We’ve covered a few Donner guitars at KGR, and if there’s one pattern that has emerged, it’s that they are continuously getting better and better. Not only is their quality control vastly improved, but they are taking giant leaps forward in terms of design, too.
Until now, the brand had mainly been building simple models with bolt on necks, but in a surprisingly bold move, they’ve released their own ES-335 clone, the Donner DJP-1000 Jazz Guitar.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we spent some time with the DJP-1000 in order to give it a thorough assessment.
Donner sent us this guitar to review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
Who Is This For?
When we first heard about the DJP-1000, we had wondered whether Donner could really pull off a 335 style semi hollow guitar – and we’re pleased to say, yes – they can.
We think that the DJP-1000 is a great choice for intermediate, advanced players, and dare we say it, working musicians on a tight budget. The build quality is far above what we’d expected, and tonally, it was more than capable of keeping up with similarly priced models from other brands, including Epiphone.
As we often find with ES style guitars, though, the larger body size does mean that smaller players and even adult beginners may find it a little cumbersome.
Appearance / Features / Controls
For the purpose of this review, we received a Vintage Sunburst model. It is available in a black or cherry sunburst, too, if sunburst isn’t your thing. We happened to love the sunburst finish – it had a flamed maple top, which while not as showy as that of the Epiphone ES-335 Figured, still looked surprisingly premium.
It had a very traditional semi hollow construction. It was made with laminated maple on the top, back and sides, and had a solid maple center block. The body was fully bound, as were the neck, headstock, and even the F holes.
As for hardware, everything was pretty standard for an ES style guitar. It had a Tune-O-Matic style bridge, and Grover style tuners. If we had one criticism of the hardware, it would be that the chrome plating wasn’t the neatest, but the tuners performed well and the intonation was accurate from the factory.
The pickups were actually one of the biggest highlights. As expected, it came with a pair of humbucking pickups, but they featured coil splitting, which allowed us to get a huge range of tones, including single coil tones – something that’s not too common on this style of guitar!
We found the DJP-1000 to be pretty comfortable. Weight wise it was around 8.5lb, which is pretty light for a big, all maple guitar like this.
The playability was good enough out of the box. The action was set a little too high for our liking, but with a little tweak on the bridge, we dropped it enough to get the feel we wanted. The neck was good and straight, though, so again, any issues with set up were easily solved.
Unlike competitive models, it actually had a rosewood fretboard. It was extremely dark, with tight grain and no open pores, and was another highlight for us. It felt great, and looked amazing.
As with most guitars of this style, it had 22 medium jumbo frets, and each and every one of them was well dressed. There were no sharps, everything was level, and there was no grittiness on the crowns. For a guitar that costs as little as this Donner does, it would be hard to ask for more.
Tonally speaking, we got so much from this Donner that it was like having 2 guitars. The standard humbucker tones were extremely robust. They were thick and warm, with good clarity and articulation in both the neck and bridge positions.
With the coils split, we got some great lead tones from the bridge position. It worked brilliantly with mild to medium overdrive, giving us crunchy rock tones that sounded like they came from a much more expensive guitar.
The clean tones were great – and with a name like “Jazz Guitar” this is something that they really needed to get right!
One concern that we had was the binary nature of the pots. From 0-2 they were effectively off, and from 2-10 they were pretty much dimed. Of course, this can be changed, and it’s a common complaint on many budget guitars. If you rely on your guitar’s tone and volume controls heavily, either be prepared to change out the pots, or perhaps look at something like the Epiphone ES-335 with its CTS units.
Final Thoughts on the Donner DJP-1000 Jazz Guitar
The Donner DJP-1000 was really well received by the KGR team. It performed well, and it looked fantastic. Was it perfect? No. But, its flaws weren’t insurmountable, and considering the price, we don’t think there are any 335 style guitars for the same money or less that can realistically compete with it in terms of tone and build quality.
If you’ve been thinking about an ES style guitar and you’re trying to avoid spending too much, this Donner is a pretty solid option. We’ve spent a ton of time playing it, and found ourselves smiling every time we picked it up – not something we’ve been able to say about many budget guitars.