Incidentally, the claim of ‘dead on' is a slight exaggeration, but it really doesn't matter and I won't pretend to be a Danelectro expert by listing every single anomaly.
Like many Danelectros, the Hornet has enjoyed a following amongst name players. Pete Townshend used one with the Who when touring the US in the late 1960s, and often recorded with it into the 1970s. Mark Knopfler has played one too - check out Boom Like That on YouTube - and he sounds cooler on his Hornet than he ever did with a Schecter.
The Hornet appeared in various guises including two- and three-pickup versions, with or without a vibrato.
They were sometimes branded Coral and Silvertone, and there was a 12-string, the Scorpion, and a bass, the Wasp. This was a Vinnie Bell signature design, and Danelectro has wisely chosen to reissue the two-pickup vibrato model.
The colour range is fantastic - none would look out of place on the Banana Splits. For the bridge Danelectro has gone back to the basic rosewood saddle of old, along with a set of vintage Kluson-style tners with white buttons. I'm particularly thrilled to see these because although the current Danelectro diecast tuners work okay, they're no better than these and they don't look half as good.
The scratchplate is reflective with a silvery-grey swirly pattern and a black border, just like Townshend's. There's more than a slight Fender Jaguar influence, which explains the metal plate that covers the control cavity and extends all the way under the bridge.
The originals even had Jaguar-style individual pickup switches, but this one gets a three-way toggle switch that most modern players will probably prefer. The vibrato design is so crude it makes a Bigsby look like a Floyd Rose.
The bridge pivots on two front screws, while a bolt at the back of the bridge passes through the body and a small spring to a butterfly nut and washer. In reality the vibrato works best when the bridge sits parallel to the top of the body, and it doesn't really have any ‘feel' to speak of. However you do get a semitone up and down, and it stays in tune.
The maple neck is screwed onto the body in the four-square Fender style, and the neck pocket is impressively tight. The neck profile is a wide, flat C with a slim, even depth all the way along and a fairly flat-radius slab rosewood board.
The aluminium nut is a Dano staple and the medium gauge frets are well-installed and flawlessly dressed. The build quality at this price point is very good - as we've come to expect from Danelectro.
The unplugged tone of this guitar is simply stunning. I thought the Pro was pretty amazing, but the solidbody Hornet is actually louder than the semi-acoustic Pro. Once again we're confronted with a Danelectro that seems to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts... it's a Gestalt thing.
The bridge pickup combines a sparkly treble with a woody midrange and very well-defined bass. It's different from a Tele or Strat bridge pickup: throatier with less quack, twangier and with a purer, more hi-fi quality.
In clean mode it's a great country guitar, but you'll need a compressor to tame those lively transients. Add a touch of reverb and tremolo, and it's surf city.
The inherent brightness can also be utilised for raw blues. Drop down to D, slip on a slide and that scratchy wiriness makes for some spot-on JB Hutto and Hound Dog Taylor impersonations. The neck pickup balances up superbly, and you hear more of the Hornet's natural woody tone.
It's bell-like and clear, but if you roll off a bit of the treble the Hornet starts sounding like a big old jazz box.
Crank up your amp and you move from the blues and jazz clubs into the garage. The bridge pickup roars, with a grinding and chiming dose of bad attitude cutting through the powerchords.
With overdrive the neck pickup takes on a smoother, more expressive, near-Stevie Ray quality. It needs a little help from a compressor or overdrive if you need lashings of sustain, but it's ideal for spooky blues if the tone's in your fingers.
Danelectro's trump card is the ‘in series' middle setting - humcancelling, with a hike in volume and a much fatter midrange. Here the Hornet demonstrates its hard-rocking attitude and ability to cut through dense layers of distortion with precision and focus.
It even starts to sustain like an out-and-out lead guitar, with a woody, near-SG like character. It's an ideal candidate for fuzzbox fun, or try rolling off some of that top end to nail Black Keys or White Stripes sounds.