Tested by Michael Molenda
James Brown could have been singing about the guitar community when he belted out the unpolitically correct chorus of his 1966 hit “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” By design, guitarists are a macho lot, and our tools tend to be big, ballsy, and serious in the extreme. This is why Daisy Rock is so refreshing. Headed by a woman (Tish Ciravolo) and dedicated to seducing more rocker girls into the joys of guitar playing, Daisy Rock guitars are whimsical, fun, outrageous, cute, colorful, and easy to play (the models offer some of the thinnest and slimmest necks in the industry—which makes the fretboards extremely user friendly for those with smallish hands). But with last year’s Retro-H (reviewed November ’03) and the new Rock Candy series, Daisy Rock is also producing fabulous professional-quality models that can be had for under $400. And even an unrepentant budget-oblivious spendthrift such as myself can appreciate a bargain—especially if that means I can acquire yet another groovy guitar without squirreling away my lunch money for a couple of months.
The Rock Candies are humbucker-equipped, single cutaway machines that perspire classic rock with a slightly dandified bent. The fretboard star inlays are just giddy enough to lend a little bemused style—kind of like Jimmy Page wearing an ascot—but only true peacocks and attention-starved rockers will feel comfortable with the Rock Candy’s atomic pink and champagne sparkle finishes. The craftsmanship on both guitars is good, although epoxy is visible around the inlays, some frets betray slight file marks, and the interiors are a tad rough (one of the wires had its insulation torn during assembly). Each Candy also exhibits an ever-so-slight intonation blur. When you play an open-D chord on the Special, for example, the B string is a little sour when you barre the same chord at the tenth fret. On the Rock Candy, it’s the G string that goes a bit south. Finally, the action is set very low on both models—low enough to create excessive buzzes above the 12th fret (a trussrod tweak and/or adjustment of the bridge height should cure the problem).
The Rock Candy is the diva of the duo—if you haven’t already guessed from the blinding magnificence of its powder-puff pink glitter. But under the glitz is the tonal temperament of an X-treme sports nutso. The Rock Candy literally barks at you when run through a clean amp, and the tone turns into an articulate snarl as you crank up the overdrive or distortion. If such unbridled aggression scares you, fear not, the musical Tone control does a fine job of smoothing out the midrange punch—even to the point of eliciting passable jazz timbres when it’s completely rolled off. While the Rock Candy also delivers a nice bass response, the guitar’s lows and low-mids are no match for the pumped-up snap and shimmer. If you want a more balanced tonal range across all six strings, you can pull the Tone control’s coil-tap knob. As expected, this move adds a ka-ching to the overall sound, but it also calms the 2kHz-5kHz range enough to settle the mids back into the mix a tad. In all pickup positions—and through amps such as a Marshall combo, a Speedster Deluxe, a Bad Cat Trem Cat, and a Roland Mini Cube—the Rock Candy never failed to deliver coherent single-note lines and chords. Playability is excellent, and my only ergonomic beef is that the guitar is a bit heavy.
Rock Candy Special
While the Rock Candy is all war paint and bluster—like any “bad girl” in a ’50s rocker drama—the Special is as sleek and sophisticated as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The quilted maple top (over a mahogany body) adds visual interest without being garish, and, when viewed amidst the elegant blue-shimmer finish, the star inlays almost seem more Tiffany inspired than costume-jewelry kitsch. Unlike the Rock Candy’s neck—which has a satin finish over bare wood—the Special offers a gloss finish over the blue hue. The graceful cosmetics are finished off with vintage-styled cream binding and pickup rings, chrome hardware, and an attractive “three-by-three” through-body-stringing arrangement. The Special looks spectacular, and you’ll probably have a hard time convincing inquisitive players that you only popped $400 for this beauty.
Like its sister, the Special exhibits a little more funk when you plug it in, but, whereas the Rock Candy cuts into your soft bits like a stiletto, the Special’s warmer and more refined tones are all about self-assured seduction (think James Bond). Oh, it can get ugly—in a good way—when you flip on the bridge pickup and dig into some feral riffery, but the Special can also delivers sensual sustain, notes that are thick and round, and a more balanced tonality between its low-end boom and high-end sparkle. This is an excellent partner for classic rock, blues, blues rock, jazz rock, and even more evolved garage rock styles. In addition, it plays like a dream and its light weight will make wearing it through three-set gigs feel like you’re dancing with an angel. The only reason this guitar isn’t getting an Editors’ Pick Award is because of a few cosmetic goofs, the less-than-ziplocked intonation, and the buzzing above the 12th fret. But make no mistake, this is a fantastic guitar for the money. It feels good, plays great, and sounds delicious. Daisy Rock is really coming on strong, and their pro-oriented instruments truly deserve your attention.