Overview and Final Score: 9.25
The CMG Ashlee is probably the nicest guitar I’ve had sent to me to date, and I doubt it would disappoint any of you! The model I was sent has a few specific changes from the standard Ashlee model but generally, the specs are as follows…Available in 15 standard colors, you can also custom order the finish of your dreams through CMG’s website. The Ashlee features masked binding, which lets you see more of the wood’s natural finish and a deeper cut horn that they refer to as the E bend cut, this lets you bend a whole step up even on that last fret.
The body and neck are made of Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard that sits atop the set-in neck. The top of the guitar is Arched Maple, and the guitar comes standard with Frog Dog humbuckers, but you can choose DiMarzio or Seymour Duncan add ons. A tune-o-matic style bridge, Grover tuners, and nitrocellulose gloss finish round out this 24.75 scale length beauty.
CMG’s Ashlee is best described as loud, especially thanks to (purposely) heavy body on the guitar I was sent. The guitar is rich, warm, and full, pretty much making it one of the best Les Paul derivates you could purchase. Specifically, the sustain was phenomenal thanks to the heavy body weight and air-tight construction. Notes rang out full, adding tons of dimension to soloing or lead lines, as I was inspired to not force notes in to fill the space.
The pickups sounded great, especially the neck setting, which was creamy and bluesy as hell. The extra sustain really came in handy with the neck pickup as I always feel the fatter, bassier sound doesn’t ring out quite as long as the treble. The bridge pickup had a surprising amount of sparkle to it and I really enjoyed seeing what clean sounds I could get out of it and the Devilcat Jimmy and Vox AC15 amps. Rolling off the tone knob provided incredible control of the sound, it’s always great to find the knobs have great sweep. Even at this price point, you would be surprised how many tone pots can still be sketchy. Overall, this guitar is a Les Paul through and through, but with a bit more sustain, at least on the heavy model I was sent.
The Mahogany neck on the Ashlee was smooth, finished beautifully, and even had this stunning grain pattern to top it all off! It felt pretty chunky to me and the action was perfect out of the box. The tuning stability has also been off the charts, with the guitar taking bends, finger picking, and heavy down strokes like a champ for hours on end. The neck isn’t finished quite as heavily as the top of the guitar, which I love because it never feels like your going to get stuck when you move around the neck. Overall, the playability is near perfect and the easy access to upper frets is the cherry on top.
Finish & Construction: 10
First things first, the finish on this guitar was stunning! Look at that Zebra wood down the middle! And even if you get a more standard color option, the nitro finish is smooth, spotless, and seems ready to hit the road. The guitar came packaged very securely and is flawless from my inspection. The E-bend cut makes access to the higher frets so comfortable and the back body contour is way more suited for playing while sitting than most other LP’s. Overall, it seems this guitar was constructed and built to be more of a players instrument and not just another attempt at replicating a LP from a boutique source. The tuning stability is top notch and this thing is studio or tour ready out of the box.
It might seem odd to give such a high value rating to a $1000+ guitar, especially because you know I love cheap stuff! But with even the baseline Gibson Les Paul’s setting you back $1000, this guitar just stacks up so well comparably. You can get a more unique finish option, the pickups felt more diverse in tones than any PAF-style Gibson, and the E bend and contour are just so comfortable. There is a lot of that same LP goodness here, in an American-made package, at the same or cheaper price than so many of the wallet-draining carbon copy Gibsons they keep churning out. If you’re an LP buff looking for something new, the Ashlee should top your list!