With short-horn body shapes, semi-hollow construction and hot-rod looks, Danelectro’s 59 series instruments are something of a go-to for players searching for retro tones at affordable prices. The 59X12 is a new 12-string which shares many features with the more old-school 59 models in the range, but deviates in the pickup department – a ‘vintage-style large housing single coil’ in the neck position and a neat humbucking dual Lipstick design with a coil split replace the alnico Lipstick pickups of old.
Upon removal from the shipping carton (no case or gigbag is supplied), we’re immediately captivated by the cool chrome hardware, sleek retro lines and classy red finish, combined with an impressive first unplugged strum. The wide-but-slim C-profile neck, impressive playability and an in-tune setup makes for an instantly enjoyable ticket to ride, if you will.
The sweet, shimmering unplugged voice has decent warmth, clarity and note definition, which promises much when amplified. Plugged in, these tonal qualities are even more abundant; perhaps it’s that unusual pickup combo, but we’ve never played a richer or fuller-sounding electric 12-string.
Split the bridge humbucker by pulling up the tone knob – this is no mean feat because the knobs may look cool, but they can be difficult to grip: a pick/fingernail inserted underneath helps – add a compressor pedal and every 60s jingle-jangle riff awaits at your fingertips. Unlike a Rickenbacker 12, the high octave strings sit above the regular strings, adding prominence to the upper octave shimmer.
Switch back to humbucker mode and a more forthright tone abides, clarity is retained but the whole sonic spectrum fills out. Single note runs, double stops and chords all over the neck bark with authority – this is not your grandad’s 12, that’s for sure!
Flip to that neck pickup and the snarling P-90 midrange that’s hinted at by the appearance of the pickup is notably absent; instead the guitar reveals arguably its best voice, as the natural warmth of the neck position is complemented by a flattering mid-scoop and a top-end that sparkles and shimmers with the kind of air usually reserved for far more expensive instruments! Flip to the combined middle position with the bridge humbucker coil split and revel in a sweet percussive voice with acoustic overtones for utterly addictive rhythm tone that you could strum for many a hard day’s night.
The fun doesn’t stop there; instead, the hotter pickup pairing becomes an inspired choice as we wind up the wick. A huge, richly overdriven slab of rhythm tone awaits, sparkling with rich harmonics reminiscent of a double tracked overdub, rather than 60s jangle clichés. Add some fuzz, a slide and slip into an open tuning for some of the most expressive and exciting garage-psych-rock fun we’ve had for quite a while. If points were given for grin-inducing fun, this guitar would score very highly.
- PRICE £599
- DESCRIPTION 12-string electric guitar. Made in Korea
- BUILD Semi-hollow masonite construction with ply centre block and frame, bolt-on maple neck with 14” radius pau ferro fingerboard, 21 medium-jumbo frets, aluminium nut
- HARDWARE Fully adjustable hardtail bridge, sealed tuners
- ELECTRONICS Dual humbucking Lipstick pickup (bridge), vintage-style large housing single-coil (neck), 3-way toggle pickup selector, master volume, master tone (push-pull coil split for bridge pickup)
- SCALE LENGTH 25”/635mm
- NECK WIDTH 45.4mm at nut, 54.9mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 21.3mm at first fret, 22.5mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 38.5mm at nut, 55.4mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 3.47kg/7.10lb
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISH Blood Red (as reviewed), Vintage Cream, Black
- CONTACT jhs.co.uk, danelectro.com
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- Fender Alternate Reality Electric XII £859
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- Danelectro Vintage 12 £579