|Body And Neck:|
Finding a Dean in the affordable range is not so uncommon these days. The brand is still recovering from the brief pause they've taken several decades back. With a more aggressive presence in the entry-level segment of the market, we are seeing some pretty impressive and odd Dean designs. Designs like Dean Vendetta XM. This thing packs a mean punch and will go at any of its competitors who dare come close. While it's definitely among the best guitars you can snatch for around 200 dollars, let's see just what this thing is capable of.
The first category where Dean took a different path compared to other brands is their choice of tonewood. Instead of going for mahogany, Agathis or even basswood, they chose paulownia. This type of wood is very, very rarely seen in guitars these days, but offers a rather interesting set of tonal properties. Was it a gamble? Probably not, but even if it was, it was more than worth it. The neck is a bolt-on maple piece with a pretty plain looking rosewood fretboard on top. Dean went with a slightly modified Strat body, which is a proven, low-risk choice.
Instead of packing a standard fixed tail bridge, Dean actually offers the Vendetta XM with a Tune-o-Matic bridge and string thru body design. It seems they wanted to pack as much of the solid performance into this starter model, as it was humanly possible. On the other end of the deal, you will see a set of Dean's die cast tuners, which are decent enough but nothing special. Hardware works, and it works well. Intonation and tuning retention is great, even if you go a bit harder on those bends.
Speaking of safe bets, packing your beginner guitar with a set of two fairly balanced humbuckers is as low risk as it comes. These pups are Dean's own design, but feature a pretty standard type of performance. In other words, neutral tone and balance across the range. Circuitry that accompanies them is also pretty simple. You are looking at a single tone knob, a single volume knob, and a pickup select switch.
The combination of tonewood, hardware, and pickups Dean chose for Vendetta XM makes for a pretty interesting sound. It offers a bit more sustain overall, but also comes across as punchy in the upper end of the frequency range. Those humbuckers are more than capable of taking care of your distortion pedal of choice, and will produce a satisfying tone at the other end. Where they fall short is the clean tone, just like many of their competition.
Overall, the main reason why Vendetta XM is an outstanding guitar is due to Dean's unorthodox approach to building a beginner model. We love the fact that they went with a Tune-o-Matic bridge, rare tonewood, and a pair of potent humbuckers. There's definitely quality in this package.