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Cheap import guitar of the week #15 - Dean EVO XM

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This particular cheap guitar is something I call a "handyman's special."

The Dean EVO XM is so cheap in price that it would make most people say that for a guitar this low in cost, something must be wrong with it.

Before I get into that, if it were a choice between the EVO XM and, say, a Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS, I'd go with the Squier even though it's almost 70 dollars more. Why? Because it basically needs nothing.

However, there are a few things about the EVO XM that make it desirable as a dirt cheap guitar.

First is the weight. Some have reported this guitar to be very lightweight. One reviewer even said it weighs just 5.75lbs (2.6kg). That's a featherweight, to be sure, and a selling point because that makes the guitar good for both kids and older adults with age-related back and/or leg issues.

Second is the look. The guitar, even though dirt cheap, looks fancy. The blackout hardware goes nicely with the satin natural finish. It would be nicer if the inlays were blocks instead of dots, but then again you really can't complain for a guitar this low in price.

Third, it's a hardtail, meaning no vibrato system to deal with. And there are a lot of players who like a cheap hardtail guitar they can thrash around.

What needs upgrading/fixing?

Fortunately, this list is real short.

A new nut and a fret leveling will basically make the guitar play perfectly. If you want to replace the pickups, machine heads and so on, you can do that later. First and foremost is getting the neck right.

You can perform a fret leveling yourself with a kit, if you want to give that a go. And there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing how to install a nut, which is a fairly painless process.

You can make the EVO XM a great player if you're willing to put a little work into it; this is why I call the guitar a handyman's special.

If you want a guitar that needs nothing except basic setup, get the Squier. But if you like the featherweight EVO XM hardtail, get that instead as long as you know up front it needs a little work to make it play like it's supposed to.

Why buy a guitar that needs a little work? Because that small amount of work saves money, both now and for future guitar purchases. Once you know how to work on guitars, you can make just about any cheap solid-body play like a dream.

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