At first glance, the D&S Avenger looks like a long-lost prototype from Leo’s shop, with its offset-waist shape and familiar pickup/hardware/control setup.
The Avenger’s two-piece alder body sports a well-executed tobacco-sunburst finish and deep contours. Its one-piece 25.5″-scale bolt-on maple neck has a vintage C profile, aged/tinted poly finish with modern 9.5″-radius fretboard and Dunlop 6105 frets. The hardware has many classic elements, including a box-style chrome bridge, brass saddles, chrome control plate, knurled chrome-dome knobs, Kluson-style vintage tuners, and a single-ply pickguard. The Avenger’s Joe Barden bridge, while classic in design, uses compensated brass saddles and a cutout on its treble side for better string/control access. Electronics include a pair of U.K.-made Wizard Velvet single-coil pickups with Alnico II magnets, master Volume and Tone controls, a three-way blade pickup selector, and an Electrosocket output jack.
Acoustically, the Avenger exhibits very good natural tone, thanks to its resonant alder body and precise neck joint. In fact, fit and finish on the Avenger was great, from the meticulously fitted polished frets to the clear, flaw-free finish. And setup was top-notch, with a dead-straight neck, nice, playable action, and spot-on intonation. Its playability was outstanding, and loaded with vintage feel and vibe. Its body is bigger than the Fender that inspired its design, but at 8.25 pounds, it’s not heavy, and its deep contours make it comfortable to play whether sitting or standing.
Through a Fender ’65 reissue Super Reverb (12AX7/6L6) 4×10″ combo, the Avenger’s bridge pickup produced classic twang, with snappy highs and punchy lows, but with a smoother, more-even upper midrange and rich harmonic tone. The neck pickup had slightly less output (typical of most such setups), but with a throaty quality that blended well with the bridge pickup to produce a nice jangle in the middle position. The neck pickup came to life through a PRS H2 (12AX7/6L6) 1×12″combo, with its more-aggressive tone and overdrive channel; the tone was meatier and jumped more than it did through the Fender. The bridge pickup also liked the 1×12″, offering a very articulate, aggressive overdrive with a lot of natural sustain – without having to pile on preamp gain. The Tone control was well-tapered and very useful, darkening the neck pickup for a thick jazz/blues tone, or simply taking the high-end edge off of the bridge pickup, for a less-cutting rhythm sound. The Avenger’s resonance was evident through both amps, as it rendered a nice, complex harmonic signature and a killer fat sound. But it really shined through the PRS’ overdrive channel with a bit more attitude than through the Fender.
The D&S Avenger is a cool mix of vintage vibe and modern playability; it’s a well-crafted axe that begs to be plugged in and played.
Price: $2,095 (direct, as tested
This article originally appeared in VG August 2011 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.