Cost: $649.00 new, check Reverb for even lower prices!
Generously lent for review thanks to John from Armadillo Enterprises, Dean’s parent company!
Overview and Final Score: 7.8
Dean’s Modern 24 is a mixed bag of luxury features and missing parts. While the tones you can get of the guitar are superb, and the playability is elite, I was often left wanting a few more things on the guitar such as a tone knob or whammy bar. The mahogany body features a 3-piece maple neck with an ebony fretboard and 24 jumbo frets. Two Seymour Duncan Custom Zebra humbuckers are directly mounted onto the body, an APH-1 in the neck and a TB-5 in the bridge. A tune-o-matic bridge, single volume knob, and 3-way selector round out this high quality import package.
The two Duncan humbuckers are phenomenal in this guitar and create searing lead tones, bruising rhythms, and the zebra design really compliments the all black finish. One drawback however is how bright the pickups are, which could normally be dulled just a bit via the tone knob, which is missing from this guitar. I compensated by messing with the EQ onboard my distortion pedals and was able to get some really great high gain tones for hard rock or metal, especially out of the bridge pickup. Both pickups wonderfully pushed the tubes in my Blackstar Studio 10 and Vox AC15 C1 to create awesome overdriven tones at high volumes. These humbuckers were really made to be pushed into a tube amp, and I bet would sound best going through some huge Marshall stack.
The neck was smooth, but not as buttery as you would expect, again sans tone control. One thing that really knocked a few ticks off here was that the guitar wasn’t super versatile, the pickups didn’t seem to be able to produce the warmness needed for genres outside of hard rock/metal very easily. As you’ll see later in the article, I feel like players will either find this guitar perfect, or put it down for a more diverse ESP or Jackson model. At the end of the day, the sounds and tones you can get out of this guitar are superb, and it’s probably a few mods away from being a 9/10.
Thanks to a nifty neck heel joint, all 24 jumbo frets were easy to access while messing around with scales and improvising. The frets and C-shaped neck were both comfortable and familiar, while still feeling more suited for modern playing styles. The tuning stability was great thanks to the Grover tuners and tune-o-matic bridge, and I barely had to tune up or tweak it once I got it right. At this price, many might expect locking tuners, because of the guitar’s affordable Indonesian birthplace, but they didn’t feel necessarily unless you really beat up your strings.
The neck felt chunkier then expected but the guitar balanced beautifully on the strap, with no neck or body dive to report on. The size of the neck steered me towards playing more rhythmically on this guitar even though the lead tones were great. Players with larger or smaller hands may have to try the neck out first to see how it will fit to them individually.
Finish & Construction: 7
The construction of this guitar was superb, which may surprise you when you see the score, but there are separate concerns from the quality control done by Dean. The finish was spotless and seemed very damage resistant. All wood work, hardware installation, and set up was great out of the box and the guitar tuned up quickly and was instantly playable.
My concerns are with the design and construction choices, something I will touch on more in the value section. To me, this guitar doesn’t seem versatile enough to warrant its status as kind of a stand-alone or flagship superstrat for the company, but perhaps that wasn’t their goal. $649 isn’t cheap for an imported guitar, and I would think they would add some exciting features like a coil tap, trem system, or locking tuners, in addition to a tone knob. I often felt myself going to use features that just weren’t there and it made me want to really modify this guitar into something even better than it already is.
As stated above, I think this is a case of a guitar you really have to try before you buy. Some people may love how simple and stripped down it is, some people may be looking for more bang for your buck or simply more sonic features. I keep comparing this to the Chapman ML-1 Modern V2 I reviewed awhile ago, and that guitar just felt like it had more at a lower price. It was $150 cheaper, had a thinner and faster neck, and had an awesome coil split function that I fell in love with. While this guitar is fantastic and a joy to play, I just don’t feel it sets the standard for superstrats in this price range. Definitely try it out before you buy it because you never know if it’s the one for you!