Hands-On Review:Old world craftsmanship & cutting edge

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By Jennifer Wright

Dean Nouveau & Contour Series

Dean is making a habit of guitar innovation. Their handsome Contour Series features rounded radius edges that deliver a new level of comfort and catch all the right eyes. And the Nouveau Series takes innovative body design a step further with its tapered body. These are not your typical acoustic/electric guitars. Nor is Dean your typical guitar maker. Dean is no stranger to leading edge electric guitar technology. It’s no surprise that their Nouveau and Contour Series are just as adventuresome as their electric counterparts.

Nouveau Series
I’ve seen hundreds of guitar styles over the years. From thinner to fatter to pointer, to who-knows-what-they-were-thinking. At first glance, the Deans looked like most acoustic guitars. Sure, the
Nouveau has the cool double cutaway. And yes, they do have the distinctive Dean headstock and the nifty bridge. But when I picked up a Nouveau and held it in my hands, I thought, “Whoa... this is really different.”

What makes the body of these
Nouveau models so special? A graduated body depth of 90mm to 120mm. That’s right: Nouveau guitars have tapered bodies which are incredibly comfortable to play. When you hold them in playing position, the top of the guitar is thinner and so fits under the arm easier. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I was amazed at what a difference it makes. It’s much more comfortable. Also, fretboard and soundhole tilt slightly up, so you don’t have to bend over craning your neck to see the playing surface of your guitar. When I’m learning new material, I can’t take my eyes off the fretboard and often get a stiff neck from bending uncomfortably over my guitar. I still look for chords. The Nouveau makes it easier see the fretboard when you need to. Another advantage of the tapered design is a lighter guitar. And it still delivers a bigger, richer, more resonant sound than thinner acoustic/electric models.

The basics on the
Nouveau guitar are also quite impressive. And the most basic element for any guitar player is tone. Both the Nouveau CM and Nouveau CR versions feature Engelmann spruce tops that accentuate the warm, round aspects of this series’ luscious tone. Each is responsive to a light touch but has a lot of headroom for those who play hard or with a flat-pick. Both have a sweet resonance that can only improve with age.

Click to EnlargeThere are two differences between the Nouveau CR and Nouveau CM: back and side woods and electronics. The CR is made with rosewood back and sides, and the CM has mahogany back and sides. Besides the different appearance, many players agree that if all else is equal, rosewood provides more sustain and bass than mahogany. Mahogany, on the other hand, is usually credited with delivering better clarity and note separation.

Now for the electronics. Both models come equipped with bridge-mounted pickups that connect to active electronics systems conveniently mounted on the top side of the guitar for quick tweaking in the heat of performance. The
Nouveau CM comes with a Dean 3-band EQ for tailoring your sound. The Nouveau CR features an onboard Shadow P7 system.

The two models also look incredibly good. Besides the handsome factor, the double-cutaway design extends access to both sides of the fretboard. The sound-hole rosette and top binding are exquisite. The Dean headstock and sweeping eyebrow bridge are just plain cool. Add the twinkling Grover tuners and you have some exceptional guitars.

Contour Series
Contour guitar series sports rounded radius edges and luscious, smooth curves, making them some of the most eye-catching models since Dean’s dangerous electrics. Dean Nouveau & Contour SeriesThe four models in the series differ only in color, and they’re striking: the Tundra model is pearl white; the Calypso, metallic blue; the Del Fuego, metallic red; and the Onyx, black. Altogether, Contours are built for comfort, beauty, and exceptional tone. Every detail of their construction and finishing bespeaks Dean’s commitment to acoustic craftsmanship.

Contour model has a single- cutaway body with an extended rosewood fingerboard that makes high-altitude solo excursions easily accessible. I played a Contour for a few days, and I must say it played just as good as it looks.

In addition to the comfortable body, the neck is clean and easy to ride from one end to the other. The solid spruce top delivers shining bright tones and warm, punchy bass when it’s unplugged. Plugged in, the
Contour can rock. With the onboard Shadow pre-amp system’s EQ, you can dial in some very tight tones that really make open chords roar, highs shimmer, and solos soar.

As you can tell, I like these Dean Noveau and
Contour models. The Nouveau’s tapered body is ultra-comfortable to play, the double cutaway is very cool, and the body-tilt lets me easily see the fretboard. The Contour gives me true comfort, great looks, and some serious tone in a single cutaway. Both of these guitars offer really exceptional sounds with or without electricity. With Musician’s Friend low prices and Platinum Card, both the Nouveau and Contour are almost irresistible.


Features & Specs:



Nouveau CM Guitars
  • Engelmann sprucetop
  • Mahogany back & sides
  • Dean 3-band EQ
  • 90mm-120mm tapered body
  • Double cutaway
  • Soundhole abalone rosette
  • Multi-ply top binding
  • Grover tuners
  • Gloss natural finish Nouveau CR Guitars
  • Engelmann spruce top
  • Rosewood back and sides
  • Shadow P7 electronics
  • 90mm-120mm tapered body
  • Double cutaway
  • Soundhole abalone rosette
  • Abalone multi-ply top binding
  • Gold Grover tuners
  • Gloss natural finish
Contour Guitars
  • Solid spruce top
  • Extended rosewood fingerboard
  • Shadow electronics
  • Rounded radius edges
  • Single cutaway
  • Soundhole abalone rosette
  • Chrome Grover tuners
  • Solid color finishes