Price paid: € 299
Purchased from: eBay
Features — 9
The guitar was manufactured in China, apparently in 2011. It features 24 frets on a rosewood fingerboard and 25.5" scale. The body is made of mahogany, this model has an arched top and a gloss black finish. The neck is also made of mahogany and it looks fantastic! It is oiled and thus retains the natural look of the wood and feels good in the hand. The body has one cutaway, kinda Les-Paul-ish but waaay smaller and lighter, which I like. It further features a Tune-o-matic bridge with a stoptail, Charvel passive humbucking pickups, 2x tone and 2x volume controls plus a 3-way toggle switch. No coil split function. Simple grover-looking non-locking tuners. No bag was included.
Sound — 8
I run the guitar through my POD HD500 and also through my Randall RD40C. The first impression was that this Charvel didn't do well with lots of gain. The sound reminded me of Gretsch Electromatic I previously owned. Good rock, but no metal, expecially no modern metal. However, when I put new strings on (12-60 gauge from DR) and tuned down to the C tuning, it got much better. Amon Amarth or In Flames sounded satisfying. Of course, I will replace the stock pups with Nazgul/Sentient or Black Winters, but so far I can live with the stock pickups.
I don't like the volume knobs. They work rather as 0-1 switches. No swells possible. Either replace them or use a volume pedal. The tone knobs make tons of difference though.
Action, Fit & Finish — 6
The set-up was okay. The guitar was easy to play. I measured appr. 1.5 mm from the 12th fret to the bottom of the strings. Of course, I needed to redo the whole set-up because of the thicker string gauges. I didn't find any finish flaws, the binding looks very nice.
However, two negative things:
1. One of the screws holding the plate of an jack socket was loose, i.e. stripped screw hole. However, I decided to keep the guitar because overall I was happy with what I got (for €299). The good old toothpick trick worked well.
2. The saddles on the bridge cannot be pushed farther from neck (to correct "sharp" notes in the 12th fret) by simply turning the screws counter-clockwise. You need to apply a lot of pressure to a screw in order to move a saddle. Otherwise, a saddle doesn't move at all. And it is better to relax strings before doing this. Didn't have this kind of problems on other TOMs. As soon as I find something better in the same color (black nickel), I will definitely replace the bridge.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Leaving aside a couple of aforementioned flaws, I don't have the impression that the guitar is rubbish. Au contraire, for the money I'm very satisfied with my purchase. It isn't noisy, the strap buttons are solid, it is my lightest guitar - so yeah, with that in mind, you can play it live. Note that I bought this guitar with the intention to upgrade it (new pickups, perhaps locking tuners). Then of course, I could rely on it even more. The finish doesn't look any different from finishes on my more explensive guitars.
Overall Impression — 9
I use the guitar for low tuned metal songs (for my own songs and a cover project), the tuning is Standard C. The pickups are not the best match but if you're not very picky you can live with the sound. It isn't bad but it doesn't blow your mind either. Drop a couple of Seymour Duncans or DiMarzios of your choice in it, and you have a great sounding (and still affordable) guitar!
I need to confess that it was a compromise guitar for me. I sold my old Mexican Strat on ebay for €350 before I bought this one (otherwise my wife wouldn't be cooperative), this Charvel was in the price range I could afford with the money I earned for my strat. I generally don't like guitars with lots of controls. 2x volume and 2x tone is insane! Just looks weird. If I had €100 more, I would have bought Charvel Skatecaster which featured only one volume control and a 3 way switch. But I hope I can live with it, maybe it's time to experiment more with my sounds, especially clean sounds.