Danelectro DC59 12-String review

The sound of an electric 12-string unifies an extraordinarily wide range of guitarists. Marcus Leadley checks out an affordable retro option.

The chime of an electric 12-string is hugely evocative. Most guitar fans think immediately of the dramatic opening chord in A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, or the intro to The Byrds’ version of Mr Tambourine Man from the following year, both of which helped cement the electric 12 in the sonic vocabulary of the 60s. Rediscovered for the rock ballads of the 70s and 80s, the richly layered sound makes the simplest of riffs sound memorable.

In a supporting role behind vocals, it fills out the sound stage, adding body and richness. However, by the same token, it might not be a sound you want to use all the time – so shelling out the big money associated with vintage classics and their reissues might not be a top priority. Enter the Danelectro DC59 12-string – at a fraction of the price, it’s all set to produce some
classic jangle.

There are original vintage Dano 12-strings, such as the 1N-12 and the Bellzouki, but this new model is a contemporary formula based on one of the most famous body shapes in the guitar landscape. As always, contemporary Danelectros are accurate budget reissues of budget guitars, so here you get a body that’s constructed using a laminated pine frame covered with Masonite, and a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The body is hollow, so it’s extraordinarily resonant, and this model is vented with a classic-style f-hole for good measure.

The feel and playability of a 12-string really depends on getting a lot of factors working together, and here’s an instrument with a great-feeling neck and a low action that wants to stay in tune. While vintage Danelectros tend to suffer from under-designed bridges, this fully adjustable chrome unit sits solidly on the body.

It’s a very well thought-out design with six strings passing though the body and six anchoring at the back of the bridge. From here, the strings travel up to a well-machined aluminium nut (another bit of Dano signature design) and on to individual, adjustable machineheads. The electrics are deceptively simple: two Alnico-based lipstick pickups (so named because of the shape of the metal cases), master tone and volume controls and a three-way toggle selector.

In use

The bridge pickup instantly delivers a classic 60s-style 12-string twang. It’s a very bright sound, but one that suits the wide tonal palate, and you still get a good sense of mid and bass character. The tone control is good, as it enables you to roll off some of the top end to create a flatter sound that sits back in the mix while still having plenty of presence. Moving on to the twin-pickup voice, we encounter another Danelectro quirk; the pickups are wired in series, so instead of hum-bucking phase cancellation we get a higher output sound that’s very full and rounded with a contemporary hi-fi character.

The neck pickup offers a deeper voice, where more of the acoustic character comes across. While there’s a tendency to run this DC59 into a clean amp, a little grit’s sometimes required if you’re looking to emulate the sounds of The Beatles or The Byrds, as this reflects the character of the era’s amplification. Compression and spring reverb never go amiss, either.

Key Features
Danelectro DC59
• Description electric 12-string guitar. Made in Korea
• Price £499 (no case)
Build Masonite and laminated pine body, bolt-on maple neck with 21-fret, 14”/355 mm radius rosewood fingerboard. Aluminium nut
• Hardware Danelectro adjustable 12-string bridge; individual, adjustable machineheads
• Electrics 2x Danelectro lipstick single-coil pickups, master tone and volume, 3-way pickup selector.
• Scale Length 25”/635mm
• Neck Width 452mm at nut, 548mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 210mm at first fret, 240mm at 12th fret
• String Spacing 380mm at nut, 552mm at bridge
• Weight 6lbs/2.72kg
• Left-Handers No
Finishes Tobacco Sunburst, Cherry Sunburst
• Contact John Hornby Skewes
01132 865 381
www.jhs.co.ukDano Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.20.17