The S-500 is Leo Fender's G&L version of the Stratocaster and was introduced in 1982. The S-500's most important upgrades on the classic Stratocaster design are probably its Dual-Fulcrum vibrato and Magnetic Field Design single-coil pickups (see below for more detail). The S-500 also has a Passive Treble and Bass control system which functions on all three pickups and a mini-toggle switch to allow neck+bridge or all three pickups together. From 1997 onwards G&L changed their S-500 model to have alder or swamp ash body (depending on the finish), maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard. Early models may have ash, maple, or mahogany bodies, and maple or ebony fingerboards.
The patented G&L Magnetic Field Design pickups use a single ceramic bar magnet installed underneath each coil, with soft iron adjustable pole pieces to transfer the magnetic ﬁeld to the surface of the pickup. By contrast, traditional Alnico type pickups, such as used in the Fender Stratocaster, or G&L Legacy and George Fullerton models, use non-adjustable Alnico pole pieces leaving the only adjustment being pickup height. The Magnetic Field Design has this adjustment, but also offers individual adjustment of each pole piece. letting the player effectively adjust the output of each string on each pickup. The Magnetic Field Design yields about twice the output per wind making the pickup quieter while allowing a greater overall output. The sound of Magnetic Field pickups is slightly warmer with a broader frequency response.
The patented G&L Dual-Fulcrum vibrato uses two pivoting points rather than the six wood screws attaching a vintage type tremolo. Leo Fender created this design to yield a smooth, silky feel and allow the player to bend notes up as well as down. Unlike similar looking bridges, the Dual-Fulcrum vibrato uses a hardened steel bridge plate, pivoting on billet aluminum machined bolts set into massive brass inserts anchored into the body. The handling of the vibrato is improved with the addition of a billet aluminum machined vibrato arm that uses a single locking Allen screw pressing a nylon insert. This combination yields quick installation and removal of the arm, smooth feel, and allows the player to adjust the amount of resistance on the arm. Leo also designed the string saddles to improve intonation and reduce string breakage. In 2001, G&L improved upon the saddle design by replacing the decals units with billet brass machined saddles, further improving tone and sustain.