HardTail review by Dean

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 6
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.3 (69 votes)
Dean: HardTail

Price paid: € 1000

Purchased from: 2nd hand

Features — 9
One of my first guitars i ever owned was a Dean Hardtail Select (the Korean version). I liked the guitar but ended up selling it. I have been regretting it ever since. About 2 months back i saw a Dean Hardtail USA appearing on Marktplaats (a Dutch version of Ebay). I had no money at that moment but i really wanted to have it. So i decided to sell my 2016 Gibson Les Paul which had been lying in the case for a while. I contacted the the guy and bought the Dean on the same day i sold my Gibson. It felt like i found a long lost friend.

The guitar was made back in '03 in the USA and it comes with a beautiful dark brown case. The colour is a mix of beige and green/blue. Really hard to describe, but a real eye-catcher. It has 22 frets, ebony fingerboard and a wide fat neck profile. It has a beautiful carved maple flametop. In the terms of Gibson: AAAA or as PRS would say: a ten-top. It really is that beautiful. The back of the guitar is made out of 2 pieces of mahoganie. I would have expected it to be a one piece body, concidering the pricetags these guitars had when they first came out. I'm not sure which pick-ups this guitar has, concidering Dean used several different pick-ups for the Hardtail series, but i suspect them to be Semour Duncans. The tuners have been changed by a previous owner to brandless locking tuners. They look ugly, but do their job. Apart from the 2 piece body, this guitar got some really high end features.

Many people compare this guitar to Gibson and PRS. I can see why. I find it to be a match of both guitars. It has the Gibson pot/switch layout, the Gibson scale length and the weight of a Les Paul (3,95 KG). On the other hand it looks a bit like a PRS and it has a wide fat neck profile which PRS is known for. Don't let the weight of this guitar scare you. Somehow, because of the body shape, it doesn't kill your back like a les paul does.

Sound — 10
At the moment i own 3 electric guitars: This Dean, a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Fender strat. Where the Gibson and the Fender give me the vintage tones, the Dean gives me the modern sparkling and hardrock tones. Of my 3 guitars, i use this one the most. When playing it clean, it is soft and sparkling. When i turn up the amp it gives a straight forward modern hardrock sound. I just really, really like it. The variarity is ofcource comparable to a Gibson les paul. There's nothing special, but you got everything you need.

Action, Fit & Finish — 6
There are some conciderations to this guitar which i will point out now, because the guitar is not perfect.

The neck pickupring is mounted quite high. When i bought it, the pick-up itself was laying beneath the edges of the ring. It just looks kinda... odd... So i set the pick-up as high as the ring. Not everybody will like the way it sounds when the neck pickup is that high. It makes the guitar very unforgiving. Every picking mistake can be heard through the amp because the pickup is so close to the strings. To match the volume of the neck pick-up i also set bridge pickup higher. This just seems a bit like a design flaw in general. Concidering this should be a high end guitar, it's just very odd.

Secondly, as i mentioned the tuners have been changed to Locking tuners. Although my guitar stays in tune perfectly, the reason for this adjustment has probably something to do with the fact that the standard tuners that come with this guitar won't do the job. I read story's of it on other forums. So changing the tuners seems to be a must.

Also the pots don't seem to be working perfectly. I still hear noice out of the amp when i turn the volume down. BUT these pots might have been changed by a previous owner. So i can't conclude Dean uses bad pots.

I am going to replace the pots and possibly the tuners too.

Other than that, the guitar works great. Frets stay in good condition, the ebony fretboard with the inlays is just magnificant, the frets feel nice and smooth, the neck carve is really comfortable.

Reliability & Durability — 7
Will this guitar withstand live playing? After some adjustments, yes. As it is now, i am not going to play it live. It needs to be taken care of. After the adjustments, i have no doubt it will be good enough for a live concert.

As mentioned before, there are some problems with the hardware. It might have been already replaced by a previous owner. Either way, it can implicate that the standard hardware is not really great and needs replacement (in time).

However the guitar itself, the inlays, the paintjob, the strapbuttons, etc etc are really good. And that is the main concern in my eyes.

Overall Impression — 9
After reading my critisism, you might think that i don't like the guitar that much. However, if it got lost or stolen, i would definately buy another one. It feels just great, has a monster tone and it is my #1 guitar. everytime i pick it up, it reminds me of my childhood and I start rocking. When i compare it to my Gibson, then in terms of quality, my Gibson is better. But that's why i paid 500 euro less on this Dean. The 1000 euro's i spent was a fair price for this product. I'd recommend you not to spend more than 1250 on a similar guitar.

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