REVIEW: DBZ Guitars Premier Cavallo FR


When Dean B. Zelinsky left the guitar company that bore his name, a lot of things were uncertain. What would he do next? Would any well-known Dean endorsers follow him? Would his new designs be similar to the old ones or a complete departure? But then again, a few other things were certain. 1: Whatever he did next was bound to get a lot of attention. 2: Much of that attention would come from metal guitarists. 3: Those guitarists would be from all walks of life and would be buying guitars at all price points. Dean Z’s new venture, DBZ Guitars, designs guitars with all three of those points very much in mind, from relatively low-cost guitars like the Barchetta LT FR to the high-end, USA-crafted Bird of Prey – along with some surprisingly jazz and classic rock-oriented models.

The Cavallo on review here is from the reasonably-priced, Asian-built Premier series. The body is an artfully routed chunk of mahogany, with a mahogany neck and ebony fretboard (the latter a surprising inclusion at this price). The scale length is a slinky 24.75” and there are 22 frets. Tuners are Grovers and you have the option of the string through (ST) or Floyd Rose (FR) models. Pickups are a set of DBZ’s own DBZB and DBZ5 humbuckers. Controls are brutally simple: Master volume, master tone, and a 3-way switch. But what’s this? The tone control pulls up to split the humbuckers for single coil operation – a surprising feature since it’s not listed on the DBZ website. Cool! Ergonomically, The whammy bar itself might get in the way of the controls for some players, and the fretboard is a little too narrow for larger hands, but these are very much style and player-dependent issues rather than a design flaw. Aside from a few small rough spots in the finish (which could probably be buffed smooth, including a little bubble in the finish on the back of the neck which would probably wear down with regular playing) the workmanship was of a quite high standard – especially the fret finishing.

There are three features which really stand out about the Cavallo. The first is that wicked headstock, with the 3D DBZ badge (an eagle holding a big DBZ logo in its talons – pretty badass); the sculpted body contours – which don’t feel overly ergonomic but certainly go a long way towards setting the Cavallo apart from everything else on the market – and the V-shaped neck profile. This isn’t the first guitar to feature this shape and it won’t be the last but I’m always surprised which I encounter a guitar that has it. That surprise always gives way to a knowing nod though when I remember just how perfectly this shape places my fretting hand for speed, comfort and reach – and that knowing nod gives way to the metal horn hand gesture when I realise that playability-wise it’s almost ridiculous how quickly and cleanly you can play on this type of neck in general, and the Cavallo in particular.

Plugged in, the Cavallo sounds a lot smoother than you would expect. On the bridge pickup there’s a very refined, dry ‘grind’ character to the tone which makes for perfectly thick, chunky power chords and punchy extended voicings – it actually reminds me a lot of my old Japanese-made 1993 Ibanez RG370 with Ibanez V6 pickups. It’s a great sound for 80s/90s thrash and current metal styles, but it has surprising adaptability for more conventional rock tones too. In fact, back off the distortion a bit and you’ll find some surprisingly useful classic rock sounds. While some pickups and body woods combine to emphasise the separation between notes in a chord, there’s a very cool ‘unity’ to the sound here – voicings are knitted together nicely without any one note jumping out above all the others.

The neck pickup has a similar smoothness to the bridge unit, augmented with a bit of a midrange spike which enhances articulation of speedy alternate-picked lines, and really allows sustained and bent notes to scream. It’s equally at home with Slash-style bluesy soloing or intense metal shreddage. Flipping to single coil mode I was instantly taken by the neoclassical girth of the tone. Think of a certain Swedish virtuoso – that’s the kind of character these DBZ units have in single coil mode. This is a sound that would work really well for cleaner textures in the studio, but also has enough cut and character for great dirty blues and country tones (believe it or not!). It’s not a particularly sparkly clean tone: more coarse, fat and gritty.

The DBZ Premier Cavallo FR is individual and unique in both looks and character, yet extremely adaptable in playability and sound. It may look like it wants you to play metal on it and nothing but, yet if you’re game enough to try other styles you’ll be rewarded with a great-playing guitar that can cover a surprising number of musical bases without losing its own identity.

PS: I’ve shot some video of me noodling on the Cavallo. I’ll post it on YouTube when I get a chance to edit it, hopefully some time this week.

LINK: DBZ Guitars

REVIEW: DBZ Guitars Premier series Bolero AB


There’s no skirting around the issue here, so let’s just tackle it head-on. The DBZ Bolero looks a lot like the Dean Soltero (see my review here). That’s no huge coincidence, because both guitars bear the involvement of one Dean B. Zelinsky. Dean may have sold his namesake guitar company in 1992 (returning in an advisory role from 2000 to 2008), but his design philosophies live on in DBZ Guitars, his new collaboration with partners Jeff Diamant (of Diamond Amplification) and Terry Martin. So it’s no surprise that the Bolero and the Soltero share some similar features. Having said that, I’ve spent a lot of time with the Soltero, so how do the two compare?

The Bolero is an abalone-bound, mahogany body/maple top, 24.75” scale instrument with a set neck. The pickups are a set of DBZ’s own humbuckers, the DBZB and DBZ5. Like the Cavallo V-style axe I’ll be reviewing soon, the Bolero features only master volume and tone controls (the latter of which splits the humbuckers to single coils when you pull up on it) and a three way pickup selector switch. The mahogany neck is topped with an ebony fretboard (it actually looks like very tightly grained rosewood), and the 22 frets are neatly bound and perfectly crowned. There are a few signs of rough finishing around the fret ends themselves and a little fleck of black paint which made its way onto the binding before clearcoat, but nothing that particularly distracts from playability. Of special note is the chunky D-shape neck profile, which forces your thumb into the most ergonomic angle whether you’re flattening your hand out to execute wide stretches on the thinner strings, or getting right up there to fret bass notes with your thumb over the top of the neck, Jimi style. The only string anchoring option is a stop tail and tune-o-matic type bridge, but I’d love to see a Bigsby or even Kahler-loaded option some day.

Theoretically we should all know how this type of guitar sounds by now: Weighty bass, present but not shrill highs, and sustain for days, right? In other words, despite the visual flair, on paper it looks a lot like a Gibson Les Paul. Well, that’s where the Bolero diverts from the more straightforward Soltero. It’s actually a little lighter in the bass frequencies than you would expect, and while the notes tail off in a very natural and musical manner the sustain is not particularly exaggerated. The bridge pickup has more bite and snap than you might expect, and while there’s plenty of growl it’s a little sharper and browner than a Les Paul. It’s great for Alice In Chains style rhythm grind and for Dethklok-style pinch harmonics. The neck pickup has more articulation and angularity than you might expect, making it a great rhythm pickup for clean and dirty tones as well as a very handy lead pickup, especially for strict alternate pickers or sweepers. Each pickup has plenty of headroom, giving them a great dynamic range when you use the volume control to regulate the amount of hurt you put on your amp, but even moreso when you leave the volume wide open and vary your picking attack. In single coil mode the sound becomes grittier and lighter but with more attack and impact – an interesting rebalance of the guitar’s natural acoustic tone. It’s more Telecaster than Strat in single coil mode.

While the Bolero is well suited to chunky rock and metal rhythms, I’d also be quite comfortable playing this guitar in a blues or jazz setting, where the extra treble and reduced sonic heft give it exactly the kind of cut you need for those styles. The playability is also very impressive and the fretwork is generally beyond expectations for a guitar in this price bracket (slight finishing issues notwithstandiing – like I said, the occasional rough end doesn’t impact playbility, otherwise my opinion would be rather different). Give it a try.

NEWS: DBZ Guitars now shipping

So it seems Dean B. Zelinsky’s new brand, DBZ Guitars, is appearing in stores, answering the question “What’s cooler than a pointy guitar that can kill you if you put a foot wrong?” with the response “MORE pointy guitars that can kill you if you put a foot wrong.” I can’t wait to try these babies out. Hopefully one will come my way for review before too long.

DBZ Guitars By Dean B. Zelinsky Now Shipping!

October 05, 2009


DBZ Guitars is now shipping guitars across America and worldwide. With strong sales in America, DBZ Guitars has announced initial distribution to the following countries: Australia, Canada, Central America, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Poland, South America, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

Music Retailers are singing their praise???

“The first guitar we received was a DBZ Tuscan. It sold the same day. We’ve been receiving regular calls from our customers about the Bird of Prey. One customer was actually waiting in our Georgia location for the delivery truck to arrive. I’ve never seen a customer so excited about a guitar! He took home a Bird of Prey the day they arrived.” – Gerald Freedman, Owner, Freedman’s Music, Bluffton, SC

“The Bird Of Prey, what a guitar! Like the USA models, even the imports feel great. It’s the balance, the weight, the neck shape (which is key here), and the look. This guitar could get by on looks alone but obviously that wasn’t the plan here.” – Eddie Carlino, Carlino Guitars, Medford, MA

“Well exceeded any and all expectations! Quality and playability is top notch.” – Todd Mobley, Sales Manager, TheMusicFarm.com, Orrville, OH

“When our DBZ guitars arrived, we had to double check where they were made because the import guitars felt like the handmade USA guitars. You just can’t find another guitar that feels and plays like this in this price range.” – Scott J. Hrdlicka, Director, BeyondEleven.com, Milwaukee, WI

DBZ Guitars was founded August 26, 2008 when world-renowned guitar builder Dean B. Zelinsky saw the need to take guitars to an entirely new place. DBZ Guitars breaks through the monotony on a whole new level. With vivid finishes, lifelike textured tops, and three-dimensional carved art, Zelinsky has returned to raise the bar a second time.

“Great playing guitars that look superior on stage is what DBZ is all about,” says DBZ Guitars CEO, Dean B. Zelinsky.

All guitars are available with a vast range of options; brilliant finishes and over-the-top graphics as both import and USA Custom Shop models. There is also a full line of acoustic guitars available. DBZ guitars invites you view their entire 2009 line of guitars online at: http://www.dbzguitars.com/

NEWS: DBZ goes to the dark side

No, it’s got nothing to do with a Dragon Ball Z/Star Wars crossover. DBZ Guitars, the new company formed by Dean Zelinsky, has officially launched their ‘Dark Side of Dean’ range. These guitars look pretty savage, in the nicest possible way.

DBZ Guitars Introduces New Metal-Oriented “The Dark Side of Dean” Guitar Line
August 05, 2009

DBZ Guitars is pleased to announce a new series of distinctive metal guitars, “The Dark Side of Dean.” This line is a new offering of uniquely carved masterpieces straight from the darkest depths of legendary guitar builder Dean B. Zelinsky’s mind. “The Dark Side series is designed for the sophisticated player, who is searching for the ultimate ‘over the top’ metal instrument,” says the CEO and DBZ Guitars founder.

Zelinsky is no stranger to metal. His guitar creations are played, and have been played, by metal & rock royalty on stages across the world for decades. Armed with 30 years of knowledge and experience, DBZ has created a guitar line like no other specifically for his fans and fans of the genre. “Great tone, feel, and incredible playability have always been the bottom line. But now, by embracing advances in woodworking technology, we can create anything we can imagine. ‘The Dark Side’ line is no exception. We’ve pushed the boundaries to create sculpted masterpieces with more tone, feel, and magic than anything I’ve ever created,” he says.

The “Dark Side of Dean” consists of three unique and darkly ornate models:

DBZ Bird of Prey The Bird of Prey is a carved masterpiece that unites form with function. It’s available in a variety of custom colors and graphics with a highly contoured body. Bird of Prey comes standard with EMG active humbuckers providing all the intensity and depth needed to compliment it’s intense design. The Bird of Prey’s easy access 24-fret neck gives players the ability to tear up the fretboard in style while lending their music a visual punch to the gut.

DBZ Venom The Venom is a deeply visceral V-style guitar. Like the Bird of Prey, Zelinsky uses modern technology not only as a method for precision and efficiency but as a means to realize the menacing sculpture that lies beneath the tone wood. The Venom comes loaded with EMG pickups, original Floyd Rose tremolo, and show-stopping graphic options.

DBZ Halcyon The Halcyon is a radical re-imagining of a classic style. It is a sleek, double cutaway guitar that balances classic functionality with modern metal sensibilities. Like the Bird of Prey and The Venom, the Halcyon is loaded to the hilt with EMG pickups, original Floyd Rose Tremolo, easy 24-fret access, and set-neck construction. It’s available in high impact colors and radical off-the-hook graphics, including the Vertigo and the Death Dealer.

Dark Side Specs:
Construction: Set Neck 25.5″ scale
Body: Alder
Neck/Fingerboard: Maple/Ebonized
Frets: 24
Pickups: EMG 81/85
Tuners: Grover
Hardware: Black
Bridge: Floyd Rose

For a full list of specs, colors and graphic options, please visit www.dbzguitars.com

All Dark Side Guitars are also available as USA Custom models.

Save Up to 90% on Almost Everything at MusiciansFriend.com (exp: 8/31)

NAMM 2009: Dean Zelinsky launches DBZ Guitars

Whoa. Dean Zelinsky has officially launched his new brand, DBZ Guitars, with a new website ahead of the coming NAMM trade show. Check out that Cavallo V. I mean, it’s obviously a 3D computer rendering, but imagine what that’ll look like in person, with all that carved wood and flamed-as-all-get-out maple.

Equally cool is that DBZ street prices will range from $350 – $6,000.

Check out the website to see all 68 guitars.

Here’s the press release:

DBZ Guitars, Inc. founders Dean Zelinsky and Jeff Diamant announced today the official launch of their debut web site, DBZGuitars.com. Zelinsky, who also founded and eventually sold Dean Guitars, is taking a decidedly more sophisticated direction with his 2009 guitar designs, while still evoking those edgy, sexy Zelinsky style cues for which he has been world-renowned for more than 30 years. The site premieres Zelinsky’s roughly 68 new guitar models — electrics and acoustics, imports and USA-made guitars produced in DBZ Guitars’ new Chicago area facility — with street prices ranging from $350 to $6,000.

Highlights of the new DBZ line are the Cavallo V, with lines and carves clearly inspired by Ferrari, the DBZ Croc Skin Bolero, the first guitar ever to obtain the look and feel of crocodile skin, and the Imperial, with a super-thin body design which Zelinsky claims to be an “acoustically perfect” solid body electric guitar.

DBZGuitars.com will link to an equally important DBZ site, “The Dark Side of Dean,” which exclusively caters to the heavy metal fans who value Zelinsky’s craftsmanship, and will be debuting 21 new guitar designs. Zelinsky stated that this will be an exclusive club. The Dark Side of Dean will be password protected, and only die-hard Dean Zelinsky fans will be admitted. Clues to unlock the mystery of the Dark Side will be located on the DBZGuitars.com site as well as various Internet sites. The Dark Side will also host its own DBZ Dark Side guitars forum.

Zelinsky, along with co-founder Jeff Diamant, launched DBZ Guitars August 26, 2008. Diamant, who founded Diamond Amplification, and Zelinsky will be hosting the DBZ/Diamond Booth #3290, Hall D at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California on January 15, 2009.