Danelectro '56 Single Cutaway review

An updated classic that's easy on the eye

  • £369
  • $349.99
Thankfully, Dano has fitted the guitar with the fat strings it needs to bring out its tone.

MusicRadar Verdict

It's serious eye candy, but the '56 has all the tonal beauty of a classic U2, too.


  • +

    Pretty. Great tones. Playability.


  • -

    Some may not dig the bling factor.

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The freshly tweaked '56 series Danelectro guitars mark the third reissue of Nathan Daniel's original 1956 U2 model.

While the first reissue, launched back in 1998, closely followed the specs and aesthetics of the original guitar ('Coke bottle' headstock, rosewood bridge saddle, vinyl body tape and the like), the 2006 56 Pro was what might be described as 'pimped'.

"The great tonal secret with Dano guitars is the middle position... A stonking slab of musical beed."

The Coke bottle headstock had a notch cut into it (a diet version, if you will), the bridge came loaded with individual saddles to allow better intonation and the classic white vinyl body tape had gone. The '56 Pro was a great guitar, but losing the quirky features did dent its vintage vibe a bit.

Fast-forward to the new '56 Series and the unintonatable rosewood bridge and body tape - in old spec 'Ostrich Pattern' no less - are back where they belong. There's also some curious stuff going on at the headstock end of some of these new models.

The launch of these new models coincides with a streamlining of the Danelectro guitar and bass range. Now, only the new single-cutaway '56 models, the existing double- cutaway '59 guitars and the 'Dead On 58' Longhorn bass will be available.

'The Wild Thing', an eye-popping reissue of a one-off prototype swept wing guitar uncovered a few years ago is also due to hit these shores later this year. But that's your lot, Dano-wise.


The new white Dano with gold hardware is pretty… weird. Gold bits on a Danelectro hint at a mutton/lamb situation, in that bling on a rudimentary guitar seems out of place. You soon warm to it and (whisper this) it actually looks pretty good.

The most striking part is the oversized headstock. This headstock type is known as the 'Full Bell' and featured on some Dano models from 1954 to 1956.

The headstock face is adorned with a vintage Dano logo and a pair of gold scrolls. The gold detailing is also picked up by the hardware and the pinstripe plus Dano 'D' on the scratchplate.

It has a bolt-on neck held in position by five screws. Pickup height is adjusted from the rear and the hardtail bridge has a rosewood saddle. True to vintage spec, intonation is fixed.

Moving on, the guitar's neck overhangs the body at the cutaway, which provides great access to the upper frets. You really have to try the guitar for yourself to see how this works. It's another simple idea that enhances the guitar's performance.

We like the fact that Danelectro hasn't let the side down and fitted an ultra-light gauge of strings - these guitars need a fat set to bring out the tone and help with tuning stability.


The great tonal secret with Dano guitars is the middle position on the toggle switch. The pickups are wired in series (not parallel like the majority of dual-pickup guitars) and selecting both units unleashes a stonking slab of musical beef.

The leap in volume between the bridge and middle (both pickups on) positions is striking. We guarantee that you'll spend a lot of time in that centre position, it's seriously addictive.

The bridge Lipstick single-coil on a Dano sounds a bit like a fat Strat unit. You get bags of jangle and it's bright without ever tipping over into shrill

The neck single-coil is warm yet still bright thanks to the fact that it sits closer to the bridge than you would expect to find on other types of guitar.

Aside from the various strains of heavy metal, this Dano can fit into just about any genre of music. Pop, indie, rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, garage rock, punk… anyone who needs a guitar that cuts through a mix and looks good doing it should try a Dano.

Running through our Retroman Lola fuzz box we bagged classic Link Wray tones and those of '60s garage bands such as The Seeds and Count Five. Danos also make great slide guitars.

The interesting thing about Danelectro guitars is that it can hold its head high in any guitar collection. It doesn't matter if you have a wall full of Fender or Gibson Custom Shop editions, or Paul Reed Smith's finest work, you'll still get a kick out of a Dano.

And obviously the fact that over the years they've been used by Jimmy Page, Clapton, Billy Gibbons et al doesn't hurt either.

The bottom line is that this new Dano is not a budget version of something (Jerry Jones' high-end repros aside). It sounds and plays great because it holds true to Nathan Daniel's original vision.

It's affordable because it's made from inexpensive materials and built, very well, in China. It also makes a sound like no other guitar. The addition of period details such as the resurrected headstock design, and more modern hardware updates adds to the desirability of the model.

The superb playability and the tone from those beefed-up Alnico pickups is the icing on the cake. Figure in the price and we reckon it's worth adding some Lipstick to your tonal makeup.