Donner DST-100T Kit review: Budget electric guitars have gotten so much better

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Techaeris Rated 8.8/10

When I think back to the ’80s and ’90s, I remember budget guitars costing between US$90 and US$150. I also remember how bad they were. The action was so high they were unplayable, and if the action wasn’t nasty, the frets were so sharp your hands would bleed. Fast-forward to the present, and that is not the case anymore. Guitars like the Donner DST-100T are breaking that perception.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Donner DST-100T is one of many budget guitars that have given the budget guitar market new life. It’s not without its faults, but those faults are far easier to forgive because of the many things to like about this guitar. I’m not here to tell you that this is a pro or even intermediate-level guitar; it is not. But it is an excellent beginner guitar that should keep new guitar players interested enough not to give up quickly. Read on for my thoughts on this budget yet fantastic guitar.

Specifications

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

  • Pickups: HSS
  • Controls: 1V 2T, 5Ways 
  • Body Material: AAA Solid African Basswood 
  • Neck Material: AAA Canadian Maple
  • Neck Shape: “C” Shape
  • Position Inlays: Dots Inlays
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Tuning Machines: Die-Cast Steel

What’s In The Box

  • Donner DST-100R
  • Donner Gig Bag
  • Donner 3 Watt Practice Amp
  • Guitar Strap
  • Guitar Capo
  • Guitar Tuner
  • Extra Strings
  • Guitar Picks
  • 10-foot Guitar Cable
  • Truss Rod Tool
  • Bridge Adjustment Tool
  • Documentation

Design

Donner 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 start, including the DST-100R HSS guitar, a practice amp, and more. We’re going to concentrate on the DST-100R Strat-style guitar. Let’s say the practice amp and included gear is good enough to get started, but when you get serious, you’ll want to upgrade.

The DST-100R body looks nearly identical to a Fender Stratocaster. Because Fender does not own the right to the body shape of the Strat, anyone can use it. The most significant difference is the headstock. The Donner DST-100R headstock is slightly different than a Fender’s, and this one is very attractive.

Donner calls this color Ivory White, but it looks more like Buttercreme to my eyes. There are five other colors Sunburst, Saphhire Blue, Red, Black, and Lake Blue. The finish on the guitar is fantastic; I did not find any paint cracks, chips, or blemishes on the finish at all.

The hardware is chrome, and the pickguard and knobs are cheap plastic. The knobs feel fine; they’re not high quality, but they turn nicely with no binding. The pickups in the Donner DST-100R consist of two single coils and a humbucker. Very little information is given about them, so I don’t know if they’re Alnico or Ceramic. I suspect they are Ceramic. Given the price of the guitar.

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

The nut is plastic, the fretboard seems to be rosewood, the neck is satin maple, and the body is AAA solid African Basswood.

Overall, the Donner DST-100R looks nearly identical to a Fender Strat. It has a good weight and feels familiar to hold and play. The finish on this guitar is outstanding, and I think Donner did a great job making this into a Strat-style that players will enjoy looking at. Of course, this is not a high-end instrument, so some of the materials will feel cheap.

Out of Box Setup

Taking the Donner DST-100R out of the box, I was actually 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 all worked perfectly.

The nut did exhibit some binding but adding a little graphite to the channels solved that. Fret sprout was very minimal here, which surprised me. Fret sprout, 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 point of this guitar.

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

Sound/Playability

Donner DST
Decent electronics and hardware lend to good sound and playability.

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

The fretboard is also excellent; it needed some conditioning, but that’s no big deal. The frets, as I mentioned before, had a little sprout that is manageable and the fret tops needed some polishing. The fret issues are easy fixes, but I think the way this guitar is out of the box, most beginners will be okay with it.

As for the sound, the pickups are good, not stellar, and certainly not as good as higher-end pickups, but they will get the job done. I did not notice any microphonic characteristics or noise that shouldn’t be there when plugged in.

The guitar sounds meh when plugged into the Donner practice amp, but it comes to life when you plug into a nicer amp. I’d recommend looking at a slightly better amp if you’re even half-serious in taking up guitar long-term.

Overall, the playability is fine. It could be great with some minor fretwork, but I think it’s okay for starters. The guitar sounds great when plugged into a good amp, so invest a little into a decent practice amp. The included Donner amp is okay to start with, but look into a better amp before you look into another guitar as you progress.

Donner DST-100R Guitar Gallery

Price/Value

Priced at US$169.99, this is an excellent value for beginners. Even more, seasoned players might enjoy buying this guitar and doing some upgrades to the electronics and hardware. Donner is also giving our readers 15% off when you use the code techaeris15 at checkout. So that’s even a better deal! Purchase links are below for both United States and Australian users.

Wrap Up

The Donner DST-109 is undoubtedly not a Fender, but it’s not trying to be. Budget guitars have gotten to be very good, and that’s a great thing for aspiring guitar players. Donner gives users an incredible stepping stone by providing an instrument that encourages beginners to keep with it. I know many people who have purchased cheap guitars and give up due to the poor quality and setup. The Donner DST-109 does not suffer from either and is worth checking out.

Last Updated on March 14, 2022.

Donner DST-100T

US$169.99

Design

8.5/10

Out of Box Setup

8.5/10

Sound/Playability

8.5/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • For the price, this is a fantastic guitar
  • Classic Strat design looks good
  • Great finish, I found no flaws in it
  • The satin neck is feels good
  • This starter pack includes everything you need to get started
  • Decent electronics with no issues

Needs work

  • The setup isn't perfect but that is expected
  • The frets need some filing but again, expected
  • The frets need polishing, also expected
Donner DST-100R FI
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