Review: Dean ML 79 (Does Something This Pointy Actually Sound Good?)
Dean are best known as purveyors of the most pointy guitars on the planet – a metal brand if ever there was one. They’re not everybody’s cup of tea, because that headstock is just too awesome for some players.
I am by no means a metaller, but I do have a penchant for pointy beauties. One my favorite guitars that I’ve ever owned was Dean’s V 79. Alas, I had to sell that, but I’ll never forget how playing it was the guitar equivalent of butter melting, so I was keen to try out the ML 79, and here we are!
- Trans Brazilia
- Trans black
- Classic white
|Body material?||Mahogany with a maple top|
|Number of frets?||22|
|Pickup configuration?||Dean’s DMT humbuckers|
It all looks good so far. There’s nothing that shouts “unique” or “weird” about it. This gives an implication that it relies quite heavily on how totally badass it looks, and that’s OK. If a guitar does all the stuff that it classically should do, but with the addition of looking exceptionally badass, I don’t see a problem there.
I do notice that it’s made in China, rather than Korea like the 79 series used to be. I feel like the price is a bit high for a Chinese guitar.
At the heart of the ML 79 is a mahogany body, with prettiness included in the form of a maple top. Obviously, that prettiness will only come through on the trans finished models.
At this price, there are a couple of things to not about the body material. This isn’t going to have the same quality or density of mahogany as a more expensive guitar. You get what you pay for, so you need to dial down your excitement for that.
You can tell this immediately when you pick up the guitar: it weighs next to nothing compared to a Les Paul, for example.
The other important thing about maple top guitars at this price is that it’s unlikely that they be a carved chunk of wood, like with a Gibson Les Paul. It’s more inclined to be a maple veneer, just to give it that lush looking finish. Guitars at this price won’t have the level of craftsmanship applied to them because the cost needs to be kept down.
The mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard are fine, but again, unlikely to be the same quality as more expensive instruments. If you balance the ML on the palm of your hand, at the neck joint, you’re at its center of gravity – one side isn’t heavier than the other or anything. This may not be something that’s to everybody’s liking, but there’s no such thing as a guitar that’s to everybody’s liking.
I was somewhat iffy about the Chinese origin of this guitar, rather than Korea. The parts are predominantly generic unbranded ones, that going to be used on any other guitar from the region. Sure, the thing looks nice, but I expected to be let down by the construction.
Not so much.
Having finished balancing the guitar at its neck joint to see about its center of gravity, I took a look at its actual construction. It was a very clean and tidy finish, with a nice, black, lacquered finish over it. It looked very classy and cool. It’s far from fancy, but it doesn’t look uncomfortable at all. We’ll find out more about that in a bit.
Dean’s trademark split headstock has a neck angle akin to that of Gibsons/Epiphones, so you’ll need to be careful with how you leave it down – a good guitar stand will very much be the best solution. It should be the obvious solution for any guitarist, and it pains me to see guitarists neglect this.
Elsewhere, the parts on top of the body all look great. The chrome parts manage to tone down the ‘metal’ of the 79 series, perhaps because it’s more reminiscent of the classic guitar designs. The usual black or black chrome hardware that accompanies such points do achieve such things.
I freaking love checking out the tones of a guitar!
At the ready was my trust British-style, 30 watt, all valve amp, but before making those valves glow, I ran through some stuff before plugging in at all, just to check for anything that might be covered up by an amp’s overdrive.
Sure enough, it was a little bit rattly at some spots along the fingerboard. It wasn’t anything a setup wouldn’t eliminate, but a mild annoyance nonetheless.
A common complaint about the 79 series is the output of their pickups. Namely, they’re not hot enough to play metal. Given the shape of this guitar and its likely audience, it’s unsurprising that this would be a complaint.
At the same time, I’m not a metaller, so super-hot pickups wouldn’t be my preference anyway.
With the EQ on my amp dialed into its usual settings – bass at four, middle and treble each at six – and set to the clean channel, I got going putting the guitar through its paces. This guitar isn’t really designed for clean channels, but I thought it was pleasant. With both pickups selected, I felt I was touching on some of George Harrison’s cleaner blues moments.
Switching to the overdrive channel, with the gain set to six, and I’d agree that this is not a metallers metal guitar. Sticking with both pickups, it was closer to hard/classic rock tones. Cranking the gain just made it sound more harsh, not more metal.
‘Easy’ is the word that best describes the initial playing experience on the ML 79.
It has a slim neck as such guitars go – I actually found it more reminiscent of a Strat, rather than something more ballsy.
Out of the box, it comes with a very low action, which combined with the aforementioned neck shape, makes for a very comfortable and easy playing experience. This might make it appealing to guitarists who are building up their speed playing.
I mentioned earlier about the incredibly light weight of this guitar, and that’s another feature which makes it incredibly comfortable to play. Playing for an hour and a half or two hours would not be a big deal with this strapped around your shoulder.
As ever though, these are subjective things. Some players prefer a baseball bat neck and are more inspired by a good weighty guitar.
On looks alone, Dean’s wilder shapes will never generate the same affection as more traditional stylings, but that doesn’t mean they should be ruled out as a reputable noise-maker.
I’d recommend the ML 79 for players who favor traditional sounds but want to have more visual impact. If metal players like the looks, but not the pickups, replacing them with some DiMarzios is not the biggest deal in the world.
As ever, the best thing to do is to get to your local guitar store and try one in your hands. If you’re a musician who claims your music is different to everything else, I think it’s good to have a guitar to back up such statements.
While you’re here, be sure to check out some of our other reviews on great gadgets, like our article on Renpho’s Bluetooth Body Fat Scale!