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Danelectro '57 Guitar & '59 Divine review

A pair of Danos with 50s rock 'n' roll magic in spades

  • £799+
  • €666+
  • $599+
Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

Even if the '57 Guitar and '59 Divine are priced higher than you might expect for a Dano, when it comes to high-octane electric blues, gnarly slide rock guitar playing, punk, garage and vintage styles, there's nothing that can touch them.

Pros

  • Good quality hardware.
  • Combined pickup series sound on the Divine is divine.
  • Pickups have been improved and sound excellent.

Cons

  • No gigbag.
  • Quite pricey.

What is it?

Over 60 years have come and gone since Nathan I. Daniel's first off-kilter electric guitar designs were released, and while his other contemporaries sought evolution, the Danelectro brand remains tethered to the late 50s. 

It's a pop-cultural holdout, like pomade, formica-tabled diners and the knickerbocker glory. To play one at a gig is like driving up to the drive-in theatre in a Lincoln with tail fins. As the enduring popularity of the Danelectro brand proves, the classics, of course, never go out of style.

They do, however, change over time. Under the Evets Corporation's ownership, Danelectro models come thick and fast. Some fall out of production and this regular changing of the guard means that if you see a Dano you like, get it while it is hot.

Our review models – the '57 Guitar and '59 Divine – were released at the start of 2020. They are South Korean built, featuring newly voiced Vintage 50s pickups. While the original 50s models were typically built from a wooden frame – poplar or pine – topped front and back with Masonite, the current models are built with a “semi-hollow body with centre block…[with] a composite/solid wood construction”.

That means they are lightweight, just shy of 6lbs, and are unique for the contemporary electric guitar market. The '57 Guitar is a single-cutaway design, with  Alnico 6 Vintage 50s single-coil lipstick pickups in the neck and bridge positions, a 3-way toggle pickup selector and stacked volume and tone controls for each pickup.

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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

The '59 Divine uses pointer-style stacked knobs for volume and tone controls. (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

The 57' Guitar's stacked volume and tone controls are easy enough to use. (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The '59 Divine features the same pickups and switching options as the '57 Guitar, though it has rather stylish "pointer knobs" to differentiate its control setup, and its 3-way toggle is positioned behind the tone control and bridge. 

A double-cutaway, not unlike the famous Danelectro 3021 model (since reincarnated as the most excellent ’59M NOS+ (from £599), the Divine's "shorthorn" silhouette will make this instantly recognisable to guitar players. 

For many, this is what the archetypical Dano. But it's remarkable how similar the builds are between both guitars. We have the "Coke bottle" headstocks, the same C profile bolt-on neck, 14" radius pau ferro 'boards with 21 medium frets and small white dot inlays.

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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Both have a hardtail U3 bridge with adjustable saddles, and aged 3-on-a-plate Gotoh Deluxe tuners. Hardware pedants will note the tuners have been aged yet the bridge has not. Still, quality tuners such as these are to be welcomed.

Elsewhere, we have a nut bridge on both guitars; the Divine's is just over half a millimetre wider at 42.69mm.

The Divine is available with Dark Walnut and Flame Maple veneers on the top and back, while the '57 Guitar's finish options comprise the Limo Black as reviewed and Jade Green. All variations on both guitars feature the cream vinyl sides.

Performance and verdict

Lightweight and accessible, the Danelectros have always been a fun guitar to play. They are exceptionally well balanced. That said, upper-fret access can be a little bit of a stretch, with the block heel positioned directly under the 14th fret. It's not so much of a problem on the '59 Divine, but is a little bit more of an issue on the '57 Guitar.

These necks are thin. The fretboard radius makes for a pretty darn flat profile that might not be very 1950s but should curry favour with contemporary players, many of whom are not used to curved 'boards and clubby necks. While the 'board radius is billed as 14", we'd put it at 16". 

Necks and fretwire are a matter of taste, of course, but we can't help thinking a little more weight on the neck and some taller frets might enhance the retro experience. That's splitting hairs. Again, these are fun guitars, and all about nailing the Danelectro charm. It's something every guitarist should experience for themselves.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Future)

Danelectro 59X
If you're seeking versatile tones and retro vibes, this new take on an old Dano classic is worth investigating.

• Gretsch G5655TG Electromatic Center Block Jr
You get killer playability and tone in a scaled-down affordable package with lashings of eye-popping Gretsch curb appeal. What’s not to love? 

Danelectro 66
We like the bright and lively resonance of that semi-hollow construction and the fact that the robust hardtail makes the guitar so damn fun to pound on with your right hand. The only thing that bugs us is the price. 

Tonally, there's a lot of common ground here. After all, the builds are similar, so to the pickups and their control circuits. Revoiced for 2020, these Vintage 50s single-coils are fairly modest in output and bass response. There's a nice wide-open midrange to them.

For many, the sweet spot will be in the mix position. That's where the volume is. That's where you get that chewy attitude and the Dano begins to show its teeth. They make excellent slide guitars. A Tube Screamer pushing the Fender valve combo of your choice would make for a happy day's playing.

Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

Danelectro '59 Divine (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

If anything, the '59 has a bit more zing to its bridge single-coil, courtesy of its angled placement and closer proximity to the bridge. Rake the strings close to the bridge and it'll poke through the mix no problem.

Reverb is encouraged. There's a twang here that's beginning for some spring bounce, and all the primordial rock 'n' roll and surf rock dynamics that involves. While you can always beef up a signal with pedals. these Danos retain their brightness and that sharp bolt-on attack and snappiness to the notes.

They take fuzz and gain well. It'll get unruly but that is the point. If you are stepping on a Mosrite fuzz, Dano in hand, it is not for Kumbaya.

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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The stacked control knobs will divide opinion. They are relatively easy to get a handle on but if they were the best idea ever you would see more guitars using them. The pointer design on the '59 Divine can see the stacked controls interfering with each other if you are not careful. 

The good news is that the pots are fine and do their job, allowing you to dial back a little bit of the treble to round things out. The pickup levels are mismatched, especially on the '59, but these are idiosyncrasies you can write off. 

You don't buy a Dano for some forensic über-build. They are about rock 'n' roll. Playing them hard and having so much fun that who cares if there's a hair out of place?

Musicradar verdict: Even if the '57 Guitar and '59 Divine are priced higher than you might expect for a Dano, when it comes to high-octane electric blues, gnarly slide rock guitar playing, punk, garage and vintage styles, there's nothing that can touch them.

The web says

"Certainly if you’re chasing a retro voice, be it early electric blues (Danos and Silvertones were always loved for slide, too) or something with a trashier edge, you’ll find it here. But then as Jimmy Page proved, you can certainly make a Kashmir-sized racket with one of these. Every home should have one!"
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Hands-on demos

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Specifications

Danelectro ’57 Guitar

Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

Danelectro '57 Guitar  (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £799 / $599
  • ORIGIN: South Korea
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway semi-hollow electric
  • BODY: Composite top and back over solid-wood frame
  • NECK: Maple, C profi le, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635 mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/42mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Pau ferro, small white dot inlays, 356mm (14”) radius
  • FRETS: 21, medium
  • HARDWARE: Hardtail U3 bridge with adjustable saddles, 3-on-a-plate Gotoh Deluxe tuners (aged)
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
  • ELECTRICS: Twin Alnico 6 Vintage 50s single-coil lipstick pickups, 3-way toggle, stacked volume/tone for each pickup
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.7/5.94
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The only other single-cut Dano is the ’56 Baritone (£629)
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Not this model but lefty versions of the ’59M NOS+ (‘Page’ model), Vintage 12 String and Baritone are available
  • FINISHES: Limo Black (as reviewed), Jade Green – both with cream coloured vinyl sides

Danelectro ’59 Divine

Danelectro '57 Guitar and '57 Divine

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £899 / $699 
  • ORIGIN: South Korea
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway semi-hollow electric
  • BODY: Composite top and back over solid-wood frame
  • NECK: Maple, C profile bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635 mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/42.69mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Pau ferro, small white dot inlays, 356mm (14”) radius
  • FRETS: 21, medium
  • HARDWARE: Hardtail U3 bridge with adjustable saddles, 3-on-a-plate Gotoh Deluxe tuners
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
  • ELECTRICS: Twin Alnico 6 Vintage 50s single coil lipstick pickups, 3-way toggle, stacked volume/tone with pointer knobs for each pickup
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.7/5.94 
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Shorthorn designs include the ‘modded’ ’59M NOS+ (from £599). The Stock ’59 is the closest to original spec double-cut (£489)
  • LEFT-HANDERS: See ’57 Guitar
  • FINISHES: Fresh Cream (as reviewed) Dark Walnut, Flame Maple – all with cream coloured sides