Hands-On Review:Two loaded beginner kits to set you on the righteous road of rock.

by Dominic Hilton

Dean Playmate
This Dean outfit comes with the essentials necessary to get a young rock-and-roller’s career started: an ax, an amp and a cable to connect them. The Playmate EVO P electric guitar features a bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and an attractive single-cut basswood body. The traditional hardware includes a Tune-O-Matic-style bridge with a stop tailpiece, dual exposed-coil humbuckers, a three-way selector, and master volume and tone controls. The guitar also has a tilt-back three-aside headstock, which benefits from a set of machineheads that have been quality sealed for accurate tuning. Put this all together and the EVO P adds up to a substantial, neatly built workhorse guitar. The accompanying Mean 10 practice combo packs the same attitude as the ax, with a tough closed-back cabinet, corner protectors, carry handle and chrome control panel with chickenhead knobs. The 10-watt amp has controls for gain, volume, bass, middle and treble, as well as a boost switch. The addition of a headphone jack is a boon for late-night woodshedding.

Epiphone Players Pack
Where the Dean kit provides the meat and potatoes, this Epiphone pack serves the full buffet for the complete beginner. At the heart of the kit is an Epiphone Les Paul guitar and Studio 105 combo. The guitar—a budget version of the Gibson flagship—has a bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fretboard and a slim hardwood-laminate body. Its hardware consists of a dependable Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece, while the electronics comprise a pair of exposed-coil humbuckers with a three-way selector and master volume and tone. The layout of the Studio 105 combo is identical to that of Dean’s Mean 10, with chickenhead controls for gain, volume, bass, middle and treble, plus a headphone jack and a boost switch. The 105, however, has a shallow open-backed cab with a rear “kickstand” and features Epiphone’s exclusive “E-Drive” distortion. In addition to the amp and guitar, the pack also includes a spread of useful accessories, including a strap, electronic tuner, gig bag, cable and even a basic tuition video.