Price paid: $ 628
Purchased from: JB Music and Sports Philippines
Features — 10
- Mahogany Body with Abalone bindings
- Satin finished bound 3pc thru body maple neck with Abalone bindings
- Rosewood fretboard with Abalone pyramid inlays and strings guide
- 24 frets
- Graphite nut
- Traditional Charvel headstock with abalone binding
- EMG 81 bridge pickup / EMG 85 neck pickup
- TOM bridge and Locking Tuners (probably Gotoh designed)
- Black chrome hardware
- Recessed master volume and 3 way toggle switch
- Made in China (Probably 2011 or 2012)
- Only an alley key is included, I added few more bucks for a Dimarzio Cliplock strap and an SKB Hardshell case
I paid Php35,100 all in all for this guitar plus SKB hardshell case and a DiMarzio Cliplock strap. Very simple and straight out guitar geared for anyone who loves and plays metal. No Floyd to deal with and available in different colors, other colors have flame maple finish on 'em, I got mine in Snow White. The hardware, even though unbranded, looks very strudy and may last for quite a long time since I am maintaining my guitars very well. I admire the bindings so much, I love the abalone binding all over the body, it is not as thick as the ones on other brands, it is combined with black sidings which makes the abalone not too bright looking even under the lights, it's not even very visible from afar, you need to get near the guitar to see the abalone binding, it looks just like a shiny black binding from afar which made it look simple, which I like, at least its not just an ordinary black binding but something more exquisite. Another useful feature it had are the strings' guide on the inlays and sides of the fretboard, this (IMO) can help those who need to adjust their guitar's truss rod, you'll know weather or not your strings are aligned correctly or not.
The overall physical features of this guitar are the best for this price range, it was made in China, but very carefully crafted and finished. I'm not a rich guy so all I can afford are guitars at 600-800 dollars, I was looking all over the net for a white super strat with exquisite bindings, I'm not a fan of the 81TW on the Schecters plus they are not available in my country (Philippines), I'm not a fan of the thick abalone overkill on LTD's, but I'm not, in my whole life time, gonna pick an Ibanez which is made in Indonesia (it is just personal preference, or is it? woot!), plus I'm a Jackson/Charvel guy, so i think this a good guitar. At first I was skeptical about a Charvel guitar made in other countries than America and Japan, but hold, don't be fooled, this is Charvel we are talking about, the quality and craftsmanship are all good and can stand out with most Korean guitars and far more better than Indonesian made guitars at this price range
Sound — 9
I mostly play metal, I'm a fan of Dino Cazares and Vogg, so I concentrate on those kinds of stuffs, death metal, technical metal, industrial metal. I also play classic rock, classic thrash, metalcore, new metal (not NU metal), punk, some alternative and a lot BLUES. I honestly agree that the EMG 81 is a sterile and trebly pickup, and because of that, the EMG 81 just cuts into the mix like a hot knife through butter. The mahogany body seemed to be taming this monster by adding warmth to the overall tone of the guitar despite the lack of tone control. The EMG 85 on the other hand is too bass-y on the neck and since I play some lead tones occasionally (I'm a rhythm player by the way) I just messed with the pickup height a little until I found the sweet spot. Tweaking aside, the EMG's are really quiet when not played, which is one of the advantages of active vs passive pickups, It's as if the guitar isn't plugged.
My amp is just a Roland Cube 40XL and the only pedal I have is my MXR Fullbore Metal, with the settings I have, I can sound almost like Mr. Cazares on "The Industrialist" album, on another setting, I can sound like Mr. Wolbers on the song "Locust." My amp has an acoustic simulator, and together, The EMG 81 and 85 plus the mahogany body, provides a good, warm tone for that setting, like an acoustic guitar plugged into an amp.
The EMG pickups are not just for metal, It can be a good pickup if you know what you are doing, in fact, I came across some thread on some site and someone had mentioned that EMG 81 is actually made for jazz, correct me if I'm wrong. I can play some blues on the 85 with the help of some tweaking. The cleans on EMG's are not the best, but useful nonetheless, especially the EMG 60 so I'm thinking of replacing the 81 with the 85 and the 85 with a 60 or 60A. I'll have to give an 9 to the sound since I'm wanting a 60 / 60a on the neck, I'm not saying that the 85 is bad, just not my preference. Other than that, everything is excellent!
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
My guitar came out of the box ready to kill. Action is low, intonation is ok, strings are aligned according to the guide, finish is flawless, abalone is not very thick, I love the black sidings by the abalone bindings, the neck is unfinished so it's not sticky, no dents on the body at all, the locking tuners are superb, stays in tune pretty well, the TOM bridge are tight, so tight that you need a screwdriver to adjust it, Truss rod seemed to be ok also, the nut is also nicely cut. The mahogany body is light as expected with Asian made guitars but still very resonant and good sounding even when played unplugged. Controls are recessed and securely tightened no scratch when using the toggle switch, volume control placement is ok.
The action, nut cuts and intonation are all ok, but I need to reset everything after changing strings, I use regular gauge D'Addario EXL 110-7 without the high E, .13-59 that is, tuned to B Standard, like your regular 7 strings without the high e. After that its all ok, It's still the way it was a month after setting it up. I'm gonna take my Charvel Superstrat to the modern metal world.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Oh boy, will it withstand live playing. Ahuh, yes ofcourse, this is mahogany body and neck through construction we are talking about. I have a JS32T Rhoads with bolt on construction and it stood against live playing, how much more with this one. The guitar is just 1 month old so it's too early to say if the hardware is gonna last, but by the looks of it, it will last for quite a long time, plus if it is Gotoh designed. I believe that no matter what brand is your guitar, how thick and strong is the finish and how expensive it is, if you are not taking care of it, It won't last you, It would stand against time, but it won't last you. I have guitars for different tunings all without a backup, because of good maintenance, they are still all in good shape. All of them have DiMarzio Cliplock. I think they are all safe with that strap.
Overall Impression — 9
Finally, this guitar with EMG 81 and 85 is surely a good match with the music I play, I just wish it had EMG 60 on the neck, other than that, I love everything about this guitar. For more than 8 years of experience, I can tell whether a guitar or any other instruments are good or bad, I know that this guitar is as good or better than most mid to high end guitars at this price range, even as good as expensive Charvels. I have played and borrowed several guitars that's why I can now differentiate which are the good and bad ones. At first I was skeptical about Chinese made Charvels; I'm not saying that Chinese builders are bad in general, in fact they have made guitars for other brands that are also good; but now I know that when IT says "CHARVEL" on headstock it will be as good as American made Charvels because it is crafted with Charvel standard. If ever this will be lost, I'll find who ever that f--ker is and I'll rip his heart out of his well being and feed it to the lions.