Review: Dream Studio Sparkler Alain Johannes Signature Guitar

The Dream Studio Sparkler Alain Johannes Signature model

The Dream Studio Sparkler Alain Johannes Signature model (Image credit: Dream Studio Guitars)

Alain Johannes is a modern rock Renaissance man best known for his work with his band Eleven. Over the last two decades he’s been a prolific force on both sides of the studio control room glass as well as a touring sideman, working with Chris Cornell, Eagles of Death Metal, PJ Harvey, Natalie Imbruglia, Mark Lanegan, No Doubt, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and many other artists.

Naturally, when Johannes reached out to Dream Studio to buy a few guitars, the conversation progressed into plans to develop the signature model guitar of his dreams. The result is the Dream Studio Sparkler Alain Johannes Signature model, which combines familiar features from beloved Sixties electrics with custom and hot-rodded appointments.

The most striking feature of the Sparkler is its offset body shape, similar to that of a Fender Jazzmaster, but the Sparkler’s alder body is generously chambered instead of solid and features an alder top cap. Distinctive soundholes on the lower bass bout provide acoustic-like resonance that significantly contributes to the Sparkler’s distinctive voice. The maple bolt-on neck has a 25.5-inch scale length, 21 tall-profile jumbo frets, 7.25-inch radius, C-shaped profile and rosewood fretboard with custom “11” inlays.

The double truss rod is adjustable via a wheel at the base of the neck above the 21st fret. Other upgrades and offbeat features include a Jazzmaster-style vibrato, Mustang-style uncovered bridge and reverse six-on-a-side headstock with 18:1 vintage Kluson-style tuners, roller string trees and bone nut. The pickups are a pair of custom Seymour Duncan Seth Lover SH-55 humbuckers with Alnico 2 magnets and wax potting, and controls include a three-way toggle switch, individual slider coil-tap switches for each pickup and master volume and master tone knobs with 500k pots.

Thanks to its generously chambered body and medium-output humbuckers, the Sparkler lives up to its name with its percussive attack, jangly treble and dynamically explosive response. This is a very lively, resonant guitar that delivers killer clean tones yet also can scream and sing with high-gain distortion.

The coil taps provide rich, full-bodied single-coil tones similar to a P90, with the bass and midrange becoming fatter in full humbucking mode. The generously contoured chambered body also results in a light weight that makes the guitar comfortable to play for hours. The neck’s profile is slim, but it feels very solid thanks to the five bolts holding it in place.

DIRECT PRICE: $1,299.95
MANUFACTURER: Dream Studio Guitars,

  • The body is generously chambered and features open soundholes that provide acoustic-like resonance and lighter body weight.
  • A pair of custom Seymour Duncan Seth Lover SH-55 humbuckers delivers a stunning variety of tones in tandem with the coil-tapping switches.

Considering the wide variety of projects that Alain Johannes is involved with, it’s no wonder he designed an impressively versatile instrument that should appeal to classic purists and modern adventurers alike.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.