophisticated-looking black hardware is well done.
The Z600’s hum/sing/hum configuration delivers a pretty meaty and versatile tonal palette. The neck humbucker offers a bluesy chunk and snap that evokes a little SRV, and the neck hum/sing combo adds some funky bell-like tones. Go for the single-coil alone, and you’ll get a punchy and articulate scream that’s perfect for über-gain shredding. I used the sing/bridge hum combo for acoustic-sounding parts, as the timbre was full and jangly with an airy shimmer. The bridge pickup alone pumped out a rather weird bark that I employed solely for layering and massively effected sounds. As with the G Force, the Z600M’s tone control is best left full up.
Overall, the Z600 is kind of a strange duck. On one hand, it really is a pretty cool guitar that’s easy to play (as long as you dig thick necks) and offers some very bitchin’ tones. But the setup and finish glitches were unexpected, as many other instruments in this price range manage to avoid such imperfections. I’d happily recommend the Z600 as a kick-ass spare for gigs, but Stagg has a ways to go before this model could make the grade as a working guitarist’s “number one.”