Generously gifted for review by the Donner Deal company!
Overview and Final Score: 5.4
The Donner DST-100W is a surprisingly reliable and enjoyable take on the classic Strat design. Coming in at extremely budget friendly prices, the DST-100W is overall a fairly average guitar, with no frills or features that would wow you. However, for a guitar to be this cheap AND average is an accomplishment. The AAA solid African basswood body features an AAA Canadian maple neck with Ebony fingerboard and a HSS pickup configuration plus 5-way selector. The guitar also features a one-way tremolo along with the standard volume-tone-tone controls of a Stratocaster. 20 dot inlay frets adorn the classic C-shaped neck, and the guitar comes in four finish options: Sonic Red, Sapphire Blue, Tidepool, and Vintage White.
I was pleasantly surprised by each sound and tone coaxed out of this vintage white (looks more like buttercream) Strat. After the Glarry Strat left me wanting more, I was expecting to be let down once again by a budget, foreign model from a lesser known brand. That was not the case this time as the guitar performs admirably and doesn’t sound or play all that different from a trusty Squier Stratocaster. The humbucker is loud and offers a ton of sonic diversity, allowing you to go from John Mayer-esque in-between tones to high output, gain sounds in seconds.
Now, the pickups in here aren’t necessarily good, they are somewhat noisy, easily get muddied as you adjust tone, and don’t have the same rich, sparkling tone that most associate with Fender Strats. The thing is, they just aren’t bad. The pickups in that Glarry? They literally fizzled out when you kicked on a distortion pedal and you lost all the mids and highs. For not a lot more money, this guitar actually works, and sounds enough like an HSS Strat. The in-between settings on the 5-way selector switch are pretty much useless thanks to a cut in output and thin sounds, but the 3 pickup settings are much more reminiscent of my MIM Fender Strat. Hear for yourself when we publish our full demo of the Donner DST-100W, but I think you may be surprised at what you hear.
The fretwork is a little bit rough, as to be expected, but not uncomfortable or painful to play by any means. The neck came extremely bowed upwards, something that was easily fixed via the truss rod. Ironically, the bowing made the action better, and it was pretty easy to play even though the tuning stability was impacted. Once it was returned straight, I had the lower the action just a bit but quickly found a great feeling spot. The Canadian maple neck and Ebony fingerboard were quite pleasant once those adjustments were done, and it held tune infinitely better after that. Shockingly, the use of the whammy bar did not quickly throw the guitar out of tune, adding a fun and useable feature to the Strat copy.
Finish & Construction: 5
The construction was a bit wonky, as evidenced by the bowed neck and high action. The wiring however seems really solid, even once I cracked open the guitar, and the excess buzz or hiss of the single coils is more minimal than I would have expected. The finish is labeled as Vintage White and I think they were going for that aged, yellowish hue of older guitars, but it really comes out as more of a buttercream or swiss cheese yellow color in person. There were no noticeable chips or dings, and it was very nicely packaged inside its case when it arrived.
While a $130 guitar being comparable to a Squier isn’t a huge achievement on its own, the DST-100W is really buoyed by the package it comes with. As you’ll see in our soon to arrive video demo and discussion article, the DST-100W comes with a rechargeable 3 Watt amp, a case, strap, picks, whammy bar, clip-on tuner, capo, AND extra strings. That’s a whole lot of stuff thrown in for $130. At the end of the day, the guitar doesn’t suck, stays in tune, and sounds a bit like a Strat, making this a completely reasonable guitar to learn on. There is nothing here that would discourage a student and I look forward to taking this thing apart and modding the hell out of it as an expert!