Sound — 8
As far as sound goes, this guitar rocks and rocks hard. The neck pickup is perfectly adequate and is capable of some warm clean tones, and when distorted, makes a decent crunch. However, if it's sound you're talking, it's the almighty SH-13 Dimebucker in the bridge that you're here to see. Searing, seething leads, jackhammer rhythm tones and pinch harmonics that could bend steel. The Dimebucker works PERFECTLY in a guitar of this mass and weight, giving huge sustain and massive textural depth to the biting, high-output tone inherent to the pickup. Loud, angry and aggressive, it gives some of the heaviest, tightest distorted tones you'll encounter. Also worth a mention is the clean tone from the Dimebucker. Roll off a (very) little volume and apply a pinch of chorus, and you'll have the warmest, most beautiful clean tone you'll ever hear. Out of all my guitars and pickup configurations, this is my favourite for cleans. The neck pickup is a little dull by comparison to the DB, simply because the DB is SO incredible, but in it's own right the neck pickup ain't half bad and through a decent amp is capable of some surprisingly hefty rhythm tones. (For reference, my live rig is a Diamond Nitrox 100 head and matching cab, and for doodling at home I use a small Marshall Valvestate combo. The only pedals I use are a tuner, a TS9 Tubescreamer for a lead boost and a wah for expression when needed).
Overall Impression — 8
I play in an active band, we play metal/metalcore. For me this guitar is perfect, both for the style of music I play and the fact that I've been a huge Dimebag fan since his "Power Metal" days. I've been playing for ten years and gigging for eight, and this guitar is definitely up there amongst my favourites in my collection. It's the first Dean I've ever owned (I'm a Jackson or Gibson guy by choice, two of each making up my current touring arsenal along with this beast) and I took a chance on it after being recommended it by a good friend of mine who's in another band. For it's price, you get a lot of guitar but it's also reliable enough to be a serious choice for enthusiastic hobbyists and active musicians alike. I'd recommend this guitar to just about anyone who plays a heavy style of music. It'd also be good for recording if you needed a super-polite clean tone, but if you play in a band that mainly uses that you may get a few strange looks pulling out this hellhound! All in all, a very good guitar. Great sounds, great reliability, and let's call a spade a spade, it looks awesome, because everyone knows flames are cool. If you want to stand out both aesthetically and sonically, you could do a lot worse than this brute.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Ups and down here, but ups where it counts and only superficial downs. The lacquered-over sticker is prone to chipping/pockmarking and the back is quite susceptible to buckle-rash. However, I'm the kind of guitarist that LIKES his instruments a little battle-scarred, so to me this isnt a bad thing. (All gigging guitars should look like they've been through the wars a little, pristine instruments are the sole preserve of middle-aged bank clerks at open mic jams.) However, for all that the finish is a little accident-prone, where it counts, this guitar is bomb-proof. The construction is rock solid, the hardware is all clearly built to last, and provided you look after it reasonably well this baby will always have your back. I've been forced to play this guitar without a backup before (due to a logistical failure during a tour, my other two touring guitars were unavailable to me for four consecutive shows) and would happily do so again if I had to. Though admittedly, given the choice I would never play a FR equipped guitar without a back-up, for obvious reasons. So, points lost due to the finish not being the hardest wearing, points gained for this thing being tougher than Rocky where it counts.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I got this off a friend as a swap, so when I got it it needed a little TLC. I re-balanced the Floyd, dropped the action (more on that later) and raised the pickups and she was good to go. Everything was as it should be and solidly built. No flaws or failings, which would be expected from a guitar inspired by Dime, who wasn't exactly the lightest of touches on his instruments! The action. Good grief. After rebalancing the FR, I dropped the bridge unit lower the action and currently have it sitting at under 1mm (.10-.46 strings, tuned to Eb) and there's not so much as a hint of fret buzz. One of the smoothest, fastest actions I've ever played. I find myself able to play stuff on this guitar that I can normally only play on my JRR94 Concept, which has the flattest neck known to man or beast.
Features — 8
Well, here we have a Dean Dime-O-Flame, a Korean built Dean ML with a fancy finish and some HOT features. (Pardon the pun) Built as part of Dean's seemingly endless range of Dimebag inspired/tribute guitars, the main difference between this one and a lot of the others is that this thing ain't no toy. Korean made, set-neck construction with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboard and mother-of-pearl inlays. Grover tuners and a rock-solid Licensed Floyd Rose keep everything in tune, and the Dimebucker in the bridge position is (in my humble opinion) the holy grail of passive pickups. 2 volume knobs, one tone knob and a three-way Les Paul style switch complete the control configuration. Worth mentioning are the "traction knobs" which allow for faster, more accurate manipulation. If I had my way, this guitar would come with an Original Floyd Rose, but at this price range and as far as Licensed models go, this one is really very nice. If it's this style of guitar you're after, it has pretty much everything you'd be after. Admittedly the finish is a sticker rather than a paintjob, but for a finish of that complexity you'd be paying Custom Shop prices, so I'm not gonna deduct points for it. In an ideal world this guitar would have a Seymour Duncan '59 at the neck and an OFR, but at this price range we aren't going to argue. Extra points however are awarded for the simply submlime V-profile neck which is the perfect compromise between shreddy flatness and enough neck to dig in to for those grit-your-teeth-and-riff-like-hell moments. Also notable is the clever weight distribution in this guitar, despite it's intimidating size even a little guy like me (I'm only 5'7") won; t find it unwieldy. It; s a very comfortable guitar to play.