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Dean Exile Select review

This sumptuous S-style is a timely reminder that we can always count on Dean to grab our attention in a crowded guitar store

Dean Exile Select review
(Image: © Dean)

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for an eye-catching shred machine that plays as good as it looks, the Dean Exile Select delivers on both fronts along with aggressive, classic-voiced tones courtesy of its EMG pickups.

For

  • The EMG 57-TW/66-TW active humbuckers make a stunning debut.
  • Versatile shred guitar.
  • Excellent value for money.
  • Great neck – it's quick and it's solid.

Against

  • Poplar burl maybe a little ostentatious for some? Not us!

There are so many different models of solidbody electric guitars on the market these days that it can be pretty challenging for a new model to stand out from the crowd. 

Dean has specialized in making eye-catching guitars for more than four decades, so it’s little surprise that their new Exile Select series instruments are already generating a buzz, particularly since there’s much more to Dean’s Exile guitars than their looks. 

The series currently consists of six different models, available in six- or seven-string configurations, with Floyd Rose vibrato or Tune-O-Matic bridges and with natural finish quilted maple tops or a very distinctive burled poplar top with a satin turquoise burst finish. We took a look at the six-string Exile Select model with burled poplar/satin turquoise burst and a Tune-O-Matic bridge. 

Features

With its sharp, thin cutaway horns and deeply scooped high-E string cutaway, the Dean Exile Select makes a bold visual statement that it’s a bona fide shred machine.

The three-piece bolt-on maple neck physically backs up the model’s visual first impression with its 25 ½-inch scale length, generously wide 1 11/16th-inch nut width, flat 16-inch radius, 24 jumbo frets, smooth ebony fretboard and slim, D-shaped profile.

The flat burled poplar top and alder body measure a generous 1 ¾ inches thick, but the belly contour and right forearm bevel provide a slim, comfortable playing feel.

The dazzling satin turquoise burst finish and burled poplar top provide distinctive, upscale styling. (Image credit: Dean)

The Exile Select is loaded with upscale styling embellishments, which include a fully bound fretboard, large pearloid block fretboard inlays and five-ply binding surrounding the top and headstock.

The hardware - consisting of brushed nickel (bridge, control knobs and tuners) and brushed chrome (pickup covers) - provides an additional touch of class. But the main eye-catching feature is the satin turquoise burst finish on the burled poplar top, which looks like a Polynesian island floating in a crystal-clear sea.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Dean Exile Select is its pair of EMG 57-TW (bridge) and 66-TW (neck) active humbucking pickups, which here are making their debut on a factory instrument. The 57-TW features Alnico 5 magnets and steel pole pieces, while the 66-TW features Alnico 5 magnets and ceramic pole pieces.

Both provide push/pull single-coil split functions, accessed via the master volume and master tone knobs. Pickup settings are accessed via a three-way blade switch. Strings are anchored through the body for enhanced resonance and dynamic response, and mini Grover tuners maintain stable, precise tuning.

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(Image credit: Dean)
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(Image credit: Dean)
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(Image credit: Dean)

A set of EMG 57-TW/66-TW active humbuckers with coil splitting make their first appearance on a factory production guitar.

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(Image credit: Dean)

Performance

The EMG humbuckers provide warm, dark tones similar to vintage PAFs but with hotter output that is fitting with the Exile Select’s more aggressive stance. 

With resonant frequencies centered at 1.77kHz (humbucking) and 3.47kHz (single-coil) the midrange delivers an assertive, deep bark while the bass remains solid and tight and the treble maintains impressive body and depth.

Purchased separately, the pickups cost almost 30 percent of this model’s street price, which makes the guitar a very impressive value. Even though the Exile Select has a very deep cutaway to provide absolutely free access to the entire fretboard, the neck feels exceptionally solid and stable.

The relatively flat radius, jumbo frets and ample width make it easy to bend notes or play chords and single-note solos with precision. The D-shaped profile provides a little more depth at the high and low E strings, providing a little extra meat to grab onto when blazing up and down the neck.

One detail I really like is the inset, angled output jack, which positions the guitar cable pointing upwards toward the bottom strap pin, where the cable can easily be wrapped under the strap and kept completely out of the way.

Specs

  • PRICE: $1,099.99, £1,015
  • ORIGIN: Indonesia
  • TYPE: Double cutaway solid-body electric
  • BODY: Alder with burled poplar top
  • NECK: Maple, "slim D" profile, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 25.5" (648 mm)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Black plastic, 1.688" (43mm)
  • FINGERBOARD: Bound ebony, pearloid block inlays, 406mm (16”) radius
  • FRETS: 24, jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Tune-O-Matic, Grover Mini tuners, brushed nickel
  • ELECTRICS: EMG 66 TW Active Humbucker (neck), EMG 57 Active Humbucker (bridge), 3-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume and master tone w/coil-tap
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Satin Turquoise Burst (as reviewed) 
  • CONTACT: Dean Guitars