Dean is well known for guitars designed for shred and metal players, so if any company was going to come up with a design suited for shred phenomenon Michael Angelo Batio, Dean would be at the top of the list. The MAB1 is Dean's collaborative design with Michael to come up with a signature model and features an all alder body and top, bolt-on maple neck, ebony fretboard, active EMG pickups and a real Floyd Rose tremolo with locking nut. The body is finished in a stunning custom armoured flame paint job and matching headstock. The neck shape is designed to Batio's demanding speed playing specifications for a fast, smooth feel.
The construction and finish of our sample model were beautiful, with a flawless paint-job that looks as good up close as it does from a distance. Everything is finished to a high level with lovely fret work and high grade hardware throughout. The body is lovingly contoured and has a pleasing curvature to the edges, softening the look of the guitar on the eye. As such, it is also very comfortable on the body, something my ever-expanding belly very much appreciated! The headstock shape wears its influences on its sleeve but has a larger more unique look that complements the body well and the matching paint job is a great touch.
Whether stood up or sat down, the guitar is nicely balanced and reassuringly heavy, something not uncommon for alder construction. The neck is slightly thicker than the average shred type but still on the thinner end of the scale for speedy playing, imparting a more comfortable feel for chordal playing and long power chord sessions. I only experienced one playability problem with the guitar, linked to the Floyd Rose system Dean have installed. I love Floyd Rose trems but this one was really difficult to tighten up enough so that the arm would remain in place. After a short period of use the arm would loosen up again and flop down out of reach. You could probably tighten it enough using a air of pliers but I was worried about damaging the arm screws so didn't try anything other than finger tight.
The guitar was set-up very well straight out of the supplied hard case and was surprisingly resonant given that the trem was floating and the action was so low. The guitar had a naturally bright tone and sounded solid across the entire range with no obvious dead spots. The EMG pickups are of the active variety and as such require power from a battery inserted in the back plate via an easily removed compartment. Plugged in the clean tones were pure and retained the brightness of the acoustic tone.
Things stayed solid during changes to the volume and tone controls, as you would from active circuitry and these EMGs certainly don't seem to suffer from any of the sterile tonal problems sometimes associated with active pickup combinations, retaining a dynamic response even with their high output levels. With overdrive and distortion applied, the tones are straight from the metal world and the guitar retains clarity no matter how much gain you apply. Rolling off the volume cleans things up nicely but you may miss the response and dynamic sound of lower output pickups if you're more used to a vintage style guitar. Obviously this instrument is designed for high gain lead tones and in this respect it excels.
Reviewing a signature guitar like this is always tricky as it means different things to different people. As an ardent Michael Angelo Batio fan you'll probably give this guitar five stars every time as it represents what you love about the man's playing and allows you to be a part of that. To everyone else, they will judge this guitar on its merits and aesthetic values and whilst it is certainly a very high quality instrument, its appeal and versatility may be limited somewhat by its shred and metal heritage. If you're a Batio fan then you simply can't pass this up but even if you're not, this is about as good a shred guitar as you can get and I'd certainly recommend you check it out.