In the not-too-distant past, just before the White Stripes hit the big time, guitarists tired of the same-old, same-old Strats, Les Pauls and Teles just strolled down to their local pawnshops to find bargain axes with tons of character. Now that original plastic Airlines, map-body Nationals and the like have become fashionable, pawnshops have marked up every quirky Fifties and Sixties ax to prices that rival the cost of a first-class flight to Hong Kong.
If you're looking for a budget electric but want something with more personality than the average NAFTAcaster, DiPinto's Belvedere Standard may be exactly what you need. With its double-layer semihollow mahogany body, single f-hole, two-tone gold/black or black/white finish, massive paddle-shaped headstock and small humbucking pickups, the Belvedere Standard looks and sounds different from almost everything else on the market.
The Belvedere's light, semihollow body provides rich resonance and percussive punch, and its mini 'buckers deliver fatter tone than a typical Strat or Tele single-coil pickup while dispensing more bite than a P-90 or full-size humbucker. The three-position pickup-selector switch and master volume and tone controls produce everything from a raucous rockabilly twang to a sultry jazz swing. With an amp pushed to the edge of overdrive, the Belvedere growls with a vicious bite and howling sustain that are perfect for blues dogs and rock hounds alike. Featuring a 22-fret maple neck, 24 3/4-inch scale and relatively narrow bound ebony fingerboard, the Belvedere's neck feels and plays like a vintage Gretsch. Although the body looks rather large, the guitar weighs much less than most hollow and semihollow electrics and is comfortable to play for hours on end. The tastefully designed single cutaway provides excellent access to the uppermost frets while it complements the Belvedere's classic lines.
The Belvedere Standard comes stock with a stop tailpiece and Tune-O-Matic-style bridge. But if twang is your thang you may want to have DiPinto slap an optional Bigsby tailpiece on that puppy (and go for the Elvis-approved Gold finish while you're at it).
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you want to stand out from the crowd and sound like a star, the DiPinto Belvedere Standard is the best way to get noticed, short of auditioning for American Idol in a pink sequined thong. DiPinto players include Dick Dale, Los Straitjackets, Rick Nielsen and Jack White-about as eccentric a bunch as you'll find outside of a Guitar World editorial meeting.
PRO: Inexpensive, comfortable and cool looking; versatile sounds
CON: Quirky looks may frighten small children and pets