Price paid: € 420
Purchased from: Thomann Online Store
Features: Korean-made guitar, a limited run available only in Germany called Soltero Standard Special, which was the Standard version, but loaded with USA DMT pickups:
- 22 frets
- 24.5" scale
- Mahogany + Maple top carved body
- Mahogany + Rosewood soft "V" set-neck, medium jumbo frets
- Classic black finish
- Les Paul-style body shape
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
- Passive pickups, brushed nickel covers: USA DMT Nostalgia neck (2-conductor cable), USA DMT Baker Act bridge (4 conductor cable).
- 2 volume + 2 tone + 3-way Les Paul-style switch (bridge HB/bridge+neck/neck HB)
- non-locking Grover tuners
- generic strap locks
- no accessories included
The body has a carve in the upper mid-section that may seem peculiar to some (know as the Soltero's "cleavage"). Also, a grove all around the body feels a bit uncomfortable for the right forearm while playing. Gets an 8 for lacking coil split/parallel wiring, like the non-Special Standard has. // 8
Sound: Darkness: this is the keyword in terms of tone for this guitar. Darker than this, and the tone would stop being usable. Suits my style only partially, mostly for the high-gain part: I play modern blues, rock, hard rock, prog rock. I'm using it mainly with Amplitube for direct recording, therefore I was able to test many amp and mic/cab sims. My main-stay tone was the Vox AC30 with Presence and Treble on 10, which, again, says something about this guitar's dark tone.
The sound of both humbuckers is full, beefy, in your face. There are three things I think this guitar excels at: rhythm power chords on the bridge pickup (believe it or not, the neck is way to basy and dark for that), blistering rock solos on the bridge, and sweet, sweet, Slash/Clapton "woman tone" solos on the neck.
The cleans are well defined, not muddy, but to my ear they completely lack personality, they lack high-end sparkle, and they are, as said, very dark. It takes a lot from the processing chain to get some discernible highs in the tone. However, you can get very good tones for clean soloing/improv, if you're into jazz or classic blues, where the very darkness of this instrument comes in quite handy. When chording, though, the tone becomes way too dark, even if not muddy. I installed a DiMarzio push-pull coil split on the bridge, but, as expected, that didn't help the cleans much. It would have been interesting to split the neck, but it is a 2-conductor, unfortunately, and that might have done something significant to the cleans.
The dirty tones are handled beautifully. The bridge Baker Act is a mean, very HOT pickup, with outstanding definition and tightness. Very good for distortion rhythm and solos. The neck Nostalgia is a vintage-output pickup, offering very creamy, warm, smooth tones, and absolutely excellent sustain - sometimes you'd just solo forever on it, such is the sweetness and smoothness of its tone, helped by this tremendous sustain. I.e., you can easily reproduce the tone from the November Rain solos with it.
Granted, I am mainly a Strat-type guitar guy, so it takes quite a lot to please me in terms of high-end sparkle, richness, brightness, and of course I wasn't expecting too much from a Les Paul-type instrument in this matter, but this guitar's tone is way too dark, regardless. It is darker than the darkest Gibson or Epi Les Paul I've ever held.
Basically this would be a great guitar for someone that plays straight forward high-gain-riff-and-solo hard rock or heavy metal, ballads included. That tone really kills and melts face. The only other application I could really see this guitar be suitable for, is in classic blues/jazz, for the lead guitarist. You can really get an awesome jazz tone on it, but then again, you don't need this guitar in order to play jazz, you'd rather go semi-acoustic, or get a model optimized for the genre.
So, in terms of tonal variety, even with the split neck, there really isn't much going on here. The Soltero as I see it is a lean, mean, high-gain rock/metal machine. That's it. Too dark for anything else. // 7
Action, Fit & Finish: Firstly, this guitar is very well built, and it would get a 10 for that, if not for some minor issues that ruined it: some out of place paint spots, the holes for the screws in the back were drilled at random angles - after opening the cavities twice, the screws are turning away forever when tightening them up. But as I said, overall awesome quality where it matters.
Action was low enough for my taste. Intonation was not properly set, but I adjusted it easily. Surprisingly, the strings were 0.10 and not at all "rusty" (most electrics are sold with 0.09, corroded strings). Pickups were set up a bit high.
The soft "V" neck is interesting to me, not having played anything similar before, but I seem to enjoy it more and more. Nice fret job, the neck is a pleasure to play. Awesome Grover tuners, they keep the guitar in tune very well. The asymmetric headstock is a matter of taste. It seems a bit too small, as does the entire guitar actually, compared to an actual Les Paul, but I didn't do proper measurements. The finish is classic black, and seems rather thick. Overall, very well done, except for some imperfections at the "cleavage".
The electronics were an appalling job, unfortunately. Imagine my joy when I got the Soltero, plugged in, and... Nothing (this guitar was quality checked before it left the store, so says the sticker on the box...). I messed with the 3-way a few times until I got sound, but it randomly kept on going silent again. Therefore I changed the 3-way with a Gibson original part, worked flawlessly since. Looking inside, the soldering is really sloppy, and everything looks cheap - the pots (except the DiMarzio I installed), the condensers. Granted, this specimen was the end-of-stock one, and although it was brand new, had its shortcomings. // 7
Reliability & Durability: I think this guitar is stage-ready, but needs some attention before trusting it with live performance(see above). The hardware seems really solid. The weak spot was the electronics, in mine. The generic straps are OK, but they are Dunlop-style, so you can accidentally bump them loose, I guess, but that's a rather far-fetched scenario.
I'd definitely take this to a gig without a backup. As a bonus, due to the trademark Dean bridge, strings are really easy to change. I like that bridge a lot. The finish seems like it will be there for at least 20 years, it appears too thick, if anything. // 9
Overall Impression: Unfortunately, my out-of-the-box Soltero does not give me all the tones I need for my style (mostly rock in its variants). I've been playing for over 15 years, mostly on my cheapo upgraded Strat copy and my Takamine acoustic, but checked out many a guitar in my day. I tested a Soltero first-hand in a local shop before ordering online (the local store didn't have the black variety), but that had generic Korean PUs and coil-splits, and sounded very versatile and much brighter - just goes to show: always buy the exact guitar you've tested.
If this was stolen or lost, I can't say I'd buy it again - especially since I got a very good deal this time. The initially awesome look tends to get boring and just "too much" after a while, and the tone just doesn't cut it for me. After I'll try a pickup set replacement in an attempt to brighten it up for livelier cleans, I might be so impressed that all this will change.
Although I had a lot on my shopping list when I decided I'd try a Les Paul-type guitar, I decided to go with the Soltero because of the look, the very positive reviews of the Standard, and the great value for money, especially with the deal I got (this was normally sold close to 800 Euro).
Love: the look, but I'd prefer uncovered PUs; the neck; the bite and definition of the Baker Act, and the sweetness and sustain of the Nostalgia, both with distortion; the sturdiness; the overall playability.
Hate: most of the cleans, especially when chording - too dark.
I also wish there was more available technical information about it and the DMT pickups, I.e. What's the recommended PU height for the Baker Act? Unfortunately, there is far less information and support for Dean than, say, Ibanez or Epiphone, so take this into account. In the end, please don't get me wrong: this is a GREAT instrument (with some minor adjustments), just not ideal for me. // 7