Danelectro ‘59XT review

Old school cool and modern performance

  • £649
  • $499

Our Verdict

The ’59XT is a tonal Swiss Army knife with the added bonus of a great-quality whammy bar.

Pros

  • A superb Frankenstein job on an iconic guitar.

Cons

  • We do miss some of the classic Dano touches but the fiddly knobs are the only real bugbear.

Back in October 2017 we ran a review of the original Danelectro ’66. 

A hardtail reboot of the cult mid-60s Mosrite Combo model, the semi-hollow ’66 was a radical move from a brand that is best known for picking clean the bones of its own back catalogue. 

Aside from the lipstick-tube bridge pickup, aluminium top nut, not to mention the logo on the headstock, the ’66 is not your classic Dano. It is, however, very bloody good, so word of a new variant was met with enthusiasm ’round these parts. 

We recently reviewed the overhauled ‘66T, but the ’66 isn’t the only Dano to get a new sibling in 2018. The brand’s most iconic guitar, the DC59, is now available with pretty much identical specs to the ’66T. You’ll know the DC59 best as the doppelganger of the Badass-bridged ‘Coke- bottle headstock’ guitar brandished by Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin. Our new ’59XT model casts the same shadow as Jimmy’s guitar, but here you get the same Wilkinson whammy, slippery nut and electronics featured on the ’66T. 

The ’59XT is obviously way more ‘Dano’ than the ’66T. In its standard DC59 form, it’s a perfect little guitar. Back in the 50s, Dano founder Nathan Daniel turned cheap materials into tonal gold when he jammed pickup gubbins into lipstick tubes and fashioned bodies out of the kind of stuff people were using to remodel kitchens. Chaps such as Jimmy Page, proto-punk Link Wray, Eric Clapton and even Jimi Hendrix availed themselves of Mr Daniels’ wares and an affordable icon was born. 

The ’59XT has the DNA of those original 50s guitars, yet it does carry more weight than we expect from a double-cut Dano. On the scales, it’s closer to the heft of an alder-body Telecaster. We gather the extra poundage is the result of substantial centre-block that offers the support required by the Wilkinson WVS50 IIK vibrato. 

Sounds and Feel

The ’59XT shares the same slim C neck profile with the ’66T. Although it has one less fret to play with, the ’59XT makes up the numbers with an extra half inch in its scale length. It’s worth noting Dano cuts its guitars with a 355mm (14in) fingerboard radius. That puts these things in superstrat territory with a profile that’s a lot flatter than a Strat or Les Paul. The upside is you benefit from a super-low action. 

This guitar has the kind of string height only a particularly flexible aphid could limbo under, yet there’s no choking or buzzing to put you off. The downside to the flatter radius is that it’s harder to dig in when you’re noodling above the twelfth fret. That might steer all you blues heads away from these guitars, but the tone on offer will reward your perseverance. 

Tonally, a Dano sits somewhere between a Telecaster and a Rickenbacker 330. Any way you slice that, you get bags of sparkle and presence that responds beautifully to compression and light overdrive, particularly on the coil-split setting. 

There’s something about the looks of a double-cut electric guitar that makes you want to hang it low and beat the hell out of the strings. The ’59XT has that appeal, yet it’s packing enough equipment to cover any musical genre you’re into this week.