Budget electric guitars have gotten so much better

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When I think back to the 80s and 90s, I remember budget guitars costing between $90 and $150. I also remember how bad they were. The action was so high they were unplayable, and if the action wasn’t mean, the frets were so sharp your hands would bleed. Fast forward to the present, and that is no longer the case. Guitars like the Donner DST-100T shatter that perception.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Donner DST-100T is one of many budget guitars that have breathed new life into the budget guitar market. It’s not without flaws, but those flaws are much easier to forgive because of the many things to love about this guitar. I’m not here to tell you that this is a pro or even intermediate level guitar; it’s not. But it’s a great beginner’s guitar that should interest new guitarists enough not to give up quickly. Read on for my thoughts on this budget yet fantastic guitar.

Characteristics

The Donner DST-100T has the following features and specifications:

  • Microphones: SSS
  • Controls: 1V 2T, 5 Ways
  • Body material: AAA solid African linden
  • Handle material: AAA Canadian maple
  • Shape of the handle: “C” shape
  • Position overlays: Dot inlays
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Mechanics: Die-cast steel

What’s in the box

  • Give DST-100R
  • Donner Carry Bag
  • Donner 3 Watt Practice Amp
  • guitar strap
  • guitar capo
  • guitar tuner
  • Additional strings
  • guitar picks
  • 10 foot guitar cable
  • Truss Rod Tool
  • Bridge adjustment tool
  • Documentation

Design

Give DST
The engraved neck plate is a nice touch.

The Donner DST-100T Kit is a complete package for anyone looking to start playing guitar. The kit contains everything you need to get started, including the DST-100R HSS guitar, practice amp, and more. We are going to focus on the DST-100R Strat style guitar. Let’s say the practice amp and included gear are pretty good to start with, but when you get serious you’ll want to upgrade.

The body of the DST-100R is almost identical to that of a Fender Stratocaster. Because Fender doesn’t own the right to the body shape of the Strat, anyone can use it. The most significant difference is the headboard. The Donner DST-100R headstock is slightly different than a Fender headstock, and this one is very attractive.

Donner calls this color Ivory White, but it looks more like Buttercreme to me. There are five other Sunburst colors, Saphhire Blue, Red, Black and Lake Blue. The finish of the guitar is fantastic; I found no paint cracks, chips or stains on the finish.

The hardware is chrome, and the pickguard and knobs are cheap plastic. The buttons feel good; they aren’t high quality, but they spin fine without binding. The Donner DST-100R pickups consist of two single coils and a humbucker. Very little information is given about them, so I don’t know if it’s Alnico or Ceramic. I suspect they are ceramic. Considering the price of the guitar.

The bridge is very nice and the saddles seem to be of excellent quality. The tremolo block is thinner than what you’ll find on a Fender or more expensive guitar, and that’s to be expected. The input jack has a solid connection and was not loose. The tuning machines were a bit inconsistent. Some of them were very tight, while others felt great. None of them were cowards, which is good.

The nut is plastic, the fingerboard appears to be rosewood, the neck is satin maple, and the body is solid AAA African basswood.

Overall, the Donner DST-100R almost sounds like a Fender Strat. It has a good weight and feels familiar to hold and play. The finish on this guitar is exceptional, and I think Donner has done a great job of making it a Strat style that players will enjoy looking at. Of course, it’s not a high-end instrument, so some materials will feel cheap.

Out-of-the-box configuration

Pulling the Donner DST-100R out of the box, I was surprised at how well Donner set it up. The action was at an excellent height, at least for me. The neck was straight and level. The electronics worked perfectly.

The nut had some binding, but adding a little graphite to the channels fixed that. Fret sprouting was very minimal here, which surprised me. Fret sprouting, or sharp fret ends, is a problem on cheap guitars, leading to not liking a guitar. The Donner DST-100R fretwork was excellent for the price of this guitar.

Overall, the out-of-the-box setup was very good. The nut had a bit of binding, there was a little fret sprout, the fret tops could do with a bit of polishing, but Donner did a great job here considering the price.

sound/playability

Give DST
Decent electronics and hardware lend themselves to good sound and playability.

The first thing I noticed while playing with the Donner DST-100R is the satin fretboard. Having a satin handle helps when moving positions on the handle. Lacquered necks can often feel like your hand is clinging, especially if you’re sweating. So I appreciate the satin neck of this guitar.

The handle is also excellent; it needed a bit of conditioning, but that’s okay. The frets, as I mentioned before, had a little manageable growth and the fret tops needed polishing. Fret issues are easy fixes, but I think the way this guitar comes out of the box, most beginners will be okay with it.

As far as sound goes, the pickups are good, not stellar, and definitely not as good as high-end pickups, but they’ll get the job done. I didn’t notice any mic characteristics or noise that shouldn’t be there when plugged in.

The guitar sounds great when plugged into the Donner practice amp, but it comes alive when you plug it into a nicer amp. I’d recommend looking at a slightly better amp if you’re even half serious about picking up guitar long term.

Overall the gameplay is good. Could be great with some minor fretwork, but I think it’s fine for beginners. The guitar sounds great when plugged into a good amp, so invest a bit in a decent practice amp. The included Donner amp is okay to start with, but research a better amp before looking at another guitar as you progress.

Donner DST-100R Guitar Gallery

Price value

Priced at US$169.99, it’s great value for beginners. Also, seasoned players might enjoy buying this guitar and making some electronics and hardware upgrades. Donate also offers our readers 15% off when you use the code techeris15 at the register. So it’s even better! Purchase links are below for US and Australian users.

Wrap

The Donner DST-109 may not be a Fender, but it doesn’t try to be. Budget guitars have become very good, and that’s a good thing for budding guitarists. Donner offers users an incredible springboard by providing an instrument that encourages beginners to stick with it. I know many people who bought cheap guitars and gave up due to poor quality and poor setup. The Donner DST-109 suffers from neither and is worth a look.

Last updated March 14, 2022.

Give DST-100T

US$169.99

Give DST-100T RB

Nailed it

  • For the price this is a fantastic guitar
  • Classic Strat design looks good
  • Nice finish, I didn’t find any flaws
  • The satin handle feels good
  • This starter pack includes everything you need to get started
  • Decent electronics with no issues

Work needed

  • The configuration is not perfect but it is expected
  • The frets need a bit of filing but again, expected
  • The frets need polishing, also planned

Donate DST-100R FI

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