Dean Leslie West Standard review

  • £729
The shoulder line cuts into the bass side of the body for a distinctive twist on the classic LP body style

MusicRadar Verdict

Here's a guitar that proves Dean is about a lot more than just metal - a classy design with serious classic clout in the sound department.


  • +

    Classy LP update design. Great neck. Juicy overwound tone.


  • -

    A few minor cosmetic details. A little overweight. Volume/tone controls could be better suited to the pickup.

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Think Dean and many of us probably just think of extravagantly-shaped metal axes. Yet Dean has always had a more classic side, and at various prices points its Les Paul-inspired Soltero is a classy looking alternative to Gibson's finest.

It was this guitar that Dean Zelinksy [Dean founder, now at DBZ Guitars] had in mind when he created a signature model with Mountain legend Leslie West. Known for his use of a single-cut Les Paul Junior, it's little surprise that the Leslie West model features just the one pickup. Yet although all-mahogany versions are available, the Korean-made Brazil burst Standard is more akin to a single-pickup LP.

"Time to reform that seventies-era power trio."

With a slightly trimmer body length, narrower waist and slightly broader lower bouts than a Les Paul, this design has a little of Zemaitis about it. It's just under a full Les Paul depth at 58mm, with a chunky 9.25lb weight to go with it.

The mahogany back is topped with a carved maple top and that, despite Dean's spec sheet, is topped with a flame maple veneer. The upper shoulder's rounded line cuts into the bass-side of the body giving, as with the Soltero, a very distinct visual motif.

The edges of the maple top and this cut-in, are left natural in a PRS-style, while the top adopts a classy two-tone sunburst that's amber in the centre fanning out to black at the outer edges; the sides, back and neck are also opaque black.

The combination of the maple veneer, that cut-in and the natural edges does mean there are a few rough spots, but it's not an easy thing to do compared to a simpler, bound-edged Les Paul.

A slightly 'V'-shaped mahogany neck is smartly joined to the body at the 16th fret, Les Paul-style, and only the quite flamboyant three-aside headstock veers towards metal-dom. It also contributes to a slight neck pull when strapped-on.

The dark rosewood fingerboard appears unbound, but as with many far eastern brands (Yamaha included), actually has a black plastic binding, giving a clean look to the edge with no visible fret slots or tangs. Frets are tidy, as are the tasteful, mainly pearl, Soltero inlays.

The hardware - a generic tune-o-matic bridge and separate anchor block, plus chunky but responsive Grover tuners - has a smart satin nickel-plating to it.

The strap buttons (which appear to be licensed versions of Warwick's Security Locks) ape Dunlop's Straploks: the 'male' plugs attach to your strap and push into 'female' ferrules in the body. All good, so long as you don't forget your strap.


Check it out in action:

The single Dean USA Mountain Of Tone humbucker is a high output-type (16.57k ohms) but with an Alnico V magnet. There's no trickery, just volume and tone (with standard knobs that don't go to '11').

Our test valve amp struggled to stay clean with this sort of input and the strident mid-range is more than evident, the highs are a little lacking in sizzle and bass isn't over endowed. But that forceful mid-range saturates a crunchy tone nicely for a very seventies, grinding, hard rock tone.

The volume control cleans things up a touch before dropping off, but something a little more graduated would add some versatility and the tone roll-off is too woolly for a convincing 'woman' tone.

Compared to a PRS Singlecut - hardly fair bearing in mind the price point - it lacks some roomy resonance and, at high-gain, clarity suffers a little too. But dial in some old-school Marshall-esque crunchy distortion and it offers a near-perfect throaty and retro hard rock voice.

Leslie West's name has little draw unless you're a guitar player of a certain age. His guitar, however, especially in this Standard format, ought to have wider appeal. It's a pretty well-made, brutish but classy design.

One of the smartest LP updates currently available, it offers a rock-ready and powerful voice. It doesn't do versatility, it's a plug-in-and-play-me machine, but what it does, it does very well. Time to reform that seventies-era power trio, we reckon.

Dave Burrluck

Dave Burrluck is one of the world’s most experienced guitar journalists, who started writing back in the '80s for International Musician and Recording World, co-founded The Guitar Magazine and has been the Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist magazine for the past two decades. Along the way, Dave has been the sole author of The PRS Guitar Book and The Player's Guide to Guitar Maintenance as well as contributing to numerous other books on the electric guitar. Dave is an active gigging and recording musician and still finds time to make, repair and mod guitars, not least for Guitarist’s The Mod Squad.