NAMM 2024: Dean Guitars producer Armadillo Enterprises has faced more than its fair share of legal and economic headwinds in recent years – to the point that, in summer last year, we doubted its very survival.
However, despite those significant knocks, cooler heads appear to be prevailing – and it has recently started to show signs that it is slowly righting the ship. The first hint came at the end of 2023, when its Vengeance and Zero Select models finally started to hit shelves – after a delay of two years.
Backstage at this year's NAMM show, Guitar World got an exclusive preview of the firm’s extensive new 2024 range from Armadillo president Patrick Schuleit – and, we have to say, these look like some of the best builds the brand has put together in a long time.
GW doesn’t have the full spec lists yet, but the firm is pulling no punches. As such, there are top-spec pickups across the board (expect Fishman, EMG etc.), while the single-cuts feature Babicz bridges and tailpieces for increased sustain – and all the new models have glow-in-the-dark side dots.
Among the new models we previewed was a new affordable take on the Kerry King Overlord signature guitar, finished in Battalion Grey. It drops the Sustainiac, but at $1,499, shaves a significant chunk off the $6,499 price tag of the USA Custom Shop Overlord and is loaded with a Kahler tremolo, EMG pickups, and pentagram inlays.
Meanwhile, Nile’s Karl Sanders is getting a new Vengeance V-style 7-string ($1,599), complete with a Floyd Rose and Seymour Duncan pickups. Plus Mudvayne’s Greg Tribbett, Hatebreed’s Wayne Lozinak, Sevendust’s John Connolly, and Anthrax’s Jon Donais are all in line for new signature builds.
The previously Dimebag-associated ML body shape is back and we saw a great take on that with a Floyd Rose and flame maple top in the firm’s trademark Slime Green finish ($899), plus a singlecut Thoroughbred in the same finish (a cheeky nod to the firm's wrangles with Gibson, perhaps?).
Then there’s those pastel-finished T-style NashVegas models, the Cadillac Silverburst... and that’s just the offshore builds.
What’s more, when it comes to the offshore range, Schuleit is very much out to nail the mid-priced metal guitar market and is adamant that Dean is not going to be beaten on price or spec. He also assures us that each model will only be launched when stock is available – so we shouldn’t see a repeat of the Vengeance/Zero stock issues.
The other big news for Dean in 2024 is the return of US builds, which we were also able to preview. Again, it is an all-guns-blazing line-up and while we don’t have prices on those yet, you only need to glance at some of these models to see it’s a somewhat provocative line-up.
We saw some wild builds, though. For instance, an S-style MD Custom – complete with a wood-grained scratchplate and pickup covers – or that paduak ML Custom that takes the ’90s metal guitar shape back to the electric’s roots.
Then there’s a nod to Armadillo’s previous CEO, Elliott Rubinson, in the Tribute Hybrid bass, which features custom Dean logo artwork across the body and pickups.
So, while Armadillo is still very much navigating its legal wrangles, it does appear that the company's primary focus is back where it should be: making great instruments and getting them out to players.
Could 2024 be the year that Dean Guitars makes its comeback? Quite possibly…
For more information on all of the forthcoming models, keep an eye on Dean Guitars as 2024 unfolds...