So-Cal review by Charvel

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (56 votes)
Charvel: So-Cal

Price paid: € 666

Purchased from: DLX Music (Finland)

Sound — 9
I play mostly 80s hard rock and metal (glam, heavy and a little thrash) and I think this guitar was made for 80s music so it definitely suits my style. I am using a Roland Micro Cube (I know, not the best amp in the world but it's a good practice amp) and it has all the effects I need (chorus, delay and reverb). Of course I have played it through many amps, not just the Micro Cube. I was looking for a Floyd Rose equipped 80s looking/sounding guitar so in the store I compared this guitar to Charvel San Dimas and B.C. Rich Gunslinger Retro and the two Charvels had better sound than the Gunslinger (OK, they were over 100 more expensive). Between the Charvels it was harder but after some time I noticed that I preferred the So-Cal because of its fuller sound. I played the guitars in the store through a Marshall JCM 2000 combo and halfstack. Compared to my Epiphone Les Paul Standard it has more trebly sound and the pickups have higher output. The sound is "more '80s". But the sound has much more variety than only 80s music. You can play everything from blues to heavier metal with it. The volume control changes the sound very nicely and when you turn it only a little the volume will change unlike on the Les Paul. The LP's volume control affects the guitar's volume/tone clearly only when you turn it lower than like 4. The sustain is not as good as on the Les Paul so when I bend some long note sometimes it won't ring as long time as I would like. For distortion I almost always use the bridge pickup and for cleans or mild overdrive I use all the three positions. Bridge has the brightest sound and it's great for every music that needs distortion and I also like to play leads with it. It plays cleans well too and if you want a bright clean sound this position is great. The neck pickup is the warmest and gives a great clean tone. And of course you can also use it with overdrive to get some bluesy tones and some John Sykes kind of smooth lead tones. The middle position (both pickups) gives a funkier and pretty twangy sound. It's warmer than bridge position and works well with cleans if you want pretty bright tone with the characteristics of neck pickup. When distorted you can get a great hammer-pull off tone for solos, pretty same kind of tone as neck pickup gives but a bit thinner. Natural harmonics work best with both pickups selected. I give it a 9 because it sounds great. I just wish that there would be one setting with a bit more twang.

Overall Impression — 10
I'm very impressed with this guitar. It's the right guitar for me. I have been playing for a bit over two years now and I bought this guitar in May. I own a Micro Cube (which I would like to replace with some nice tube amp), DigiTech RP355 that I use for recording and Epiphone Les Paul Standard. I have tried some Ibanezes including my friend's Ibanez Prestige but this guitar beats them all and costs less than the Prestiges (they don't have as good features as this guitar has, they are also made in Japan and they still cost more, you pay for the "Prestige" name). The neck is my favorite feature. It's the best feeling neck I have tried. It may take some time to get used to its unique feel but when I touched the neck for the first time I knew I had to buy it. The guitar holds tuning well, it never goes out of tune when you dive bomb, I have tried. I sometimes push the bar down as much as I can and tuning won't change (if it's set up properly, mine was when I got it). It only goes out of tune over time. One downside with this guitar is that retuning is painful. When you tune one string another will go out of tune. So you have to tune it many times to get the right tuning. And after that it will stay in tune for a while. I had tuning problems with my Les Paul and I had to retune it all the time so now I'm happy with this guitar (That was one main reason why I bought this guitar). If it were stolen... I don't know. I wouldn't have money to buy a new one but if I had I think I would buy it again or maybe I would look for something else like Ibanez RGA72 (Floyd Rose version, BTW. That had a great neck, too) or B.C. Rich Gunslinger Retro. I could also buy something with single coils because I don't have any single coil guitars. Well... I would still have my Les Paul which isn't that bad. Actually when I was buying this guitar I thought if I had preferred the LP's sound because I liked it pretty much then and I still like it. I also thought that maybe a new amp would be a better buy. But I noticed that I made the right choice because now I'm even more happy with this guitar: feels great, sounds great. I still need a new amp though. Of course this guitar could have 24 frets, coil tapping, two volume knobs and maybe a tone control (I don't like tone knobs) and single coils (just would like to have a setting with a bit more twang). Yeah, and a recessed Floyd Rose because with the non-recessed FR this guitar has you can't bend up more than from half to one and half steps (depends on which string you bend) but I seldom bend up with the Floyd. It could be lighter, too. It's pretty heavy and almost as heavy as my Les Paul but it's better balanced. I expected that it would be lighter like Ibanezes and my friend's Gibson SG. But the features this axe has are more than enough for me. I have to give this a 10 because even though it's lacking on some features I didn't want any more of them. And it was better than I expected and the neck is just great. Thanks for reading my pretty long review and I hope this helps if you are considering to buy a new guitar.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I think this guitar was made for live playing. I haven't played gigged with it yet because I'm not in a band that could gig but I think it would be a great guitar to play live. Of course I would take my Les Paul for backup because if my string broke it would be hard to restring. And of course I could use the LP in some songs for more variety on sound. The finish seems it will last long but the fretboard is maple so if it gets dirty (like mine) you will see the dirt. Maybe I should clean it. As I said it has straplocks and they are much better than my Les Paul's. I give it an 8 because I'm afraid of a string breaking when I'm playing on stage. And the string change will take longer time than with fixed bridge. But hey, that's why I would have my backup guitar with me.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar was set up OK but the truss rod needed some adjustment. But if you need to adjust the truss rod you need to take off the neck so I asked the music store to do it for me. I had fret buzz but after adjusting the truss rod there's no buzzing at all. It's got pretty low action but not as low as on Ibanezes. The guitar compared to Les Paul is easier to play fast and it's better balanced. The guitar has no flaws (I wouldn't have bought it if it had). I had one problem with the volume knob. It started getting loose and then I turned it and that caused a wire to snap and I didn't get any sound out of my guitar. I took it to the music store and they fixed it and now it works again. So if the volume knob gets loose you should tighten it immediately. It's a 7 because I had some problems with it that I wish it didn't have. Otherwise it had no flaws.

Features — 9
The guitar was made in Japan 2010. It has a 25, 5 scale bolt on maple neck/fretboard with 22 jumbo frets and dot inlays, Strat style alder body, original Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 bridge (so it's Korean made), passive DiMarzio Tone Zone bridge humbucker and Evolution neck humbucker, 3-way pickup selector, tuners are non-locking Grovers. It has only one volume control and no tone controls but I never use a tone knob so I don't need it. It included an SKB hard case, tools and straplocks that are much better than in my Epi LP. Oh, and the guitar has a snow white finish. I give it a 9 because some people would need tone knobs, coil tap and 24 frets. But the features are enough for me.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    a rubbish guitar will still sound crap even through a good amp, likewise a good guitar will sound crap through a bad amp, you need both, same way as a fast car is useless with a rubbish driver and vice versa , oh and fyi the tone is down to the guitar and the woods and build quality of it there's no way in hell a crap guitar will have the tone and sustain of lets say a gibson les paul no matter what amp you use, the amp amplifies the existing tone of the guitar hence "amplifier" some amps have tone controls and effects etc and you can tweak them to make even a bad guitar sound passable but it will never sound as good without a quality instrument and the actual tone will be crap and mostly artificial, lastly how good you sound is mostly due to how well you play a great musician can make almost anything sound good
    This is a sweet guitar. And anyone who plays guitar knows that both the amp and guitar matter, and cabinet, cable, etc. Quality pays off within all of your equipment.
    good amp bad guitar> bad amp good guitar learned that lesson the hard way .... a 7000$ custom esp will sound like shit thru a 10 starter amp .... play a shitty guitar through a old-school marshal or a mesa boogie... it will sound better than the previous coupling i mentioned
    To MaggaraMarine : Dude, you got yourself a real axe! Now all you need is an amp to match it and you're high up! Congratulations!
    Preeeeet-ty I like the price too. Never considered one, but next time I'm in the market for a beefed up strat I'll be sure to check out this brand as well
    good_blink_plan wrote: valennic wrote: sewoo55 wrote: You can get the heaviest death metal sounds to the smoothest blues sounds out of this guitar. the amp gives you the majority of your tone, not the guitar Debatable. Play through a cheap shitty amp. Then an 800 dollar one. Debated.
    Yeah I've got a medium grade axe, and a medium grade amp but I've sweet spotted my shit so it sounds fantastic. Better than what my friends have gotten out of their all tube heads and 2x12s and what not.
    rv_phoenix wrote: To MaggaraMarine: Dude, you got yourself a real axe! Now all you need is an amp to match it and you're high up! Congratulations!
    Yes, I know. Just need some money.
    fretsofthebeast wrote: good amp bad guitar> bad amp good guitar learned that lesson the hard way .... a 7000$ custom esp will sound like shit thru a 10 starter amp .... play a shitty guitar through a old-school marshal or a mesa boogie... it will sound better than the previous coupling i mentioned
    You're right but of course you need them both if you want good sounds. And sound is not the only thing that matters. It's the feel too.