The Cadillac is one of Dean Guitars’ oldest designs, originally surfacing in 1980. On the surface it could be viewed as ‘Oh, that’s just the front half of an Explorer stuck to the back half of a Les Paul,’ if you wanted to get all basic about it, but Dean have always put their own spin on things, so of course you’re getting Dean’s own approach to crucial things like neck profile, fretwork and electronics: we all know that a guitar is about much more than just the shape. The Cadillac Straight-Six is one of Dean’s newest models, members of the Straight-Six series which adds a six-in-line headstock and classy gold hardware to one of four classic Dean shapes: the ML (think Dimebag Darrell), the V, the Z (think Explorer) and of course the Cadillac.
Each model in the series features a Mahogany top and body, a set Mahogany C neck, Rosewood fingerboard (albeit very dark) with pearl block inlays, 7-ply binding on the body and headstock, Grover tuners, and a Tune-O-Matic string-through bridge and 24.3/4” scale lengths. The Cadillac is a little unique among the series because it has a ‘stop’ tailpiece, with the others all anchoring their strings to V-shaped plates, and the Cadillac also has a forearm contour which enhances playability and also helps to further establish the Caddy as a unique Dean design in and of itself.
Electronics across the range consist of a pair of passive DMT Design covered humbuckers with no visible pole pieces, a pair of volume controls, a master tone control, and a three-way pickup selector switch. The design style in general acros the Straight-Six series seems so carefully thought out that it almost seems a shame that these four guitars are sold separately. They’d look great as a set on a guitar rack all together.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Cadillac when you pick it up is that it’s incredibly comfortable and well-balanced. The forearm contour guides your picking hand into the ideal position for ultra-precise shreddage, while the extended treble-side cutaway helps to keep the guitar feeling centred when you’re playing in a sitting position. And while many Deans are surprisingly neck-heavy due to the often-found flared V headstock design, the straight-six headstock’s reduced mass eliminates this problem. The neck is also very playable, encouraging you to take chances and then rewarding you with clean phrasing. It’s great for string-skipping and Devin Townsend-style wide arpeggios, for instance.
You might expect a quartet of aggressively-styled, pointy guitars to be loaded with high-output pickups for maximum metal mayhem, but the DMT Design pickups feel somewhere in the middle. The bridge pickup has just enough clarity and attack, and just enough body. I had to max out the gain on my Marshall to get a modern metal tone, but there were plenty of great classic rock sounds available at more standard gain levels. And the neck pickup sings a little stronger than the bridge, with a bit of flute-like sustain and a smoothed-out pick attack. Not everyone is going to want to keep these pickups – extreme metal players will probably want to put in a set of actives instead – but they’re surprisingly characterful for stock pickups. They’re great for rock, blues-rock and certain metal styles.
The Cadillac is an unusual guitar, to be sure, but it’s very well balanced and it sounds great. The only criticism might be that it could use coil-splitting, but even that would just be nit-picking. Dean have done a great job in doing something new with the Caddy and integrating it within this new Straight-Six series along with its like-minded brothers, the ML, the V and the Z.