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Hands On Review: Roland G-5A VG Stratocaster

Roland collaborated with Fender and took an American-made Stratocaster to a completely different place by integrating their groundbreaking COSM modeling technology right into the guitar. The G-5A VG Stratocaster is made in Fender’s Corona, California factory so it’s pure Stratocaster; Roland discreetly built-in two knobs and a hex pickup to the face of the guitar that give you 20 different pickup and guitar models to choose from and the option of standard tuning or five different altered tunings. The best part is that you don’t need any extra cables or gizmos to use it.

My test model was Candy Apple Red and right out of the case it felt great; the action was low enough to shred and high enough to smack some serious chords. The maple neck’s Modern C shape, rosewood fretboard, medium jumbo frets, and 9.5″ radius felt familiar and comfortable and the alder body resonated with every note. The G-5A is also available with a maple fretboard. Plugged in to a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb amp, the three American Strat single-coil pickups gave me the chimey-round-jangly-warm Strat tone I was expecting to hear. The master volume, master tone, and 5-way pickup selector did their jobs admirably.

The COSM Modeling portion of the guitar is controlled by two knobs: Model, marked with an “M” and Tuning, marked with a “T.” The Model knob has five positions: Normal, Modeled Strat, Telecaster, Humbucking Pickup, and Acoustic. The 5-way switch becomes a virtual pickup selector in modeling mode giving you five options to choose from in each model. In Telecaster and Humbucking modes you get bridge, neck, and combination of the two, plus a different bridge and neck sound. In Acoustic mode, the 5-way selects different models: steel-string-acoustic, resonator, nylon-string, and jazz guitars, plus an electric sitar.

The Tuning knob virtually changes the tuning of the modeled guitar sounds. The five altered tunings can be applied to any of the models and are just a knob turn away: drop D, open G, DADGAD, baritone, and 12-string.

All of these sounds are delivered through a standard, 1/4″ output jack and all of the models sounded best being played through a guitar amp, which makes the G-5A VG Strat so convenient. Through the same Deluxe amp with the same settings that I used for the magnetic pickups, I auditioned every model and pickup position with various tunings applied.

The Modeled Strat is warmer with scooped mids compared to the sound of the non-virtual version; a nice alternative. You also have access to the altered tunings. And, if you’re in normal mode and find that you’re experiencing excessive single-coil-pickup buzz, switching to Modeled Strat will fix it. Telecaster mode greeted me with two flavors of Tele bark from a choice of standard and wide-range pickup models. This model in baritone tuning — which extends down to a “B” — was super twangy.

The two Humbucking models sound and feel different from each other. The fat low-end and warm mids get nice and creamy with cranked-amp distortion and the top is present without being harsh on the Bright model. As with all of the models, you really get the sense sonically that you’re playing a different instrument with each setting.

Acoustic mode adds five completely different models. The tone knob becomes a reverb control for the steel-string, resonator, and nylon-string models. I could hear the sympathetic strings ringing on the electric sitar model and the jazz model had a nice woodiness, especially played with my thumb and with the tone knob backed off.

The modeling section of the guitar operates on four AA batteries and gets about nine hours on a single charge using rechargeable batteries. That will easily get you through a rehearsal or gig and the magnetic pickups work even without the batteries so there will never be a gig emergency.

The Roland G-5A VG Stratocaster is perfect if you need a great Strat with lots of easy-access tonal options. Having that much versatility at your fingertips opens up creative possibilities and keeps you from having to carry so much stuff!

Don Carr

About Don Carr

With a three-decade career as a professional guitarist in Nashville, Tennessee, Sweetwater's Don Carr has a long list of album credits in multiple genres of music. His resume includes hundreds of radio and television appearances, as well as thousands of live performances in America and abroad as lead guitarist for the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. Don provides Sweetwater with professional insight through product demos, reviews, how-to’s, and group instruction. He is also the first-call session guitarist for Sweetwater Studios.
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