A review of the Dillion DR 450

If you’re a fan of this guitar, you may wish to use the little X button in the upper right part of your browser or to make judicious use of the back button. I’ve been debating writing this for a day or two and I’m not sure if this is a direction that I want to take site’s articles – but it seems likely that they’ll go there.

Let’s start with a story, shall we? The only problem is, this is a story that can begin in any number of different places – and end in a bunch more places.

sighs

Drummers…

If you recall, I recently had to take a trip with my drummer. He’s a good kid (if mid-30s is still a kid) and is very skilled at drumming. What he is not so skilled at is driving.

But, skipping that topic entirely, he’s also not a very skilled guitar player. He’s so gonna read this. That’s okay, he knows his guitar playing isn’t up to snuff – nor is it expected to be. He told me a friend had an excellent guitar that he wanted to sell.

This close friend of his this guitar that he was interested in selling and, because I’m afflicted with a horrible disease, I told ’em to bring it by and I’d give it a test drive for a few days. I’d then decide if it was something I’d be interested in owning at the asking price.

It was on that recent trip that he dropped off a Dillion DR 450, in a gig bag (!) and with a note asking if I’d take a look at the intonation. I’d never played one before but it can’t be that different to fix intonation issues.

I agreed and agreed that I’d make my decision by the weekend, the weekend that is now over. I’ll tell you what decision I made, and why.

Dillion DR 450 Review

I’m functionally retarded. This is not my picture, ’cause I didn’t think to take any.

It does look pretty sexy.
Dillion DR 450 – blatantly pirated image and a pretty sexy guitar.

Once we get past the stunning beauty of this guitar – and it is a very sexy guitar – we see that they’re pretty much just cloning a PRS.

Sometime, I’ll write an article about Paul Reed Smith and the PRS guitars. Today is not that day. So, I will limit myself to saying that if you’re going to clone a guitar, then cloning a PRS is probably a good place to start – but you might want to actually consider cloning Paul Reed Smith, ’cause his guitars are special because of his philosophy.

And, that’s a pretty damned sexy guitar, right?

What is it?

Well, it’s pretty much a clone of the PRS Hollowbody II. (Does anyone actually mouseover my links? Hell, does anyone even click ’em?)

I could explain why the headstock looks the way it does, but that’d actually take a long time – and require a ton of guitar history and possibly even some physics discussion!

Wait… I need to go back…

This guitar, this Dillion DR 450, has a MSRP of $874.99.

On paper, and by looks, it’s fucking brilliant – and the price is exceptional!

You can read about it by clicking this link. Or, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the features. If you click that link, you’ll be whisked away to a site seemingly designed by a child of the 1990s. That’s not actually a complaint – just a warning.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the gig bag (!) was that the guitar was in immaculate condition. It’s a 2014 model – and is pristine.

That’s a warning sign. That’s a red flag. It means that it has been played very little. There’s lots of potential reasons for that – but one of the reasons might be that it just plain sucks.

Next, we notice that the guitar is fully bound. They bound everything – including the F holes. They love them some binding. I have no complaints and, frankly, the guitar is EXTREMELY sexy. If there hadn’t been a young lady present, I might have rubbed on out right there!

It’s a semi-hollow body! Yay! The guitar is mahogany and topped with very well matched, and high-grade, maple. It’s pretty damned sexy! When it comes to sex-appeal, this guitar has it in spades.

What else do we see? Those are humbuckers – surely they’re Alnico and, indeed, they are. Fantastic!

It’s a set neck! That’s a rosewood fingerboard. Those are Grover tuners. The frets are giant and well polished! It’s a pretty bog standard bridge and appears to be fantastic!

The scale is a little long – but that’s fine. It’s 24.75″ between the bridge and nut. The radius is 12″ and the neck is nicely tapered to a nut width of just a whisker under 1.75″.

Their site indicates that some of the models come with a coil tap. This one came with no coil tap. If it did, it was well hidden and the current owner appears to have practiced the time honored tradition of just throwing the manual right into the damned trash.

By the way, ‘coil tapping’ is not the same as ‘coil splitting’ and they’re not actually interchangeable. I’m pretty much as anal about that as I am about calling the whammy bar a ‘tremolo bar.’ And, yes, people seem to misuse that phrase about as often and you can bet your ass there will be an article about it eventually! However, I’m trying to avoid that much digression today.

Moving on…

So, this guitar looks good on paper and it’s at a reasonable price. Not only that, it’s drop-dead sexy. What’s not to like?

Well…

I played it.

He asked me to take a look at the intonation. I did. Yup. It’s out. Nope, I’m not fixing it.

The Alnico pickups? They’re some sort of ‘custom’ job and are a bit muddy, even on the cleanest channels I can muster – and, trust me, I have gear that will provide the cleanest possible tones.

Rolling it in the dirt did make it sound a bit better.

The giant frets are actually too large and I’d be there for hours fixing the action and intonation.

The headstock is designed so that the lateral deflection of the strings, past the nut, is as near to 0° as possible – and the high E string was probably at a 3° angle. The rest of ’em lined up okay. It’s a pretty blatant rip-off of PRS.

I can’t be sure, but I think they cut the slots in the nut with a hacksaw. That kind of explains the weird angle on the high E.

It stayed in tune just fine. I don’t actually have any complaints about that, but it was kind of strange and even stranger to see on a guitar that retails for $875.

The guitar was made in the US, where we still have people who know how to make guitars. Strangely, there’s a Canadian guitar company with the same name – and they’re not affiliated.

Then, probably because of the shitty pickups, it was nearly impossible to play at high volume levels. There’s just too much feedback. Changing my location helped, but it was still prone to feedback in the lower registers.

While it’s true that semi and fully hollow body electric guitars are more prone to feedback, I’ve been at this for nearly five decades. This was well above average and far more finicky. Even with a pretty decent distance between myself and the amps, there was too much accidental feedback.

I’ve been at this for years and years. I can stand pretty much in front of the amp and play a Gibson ES 335 without having feedback issues. The problem is not on my end and it may be something with the sizes of the resonating chambers – but I really think it’s probably that their cheap fucking pickups aren’t potted.

Umm… Dipping pickups in wax (or other substances) solves this problem. When you see high-end pickups saying they were ‘potted’ it means they’ve been dipped in something (probably hot wax) to fix the coil wrappings in place. I’d get into it – but that’d make this article even longer.

Still, I’m pretty sure I could fix that.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I can fix all of it.

Every single problem this guitar has can be fixed for probably about $200. I can send it out and have the whole thing done on my behalf – for probably $300 to $350.

When I went and read some online reviews, I found many people saying things like, “If you spend an extra $200, you can get a guitar that’s almost like a PRS and have only spent $1,000!” (Which makes me have some doubts about their math abilities.)

Note: I can, and have, done this sort of work and customization before. I don’t actually recommend people do that. I recommend you find a qualified luthier with a workmanship warranty and have them do the work. It just takes too much time and they’re experts. You’re probably not an expert – even if you think you are.

No, I am not an expert. I have a beautiful shop with all the woodworking tools you could possibly want. My first four years at university were as a double major – with one being pure math and the other electrical engineering. I am not an expert. I am unqualified to do the job. Yes, I’m unqualified, even after nearly five decades. Hire an expert.

And, moving along…

I didn’t buy it.

His asking price was $650 and he indicated he’d be willing to go down in price. My drummer seemed to think I could talk them down as low as $500 and maybe even be able to trade some older equipment for it.

My answer is no.

I’ll give ’em $200 for it, final offer. I’d have to replace the pickups and the nut. I’d have to find something to do with the frets. The bridge is okay. The tuners are the lowest price Grovers that they could find.

It’s a damned shame.

In the factory, they could have done all this at a much lower price and the guitar would probably be worth about $1,400 to $1,600 new.

How that nut made it past QC, I’ll never know. It’s a very, very basic fix and something that should never have been done in the first place.

Pretty much everything wrong with this guitar is shit that shouldn’t have been an issue. All of this is easily fixed – and shouldn’t need to be fixed. It’s an $875 guitar that’s worth $300 – when it’s new. Used, it’s worth $200.

Had they put in decent pickups, paid even a little attention to quality of workmanship, and probably tossed better tuners on it – it’d be a very, very good guitar. Intonation is easy to fix. I didn’t play with it, but it’s didn’t seem too far out. It just wasn’t worth investing the time to fix it.

It’s a sexy, sexy guitar.

It could be an excellent guitar. Their tonewoods are excellent choices, high quality, and well matched. The look is distinguished and the guitar is brilliant on paper.

And then you play it…

I sent it back to its home on Saturday. I’ll give them $200 for it, just to send it in and have it made into a good, playable guitar. As I don’t like subjecting my higher value guitars to the stresses of performances, so it’d make an excellent guitar for my collection. I’m 99% positive that it’d look fantastic up on stage and might even have, in another lifetime, considered customizing it even further just to see what sort of tones I could get out of it.

It’s a fucking shame, is what it is. It has so much potential but, presumably to cut cost, they get things like ‘unpotted’ pickups and call them ‘custom.’ Sure, they’re custom – as in nobody else wanted to pickups that cheap because they have actual standards.

It kinda pisses me off – because the guitar should be excellent. There is no good reason why it’s not an excellent guitar and sold at a reasonable cost. All I can guess is that they aimed for middle-of-the-road and affordability. They failed, on both counts!

They suck at quality control. They suck at part sourcing. They suck at deciding which components to cheap out on to reduce manufacturing costs.

They’ve got aesthetics figured out! ‘Cause it’s a damned sexy guitar. But, it’s like they completely missed the damned point. It’s akin to a child’s interpretation of a PRS made guitar – and it’s not even a budget guitar!

I’d like to say, “They were this close!” (While holding my fingers up just a few inches apart, of course.) Nope… That’d be a lie. They missed it by a mile.

They pretty much copied PRS without actually understanding even the very basics of what makes a PRS guitar so special. It’s like they don’t even understand the guitar!

On the other hand, damned right – it’s worth $200. Another $200 worth of parts and 3 hours of labor (from a professional) and I’m looking at total of $550 for a very playable guitar. Sweet!

I fully expect that I’ll get a return offer and be able to buy the guitar for the $200 that I offered. I actually expect that they’ll be emailing or calling me soon. I have an older Peavey head with serious cosmetic issues as well as a 2nd gen. Tubescreamer. I have no use for those, so I’ll probably be nice and offer ’em those and $100.

I won’t even have ’em bring it to my house! They’ll be driving through Farmington to get paid – they can drop it off at the luthier’s house so that they save me a trip! I should probably actually call the luthier and let them know it’s coming – but they won’t be even remotely surprised if I don’t.

Well, this is not the nicest review – but I try to explain reality to you. This will also be the first guitar I’ve purchased (for me) in like two months! That’s pretty good, right? Right?!? Damned right!

Finally, I have tons of equipment and can do tons of reviews, but that’s stuff other sites do. I’m just not sure I like the way they do them? I haven’t really done many for the site, but I’m thinking about doing more. Do please let me know what you think of the idea. If you want me to review something in specific, let me know! I might actually own one already. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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4 thoughts on “A review of the Dillion DR 450”

  1. Lol, funny and an interesting review but I have a question… what does this part mean? -> “Rolling it in the dirt did make it sound a bit better.” ?? What did you do to it? hehe

  2. Adding distortion – either fuzz, overdrive, or distortion.

    Once again, naming conventions suck. All three are distortion. Only one is call distortion, but all three are distortion.

  3. Thank you I learn something new every day, so rolling a guitar in the mud means some sort of effect i.e. distortion etc.

    Something with a dirty “muddy” kinda sound, makes perfect sense… 🙂

    1
  4. Sorta – dirt is specifically distortion. There’s lots of effects that one can add, distortion is just one type.

    I’m trying to think of a concise way to describe distortion, but I can’t. That’d take a whole article – and it just might!

    It’s largely distorting the waves so that they come closer to, or bounce off of, the upper limit of an amplifier – though it’s now done with electronic circuitry, usually.

    When a signal is ‘muddy’ then it’s not clean – they’re over lapping. Think of a glass of water and reading a note through a glass of water. Now, add mud to the glass of water – and it’s harder, maybe even impossible, to really see the note through it. That’s a muddy signal.

    This is my fault. I usually try to avoid much jargon.

    Also, folks who read the site should learn something every day! 😉

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