Underneath this bari’s jazz suit is a rock ’n’ roll machine.
Responsive playability. P-90s deliver loads of tone options. Solid construction and feel.
Jazz aesthetics might paint this one into a corner for some. Price may dissuade all but serious baritone players.
D’Angelico Deluxe SS Baritone
The D’Angelico Deluxe SS Baritone is an interesting proposition. It’s a high-end offering in the relatively small field of baritone guitars, where, if you’ve got around $1k to spend, you can have fun choosing between a nice range of options. Lots of players are attracted to those lower-priced options for the novelty of a baritone or to round out their instrument collection. D’Angelico is aiming to instead capture those who are so serious about their baritone needs that they’re willing to spend over $2k on the right one. To do so, they’ve created a P-90-equipped semi-hollow and put it near the top reaches of their line.
Admittedly, I’m in that former category. I think baritones are fun and lump them in with 12-strings, tenor guitars, and Bass VI-style instruments—all things I like to mess around with now and then. But I’ve been able to satisfy my own bari needs with inexpensive instruments. So, approaching this review, I wondered, will the Deluxe SS open my eyes and ears and make me a believer, or is it just a fancy curiosity?
I did a deep dive into the Deluxe’s ambient possibilities, adding gobs of delay, sustain, and all the modulation I could wrangle, and was transported to the town of Twin Peaks—it’s that kind of vibe.
Since the Deluxe SS Baritone is among the top guitars in D’Angelico’s line, it gets a fancy aesthetic treatment. That means gold Grover locking tuners, a large art-deco-style headstock, mother-of-pearl block inlays, 3-ply binding, an elaborately shaped pickguard, and a gold bridge and stairstep-style tailpiece. The extra accoutrements will scream cocktail jazz to some, but the body and neck’s natural stain and satin finish keep the guitar from looking gaudy. More importantly, a close inspection of the Deluxe’s fit and finish reveal an attentive, detail-oriented build. There is nary a flaw to be found.
The semi-hollow-with-P-90s recipe is a unique one among baritone manufacturers. But from the first few robust, resonant notes I played on the D’Angelico, the combination seemed obvious. The playing experience is suitably deluxe—the 26 3/4" scale length and comfy C-shaped neck feel familiar enough to make the formidable .014–.068 stock gauges easy to grapple with, so there’s no awkward phase for non-diehard baritone players like myself. The Deluxe’s 15" body—1 3/4" deep—feels comfortable for seated playing, and after playing a two-hour gig on my feet, I didn’t feel any more fatigued than when playing a standard guitar.
Have Gold, Will Twang
One of the joys of any semi-hollow or hollowbody guitar, especially for players who tend to stick to solidbodies, is how resonant they are, and that’s the first thing I noticed about the Deluxe. That’s an obvious observation, but with these big gauges, the laminate maple body sings with every note, from big chords to high-octave single-note lines.
Between the black-tie-friendly outfit and the D’Angelico name on the headstock, it’s only natural to grip a few ii-V progressions on the Deluxe. The 1 11/16" nut width offers plenty of room to get around complex voicings, which sound irresistibly rich and warm through a Deluxe Reverb. Every note sings with full-bodied clarity. If I were better at improvising chord melodies, I know what the concept for my next record would be.
Open-position chords on the Deluxe can feel like playing the low end of a piano with while holding the sustain pedal. All it took was one wide-open B minor chord to get me hooked. I did a deep dive into the Deluxe’s ambient possibilities, adding gobs of delay, sustain, and modulation, and was transported to the town of Twin Peaks—it’s that kind of vibe. But it’s not just big open chords that deliver that feeling. Since the Deluxe SS Baritone is a sustain machine, these frequencies tend to rumble the room even at moderate volumes. I found myself contemplating the space between notes—and wanting more of it—even when playing slow, single-note melodies on the lower end of the neck.
The Seymour Duncan D’Angelico Great Dane P-90s balance rich low-end with an articulate twang. Like adding a touch of sweetness to a savory dish, a little extra brilliance rounds out the tonal profile to create a rich overall experience. The bridge pickup makes a case for the Deluxe’s rock ’n’ roll potential and encouraged my best attempt at a Duane Eddy impression. Once that clicked for me, I found that I just wanted to stay in that zone. Anything from shuffles to tic-tac bass parts sound great on the Deluxe.
There’s plenty of brightness in the neck pickup, while its added bass frequencies reward Bass-VI-type lead playing—like the solo to “Wichita Lineman,” which sounds and feels cool on this guitar. Rolling back the tone just a little made root-fifth patterns under my chording sound convincingly bass-like. Add a little overdrive to any of these positions and the Deluxe is a monster, ready to scream.
The Deluxe SS Baritone makes a bold statement. At well over twice the price—or more—of the most ubiquitous baritones on the market, it’s a high-end instrument within genre. With P-90s, a semi-hollow body, and jazzy aesthetics, it feels jazz oriented. But I found it more diverse, and capable of capturing all the tones you’d want in a baritone, from clean and articulate to spooky and ethereal to twangy. And it delivers a fun, and inspiring playing experience in a sturdy, well-built instrument that’s ready for any gig you throw at it.
D'Angelico Deluxe SS Baritone Semi-Hollowbody Demo | First Look
A practical preamp for the Screamer set and fuzz lovers alike.
Independent boost and drive circuits. Impressive and unexpected fuzz tones. Super versatile.
Differences between styles can be subtle at lower gain settings.
DSM Humboldt Silver Linings
When is an overdrive more than just an overdrive? That might be the question that led the engineers at DSM Humbolt when they came up with the Silver Linings preamp and overdrive. The Silver Linings’ three modes (normal, preamp, and mid boost) and three voicings or “styles” (soft, vintage, and hard) widen the field of possible tones considerably. And just a peek at the controls reveals there are plenty of tone combinations to explore.
With a Fender HSS Stratocaster in front of a clean Revv D20, I was impressed with the range of available drive tones. At lower gain settings, for example, the pedal delivers overdrive reminiscent of a driven black-panel Deluxe. The pre boost and pre tone knob can dramatically alter conventional overdrive sounds considerably. The pre tone functions like a tilt EQ—allowing surgical adjustment of highs and lows to reshape drive sounds. The pre boost adds up to 30dB of gain at the input, which gives you extra, and extensive control, of the distortion profile.
High gain sounds are a surprise. Cranking the gain and bass in the vintage-style mode generated a fuzzy tone that felt cool and compressed under my fingers. Using the Silver Linings as a preamp, meanwhile, is as easy as plugging the output into the return of the Revv’s effects loop. The results sounded and felt more direct and present, and this feature could be a lifesaver if you’re stuck with a subpar backline.
- A pedal that provides a wide arsenal of tones and settings
- 3 style switches: Soft, Vintage, and Hard
- 3 mode formats: Normal, Preamp, and Mid Boost
- Dual boost funcitonality with Pre and Master Boost levels to add extra gain and higher output
- Tone stack is a passive 3-band EQ
- Variable gain bandwidth adds unprecedented versatility
Kurt Ballou delivers hip throwback looks and riff-ready tones.
Compound fretboard radius. Great blended-pickup sounds. Good low-end clarity. Excellent build quality.
Expensive for a Korea-built instrument.
God City Instruments The Constructivist
As both an in-demand producer and a member of the hugely influential and long-running Converge, Kurt Ballou has put his sonic fingerprints all over heavy music. In the past few years, he diversified his output and made his way into the instrument business, growing God City Instruments—which shares a name with his Salem, Massachusetts, recording studio—into a unique artist-owned manufacturer of pedals, pickups, DIY PCBs for courageous tinkerers, and guitars and basses.
It’s no surprise that Ballou’s instruments are designed to deliver the massive tones one would expect from his records. But the visual aesthetic of GCI’s instruments includes playfully retro-inspired body styles and bright candy colors. Ballou’s newest are the Constructivist guitar and bass. It’s a model that looks classic, but not overly so, and feels as solid as the riffs you’ll want to head up to Salem and record once you get your hands on one. At $1,749, though, the Constructivist is in a price class with some heavy hitters, which could be hard to live up to for a Korea-built instrument.
Retro Looks and Formidable Function
Like GCI’s other offerings—the Craftsman and the Deconstructivist—the Constructivist wouldn’t look completely out of place in a ’60s Teisco catalog. The cherryburst finish is handsome, and the ash body’s German carve feels upscale and classic. The six-saddle hardtail bridge reminds me a little of a vintage Peavey T-60. And like that model—or at least what I remember of one—it’s a sturdy, comfortable place to launch a variety of picking attacks.
The Constructivist’s bolt-on, roasted-maple neck has a flat-C profile that makes it easy to grip. The satin polyurethane finish is flawless. The playability feels a little stiff right out of the box, but you sense a good breaking-in period would make it feel more personal. The block inlays look good across the bound rosewood fretboard’s flat 12" to 16" compound radius, which delivers easily reachable playability.
With a 25 1/2" scale, medium jumbo frets, and set up for standard tuning with a set of .011s (God City instruments typically ship in D-standard tuning), it’s a riff-blasting beast. I really clicked with the Constructivist when I jammed on the lower end of its range, where I found lots of resonating sustain at higher gain settings. Venturing up beyond the 12th fret, the compound radius provides a nice, even playing field, though it’s not quite as bend friendly as you might suspect.
Creamy, Cutting, and More
Plugged straight into my Deluxe Reverb, GCI’s P-90s deliver a fine creamy tone. I was delighted to hear a wide frequency response from both neck and bridge pickups, which both have lower bout on/off sliders that are nice and tight, so there's no chance of accidental switching. But the Constructivist is no bebop machine—as hip as that might be for a guitar that looks like this—and I restricted my clean playing to strums and open-chord arpeggios.
The Constructivist sounds even better with some dirt. I clicked between a couple different boxes—a Klon KTR, an Analog Man King of Tone, and an EHX Ripped Speaker—where I spent most of my time. The bridge pickup cuts while maintaining body. On low-end riffage, I found a twangy clarity, even when dosed with gain. Up top, I did my finest Duane Denison impression in search of scathing sustained clusters, which seem right in line with the GCI’s agenda, and they sounded screechy enough to be nasty, but clear enough to hear all the notes.
The neck pickup delivers an articulate clarity that doesn’t succumb to swampiness. There’s enough brightness in this P-90 to sing through heavy doses of gain. But I spent the bulk of my time with both pickups on, using each volume knob to carve out tones. The dynamic response of these pickups seems to encourage picking subtleties, which illuminates the nuances found in pickup blending. That’s something I rarely do on my own guitars, but on the Constructivist, I was able to dial in the sound I wanted, adding body to cutting high-end leads and giving dark power chords a little extra edge.
It’s no big surprise that this guitar is a riff machine. Like much of Ballou’s musical work, it’s sturdy, sounds heavy, and is aesthetically tight. Maybe that’s a fancy way to say if you love his music, it’s likely you’ll get down with this guitar.
But you’ll be paying a hefty price to do so. At $1,749 street, the Constructivist is expensive for a Korea-built instrument. Then again, God City uses a small-batch shop, rather than a large-scale contractor. Additionally, compound fretboard radiuses require care to get right. Plus, the attention to detail on this instrument is noticeable—this isn’t something that just left the factory without a good going-over. That said, I’d expect the same quality from any domestic instrument in the same price range. Only time will determine if this is an early indicator of guitar pricing to come, or if the Constructivist is just costly for a Korean import. My gut tells me that, at this price range, it will appeal most to players whose specific tastes really align with Ballou’s. But it’s still a fun, well-built guitar.