Are Dean Guitars Good? A Brand Review [2021 Guide]

If you’ve asked yourself, “Are Dean guitars good?” then you’ve come to the right post.

That’s exactly what I try to answer in this post.

So are Dean guitars good?

Dean has a reputation for making excellent high-end guitars. But their less expensive models don’t quite have the same reputation for excellence as their high-end guitars. So if you’re looking for an entry-level instrument, you may want to try a different brand.

I’ll explore Dean Guitars more in the following sections.

And if you’re curious about other brands, check out some of the articles in my comparison series including:

Are Dean Guitars Good: Background

Luthier Dean Zelinsky formed the company, Dean Guitars in the late 1970s. However, they gained more popularity during the 1990s when Elliott Rubinson, the owner of Armadillo Enterprises bought them.

Over the years, Dean has mostly focused on Gibson-inspired guitars. However, they have made some other interesting models with innovative finish options.

These days, Dean is a giant and a significant competitor to other big brands. But what sets them apart from, say, Gibson, is their more affordable pricing. They have plenty of options from less expensive beginner guitars up to pro instruments. This goes for both acoustic and electric guitars.

These days, Dean may not be as widespread as Fender or Ibanez, but it’s still pretty popular.

Their top-of-the-line instruments are manufactured in Tampa, Florida. However, they also have cheaper options manufactured in China and Korea.

Famous Dean Players

As its reputation grew, Dean slowly got into the hands of some famous guitar players. Most notably, Dean guitars became famous among metal players. But there are still some other great musicians who have used or are currently using Dean guitars and basses. Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Billy Gibbons – Known for his fur-covered Dean Z.
  • Dusty Hill – Also had a fur-covered Dean Z bass.
  • Dave Mustaine
  • Dimebag Darrel – One of the company’s most famous artists.
  • Leslie West
  • David Vincent
  • Michael Schenker – Known for his signature Dean V model.
  • Bret Michaels – Uses both electric and acoustic models.
  • Michael Angelo Batio – One of the company’s most famous players.
  • Rusty Cooley
  • Eric Peterson
  • Kerry King – He got his first signature model in late 2019.

Current Models

To this day, Dean maintains some of its basic guitar designs. These include the ML, Z, V, and Cadillac. But there are plenty of others now as well.

The company typically labels its models according to body shapes or series. In a practical sense, this means that you can get the same body shape both as a cheap and an expensive model.

They have a total of six Dean electric guitar series:

  • USA
  • Artist
  • Select
  • Classic
  • Standard
  • Lefty

And as far as the shapes go, these days they have:

  • Cadillac
  • Czone
  • Exile
  • MD
  • Nashvegas
  • V
  • Vengeance
  • Zero
  • Colt
  • EVO
  • Icon
  • ML
  • Thoroughbred
  • Vendetta
  • Z

Some of these shapes are often unconventional which may cause some players to dislike them. But here’s a deeper look into Dean Cadillac Select from a former nay-sayer.

Great Models Worth Checking Out

Within these categories, there are plenty of great models. If you want a cheaper one, Vendetta XM is one of the most popular choices. It bears a Strat-like shape and it’s designed for more virtuosic playing.

The EVO line is another budget-friendly choice. These come with a modified Tele-style body and two humbuckers. They’re your standard hard rock guitars.

The Select line of guitars is another less expensive option with some in the series moving more towards the mid-price range. In fact, there are even some nice Dean V Select guitars. These come with some high-end features but are generally stripped-down.

But probably the most famous are ML guitars. It was Dimebag Darrell of Pantera who popularized them. He began using these guitars when he was a kid. Eventually, the company started making his signature model, Dean From Hell.

Their Artist series is interesting too particularly because it contains both cheap and high-end variants. Both of them feature some classic traits you’d expect, including innovative finishes.

For instance, you have a Michael Schenker V Standard guitar that’s relatively cheap. Then you have his V Custom that’s usually near the $1000 mark.

Here’s the Michael Schenker V Standard played through Line 6 HX Stomp:

The Exile series is another one worth mentioning. These are fully modern shred machines built for virtuosos. There are also extended-range and multi-scale variants in there. These are mostly high-end guitars, although the Dean Exile X is a much cheaper variant.

You could easily make the case that the Exile guitars are their best models. They also come with prestigious hardware options and unique finishes.

You can check out one of their Exile guitars in action below:

Overall Guitar Qualities and Features

In general, you can divide Dean’s guitars into three categories: inexpensive, mid-priced, and high-end.

Nonetheless, a lot of them share some similar features. This goes both for functionality and visual aspects.

That said, this brand makes mostly metal guitars. This was its practice from their earliest days. So both old and new Deans tend to have lower string action and relatively thinner necks.

Additionally, Dean emphasizes other ergonomic features. For instance, on most of their models, you can find body and neck joints that enable easy access to higher frets.

As far as the hardware goes, there’s a lot of versatility involved with Dean. Traditionally, they’re known for hard-tail bridges and stop-tail pieces. However, many of them also feature the string-through design without a stop bar. And these features seem to work pretty well.

Some of the string-through designs also come with a V-shaped plate behind the bridge. This adds both to its sustain and aesthetic qualities.

As for their pickups, there’s a huge variety depending on the series. But overall, they usually aim to reproduce an old-school kind of tone. That said, some exceptions include guitars from the Exile series.

There’s also an abundance of models with Floyd Rose bridges. What’s really great is that some cheaper variants also come with these high-quality brides.

The main complaint I’ve found with Dean is that some of their cheaper guitars can be flimsy. In short, their more affordable instruments aren’t as reliable as you’d like.

Trouble in Paradise

Now, in more recent years, the company has been a part of some controversies. Most notably, they parted ways with the Dimebag Darrell estate. What’s more, as a big company now, their selling point is often the brand name on the headstock.

Some of the company’s most important artists have left them. For instance, both Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Michael Angelo Batio are now with other brands.

Additionally, you might have a harder time finding them these days. Many of the popular chain stores in the USA seem to have dropped them.

As is sometimes the case, it’s hard to say whether we’re looking at bad practices. But even if there are any, what are the consequences for guitar players? Well, some have complained about the poor quality of Dean’s affordable models, particularly models manufactured in China.

Don’t get me wrong. Dean guitars have some high-quality instruments in their arsenal. But they don’t seem to be the best manufacturer of entry-level instruments.

Are Dean Guitars Good: Conclusion

To put it simply, Dean’s high-end models are almost certainly excellent and their low-end models have a less reliable track record.

If you’re looking for top-of-the-line guitars, something from the Exile series should meet your requirements.

And if you’re into vintage stuff, you can dig up some of their old ML and V models.

I hope this article has helped you understand the pros and cons of this brand.

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have questions!

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