Leo Fender’s lost guitar design, the G&L Espada, has been reborn with one significant tonal twist

G&L Espada HH and Espada HH Active
(Image credit: G&L)

In late 1969, development on the Espada – an all-new electric guitar that had been designed by Leo Fender and his recently established CLF Research branch – was suddenly halted, though the original blueprint was unearthed from the archives half a century later for a full production release.

Now, that guitar – which originally came equipped with Fender’s innovative split-coil prototype pickups of the late ‘60s – has been souped up with a significant sonic twist.

Rather than opting for the original split-coils, two new Espada models come equipped with a dual humbucker configuration, pushing the guitar closer to conventional tonal territory.

Two versions of the humbucker-loaded Espada have been crafted: the standard Espada HH and the Espada HH Active, the latter of which comes fitted with an extra G&L Micro-Preamp.

The standard Espada HH comes fitted with G&L’s AW4470Z and AS4255Z humbuckers – yes, that is a bit of a mouthful – whose sounds can be sculpted via a conveniently expanded control set comprising volume, treble and bass controls, as well as two toggles for coil-splitting and kill switching.

Tones of its Active sibling, meanwhile, come by way of AS4255C and AW4368C alternatives, as well as that Micro-Preamp, which runs off a sole nine volt battery. Here, the kill switch is replaced with a Passive/Active/Active-Bright control.

In practice, the Active mode vows to harness the pickup’s “natural harmonic complexity” by way of an onboard buffer to shield the humbuckers in order to solve the “cord problem”.

The pickups and resulting electronic differences are the only features that set these two models apart. At their core, each guitar features a swamp ash body, hard rock maple neck, 9.5”-radius Caribbean rosewood fingerboard and Leo Fender’s G&L Saddle-Lock bridge.

Other universal appointments worth mentioning include white pearl block inlays, 22 frets, a 25.5” scale length, a bone nut and Kluson tuners.

Even the color palettes are the same: Jet Black, Vintage White and Honeyburst – the latter of which is available with a white or black pickguard – are on tap.

Price-wise, the Espada HH and Espada HH Active are both available to preorder now for $2,099 and $2,199, respectively.

To find out more, head over to G&L.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.