Dean DBD Tribute ML review

  • £295
  • $499.99
The duct tape on the neck pickup is a nice touch.

MusicRadar Verdict

This guitar is a worthy tribute, with a solid build and great features for the price.


  • +

    Great looks and distorted tone.


  • -

    You'll have to be pretty obsessed with Dimebag.

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Dean has always been the naughty schoolboys of the guitar industry. Founded in 1976, the company made guitars that not only looked rebellious, with their spiky bodies and V-shape headstocks, but sounded rebellious too, thanks to a mix of monster tone and massive sustain.

Before his untimely death in 2004, Dimebag Darrell shared the Dean ethos that rock 'n' roll should be about volume, whisky and women.

He was both the firm's most prominent endorsee and its biggest fan, having won his first Dean in a Texas guitar competition at the age of 16.

Now Dean has introduced a new Tribute series based on the ML body style that the guitarist was so fond of.


The DBD Tribute ML model makes it impossible not to think of Dimebag when you see it.

This isn't down to the little picture of him on the headstock (which frankly feels a bit weird), but simply the combination of those iconic ML body contours and Series II Classic V headstock.

Rarely has a body design been so closely associated with one guitarist.

The DBD Tribute costs £500 less than the series' Dime-O-Flame model, and you can tell just by looking that it's got a less exciting bridge and pickup configuration.

There's no binding on the neck either, and the fret inlays aren't quite so spangly. But, while you get what you pay for with the trimmings, the construction is just as solid as it's big brother.

The DBD Tribute has a tidy finish and the bolt-on joint that binds the maple neck to the basswood body is extremely tough.

Basswood, maple and rosewood (that's the fingerboard) are decent enough materials in this price bracket and the ML body shape is also designed to maximise sustain by spreading its mass over a wide area.

In use

The final piece of the jigsaw is a pair of zebra humbuckers that sit at the neck and bridge with a three-way selector to move between them.

There's also a good story behind those strips of duct tape on the neck - it's a trick that Dimebag used to stop his strings getting caught under his pickups while dive-bombing the trem.

There's no whammy bar on the DBD Tribute, however, so this seems to be just for show.

Of more practical use are the Dimebag traction knobs, which have a series of holes drilled into the plastic around the dials, giving you more of a grip in a sweaty venue.

Dimebag's technique was physically demanding, and this is reflected in the DBD Tribute's level of playability.

Despite being a fairly obtuse shape, the ML body is a winner on the lap and when standing. It also offers a level of top fret access that's up there with the Strat, and its neck profile supports every Dime technique from tapping to chugging.

Play the DBD Tribute clean through a solid-state amp and you may find its tone functional rather than memorable, but this guitar doesn't really get going until you press the overdrive button.

Here it's an absolute monster, with a thick, high-octane tone that eats up everything from Message In Blood to Cowboys From Hell, and it sustains for so long you'll have time to grow a funny little pink beard between notes.