2011 Caparison Dellinger SE (Twilight Blue)


Ironically enough, now in Jesus Land
Oct 26, 2007
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Wellington, New Zealand
I have a lot of thoughts on this guitar so figured I had enough for a review.

I spent the better part of my 22 years playing guitar as a metal guitar player. The reason I know about Caparison Guitars is from Adam D. and Joel Stroetzel from Killswitch Engage as well as Chris Amott from Arch Enemy. I had told myself over the last few months that I was going to buy an Ernie Ball Music Man Luke I or an Axis (with a Floyd). Reason being I'm a lot more into Hagar-era Van Halen, Toto, Chicago - weird stuff like that - these days, and metal wasn't my main thing, but this guitar cropped up on eBay and me and a friend both agreed I couldn't pass up on it. B+ condition with zero paint chips on the corners etc. I'm an HSS + Floyd Rose guy, although I have sworn off 24 fret guitars since I prefer the single coils to be closer to the neck, but I caved and bought this anyway.

- Body: mahogany
- Neck: quarter-sawn maple
- Construction: bolt-on
- Fingerboard: ebony
- Inlays: mother of pearl clocks with abalone border
- Fingerboard radius: (est.) 12"
- Frets: 24 (est.) Jumbo
- Tuners: Gotoh H.A.P. (black chrome)
- Bridge: Schaller Floyd Rose (black)
- Nut: Schaller R2 (black)
- Controls: 1 vol. (black chrome, dome knob), 1 tone (black chrome, dome knob), 1 5-way switch
- Pickups: Caparison's proprietary humbucker (bridge), strat-style single (middle), and stacked blade-style single (neck)

The neck feels incredible. The shape is a lot rounder than my white ESP Horizon FR and closer to my old black Horizon. I was surprised because it's actually more comfortable than a slim/wizard style neck. The fit and finish is exceptional and is the first thing you notice. Save for some micro-dings, the guitar is finished impeccably with great precision. If I were to put it on a scale I would say the quality is better than a standard series ESP. The fret ends are old-school, so you don't get that J.Custom style ball end that feels so nice, but they are still rounded to the extent to which they are smooth and ergonomic to move your hand across. Generally speaking the fretwork is on-par for Japanese stuff. I wouldn't say it's exceptional but it's very good, and very good fretwork is a win in my book. One thing this guitar would benefit from is rounded fingerboard edges, but the current state of the edge of the fingerboard does not create any unpleasant feeling when playing.

I have heard some people saying that Caparison hard shell cases are not very good. When I took possession of the instrument, the tacks/nails which hold the hinges in place were loose. I tapped them back into place with a hammer and that seemed to do the trick, but I'm now paranoid about the case falling apart if and when I decide to carry it outside my house.

I paid exactly $1,800.00 USD for this instrument used. That's $3,013.00 NZD. In this economy, 1800 USD for a Caparison that was as mint as this at the time of auction is a great deal. I say "was" because the instrument was damaged in transit, but I don't think I need to go into the details of that as it's irrelevant to this review. Japanese guitars like occupy an interest space in between new Korean LTD's/Indonesian PRS guitars and Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. The fretwork isn't as good (not quite as artisanal) as the latter but the fit and finish are absolutely incredible (I would say on par with EBMM) and blows a $1500 USD guitar out of the water. This Dellinger SE has dethroned my ESP Horizon FR SW (which admittedly needs fretwork).

My bias is that I'm an HSS guy, and this guitar is incredible for those position 4 & 5 tones and then crushes drop tuned high-gain tones in the bridge position. A lot of Caparison fanatics are obsessed with their proprietary pickups, and I do like the single coil sounds I'm getting, but ultimately I'll be trying an EMG combo in the coming weeks. I also considered DiMarzio since I haven't used DiMarzios in about 9 years.

Like I said before, the neck is very comfortable. It played itself even out of the case with an unknown set of strings on it. I knew immediately I'd made the right choice. When I bought my USA Fender Strat, I tried for a whole year to like the guitar but couldn't. With the Caparison I was at home on it instantly. The fret access is good, but my Horizon's is slightly superior.

**If I've left anything out, please post a comment**