Donner’s newest addition is their take on a thinline Telecaster with dual humbuckers, for only $174.
Cost: $173.99 from Donnerdeal.com
Overview & Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
It’s been a good while since a Donner product strolled through this website, but I’m quite excited to see them return. My first experience with a Donner was a pleasant surprise, and this DJC-1000S guitar seems poised to continue that trend. A relatively new addition to Donner’s lineup, the DJC is basically a copy of a Fender ’70s Tele Thinline, complete with the fancy F-hole and dual humbucking pickups. Those pickups are controlled via the standard Tele set-up, a 3-way switch alongside volume/tone knobs.
The DJC-1000S features a Poplar body paired to a Maple neck and fretboard in a fan favorite finish, Fender’s three tone sunburst. The gloss finish on the neck is shockingly smooth, providing a glossy contrast to the classic and familiar look of the body. Fairly standard hardware rounds out the spec sheet, with the hardtail bridge, tuners, and knobs being pretty much replacement level in quality. Though I will note the string through body aspect of the bridge is quite nice on a guitar of this price.
The most jarring feature of this guitar is the difference between the clean tones and the overdriven/distorted tones. These pickups actually have some life as long as there is plenty of overdrive or gain on top. The DJC-1000S won’t set the world on fire as a clean guitar, but it is certainly useable. It grades out as roughly average (5-6) and is commensurate with some Affinity Tele products you might be more familiar with. Based on sound alone, this is a guitar that can and will work for you, but will never wow you or prevent you from investing in an upgrade.
The clean tones in all three positions are a bit lower output than anticipated for a humbucker, but do have some warmth in there when fingerpicked. It’s very much a blank canvas, even through a relatively nice tube amp or modeler. And I think there is a noticeable disparity between the clean sounds and the effect-laden tones I conjured up for the demo.
The neck on this Donner Tele copy was surprisingly impressive in terms of feel and craftsmanship. It is glossy, but never sticky or slow, and closer to a Classic Vibe Squier than I anticipated for the sub-$200 price. There was some noticeable fret buzz, probably thanks to the action being lower than most guitars I’ve picked up recently. There was even one or two dead note spots on the neck, which really betrays how premium the neck looks and feels in terms of the lower score here. Donner’s DJC still grades out around average though, as a quick set-up would turn this into a very good player. And while requiring a set-up is enough to knock points off, it is not enough to sink the score past “average”.
Finish & Construction: 7
While there were some clear corners cut with the set-up and pickup choices, the finish and construction of this Donner actually merit some high marks. It feels and looks a lot more expensive than $174, and blows the Donner Strat I previously reviewed out of the water in terms of cool factor. Finish-wise, there were really no signs of sloppy work or damage, though it is fairly obviously a cheap poly finish that doesn’t have a ton of depth or body in the wood grain below. But for a partscaster, beginner guitar, or gigging instrument it looks, feels, and operates at a high enough level to get a pass. Donner’s choice of hardware also seemed pretty solid, with the bridge providing solid tuning stability and adjustability.
The highest score of all falls in the value consideration, which is pretty self explanatory. It’s a $175 guitar that has more in common with $300-$400 products. You can spend $60 on a good set-up and still be under the cost of many competitors, outside of a Harley Benton guitar. It’s very beginner friendly despite a few flaws because it looks inspiring, isn’t just another LP/Strat copy, and does have some cool sounds hidden in there if you’ll stack a pedal or modeling amp on top. It’s lightweight and ready for modifications as well, which can’t help but buffer the score here as well. Plus you get a strap, a gig bag, and a cable included with the guitar. Overall it seems like a real step in the right direction for Donner and has me very interested in what else they’ll be releasing in the coming year!
Good for: DIY Mod Enthusiasts, Beginners, Tele Fans, Gigging Musicians, Les Paul Fans, Classic Rock
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