There are some guitars that are not for shrinking violets. These instruments are meant for egos that need to be noticed-ideally backed up by musical talent. The DiPinto Belvedere is such an instrument. From its sparkly boat-paddle headstock, with matching pickup and input jack rings, to its enormous, cartoonlike dot inlays and oversized mother-of-toilet-seat pickguard, this is not a guitar for the demure.
The retro-styled instrument, resembling and old Hagstrom or Supro, appears to be assembled out of two hollowed-out pieces of wood. This is due to its routed edge and two-tone paint job. It is, however, actually a one piece with a thin 'soundboard' glued on top. The poplar body has two routed 'pools,' one on the bass side and one on the treble side, extending its length and following the contour of the outer shape. A solid block runs through the center from the bridge through the bottom bout. The pickup section is also hollowed out.
Slippin' and Slidin'
The 22-fret maple neck has a flat, wide feel that fits the hand comfortably, and the frets are well finish. I was able to drop the action considerably with no buzz or fretting out. Thanks to the smooth ebony fingerboard, binding, and well-rounded frets, slipping and sliding into notes is easy. The frets offer enough height to facilitate bending, even with low action. The review model came with a Bigsby-style tailpiece and a non-roller bridge (good), which could have been arched better (bad). The Belvedere is also available with a trapeze tailpiece.
Mini-humbuckers with solid covers are the DiPinto's pickups of choice. Mini-humbuckers never achieved the popularity of full sized humbuckers, single coils, or P-90's, but they're not without charm. They offer a clear tone with more twang than their full-size cousins and more output than single coils. Compared to P-90's, they are lighter in the midrange, and quieter. Their closest brush with fame was Johnny Winter's brief penchant for Gibson Firebirds. If they have a drawback, it is that some produce a brittle high end-thankfully not a problem here. The DiPinto mini-humbuckers provided plenty of bite-in both the bridge and neck positions-without making me want to run for the earplugs. Balancing the height of the two pickups is crucial, since the Belvedere offers only one master volume to got with its three position toggle switch.
Dare to be Different
Don't be fooled by a kitschy exterior; appearance aside, the Belvedere is such a versatile instrument, it would be a shame to restrict it to Vegas lounge acts. Plugged into my Reverend Hellhound set for "American" tone, with just a hint of whammy wiggle, the combination of bridge and neck pickup yielded a fine rockabilly/swing sound. The neck pickup alone with a little tone rolled off quickly delivered me to Grant Green city. Switching the Rev to its "UK" tone and cranking the bridge pickup provided plenty of "Rawk" crunch. Despite the sound chambers, feedback was easy to control.
As you might expect, the hollow body added an acoustic element to the tone, and kept the weight down despite the added mass of the whammy tailpiece. With a little nut lubrication, chords stayed in tune and sustained nicely while being vibratoed.
In past eras, players looking for an instrument that made them stand out were unusually directed to pointy guitars like V's, Explorers, and B.C. Rich's brand of angular axes-in other words, metal machines. These days, with metal monsters currently using classy but conservative PRS guitars by the dozens, it is apparent that Cole Porter was right on-anything goes. So regardless of your musical medium, the DiPinto Belvedere just might be for you. Not for the fashion faint of heart, this sparkling statement will reward the self-confident player with a distinctive sound as well as look.