Glarry GTL “Telecaster style” guitar review (ONLY buy one if …)

Last updated November 18, 2021

This is the definitive Glarry GTL tele-style guitar review and I’m not going to bury the lede: you probably shouldn’t buy this guitar. But you might want it for specific situations which I’ll discuss in this review and the accompanying video.

I bought this Glarry GTL with my own money, which was a total of $91.19, including shipping. Nobody paid for this review and I don’t get paid if you click to buy a Glarry guitar from the links in this review.

I’ve played this “transparent yellow” GTL for over 10 hours (after giving it a setup) since purchasing it. You might think that’s far too long to spend playing a cheap guitar like this. You might be right, but I really did want to give it a fair shake so I played it regularly over the course of 6 weeks. For sound demos please watch the accompanying video review.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun.

Why should you listen to this review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I don’t get paid for this. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased guitar and musical equipment reviews online. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.

Glarry GTL (Telecaster copy) guitar

3 out of 10
$95.99$91.19

Glarry GTL in transparent yellow

Country: China

Looks
5 out of 10
Setup (Out of box)
2 out of 10
Feel
1 out of 10
Sound
4 out of 10
Value
3 out of 10

Pros

Less than $100

Okay base to mod

Cros

Rough neck

Cheapest everything

Not for beginners

Video Review

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the accompanying video review of the Glarry GTL guitar. This written review is a companion to the video so reading and watching is best.

The Basics

The Glarry GTL is a Fender Telecaster copy, with 2 single coil pickups, a 3 pickup selector switch, 22 frets, basswood body, maple neck and fretboard, and a plastic nut.

The GTL comes in a variety of finishes. I chose “transparent yellow” which looks more like a light orange to me. This very well could be because poly finishes give colors a tint. I don’t think that’s bad, but I’m pointing it out so you know.

First Impressions

You really need to understand that to make a guitar at this price point every component needs to be cheap. There is nothing on this guitar that you’re going to celebrate except for the fact that it does, indeed, work. That is an accomplishment, but it’s a low bar.

All that to say, I did not have high expectations. My one hope was maybe this is good enough to recommend to a beginner who doesn’t know if they want to play. But no, I cannot in good conscience recommend this for beginners who don’t have someone in their lives that can fix a guitar. And once you buy it, if you decide you don’t want to play guitar, you’re not going to be able to resell it easily because there is no active secondhand market for these.

Out-of-the-box the Glarry GTL feels rough and cheap. Basically unplayable.

Mine did arrive with a surprisingly straight neck and no fret buzz. which was nice. But the frets and strings were filthy, there were little chips of wood and glue (I think it was glue anyway) peaking out from the neck cavity, and most disappointingly, the neck was unfinished, rough, and raw. It required sanding to make it smooth and playable. Again, not for a beginner.

So, to sum up my first impressions: my expectations were low and I can’t confidently say my low expectations were met. This is a cheap feeling, playing, and sounding instrument that no beginner should buy.

Expected Cons

  • Cheap pickups that lack clarity.
  • Cheap tuners that don’t stay in tune.
  • A plastic nut.
  • Action was over 2mm at the 12th fret.

Unexpected Cons

  • A rough neck that I needed to sand.
  • It’s not “transparent yellow” but more orange.
  • The nut was installed poorly.
  • The frets, fretboard, and strings were filthy on arrival. Playing it made my fingertips blackish.

Pros

  • I don’t mean this facetiously: it works! After a setup I don’t hate it although I’m unlikely to reach for it moving forward and will give it away or sell it for pennies on the dollar.
  • It cost me only $91.19 and when I started playing guitar this was an impossible price point, except maybe at a pawn shop.
  • The finish is actually decent, even if the color is off.
  • Although the pickups are cheap you can get an okay dirty blues sound out of them.
  • The neck wasn’t bowed and there was no fret buzz. This was really surprising to me.

What Kind Of Setup Did I Do?

The reality is most guitars you buy online are going to need some kind of setup. Even if a guitar leaves the store in pristine condition the act of shipping will likely cause some issues. So the fact that a guitar needs a setup is not an outright deal breaker. (e.g. My Firely FFLG and Firefly FFLPS both needed setups, but I think they’re still both great value guitars.)

A note before I get to the setup: New strings are a given. Pretty much always. Unless whoever you buy from changes the strings immediately before shipping you’re going to need to new strings. Moving on …

Filthy frets and fretboard

These needed a good cleaning. I used my D’addario fret polishing kit on the frets and it worked well.

Since this is a maple fretboard and lemon oil is a no-go on maple I simply wiped the frets with a microfiber covered sponge. I couldn’t find a clean microfiber cloth at the time, but after using it I actually think the microfiber sponge is better for this. It turned blackish where I rubbed the fretboard. Again, dirty!

High Action

I failed to mention this in the video review, but my Glarry GTL arrived with the string height over 2mm at the 12th fret. This is an easy fix. To measure the string height I used my FretGuru gauge and then I used the included allen wrench to bring down the string height at the saddle.

It’s possible you like high action and over 2mm won’t bother you. I doubt it, but it’s possible. Anyway, I’m not a tyrant with regards to action but I like mine in the vicinity of 1.5mm. These fractions of a millimeter seem insignificant, but it really does improve playability when the action is set below 2mm.

Sanded The Neck

It might seem silly since sanding a neck is easy, but this one infuriated me. The neck was so rough I can’t believe they would sell a guitar aimed at beginners with a neck like this. In the video I mentioned they probably only sanded to around 200 grit, but I really doubt they sanded higher than around 100 grit. This thing was rough! After I hit it with 320 grit for ~5 minutes it was nice. Smooth and playable. If I had a higher grit I’d go higher, but 320 was a drastic enough improvement that I’m happy enough with it now.

Note: Just to be sure I’m not going crazy I went to Guitar Center this week and picked up the cheapest Squier they had. While the neck on the Squier wasn’t incredible it was better than this Glarry. Maybe I’m just unlucky here? Would love to know if you’ve bought a Glarry that had a smooth neck!

How Does It Sound

I feel like there are 3 things that matter most when it comes to the sound of an electric guitar. (We’re not including the amp on this list.)

  1. The player. A great player can make a terrible instrument sound great.
  2. Anything that touches the strings (e.g. nut, saddle, bridge). Cheap components detrimentally affect sustain, sound, and tuning stability. It doesn’t take expensive upgrades to make these components a lot better on a cheap guitar.
  3. The pickups. Cheap pickups are going to lack clarity and probably have a generally muddy sound.

Now, I’m not the best guitar player, but I feel like if you give me a terrible guitar it’s not going to sound as terrible as it is because I can play with some confidence. So we can disregard that on this guitar.

But the nut, saddle, bridge, and pickups? All the cheapest possible components. And it shows.

While I did dial in sounds I was happy with (watch the video for sound demos) I couldn’t help but feel something was just off while playing the GTL. It felt like a bit of a struggle to get it to do what I wanted. I don’t blame any one thing for this. It’s a combination of all the cheap components.

I just think there’s a point at which you can go too cheap. Kind of like how you get diminishing returns as you spend more money on a guitar. Does a $10k guitar sound better than a $1k guitar? Maybe, but probably not noticeable to most people. And does it sound ten times better? Quite unlikely.

Which brings me to this. If this was my first guitar I think it would be too frustrating to get much enjoyment out of it, which is why I want to emphatically state: the Glarry GTL is not a guitar beginners should buy.

If Not For Beginners, Who’s This Guitar For?

Now that I’ve sufficiently scared off beginners from wasting their money on this guitar, who should buy it?

That’s easy.

Do you want to practice upgrading the components on a guitar? The Glarry GTL is a good base to start from. You’ll have fun upgrading the tuners (get locking tuners), nut (a TUSQ nut is less than $15), and pickups. You’ll probably want to upgrade the rest of the electronics (volume/tone pots, pickup switch, and jack) because it’s a useful thing to learn to do and isn’t prohibitively expensive.

But I’m going to be honest with you. If I spent $200-$300 upgrading this guitar I still don’t think I’d like it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not going to fund that project at this point to find out. There are too many other guitars to review to spend more time and money on the Glarry GTL.

You’re better off upgrading the components on a Firefly, Jackson, Epiphone, or Squier than a Glarry. Sure, those guitars are more expensive, but you’re starting with a better base and you’ll enjoy the final product more.

Final Thoughts

If you watched my video you know I don’t eviscerate it quite as badly as maybe I do in text here. I want to be clear: I don’t hate this guitar. I try my best to be fair and I think it’s nice that Glarry is able to sell a working instrument for under $100. But I just can’t in good conscience recommend you buy one.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a Glarry because it’s so cheap I really think you should save your money.

Overall: a 3/10. It’s cheap and it works. And that’s the best I can say about the Glarry GTL.

Do you own the GTL or a different Glarry guitar? What were your experiences? Email me or leave a comment below.

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