This sexy synthesis of vintage Gibson and Mosrite is punky and rocking, yet surprisingly civilized.
From the sidewalk outside, DiPinto Guitars doesn’t look that different from a dozen other tastefully curated, well-stocked American guitar shops. But from that little shop in Philly’s Fishtown district, Chris DiPinto has built a tidy and growing business in ’60s-styled guitars that play great and don’t cost a lot of bread.
The Melody Mach IV is a new twist on the company’s excellent Mosrite homage, the Mach IV. The first Mach IV was a glammed-up, surf- and deuce-coupe-centric design with zinging single-coils, custom colors, and racing stripes. Now DiPinto has melded the Mach IV’s alluring lines with hardware and design elements from Gibson’s entry level warhorses, the Melody Maker and the Les Paul Jr, transforming the Mach IV into a punky yet elegant guitar capable of a surprising array of moods.
With a P-1000 pickup in the bridge position (a stacked humbucker that fits in a P-90 cover, and measures a walloping 19K of resistance), the Melody Mach owes as much to Gibson’s original mahogany econo-slab, the Les Paul Jr., as to the Melody Maker that inspired its name. While the Melody Mach only superficially echoes the design of the original Melody Makers, it captures the spirit of Gibson’s ’60s bestsellers, which were rock-solid, wailing, and straightforward guitars ideal for punk riffing, rock, and blues.
Though inspired by what were once dirt-cheap guitars, nothing about the DiPinto feels downmarket. The maple neck is slinky, fast, and comfortable, like the cross between a short-scale ’60s Fender Jaguar and a ’60s Stratocaster. The factory setup and intonation are excellent. The neck is free of fret buzz. The guitar has a familiar, broken-in feel despite its newness.
Most DiPinto’s I’ve encountered are very well built. But the Korean-made Melody Mach IV is one of the most flawlessly constructed guitars I’ve encountered in a long time. Fretwork on the bound neck (usually a dead giveaway to a guitar’s “affordable” origins) is perfect. The sunburst and finish have a deep, luxurious glow. When I plugged in, I found the potentiometers had useful and discernable ranges, unlike those essentially on-or-off pots you often encounter on low-cost instruments. The extra attention to detail makes DiPintos a little more expensive than some comparable imports, but it translates into a great-playing, great-sounding guitar.
Rowdy To Refined
Here on a mahogany solidbody equipped with effective controls, the ultra-hot P-1000 is essentially its own boost/overdrive pedal. With the guitar’s volume control wide-open, tones are rowdy, brash, and brutish. Doubtless, some players who prefer the contoured and crystalline tones of neck single-coils or jazzy humbuckers will find it downright trashy. But it’s great for rocking hard at lower volumes. Even a moderate amount of amp volume generates nasty Faces/Stones-style crunch.
If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that at wide-open levels the P-1000 lack the dimension and airiness of a traditional P-90. The pickup can also generate a kind of compression that diminishes its ample power. But the basic voice resides in a cool midrange zone that lets you really open up the treble and bass on your amp. It feels especially full of piss and vinegar when the treble, bass, and volume are maxed on a blackface Fender.
If you’re unaccustomed to using your guitar’s volume and tone controls (or if you only intend to use the Melody Mach as a full-throttle punk machine) the versatility of the P-1000 and the Melody Mach is less apparent. But the responsive, wide-ranging volume and tone pots let you dial in cool clean tones ranging from jangly to jazzy, depending on how much top end you subtract.
Some of the Melody Mach’s most rewarding sounds come from the combination of the P-1000 and the hot, rich neck single-coil. With tone and volume controls all the way up, the two pickups evoke the combined-pickup position on a Telecaster, but with some extra humbucker muscle. A touch of volume and tone attenuation rounds off this husky yet singing sound, yielding lovely tones perfect for Memphis- or Hendrix-style blues and soul chord melodies. This blend is also an ideal vehicle for open tunings. The contrasting pickup tones highlight the delicious micro-differences in octaves and unisons, producing an almost 12-string-like richness and timbre.
The neck pickup is a treat by itself too. It’s clean and responsive, providing a great contrast to the excitable and dirty P-1000. Its rounded, pearlescent highs make it great for folk-rock jangling or clean, alternate-tuned arpeggios à la Sonic Youth.
With pickups that deliver raw rock and folky chime with equal aplomb, the Melody Mach IV has enough versatility to become a go-to axe. Not everyone will love the brash attitude and midrange focus of the P-1000, and some may feel that a P-90 in the bridge would have provided a better match for the excellent neck single-coil. But those differences can be strengths, particularly when the two pickups are combined, or when navigating a set that veers from nuanced melodies to rock assaults. Factor in the guitar’s extraordinary playability, and it’s easy to imagine this as the only guitar a touring roots or indie rocker might need. While it’s not the most inexpensive of affordable guitars, it’s a well-designed instrument of quality and distinctions—and it feels like a steal.
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