Straight out of the box, the new Danelectro ’66 is a striking thing to behold. Our test guitar arrived dressed to kill in a rich and vibrant two-tone sunburst finish that’s a total knockout. The retro headstock looks really cool, but the guitar’s centerpiece is definitely its 1960s-inspired, reverse double-cutaway shape with offset horns. The bound, semi-hollow alder body also has a stylish deep-carved top with an f-hole, a center block, and a well-planned layout with easy access to the controls. Though the guitar is light—weighing in at just 7 lbs—it’s ever-so-slightly neck heavy, but after a few minutes of playing I was able to get a feel for where its balance point is located.
The ’66’s bolt-on maple neck feels comfy, and it sits super tight in the neck pocket. The dark-rosewood fretboard is silky smooth, and the fretwork is excellent, with no rough edges or uneven frets. There was a hint of fret buzz around the fifth fret on the low E and A strings, but this was more of a setup issue than a construction one, and it could be easily adjusted. Intonation is excellent, none of the hardware rattles or feels cheap, and the tuners are smooth and accurate. In fact, the latest models from Danelectro appear to be approached far differently than the instruments first produced when the Evets Corporation initially revitalized the brand. Those guitars were inexpensive, unique sounding, retro cool, and vibey, but they certainly weren’t built like tanks, nor did they sport a high level of quality control. With the recent Editors’ Pick winning ’64 and the ’66, however, Danelectro is manufacturing solid instruments with outstanding quality, playability, and tone—and they still cost far less than $1,000.
Speaking of tone, the ’66’s beauty doesn’t only run skin deep. The Danelectro dual-lipstick humbucker in the bridge and the Danelectro neck-position single-coil deliver tons of personality, grit, versatility, and tonal range. Tested under fire during an album-recording session through a Fender Blues Junior, a Ceriatone JTM45 Clone with two 12" Celestion Greenbacks, and a 4-watt Vox AC4C1, the ’66 sounded great through all of them—no matter which pickup I selected, or how hard or soft I attacked the strings, or whether I dialed back the Master Volume and Master Tone knobs or ran things full up. Through the Blues Junior, the guitar produced single-coil sweetness, or jazzy warmth, or gruff and harmonically rich bluesy bite. Plugged into the Ceriatone, the ’66 covered all the bases from great big clean tones to gritty Chuck Berry-esque double stops to classic ’70s and ’80s hard-rock riffing. When using the little Vox amp, the ’66 was either convincingly emulating classic British invasion sounds—albeit with a touch more grind—or absolutely destroying the world with a scorching-hot distorted tone.
We had brought a bunch of guitars to the session, but once everyone had heard the ’66, it ended up becoming the guitar of choice. It even got as much studio time as my beloved, 25-year-old Les Paul. After the session, I kept returning to the Danelectro ’66 to play around the house, at band rehearsals, and at a recent gig where it garnered lots of attention from the other guitarists on the bill. Any guitar that sounds and plays this good—and oozes such uber-cool vibe—deserves an Editors’ Pick Award.
PRICE $699 street
NUT WIDTH 1.65"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24.5" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22, plus zero fret
TUNERS Danelectro vintage-style stamped steel with oval buttons
BODY Alder, semi-hollow with center block
BRIDGE Wraparound with adjustable saddles
PICKUPS Bridge: Danelectro dual lipstick humbucker (bridge), Danelectro single-coil (neck)
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone with push/pull coil split, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXL110, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7 lbs
KUDOS Well crafted. Great tone. Good looks. Superior playing feel. Vintage vibe.