off. Perhaps the nicest touch is a single
dog-eared Lindy Fralin P- 90 pickup with
an Alnico 4 magnet and adjustable pole
pieces. Just like the Les Paul Junior, the
control set is dead simple—just single volume and tone knobs. But there’s also the
added bonus of a push-pull pot that kicks
the tone control out of the circuit when
engaged—enabling more high end bite
and attack to shine through.
The Bulldog manages the impressive feat
of being more than the sum of its (very
nice) parts. And in many instances, it
greatly exceeded my expectations for a guitar that costs around five bones.
With a Fender ‘ 65 Twin Reverb in the
mix, the Bulldog’s clean tones were powerful and at times, stunningly detailed.
Fralin’s P- 90, which is known in boutique circles as being a battle-tested tone
machine, goosed a sweet range of highs
and mids, with a soft, yet tight low end
that responded very naturally to alternating
picking techniques. What was most noticeable though was just how good the guitar
felt in my hands. The neck’s medium-C
profile is chunky, but not so much that it
hampers quick runs and riff changes.
The Bulldog is very responsive to pick
attack and exhibits a lot of sparkle and
capacity for detail. The tone control bypass
is very effective for getting more Strat-like
tones—perfect for clean, arpeggiated picking and bluesy Hendrix-influenced rhythm
work—while still retaining the pickup’s
characteristic meaty tonality.
Through an overdriven 50-watt JCM800
the Bulldog is equally at home, though the
combination coaxes more growl than bite. The
midrange tendencies of the Marshall make the
Bulldog bloom and roar—a reminder that few
things are as glorious as a great P- 90 driving
a Marshall head. The Bulldog cleans up very
smoothly just by rolling off the guitar’s volume
control, though it loses some of the ripping
qualities in the upper end. In general, though,
the Bulldog sounds great clean and it can have
the effect of helping a gritty amp feel like it has
a lot more headroom.
In the Bulldog, AXL has put together a
guitar with feel and tone that would proba-
bly cost hundreds more with another name
on the headstock. The Bulldog’s wide range
of tones will enable you to move between
mellow classic rock, warm blues, and
even hard-driving modern rock, complete
with squealing leads and brazen scooped-
mid raunch. Pretty darn impressive for a
mahogany slab with a single P- 90 onboard.
Pros: Exemplary fit and finish. Superb aftermarket hardware
choices. Great price.
AXL USA Bulldog AL-1090, $549 street, axlguitars.com
Cons: Treble-heavy at times. No neck pickup. Only satin finishes available.
TonePros Kluson-style tuners