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Reviewed by Dave Burluck in Guitarist
Issue November 2002
Dean USA hardtail
Dean USA Hardtail
Known for outlandish `shapes', Dean USA clearly wants to make more conservative designs too. Welcome to the Hardtail
PRICE: GBP 2,459 (inc. case)
TYPE: Offset, doublecutaway carved-top solid body electric
BODY: Two-piece mahogany with carved flame maple top
NECK: Three-piece mahogany, glued-in
SCALE LENGTH: 627mm (24.75-inch)
NUT/WIDTH: Graphite/44.3mm
FINGERBOARD: Ebony, abalone inlay, 254mm (10-inch) radius
FRETS: 22, jumbo
HARDWARE: Tone Pros tune-o-matic, custom tailpiece, Grover 'kidney-button' tuners -all nickelplated
ELECTRICS: Two nickelplated covered Seymour Duncan humbuckers: Pearly Gates at neck, J B at bridge. Three-way toggle pickup selector switch, volume and tone for each pickup
WEIGHT (kg/Ib): 3.6/8
OPTIONS: Gold hardware (EPOA). The Hardtail Quilt (£2,599) is the same spec but with quilted maple top
RANGE OPTIONS: Other USA-made Deans include the 'lime Capsules': the USA Cadillac (£2,459, three pickup version is £2,539), the ML, V and Z (all £2,349)
FINISHES: Amberburst (as reviewed), Braziliaburst, classic black, cherry sunburst, trans purple. Other colours available (£POA)
Bill Lewington 01268 413366
The resurgence of Dean guitars has centred primarily on affordable Korean-made models and a smattering of higher-priced Czechmade instruments. The company founder, Dean Zelinsky, since he rejoined the company a couple of years back, has spear-headed a return of USA-made instruments (there were others from the mid-nineties too), of which this Hardtail design - a limited run of 100 only - is the only new original design. It sits alongside the USA-made `Time Capsule' re-runs of the late seventies (Explorer-like) Z, the (Flying V like) V and the (Explorer-meets-V) ML. There's also the more `Les Paul-meets-Explorer' Cadillac that is currently being toted by Steve Stevens. Dean always embodied a strong rock'n'roll vibe, yet this Hardtail design is much more conservative: although rather than mixing Gibson classics, it clearly takes the `new' USA classic - PRS - as its start point.
With a body depth of 48mm, identical to a PRS Custom, the Hardtail takes the PRS outline, retains the lower bout proportion and pulls up the bass-side horn adjacent to the 12th fret - the same PRS horn stops at the 14th fret. Whereas PRS uses a one-piece mahogany back, the Dean is centrejoined, and very nicely too. There's also a large rib-cage cutaway on the back that some players will welcome.
The flamed maple top - on par with a PRS 10-top grade-is centre .joined and the arching is very similar to PRS with quite a flat centre and steeply contoured edges, very different from the more graduated and violin-like arching of, for example, a Les Paul.

Unsurprisingly, Dean follow PRS's `fake binding' concept where the edge of the maple top is left an naturel.
Three pieces of immaculately joined mahogany form the Gibson-scale neck. Like Hamer's `stressed neck' construction, the centre-piece is nearperfectly quartersawn, the two outer pieces form a chevron-like grain pattern for what is considered a very `balanced' construction. In terms of shape the Dean neck is less deep than a PRS wide-fat, slightly wider too and with a more oval `C'-type profile. It feels perfectly comfortable, even though the ebony fingerboard edges feel a little square.
The heel is less obtrusive than a PRS - more Gibson like - and there's no step between the back of the body and the back of the heel, it's a flush joint. Speaking of joints, although Dean use a thinner neck tenon, more like Gibson than the wider PRS or Hamer joint, there's a noticeable line on the trebleside cutaway when neck meets body - pretty much the only blemish on this otherwise near-perfect slice of luthiery.
The finish too is excellent. The transparent tan-coloured back and sides leave no room for sanding marks and the top's `unburst' coloration is extremely classic looking
Aside from its edges, the fingerboard with a radius that actually measures somewhere between 254-305mm (1012-inch) - is very tidy. Along with wellpolished jumbo frets, the abalone inlays are finely cut and the eye-like design subtly attractive. There's more abalone inlay on the headstock with the Hardtail model name and small winged Dean logo placed tidily on the black headstock facing. Dean, of course, is known for extravagant headstock design; this one employees a hint of that elongated V shape and it does all look a tad fancy compared to the quite classic body design. Still, we wouldn't want to fall out over a headstock. This one is nicely backangled and the three-aside tuner layout doesn't splay the strings, from the well cut nut to the slightly soggy feeling Grover tuners, as wide as Gibson or as straight as PRS.
As its name suggests, there's no vibrato to worry about here. The bridge is a Tone Pros tune-o-matic, which is locked rock solid to the posts; the tailpiece a chunky screwed down affair that looks a little large compared to the more usual Gibson-like stud tailpiece. All the hardware is nickel-plated and that includes the rather run-of-the-mill strap buttons. Larger flanged buttons, or strap locks, are always preferable when you have something as beautiful as this around your neck.
Keeping with the nickel vibe the two Duncan humbuckers - a Pearly Gates at neck and JB at bridge - hide behind nickel-plated covers and are controlled by a standard three-way toggle switch and Les Paul-like volume and tone network. Clearly, Dean doesn't like the -~