Hands-On Review:Laguna LE Series Guitars
Rewriting the book on bang for your guitar buck
By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing a new line of bass guitars from Laguna, and I found them to be impressive instruments with what I call “high-quality value”—a set of features and level of craftsmanship that far exceeded what you’d expect for their moderate prices. Now I see the same formula applied in the new LE series guitars just out from Laguna.
The LE Series consists of four models ranging in price from around $300 to $600, but they have the look, feel, and features of instruments costing twice as much. For guitarists who have outgrown their first or second axe, and are looking for something nicer, the Laguna LE is a big step up for a relatively small pile of cash.
Laguna LE guitars have eye-catching good looks. Their shape is immediately appealing, nicely sculpted for comfort and graceful lines. The curves of the body are echoed by the sculpted curve in the headstock.
They are love-at-first-sight instruments, and their appeal only grows with closer, longer inspection. For example, the body isn’t just sculpted at the edges. It is carved both front and back to give it an arched shape. Because it is thicker in the middle and thinner toward the edges, it has the resonance of a thicker body, reduced overall weight, and as you stroke downward, your pick stays clear of the body. This, in turn, does away with the need for a pickguard and allows the beauty of the wood to be emphasized.
The heel shape is another nice detail. It is shaved down allowing your hand to more comfortably reach the upper frets. When you look at the back of the Laguna LEs, you notice that the cover plates are recessed into the body so they are flush, which eliminates those edges that can snag your shirt. It takes just two Allen wrenches to adjust everything on them, from neck to bridge—another example of Laguna’s user-friendliness.
The woods are first-rate: hard rock maple necks, solid wood bodies (kuari for the 222 and swamp ash on the other four). The 422 and 524 have an AAA flamed maple top over the swamp ash, and all but the 222 have transparent finishes. All models forego a pickguard, allowing the metallic finish or the beauty of the wood grain to show through. The rosewood used for the fretboard isn’t the washed-out-looking rosewood found in many moderately priced guitars. Laguna uses dark Indian rosewood—smooth and fast feeling to the fingers—and it is accented by abalone markers in the 322 and higher models (mother-of-pearl markers on the 222). When you add nickel satin hardware to beautiful woods and trans finishes, you have guitars that look terrific—the Laguna LEs have their visual show together.
Deluxe hardware and electronics
The hardware for the LE models also serves to elevate these guitars above the crowd. Three of the models have self-lubricating nuts (the exception is the 524, which has a locking nut). The 322 and higher models have roller string tees, and all but the 524 have special-design locking tuners that lock automatically, making string changes faster. Even the strap posts reflect Laguna’s careful selection of hardware. They are designed for Dunlop-style strap locks (a set is included with each guitar), but aren’t recessed as these posts sometimes are, allowing you to use them the old-fashioned way if one of your locks goes south (it’s happened to me).
The tremolo bridges on the 322 and 422 are Wilkinson two-point trems with a nylon bushing that allows easy adjustment and saddles that are locked in place, eliminating chatter and preventing movement when you go slack on the strings. The 524 features black hardware and the tremolo is a double-locking style.
The electronics on the Laguna LE models match their looks and playability. All except the 524 have a passive H-S-S configuration with five-way switching and a coil-splitting pullout knob. This gives you a traditional three single-coil sound and the added beefiness of a bridge humbucker. All models except the 222 have alnico magnet pickups. Those on the 222 are ceramic magnet pickups and have a somewhat brighter sound. All the pickups are custom wound and double paraffin-dipped to eliminate any microphonics. They sound great and the single volume and tone knobs make the dialing simple.
The shredder version
Besides being the top of the LE line, the 524 is a different bird than the other three models. It has been bred to shred. The neck has 24 frets rather than the 22 of the other models. Instead of the H-S-S pickup configuration, it has a pair of humbuckers and three-way switching. Also different are the locking nut and double-locking-style tremolo. These appointments make the 524 a perfect instrument for walking on the wild side, yet it still has the coil-splitting switch just in case the shredder in you needs a more traditional clear, ringing tone. Like, you know, for the obligatory power ballad.
To sum them up, the Laguna LE Series models are very desirable guitars with features that should appeal to both traditional rockers and the more shred-oriented contingent. They have showtime looks; excellent appointments; and detailed, careful design. For their prices, they have to rate among the best deals out there.
Features & Specs
- Solid bodies (kuari on 222, swamp ash on 322, 422, and 524)
- AAA flamed maple top on 422 and 524
- Rock maple, 25-1/2"-scale, bolt-on neck
- Dark Indian rosewood fretboard with abalone inlays (mother-of-pearl on 222)
- 22 frets (24 frets on 524)
- Lubricating nut on 222, 322, and 422
- Double-locking trem system on 524
- Roller string tees on 222, 322, and 422
- H-S-S pickup configuraton (H-H on 524)
- 5-way switching (3-way on 524)
- Alnico magnet pickups (ceramic on 222)
- Coil-splitting via pull-out tone knob
- Volume and tone controls
- Satin nickel hardware (black on 524)
- Automatic locking tuners on 322 and 422
- 2-point Wilkinson on 322 and 422
- Special-design lock-down saddles