Review: Danelectro 64XT and '59X12

Both of these new Danelectros offer hip styling, excellent playability and a wide range of great sounds.
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This month, we’re reviewing a pair of guitars that Danelectro introduced at the 2019 NAMM show. Both of these models offer hip styling, excellent playability and a wide range of great sounds.

’64XT

’64XT

’64XT

Residing somewhere between the ’64 and ’59XT models, the ’64XT features the Mosrite-style offset shape of the ’64 and the flat body design of the ’59. It also sports a Wilkinson vibrato bridge and angled bridge pickup, like the ’59, instead of the Bigsby and straight-across bridge pickup found on the ’64.

My test guitar came in business-like black with a tortoise pickguard, and it played great right out of the box. The C neck seemed closer to a D shape, which, combined with the flat radius and low action, gave the ’64XT a “shredder” guitar feel that worked nicely for me. The frets were finished perfectly, so despite the low action, there was no buzzing or fretting out when bending strings.

The ’64XT produced harmonious acoustic overtones that helped it sound in tune. The well-cut nut, straight pull on the strings and properly adjusted two-point bridge insured it also stayed in tune through some serious manhandling. The bridge was floating just the way I like it: Pulling back raised the G string a whole step and the B string a half step, which is perfect for pedal steel–style suspensions.

Plugging into a Supro Comet and a 1966 Fender Bandmaster revealed an instrument that implied classic tones while it delivered a sound of its own. With the bridge pickup in humbucker mode, the ’64XT achieved a beefy, yet twangy tone that supported both chicken-pickin’ and hard rock. Splitting that pickup with the tone control’s push-pull pot served up classic lipstick bite with surprisingly little single-coil noise. The single-coil neck pickup was also quiet and approached a Strat sound closely enough for some Stevie Ray rhythm work. Both volume and tone controls offered good tapers, with the tone rolling off highs in a usable way.

The ’64XT loved fuzz tones, from a Moollon Lotus Octah to both sides of an EarthQuaker Devices Spires. The instrument’s well-tuned overtones kept chords and intervals distinct, even when the grit was set to maximum.

Since Evets Corporation started making Danelectro instruments again around 2006, the company has been like the Swatch of guitars. Every year or two it revamps the line with new models and makes substantial changes to old ones. Word to the wise: If you like a model Danelectro puts out this year, buy it now. The fabulous Pro-1 reissue I obtained in the mid 2000s is no longer available new, while used versions — when they come along — sell online for double the original price.

The ’64XT offers sounds that sit between traditional and unique, and its wide variety of tones allow you to fit it in a mix perfectly. If you’re looking for typical Tele, Strat or Les Paul tone, this instrument is probably not for you. But if your arsenal requires a different set of sounds in a great-playing guitar, grab the ’64XT at its extremely affordable price before its gone. —Michael Ross

SPECIFICATIONS

’64XT

CONTACT danelectro.com
PRICE $499 street

NUT WIDTH 1.65”
NECK Maple, bolt on
FRETBOARD Pau ferro, 24.5” scale
FRETS 21 medium
TUNERS Three on a side Kluson-style
BODY Semi-hollow Masonite construction with center block and spruce frame
BRIDGE Wilkinson vibrato
PICKUPS Dual Lipstick humbucker (bridge), vintage-style large housing single-coil (neck)
CONTROLS Master volume, master tone with push-pull function to split bridge pickup), 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario XL110
WEIGHT 6 lbs
BUILT Korea

KUDOS A great-playing, unique-sounding instrument at a terrific price
CONCERNS Case or gig bag must be purchased separately

’59X12

’59X12

’59X12

This new 12-string distinguishes itself with a short-horn body design that uses the same Masonite/spruce-frame construction of the ’64XT. Right out of the carton (a gig bag isn’t included), this guitar’s acoustic sound was impressive, ringing out clearly and with good sustain. Those qualities are due in part to the wood center block, upon which the bridge is mounted. The guitar tuned up easily, and the intonation sounded musically together when playing up and down the neck. Thanks to the polished frets, carefully cut nut (no sharp corners — yay!) and a factory setup that put the action low enough to incur a bit of low-string buzzing (though not enough to be problematic), the ’59X12 had a very satisfying playing feel. Between the inviting neck shape, relatively flat fretboard and comfy spacing of the strings, it’s one shred-friendly 12-string.

The chrome-plated bridge is a compact, well-engineered piece that allows for a full range of adjustment while providing a very ergonomic feel under the hand. Danelectro has definitely upped the ante in the hardware department on this model and the ’64XT, and — along with a flawless finish and such niceties as die-cast, chromed metal knobs and a beveled three-ply pickguard — the overall presentation is more high-end than the modest street price would portend. Weighing in at nearly eight pounds, the ’59X12 has some heft, but it balances perfectly on a strap, even though the tuner-laden headstock might suggest otherwise.

The tonal range was excellent when played though my reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb. The slanted single-coil neck pickup has a balanced sound with plenty of bite, and it stays clear and tight on the low-end. In contrast, the dual-lipstick bridge pickup has more output and midrange emphasis. Each pickup does the chime thing quite well, but running them together is where the full spectrum of chorusy magic really happens, whether you’re flatpicking melodies or strumming big, shimmering chords.

The tone control has a pull-up function to split the bridge pickup’s coils for a slimmer, single-coil response, but I found it hard to actually grab the knob to do so. Placing an O-ring around it would probably help. In addition, the treble roll-off is extreme when the tone control is turned all the way down. Within its usable range, however, it’s effective for taming the highs in either pickup position, both of which sounded great with distortion generated by either a Mesa/Boogie Mark Five, a Way Huge Saucy Box or a new Aclam Dr. Robert pedal.

The ’59X12 is the most enjoyable electric 12-string I’ve played in a long time. Factor in the great price and quality build, and this is a guitar to get while they’re still available. —Art Thompson

SPECIFICATIONS

’59X12

CONTACT danelectro.com
PRICE $499 street

NUT WIDTH 1.78”
NECK Maple, bolt on
FRETBOARD Pau ferro, 25” scale
FRETS 21
TUNERS Die-cast chrome
BODY Semi-hollow Masonite construction with center block and spruce frame
BRIDGE Fully adjustable 12-string
PICKUPS Dual Lipstick humbucker (bridge), vintage-style large housing single-coil (neck)
CONTROLS Master volume, master tone with push-pull function to split coils, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario XL150 light-gauge 12-string
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
BUILT Korea

KUDOS A great playing 12-string with excellent sonic range
CONCERNS Case or gig bag must be purchased Separately

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