Delivering both modern playability and classic aesthetics in one comfortable and high-quality electric guitar, the Danelectro 59XT is crafted with a semi-hollow body with a centre block, which provides the guitar with enhanced resonance and airiness. Nick Jennison takes a closer look at this new instant classic.
I won't lie, I'm a total sucker for retro guitar designs, and there are few manufacturers who do this sort of things as well as Danelectro. Maybe it's the association with my early heroes like Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, or perhaps it's the 50s stylings, but there's something about these guitars that fills me with joy. The 59XT is no exception.
Based on their classic "shorthorn" body design but with a few modern tweaks, the 59XT is still very much an "old school" guitar at heart. Employing composite plywood construction with a hollow body paired with a maple neck, it's a very resonant and lightweight instrument. There aren't any fancy figured "tonewoods" (an inflammatory term, I know), but that's really not what this kind of guitar is about.
Despite it's "catalogue guitar" looks, the 59XT has a comfortable neck, excellent fretwork and a nice low action, and plays really well - up to the 14th fret anyway. That's where the frankly enormous heel joint starts. If you've got any pretensions of getting your thumb around the neck at the dusty end, forget it! To compound things even further, that's where the strap pin is located, further impeding upper fret access. But here's the thing… it doesn't feel like it matters. This isn't a guitar for shredding histrionics. It's for surf, slide, garage rock, fuzzed-out riffing and all manner of organic goodness. (That said, the midrange "clank" of the bridge pickup makes it surprisingly good for dent!)
The "X" in the guitar's name refers to the pickup configuration, while the "T" denotes the exceptionally good Wilkinson tremolo - one of my absolute favourite trems ever created. It's super smooth with the kind of fluttery sensitivity you'd expect from a Floyd Rose, but without any of the downsides. The pickups are a very interesting combination of a humbucker sized P90 in the neck and a pair of lipstick single coils working together as a bridge humbucker - both irreverently angled in different directions.
The neck pickup is the star of the show for me and sounds wonderfully throaty and clear both clean and with a lot of gain, but the bridge pickup offers some really unique and cool tones that you'll struggle to find elsewhere. With the coil-split engaged, the sound is wiry and bright with the kind of transient attack that you only get from a lipstick, but with both coils engaged you get a fat and grinding tone that sounds great with a bit of gain dialled in. You do have to be careful with how much gain you use because the bridge pickup is slightly microphonic, but I'd be concerned that more aggressive wax potting could dampen some of the high-end character, so it's a tradeoff I'm happy to make.
The Danelectro 59XT is a very cool looking and great sounding guitar that's as much fun to play as it is to look at. It has a number of "quirks" that might be considered "flaws" in another guitar, but on the 59XT they seem to add to the experience. Go in with an open mind, and you'll be richly rewarded.
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