Dean Performer E Mini-Jumbo Cutaway

The Performer E sports a pretty, dark blue “burst” finish with a subtle hint of grain peeking through. It also has several nice cosmetic touches, including white binding all around, mother-of-pearl-like headstock and rosette inlays, and a stylish curved bridge. All of the workmanship—including the interior bracing and electronics—is neat and clean. The frets are a tad rough along the edges, but otherwise smooth to the touch, and the medium-low action makes for comfortable playing throughout the length of the fretboard. The guitar’s intonation is accurate on all strings in all positions, and there are no buzzes or dead spots. The tuners are adequate, if not particularly precise.
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The onboard ELAN-4TN pickup/preamp/ EQ system features small knobs for Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence, and Volume—all of which may be recessed into the unit, keeping them out of harm’s way. There’s also a chromatic tuner that automatically senses the string you are playing, but also lets you manually choose individual strings—including string “7” (huh?). A single 9-volt battery encased in a snap-out holder located on the top of the lower bout powers the unit.

The Performer E sounds good acoustically, with a reasonable balance of individual string volumes and frequencies, though I’d prefer a little more overall depth and high-end sparkle. And, as might be expected from an instrument in this price range, the sound is somewhat one-dimensional, with minimal dynamic response, making it more suitable for flatpicking and simple fingerpicking than nuanced fingerstyle work.

The sound is fuller-bodied and relatively clean when amplified through a tube guitar amp, with minimal piezo quack (though you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got a fresh battery for important gigs and sessions, as the quack and distortion increase precipitously once the battery begins to go). The EQ section provides lots of range, allowing you to easily match the guitar sound to your amp, and while there is no feedback-suppression circuit, feedback only occurred at high volumes, while in close proximity to the amp. When plugged into a high-end studio preamplifier, the guitar sounded really good, exhibiting better dynamic response than when played through a guitar amp or acoustically.

The Performer E is an excellent instrument for the price, suitable for beginners and semi-professional players.