Tested By Mark Watson
Having trouble getting noticed on stage lately? The old '59 flame top not getting the oohs and aahs it used to? These two guitars from DiPinto and Minarik not only offer stunningly different looks, but also stellar tones that could be just what you need to reinvigorate your sound and ratchet up your stage presence.
DiPinto Galaxie 4
If you've ever been mesmerized by the mysterious guitar sounds heard on many older instrumental records, movies, and TV shows, well, welcome to the club! Many of those sounds are instantly recognizable, and the Galaxie 4-designed for Eddie Angel and Danny Amis of the fierce surf/instrumental band Los Straitjackets-is well suited for those types of music where clean tones and a strong attack are de rigueur, though it's equally at home blasting through a snotty half-stack.
The Galaxie's way-out body design dazzles the eyes with a flawless silver metal-flake finish, and a striking gold pearl pickguard that holds the pickups, controls, and switches. The 22-fret maple neck attaches to the body with four screws, has a vintage feel, and delivers excellent intonation. The color-matched peghead is shaped like a '60s coffee table, and its angled headstock eliminates the need for string trees. The tuners are fully enclosed, high quality, and quite swank-looking with their white pearl buttons. The Galaxie also sports a floating bridge with a removable cover (for muted playing), and its cool wang bar plugs into the tailpiece and stays where you put it.
The Galaxie's four angular single-coils look and sound like nothing else. The lead pickup is bright and jangly, and it sounds aggressive without being brash.
Pickup number two is a little warmer sounding, pickup three is funky with some clucky attitude, and the neck pickup is clear, punchy, and a perfect fit for Ventures- and Duane Eddy-style explorations. All of the Galaxie's dual-pickup sounds are plenty chimey, but the secret weapons are the four on/off rocker switches that allow you to run all the pickups at once or in any combination. Because of this feature, the array of tones the Galaxie delivers is quite astounding, and you can go from laser-beam highs to fat as a slab of salt pork-and anywhere in between-simply by experimenting with switch combinations. The only performance issue is a grounding problem, as the guitar produces audible hum whenever you remove your hands from the strings, bridge, or tailpiece.
At a street price just under $500, this is a guitar that every player who seeks out unique and bizarre tonal colors should own. Yeah, you can sound normal if you want to, but reserve the conventional tones for your traditional guitars and let your inner tone freak get jiggy with the Galaxie 4. Whether you want to twang, jangle, pummel, punch, or kerrang, the Galaxie will get you there in style, and it's outer limits approach to design and tone wins it an Editors' Pick Award. Run, don't walk, to try one out!
If you built a fortress from copies of Dante's The Divine Comedy, you'd almost have a stronghold as huge as the mammoth Inferno. Well, not really-but this Texas-sized, flame-sculptured, ornate guitar will definitely bring all eyes toward the stage when you sling it across your shoulder. In spite of its mass, however, the Inferno is surprisingly light-a quality that's mainly due to the use of tone chambers placed throughout the entire body, including inside the flame tongues. And the shape of those flame tongues is no accident, either, as the manufacturer states the flames are cut thicker and closer together on the bass side to enhance lows, and thinner and farther apart on the treble side to elicit "angel like" highs from the top three strings. The Inferno also balances well whether you're sitting or standing.
The Inferno sounds as spectacular as it looks. Acoustically, the tone is lively and resonant, and, when plugged in, the Duncan Distortion and Duncan Jazz pickups provide absolutely wonderful clean and dirty tones.
The bridge-position Distortion yields some of the fattest, yet articulate sounds I've ever heard, and the neck-position Jazz covers every vibe from snappy and aggressive to smoky and mellow. Played cleanly or at moderate overdrive levels, sparkling roots tones abound, and you can easily coax this baby into spasms of controllable feedback when you pump up the volume and saturation levels.
The Inferno is a joy to play. You can brutalize the strings without risking squashed timbres, fretting out is non-existent, and the Tone Pros bridge ensures excellent sustain and spot-on intonation. The frets are meticulously trimmed and polished-not a burr or nick to be found-but while the inlays are beautiful and complex, they do have a little more epoxy around them than I'd like to see. The Inferno's midnight-black finish is flawless on the top and back, but there are also some fairly rough areas inside the intricate flame tongues.
Its few cosmetic glitches aside, the Inferno offers unforgettable looks, stunning sounds, and custom-style-for-low-bucks value. This sonically versatile, 100 percent rock and roll guitar is totally deserving of an Editors' Pick Award.