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This article was originally published in issue #52
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Danelectro is fighting a hard battle in releasing yet another Strat style guitar onto the market, but the addition of those excellent lipstick pickups and 2-point floating trem at a very attractive price point may help sway a decent number of people over to their offering.
Excellent tones from the lipstick pickups
Wilkinson trem is superb
Visually appealing to SRV fans
Range of finishes available
No gigbag/case included
Headstock design may put some off
Danelectro is always a firm favorite amongst Guitar Interactive's review team. This issue Tom Quayle takes an in-depth look at the impressive '84.
Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the most iconic guitar players of all time and best known for his use of the classic Strat. But, for a time, he could be seen playing a Strat-style guitar made by Charley Wirz of Charley’s Guitar Shop, Dallas, featuring three Danelectro lipstick pickups and a two-point floating trem, finished in white with a single volume and tone control. The guitar has become somewhat iconic in its own right and, for 2017, Danelectro has released a copy of ‘Charley’s guitar’ called the Danelectro ’84.
The ’84 features the same three single-coil lipstick pickups and 2-point floating bridge design of the original guitar and can be kitted out with four different finishes, Pearl White, a pair of sunbursts and Black. The guitars all feature classic S-style construction with Alder bodies, 22- fret Maple necks and Rosewood boards with simple dot inlays. A modern Graphite nut aids tuning stability in combination with the excellent Wilkinson bridge and you also get the same master volume and tone control and 5-way selector switch layout from the original design.
The only real change is the headstock design that must be altered for obvious reasons. Danelectro has slightly exaggerated the curves and angles from the Fender original, and it will be the most controversial element of the design. The S-style body shape is so well matched in our minds by the original headstock design than anything else looks out of place and Danelectro’s design, although not ugly as such, certainly sticks out. Otherwise, this is a very effective recreation of an iconic guitar from a visual perspective, and real Stevie fans will simply have to go for the white finish for the most authenticity. The guitar actually looks best in this finish thanks to the matching headstock paint job, that can look a little out of place on the sunburst models and a little heavy on the black one.
Build quality is very good indeed with no issues to write home about from a construction point of view. Fretwork is excellent and very even and the factory setup was extremely playable out of the box. Playability is without a doubt a strong point of the Danelectro ’84, as the satin finished neck and comfortable, un-intimidating neck profile make for a lovely combination that feels silky smooth in your hand. Being a Strat body shape, the upper fret access and balance are both as you’d expect and will feel very familiar to anyone used to S-style guitars.
The Wilkinson trem feels wonderful too, as expected for a Wilkinson product. From the factory, it is setup to float and has a very smooth upward and downward travel without any ‘pings’ or ‘clunks’ to speak of. The strings return to pitch flawlessly, even with frantic trem usage and, due to the floating nature, all the whammy bar tricks and noises are open to you should you require them.
Tone is the real focus of the Danelectro ’84 and the lipstick pickups do a great job of delivering quality sounds. As you’d expect, there is plenty of chime and pick attack on offer from all three pickups and an excellent dynamic range. These single coils have a different sound to the standard strat vibe, with a little more air and less bottom end, especially in the neck and bridge positions, but they react wonderfully to clean, edge of breakup and dirty sounds. You can certainly achieve the iconic SRV sound with ease if you have the right amp and pedal here. The five-way switch gives you access to all the classic ‘Strat’ pickup combinations that are so familiar, but the tonal palette is different enough to justify why people love to swap out their single coils for lipstick pickups. They look great too of course!
Danelectro is fighting a hard battle in releasing yet another Strat style guitar onto the market, but the addition of those excellent lipstick pickups and 2-point floating trem at a very attractive price point may help sway a decent number of people over to their offering. Certainly, the hardcore SRV fans will be very well served by the white model that comes very close visually to the ‘Charley’ original – albeit with that different headstock design. For those just looking for an alternate S-type guitar from another brand, it could be a slightly harder sell as the marketplace is so crowded. The Danelectro ’84 is certainly worth considering though, thanks to the combination of good hardware, playability, and affordable cost.