Bass guitar review – Danelectro ’63 Long Scale Bass
Although Nathan Daniel established the Danelectro company in 1947, he didn’t start making guitars until 1956. Danelectros were among the first ‘budget’ electric guitars but this wasn’t achieved by switching production to a country with lower materials and labour costs like they do today. Though brilliantly designed, original Danos were made from inexpensive materials with very few adornments, and certain wiring options were even refused because of the extra cost of different selector switches. The current ’63 reissues – which include a long-scale and short-scale bass never actually built back in the day – are produced by the Evets Corporation in New Jersey, but maintaining a low price tag has meant production in China.
Apart from certain sensible upgrades, the Long Scale Bass looks much like a Dano of yore. The rear bouts are still pear-shaped and meet at an indent behind the bridge. Although obviously influenced by the Leo Fender template, the Dano’s design doesn’t include ribcage or forearm chamfers (the glued-together body construction precludes such luxuries, anyway), although the way in which the moderate waist section graduates to a pair of fairly even offset horns is familiar enough. These culminate in a pincer-like inward curl that sends the ’63 in the direction of a Burns Bison without ever really looking like it’ll actually get there. All of this is coated in a hardwearing, generously-applied aqua blue finish which nicely reinforces the Hanna-Barbera cartoon vibe, as does the sprawling off-white scratchplate. The thick binding strip that masks the full extent of the Dano’s sides originally covered the seam of the body join but now is simply a correct detail that’s been aged and tinted with shellac. Just as it was in the ’50s and ’60s, the body has chambered sections in the sides and behind the bridge and is made of Masonite with a plywood core. Masonite is a type of hardboard invented by William H Mason and produced by blasting woodchips with steam to create long fibres and then forming them into boards which are pressed and heated. The resulting material is dense, strong, and stable and, as it utilises natural waste products, you could say Danelectros are environmentally friendly too.
The neck is maple with a modern, comfortable ‘C’ contour and a matt black finish. A diminutive headstock carries four upgraded Danelectro High Ratio tuners with tiny buttons and a cool zero-gloss nickel plated steel finish to match the rest of the hardware. The headstock is recessed enough to create a decent break-angle for the strings as they run over another authentic detail, an aluminium nut.
A rosewood fingerboard bears 24 neatly-fitted medium nickel frets with dot markers on both face and top edge. A word of warning: if you buy one of these and feel the urge to partake of some high-register noodling, the strap button is positioned on the heel in just such a way as to deter such inappropriate urges.
In the bridge department, Dano fit an adjustable unit which, as it always was, is screwed into the central plywood block. Needless to say, the current model is more robust than before and the saddles can actually be adjusted with the help of a small Phillips screwdriver and an Allen key. It also looks pretty cool.
Not only is the ’63 still passively powered but it also still utilises the famous lipstick tube single coils. The controls are simple: one volume, one tone and a three-way pickup selector switch.
In terms of build quality the Dano isn’t bad, but we found a few glitches in the form of badly fitted screws, a chip or two in the neck socket and imperfections in the vinyl binding tape. So, if you fancy adding a bit of true kitsch to your collection, give it a serious eyeballing before you part with any cash.
DLB63 Long Scale Bass
Description: Semi-hollowbody bass. Made in China
Build: Masonite body with plywood core and chambered sides. Maple neck with 24 medium nickel frets on a rosewood fingerboard. Danelectro High Ratio tuners and adjustable bridge. Nickel plated steel hardware
Electrics: Passive with two Danelectro Lipstick single coils, three-way selector switch, Volume and Tone controls
Left hander: No
Finishes: Aqua, red burst, black
Range Options: Short-scale variant, in red burst only
Scale length: 864mm/34"
Width of neck:
12th fret 52mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 21.5mm
12th fret 23mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2mm
12th fret bass 2.5mm
Build Quality 16/20
Value for money 17/20
Its a miracle or, at the very least, some bizarre triumph of improbability that Danelectros dont sound cheap and trashy. The 63 is a fun instrument with a plenty of practical tonal variation and that tell-tale bell-like quality that really sets it apart. And if you dig the vibe, baby, you dont have to pay that much to get on it. Go on, treat yourself.