Review Date: Friday 9th of November 2012 04:11:54 PM Last Updated: Thursday 1st of January 1970 01:00:00 AM Reviewed By: Huw Price
Danelectro reissues lost the plot for a while with mangled headstocks, satin hardware, overwound pickups and diecast tuners. Now normal service has been resumed for the latest Danelectro Hodad. Review by Huw Price
Although the body shape is undeniably familiar, the meaning of the name ‘Hodad’ suggests it’s the anti-Mosrite. Back in the day, hodads were greasers; they may have hung out at the beach, but they never surfed.
With two pairs of lipstick pickups arranged side by side for beefy series-wired output, this guitar was obviously made for heavier tones. Bets have been hedged, however, because each of the tone controls doubles as a push/pull switch. The bass side push/pull acts as a coil tap on both pickups, leaving the outer coils active… so you can surf, as it were, by stealth.
The function of the treble side push pull isn’t entirely clear because the information on the Danelectro website is incomplete. It only works with the three-way pickup selector switch in the middle position, and at first we suspected it was a series/parallel switch. Danelectro’s UK distributor report that it’s a ‘phase effect’ switch, but we’ll return to that later. Either way, the Hodad has eight settings, and each pickup gets its own volume control.
The vintage-style tuners have off-white buttons and the texture of the side ‘tape’ resembles Danelectro’s classic models. A metallic red finish covers the body and the back of the neck with its slab rosewood fingerboard.
The bridge is a contemporary design that replaces the old-style bridges with their simple rosewood wedges. Each saddle can be adjusted for intonation, but they sit flat on the bridge plate. Consequently action adjustment can only be made on an ‘overall’ basis, but at least the saddle heights are staggered to form a radius.
The neck sits high in its pocket, which dictates that the bridge has to sit high too – or, to be more specific, it’s elevated above the body by about 5mm. Most of us will be aware of the term ‘floating bridges’, but this appears to be the genuine article. Pickup height is adjusted from the back, which lends the front a sleek and stripped-down appearance, and a rectangular chrome plate covers the control cavity.
True to its breed, the Danelectro Hodad is naturally resonant and loud acoustically with more than a hint of semi-solid tone. The elongated body, along with the absence of any neck back-angle or headstock rake, gives the Hodad a plank-like and somewhat unwieldy feel in the hand, but it’s relatively lightweight, balances well on a strap, and it’s easy to play.
The pickups aren’t hot wound; far from it, in fact, with the single coils ohming out at 3.2K and 3.45K. In humbucker mode the DC resistance remains below 7K, so it seems that these pickups are closer to vintage Danelectro specs. In our opinion the Hodad is a better guitar for it.
The range of tones is bewildering, but using those push/pulls presents problems. The switch action is stiff, and the push-fit knobs have a tendency to pull right off. Knobs with grub screws or push/push switches would be better.
These niggles are swept aside once you start playing. In humbucker mode the tones are big, rich and vibrant; it goes from warm jazziness to biting rock, and the natural zing in the top end retains clarity and definition even in high gain mode. Flick the pickup switch to the centre and you get even more output. The single coils are bright, twangy and chimey but they differ from more familiar single coils due to the lack of quack. This is classic Danelectro territory, and they’re ideal for surf and spanky funk. They also drive fuzzboxes well because you can get a garagey grind without soupiness in the mids.
The real standout is the mystery switch. It delivers a truly odd, phasey and woody tone without the dramatic drop in output that usually accompanies out-of-phase switching.
Here's a 19998 model demo:
Like a vintage Dano on steroids, the Hodad looks great, plays sweetly and costs less than £430. Get one while you can; every Danelectro is limited, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
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