So-Cal review by Charvel

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 8.3 (56 votes)
Charvel: So-Cal
1

Price paid: $ 700

Purchased from: Craigslist

Sound — 10
You don't even have to plug this guitar in to appreciate its tone. It flat out sings plugged in or not. It weighs a TON. It weighs far more than my USA Fender Strat and encroaches on my Les Paul customs weight. That's part of the reason why it has Les Paul sustain and sings forever on a high gain setting. My USA Socal weighs quite a bit more than my friend's Japanese Pro Mod. The pick ups are excellent for hard rock, heavy metal, funk and progressive music. I installed a coil splitter switch and when its activated this guitar can do absolutely anything. It gets Strat single coil clean tone with the splitter activated on the neck. The bridge pickup has great attack and will chug out those metal riffs with clarity but not harshness. Even on a clean setting its still very usable. The middle setting is one of my favorites because you get a unique twangy spank. The notes just pop and it sounds great for cleans or a fat bluesy lick. The neck pickup is the best though. It is a perfectly blend of Strat twang with the power and clarity of a humbucker. The notes just POP out at you and climb in your ears. Every note is individual and its own. The lead climbs on the lower strings that always sound muddy now stick out like you're playing on the bridge pickup. I run this guitar on a Peavey 5150II on a Marshall JCM 800 cab and its brutal for metal. I put it on my Line 6 Flextone III combo and its awesome for an 80's and 70's rock cover band. I use it for recording with impulses and an axe FX and it cuts through the mix. It rocks on everything.

Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing guitar for 11 years now and I play professionally for TV shows, signed bands and amusement parts across the nation. I've owned all the "great" guitars and this Charvel puts them all to shame. It's easily the best guitar under $1000. Actually its one of the best guitars EVER made. Don't let the price fool you, it's a great machine. Every where I take it people are genuinely impressed. The moment you put it in your hands you will go "wow this guitar feels really expensive". One of my students even went out bought 3 of them he loved mine so much. My close friend sold all his guitars and bought one. Another friend of mine sold his Custom shop gold top Les Paul and bought one as well. If you play one beware... You'll be hooked and your will CRAVE one. Don't play one unless you can afford to buy it! You'll be like Wayne from "Wayne's World" drooling over Excalibur. If it were lost or stolen I'd buy another one immediately. I'm actually saving to buy its evil twin, the San Dimas. I chose it originally over the San Dimas though because I think it sounds better. The pick up combo compliments this guitar better than the Duncans. I also liked the idea I could buy another pick guard with different pick ups and just drop it in but I am really happy with the DiMarzio's. If you put a splitter in it, you have the most capable guitar in the business. I was selling and trading different guitars for years until I got this one. I've never been happier, I'll starve to death before I sell it. The one of the best parts about owning this guitar is you will NEVER have to go to guitar center again. You will already know there is no guitar on the wall that will compare to the one sitting in your lap.

Reliability & Durability — 10
I bought the guitar second hand from someone who played it regularly. I play it hours every day. The fret board is caked with dirt since its an unfinished neck but I like it, it adds character. It is built like a tank. I have no doubt in my mind this guitar is reliable. Everything on it just feels high quality and the pick up selector and volume knob are thick and strong. I've dropped it a few times and the finish doesn't have a single dent or scratch. My Fender on the other hand looks like Yngwie Malmsteen rubbed his jewelry all over it it for 20 years and gave it back to me. You would be hard pressed to ruin the paint on this guitar. Plus its so beautiful you would never want to do such a thing to it. The Candy colors are jaw dropping. The standard white, black and blue paint jobs are great too but if you want a head Turner I suggest spending the extra bucks and getting a candy paint job. It's just a slick looking guitar, it doesn't need an aged 200 step swirled 50 year old quilted top that was licked by Eric Clapton to look nice. It's basic and beautiful.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
UG lists this section as how the guitar came set up from the factory which is an absurd question to ask. No guitar comes how you want it from the factory. Mine was used and came set up extremely well. It just needed some minor tweaking to suit my playing more. As far as build quality goes, the story behind these early USA Charvel models is that Charvel would use all the same wood as the Fender custom shop models. It shows because this guitar is a giant leap ahead of any USA Fender out there under 2,000$. The frets are polished and feel as smooth as stainless steel frets. I'd say it is equal to the build quality as Suhr and Anderson guitars, except this one sounds and plays far better. The neck on this guitar is the best part. I hand it to anyone to play and they have an immediate bond to it. The neck is just so comfortable to any sized hand. The compound radius means the neck is rounder by the headstock to make it easier to play chords and it flattens out as you go up to make it easier to solo. Being unfinished makes it the fastest neck I've ever played. It puts my Ibanez prestige and my Jackson soloist to shame. The tall frets also make it easssssssy to slide and fret. It's the fastest guitar out there hands down.

Features — 10
I purchased a 2008 USA Charvel Socal in a wild card Candy Green paint job. It has an alder body with a DiMarzio Tone Zone in the bridge and an evolution in the neck. It has a black REAL floyd rose tremelo with 1 chunky black volume knob and a nice beefy 3 selector pickup switch. Quality Black Grover tuners and black locking nuts finish it off. It has a bolt on unfinished maple neck and matching maple fretboard with black dot inlays. It has a compound 12-16 radius with jumbo frets. It also came with Dunlop strap locks which I really like. Mine came with a nice G&L case but the USA models do not come with a case. The newer Japanese Pro Mod series comes with a molded SKB hard case. It's a straight forward no smoke and mirrors guitar. Want a different tone? Change the settings on your amp, don't kid your self most people never use the tone knobs anyway.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    MaggaraMarine
    ^ And when you become a better player, you will start noticing small changes in tone. Like Steve Vai noticed that something was wrong with his live sound when one pickup of his guitar had been changed. But Steve Vai is Steve Vai and he has one guitar for each song that has just the tone he wants for that song. Tone matters a lot to him. But as a noob you can't get a good sound no matter what guitar you play because you can't play.
    joepiacente76
    I have 3 of these guitars, best I've ever owned as far as feel and I've had pretty much everything in the last 25 years. It's great for every style.
    craigjames4
    Metal yes, everything else...not quite. A couple of corrections first, this guitar is now made in Mexico and has Duncan Distortion pickups along with a Korean made Floyd Rose. The neck is the best of any guitar I've ever owned (better than a real ESP M-2, and Ibanez Prestige neck). I'd say the only draw back of this guitar is if you want to play clean tones, it is going to be a challenge to do that with the stock pickups. However, if you want a guitar for an all out metal assault, you couldn't do better in this price range for the playability and sound it has to offer.
    ihaveagibsonsg
    Put a great player on a crappy guitar AND a crappy amp and it will still sound great. Real tone comes from your fingers.
    MaggaraMarine
    ihaveagibsonsg wrote: Put a great player on a crappy guitar AND a crappy amp and it will still sound great. Real tone comes from your fingers.
    You are right. I have heard some good guitarist playing through a crappy starter pack amp with a Peavey Strat copy. Back then I wasn't that good player and of course my playing sounded like crap. But when this better guitarist played, it sounded pretty good. But of course it would have sounded much better with a real Strat through a Marshall or something like that. But if I had played a real Strat through a Marshall I think it would have sounded better than the better guitarist playing the same song through some crappy starter pack equipment. So what I'm saying is that everything matters: Who's playing and what amp, cabinet, guitar, effects and cable you are using.
    ThtGuyOvrThere
    ihaveagibsonsg wrote: Put a great player on a crappy guitar AND a crappy amp and it will still sound great. Real tone comes from your fingers.
    It depends. Obviously being a great player is important, but its illogical to think that a great guitar and great amp doesn't matter much. Why do you think Slash plays custom made Les Pauls through high-end Marshalls, when you could get the same sound through cheap Epiphones and a Marshall MG? Of course, he would still be Slash and still play like Slash, but the tone wouldn't be nearly as great.
    hevechvy
    ok, i have an ibanez 1570 prestige. i love it, but i think the thin neck has caused a carpel tunnel out-break in my left wrist. never had the problem before in 30 years of playing les pauls and am strats. so, i want to know how thick the neck is on the charvel. is it exactly in the middle between an american strat and an ibanez rg, or is it closer to one or to the other. i don't have a local store to check it for myself. thanks, brent.
    page.slash
    MaggaraMarine wrote: ^ And when you become a better player, you will start noticing small changes in tone. Like Steve Vai noticed that something was wrong with his live sound when one pickup of his guitar had been changed. But Steve Vai is Steve Vai and he has one guitar for each song that has just the tone he wants for that song. Tone matters a lot to him. But as a noob you can't get a good sound no matter what guitar you play because you can't play.
    Then you're not talking about tone. "because you can't play" ...they'll sound like shit because they play like shit, not because of shit tone. The kid could sound awesome chugging open drop D through some Rectifier "great tone"... but once s/he starts to play, it sounds like shit because s/he can't play - not because of bad tone. The amount of gain/treble/mid/eq-ing you do with your fingers is almost negligible compared to changing the settings on your amp/the amp itself. After the amp, comes the guitar. Amp>guitar>player amp 60%, guitar 30% player 10%. That's not taking pedals, cables, ...or differences of tubes in the amps and pickups in the guitar. Everything serves it's purpose, not matter how small, when it comes to tone. It's a personal equilibrium that must be reached for your personal holy grail of tone.
    MaggaraMarine
    ^ I wouldn't talk in per cents. A Strat will always sound like a Strat, even if it's played through a crappy amp. But you can't make a Les Paul sound like a Strat or vice versa. That's why guitar matters also a lot. But of course if you have two similar guitars, one being a cheap Chinese copy and another the original American made guitar, and you played through a crappy amp with the American made and through a good amp with the Chinese copy, the copy would sound much better and pretty much like the original guitar. Guitar gives the character, amp makes it sound good (or bad).
    MaggaraMarine
    Oh, and the "Action, Fit & Finish" section on my review is complete BS. It was pretty poorly set up. I had to raise the neck pickup (it sounded too quiet compared to bridge), lower the action and intonation was way off. Now I have done the adjustments and it plays much better. I just wasn't experienced enough when I wrote that section.
    sotiriskin
    how is the higher fret access on this one, compared to other more modern superstrat designs(that also have 24 fets etc)? (I can not access one without buying it in Greece)