Of all the companies that benefitted from the Black Keys/White Stripes-fuelled pawn shop guitar surge, we’d wager Danelectro was near the top.
Its electric range has always been off-the-wall, but its low prices and unique build and sound have seen a raft of new models surface in recent years. Now the 59X sees the company give its most iconic outline - and old favourite of a certain Jimmy Page - a new lease of life. First things first: this is a bit of a dog’s dinner in the looks department. That angled, humbucker-sized single coil, coupled with the slash across the end of the fretboard, looks a little rough and ready. Why Dano didn’t just stick a matching Lipstick single coil up there, we’ll never know. Still, we’ve no complaints about the Lipstick humbucker in the bridge, which is coil-splittable via the tone knob.
The actual build quality is hard to fault, however, with no finish or setup imperfections to speak of. It’s the best put-together Dano we’ve seen for some time. The wraparound bridge provides solid tuning stability, although a hefty rout behind reminds you the 59X is also available with a Wilkinson vibrato (the 59XT, £649).
But forget the looks: we implore you to play this guitar. LP players will feel right at home with the gloss-finished neck, and the comfortable 25” scale length means this could quickly become your go-to pick-up-and-play electric. The neck pickup has a fat single-coil response, with a sweet compression when you dig in, the slanted pick-up position resulting in a more even string response.
The bridge humbucker, meanwhile, has all the top-end sparkle and jangle of Lipsticks, but with the added heft of ’bucker output, all without getting woolly. It’s a hugely addictive voice, while the coil-split lowers the output and thins out the sound, but retains that Lipstick punch.
There’s great clarity with gain, too: that distinctive high end, combined with Danelectro’s idiosyncratic semi-hollow construction, makes every note in a chord sing. There is some treble loss when winding down the volume knob, but that’s hardly uncommon at this price point. Regardless, the 59X will handle just about any genre - whether you’re a fan of classic-rock, blues, post-rock or indie, you’ll find something here to please your ear.
Given its suitability for big riffs and solos, it’s frustrating that Dano still refuses to update the 59’s greatest shortcoming: its upper-fret access. You might as well forget about playing past the 18th fret - those shallow cutaways and the chunky heel are total rock- blockers. However, if you believe the old Tommy Tedesco saying “There’s no money above the 5th fret”, there are some phenomenal tones to be had here.