Cost: $379.00 new
Huge thanks to Kazu from Arai & Co for sending me this awesome guitar!
Overview and Final Score: 7.1
The Aria DM-01 is a modern take on a classic vintage guitar style beloved by thousands. Based on the classic Mosrite body shape, Johnny Ramone and Ventures fans alike will rejoice at the ability to get their hands on a great playing modern update. Part of the Retro Classic series, the DM-01 features a basswood body, maple neck, and Techwood fingerboard. The 25.5″ scale length guitar also holds 20 frets alongside chrome hardware, a tune-o-matic bridge, and floating, Jazzmaster-style tremolo system.
Dual APS-9 single coils, Aria’s take on P90’s, give the guitar a distinctly killer look and tone. The two soapbars are controlled via a standard 3-way selector switch as well as a volume and tone knob. Along with the Vintage White finish I received, the guitar is also available in Black and 3 Tone Sun-burst.
The choice of P90’s as opposed to the Johnny Ramone set up, mini humbucker and single coil, really make this guitar more appealing for modern guitarists in my opinion. First off, the two P90’s are capable of a bit more variety of sound, and this guitar can go from searing lead squeals on the bridge to slapping country tones once you turn down the gain. The neck pickup is a bit muddy and notes get ill-defined, as expected with cheaper P90’s pickups that don’t have quite the brightness of Fender-style pups or the output of Gibson-esque humbuckers.
The best sounds were produced with just a bit of overdrive, courtesy of my tube screamer pedal, to push my Vox AC15 over the edge. The pickups break up really nicely and the guitar felt right at home amongst these garage rock tones. I don’t know if it is just my association with Mosrites and P90s, but this guitar really just inspired me to play noisy, classic punk and garage rock sounds, and it sounded best doing it. The pickups were fairly hot enough to rely on in a live setting, but I kept feeling myself moving towards my boost pedals, even when playing cleaner tones.
The playability on this thing didn’t quite match up with how good it sounded. There are no major flaws on this guitar whatsoever, I just felt it needs a proper setup especially when compared to some of the other guitars I’ve reviewed. The fret edges were just a bit rough, and the guitar stayed in tune okay, it overall felt very average in that department as the trem bar would throw it out of tune after a 10-20 minutes of playing. This makes it more of an issue for live use, not so much bedroom or practice players though. The action was great out of the box however, and it is overall not too uncomfortable to play.
Finish & Construction: 7.5
Overall, the DM-01 is very well put together and I found no major flaws, dents, scratches or other issues. Of course the guitar could use a set up as I said before, but that’s not a huge disappointment especially at this price. The finish looks great and seems very durable, especially considering the guitar wasn’t shipped in a case, and survived fine inside the cardboard box. The finish on the back of the neck is just a bit too thin and cheap feeling to me, and I much preferred the high gloss on the back of the other Aria I received, the Retro-1532. The wiring seemed well down when I cracked it open, and there isn’t any excess buzz from any components of the guitar, besides the slightly noisy single coils.
The DM-01 is a great guitar at a great price, coming in at just under $400. I think it fits best in the hands of garage rock fans, punk rock players, and those who like their guitars to look just a bit different. While it is a larger scale length, it might also make a great and affordable alternative to a Gibson DC Les Paul Junior. The guitar also gets extra points here because it is one of the cheapest options out there for this guitar design. Eastwood makes some great models just like this, but most are far closer to $1000 than to $400. Danelectro’s similar models also come in well north of that benchmark, like the $800 ’64 Guitar. For the money, it just plays and sounds above average and will help you stick out of the crowd, not sure you can ask for much else out of the DM-01.