Purchased from: local music store
Features — 7
This guitar was made in China, in 2012, 2 humbucker, bolt on mahogany neck and body guitar with rosewood fretboard. One volume control and 3 way toggle switch for pickup configuration, no tone control. The guitar features a tune-o-matic bridge and a compound radius fretboard and the hardware is blackened nickel finish. The pickups are Charvel passive humbuckers and the tuners are locking made by Charvel. The neck features a unique fret marker design of pearl. The shape of the body is unique, sort of and I mean sort of a Fender Jaguar shape and actually is the old "surfcaster" semi-hollow shape that Charvel used to feature in the late '80s/early '90s. The rating I'm giving is only because it is the basic guitar, only lacking a tone control. I forgot to mention, the guitar is flat black with a gray binding on the body and neck, and the neck has an "oiled" finish, like a bare mahogany.
Sound — 10
Okay, so here goes, it has no tone control, but this guitar sounds great, clean or distorted. The humbuckers are Charvel's own, and I don't know what kind of magnets they use, but this guitar sounds great. The voicing of the pickups, along with the mahogany body gives this guitar a very full tone, with 3 very distinct voices depending on the pickup selector position. In the neck position, it has a full ringing sound with a very cool percussive sound on the low e and a string. In the middle position with both pickups on it is a little brighter but with a great balance. And the bridge position brings a bright, slightly nasally sound which I really like. And this is playing clean which really impressed me, the tonal variation. Distorted, this thing rocks! I have read reviews where the people didn't really give the pickups a great rating, but again, they were mostly metal fans and rated it on that. The pickups to me are very well matched to the guitar wood, and I could see if someone was to play metal/thrash or very hard rock that they would switch out the pickups, but for classic rock and even some possible country, these are fine. Lacking a tone control only means the amp will control the tone and that's okay.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This guitar is built like a tank. Even though the body is "unique," I am very happy with how comfortable it is to play, and the balance is great. The neck is featured with an oiled finish, like a natural bare finish, and being mahogany, it has a great feel. The neck fits in the body flawlessly, and the binding on the body and neck are first rate. As for the hardware, it features a blackened nickel finish which has an aged look, very cool, and is solid, very solid. And the tuners are locking, and hold the guitar in tune, very solidly. The guitar has jumbo frets which are finished and polished to perfection. I was looking at a Fender Telecaster model and when checking it out, I noticed it too was made in China, even though it had the Fender badge, not Squier on the headstock. Overall, this guitar rates with most guitars in the 400 to 800 dollar range, and I would put it side by side with even the higher priced Epiphone Les Paul models and Fender guitars in the same price range. As I said, this guitar is a tank.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The guitar player for Evanescence uses this model so I guess you could say that it has been battle tested. Is this guitar solid, oh yeah, all of the hardware fits perfectly, not a single thing is loose. The finish is a flat black, and it looks like it is pretty solid and should withstand playing, and the guitar is very solid and would definitely withstand live playing. You would be able to use this guitar without a backup, it is that solid. Charvel guitars run the price gamut from the mid 200's to 1500 dollars, and the one constant I have noticed is that the hardware and fit and finish are consistent.
Overall Impression — 9
Basically, what I did was trade an Epiphone Special I and an Epiphone Special II for this guitar. I like the way the guitar felt, really comfortable but was a little concerned about how it would sound, and lacking a tone control would it be too "heavy" sounding. No, just the opposite, I found that the stock pickups had a great balance, especially clean, and with the mahogany body, the guitar has a full, ringing tone. I like classic rock, power pop and some blues and funk and this guitar will handle it with no problem. What impressed me most about this guitar, is how well put together it is. It feels like a 1000 dollar guitar. Being that it is made in China, that is probably one of the reasons for the price being so reasonable, $400.00 list. The model with a flamed maple top is 200 more, but I'm happy with this one. While the guitar has some weight, the balance makes is comfortable. The Special II that I traded for it weighed more than this, and was not as well balanced. And tone wise, while I liked the Epi, this one blows it away, and again, the standard pickups are really impressing me, I think I will definitely be keeping them. I don't know what kind of magnet they use, but the cleans are crystal clear, and the distorted tones are great, with great definition.