In the realm of “…can you top this?” so frequently found in the world of musical instruments, which has in the past produced such luminary items as the four-pickup Guyatones and the Oliver “levitating powered head,” Danelectro has revisited the realm of the fantastic “How many effects can we actually put inside a guitar” question, and miraculously pulled it off.
The new Danoblaster line, which consists of an Innuendo Guitar (our test model in an attractive Midnight Blue with leetle sparkles) with four built-in effects (distortion, chorus, tremolo, and echo); the Hearsay Guitar (just distortion), and the Rumor Bass (complete with chorus).
Is this a good thing? Well, put to the test, I’d have to say that A.) the Innuendo, with or without built-in effects, is a surprisingly responsive and expressive solidbody electric guitar (really!); B.) the effects are not cheesy, but it does take some adjustment to create any subtlety; and C.) the price is to die for (list is $199 for the bass to $269 for the Innuendo).
That said, let’s talk performance. The Innuendo design is – let’s face it – awfully close to a Stratocaster, with three single-coil pickups voiced for a chimey, clear tone – quite impressive, with an obligatory five-way switch, and some great in-between tones that Mark Knopfler would drool over. The body has a comfortable feel, and the tremolo will be awfully easy for anyone who’s owned a Strat in the past. Overall, the workmanship is excellent, and the setup, right out of the box, is as good or better than I see on most higher dollar guitars. Fret dressing is clean, and the rosewood fretboard and neck are easy on the hands – not my favorite finish, mind you, on the back of the neck (satin is standard), but at this price, it’ll suffice. The tuning gears are the high-end closed-back Gotohs, with graphite nut.
Our test Innuendo stayed in tune nicely, played well unamplified, and through an amp it killed. I used primarily a Polytone with spring reverb and no distortion, equipped with a single 15″ speaker to try for the cleanest, most transparent sound possible, pre-effect. The little white buttons are set in a logical place on the pickguard, and are noiseless, triggering with an easy touch of the finger (and no, it’s not easy to accidentally trigger them). Distortion is the most powerful of the bunch – a fat, singing tone that is not controllable by a separate pot – therefore, easing off on the total volume and cutting back on the tone pot seem the easiest method of controlling this and making it a pleasant experience (our assumptions were later confirmed by Michael Campion of Evets, who suggested the other effects needed separate controls more than the distortion). Going from clean chording to the distortion setting is the equivalent of playing a Tele in a Vibroverb one minute, then a Les Paul through a Marshall – not an unpleasant experience, but one that requires a bit of finesse. The more experienced player will find this fun and usable; the newcomer might be a bit thrown by the contrast.
Moving on, the chorus is sweet and as good or better than many freestanding stompboxes out there – controllable using a separate pot, and quite nice. All the effects, by the way, are pretty noiseless, a big surprise for all who heard it. Tremolo is perhaps the most impressive of the entire bunch, sounding an awful lot like Ry Cooder on a good day, ranging from lazy and ’50s-ish to fast-pulsed – and authentic as all heck.
Last was the echo, which tends to sound like slap-back, and is great for rockabilly and fast leads.
In short, the Danelectro Danoblasters, specifically our little Innuendo, come packed to the brim with potential. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to be invited up onstage to sit in with a popular L.A. roots group at one of our local Dens of Iniquity, simply plug into the nearest Roland JC-120 (the cleanest amp in existence), and on a solo, simply wail on this innocent-looking six-string, with full balls-to-the-wall distortion, echo, and tremolo… The crowd was enthused, but the guitar player who came up after the set and asked point-blank, “What the **** is inside that guitar?”
It was worth the price of the instrument itself. Call your nearest Dano dealer or contact them directly at www.danelectro.com, or 888-643-8950, for more information.
Type of Guitar: Solidbody electric
Features: Three single-coil pickups, built-in distortion, chorus, tremolo, and echo effects, closed-back Gotoh tuners, graphite nut, blue/silver sparkleburst finish.
Contact: Danelectro/Evets, 888-643-8950, www.danelectro.com.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s May ’01 issue.