Charvel Guitars

All-American speed machines

If you look carefully you’ll see there’s a new addition to Dawsons’ electric guitar line-up. Filling out the quotient of super-strat speed merchants is the range of Charvel Guitars. Charvel is not a new brand, per se, but it is one which is enjoying a neat resurgence and one which is definitely worth your attention.

The history of Charvel guitars is closely linked to another great 1980s guitar name. Both Charvel and Jackson share more than a passing acquaintance, borne through their birth in late 1970s. Wayne Charvel had started his career at Fender in the 1970s, and soon opened his own specialist guitar repair shop. He forged a reputation among professional players for being able to fix, adapt or modify guitars completely to the client’s requirements. He also employed a young chap named Grover Jackson at his store in Southern California.

At the time, there was a fresh new scene of heavy metal growing the States, and common among the requirements of these players were instruments with which they could push the boundaries of what was possible on a guitar. Namely, the ability to fly up and down the fretboard at supersonic speeds, all the while pushing out hugely overdriven, saturated tones. And, while possible on the guitars of the day, this new breed of player wanted something more suited to their specialised requirements.

Both Charvel and Jackson went on to build hugely respected guitar brands, and with both now under Fender’s ownership (funny how things work out) the future’s looking bright. Each of the guitars in its range share similar specifications, all of which were deemed a bit off-the-wall in the 1980s but are now highly desirable.

Here’s a look at five quality guitars from Charvel.

Charvel Pro Mod SoCal Style 1

Charvel Pro Mod SoCal Style 1

That iconic body shape. The simple spec. What the Charvel Pro Mod SoCal Style 1 does, it does brilliantly. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. What you get here is the lightweight body shape, with the Alder wood providing a broad tonal palette to choose from.

The 22-fret maple fingerboard has a compound radius, whereby the ‘board flattens out around the 12th fret. This means chord shapes at the headstock end are easier to form, yet those faster solo licks have a slightly wider surface area at the business end of the neck. Basically, it’s built for speed.

Speaking of the neck, it’s purposefully left unfinished, meaning the finish doesn’t become tacky or sticky when played for any length of time.

Two Seymour Duncan JB pickups provide a wealth of rock-ready tones, and the licenced Floyd Rose trem system means you’ll be dive-bombing to your heart’s content.

Charvel San Dimas Style 2

Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Style 2

While Telecasters clearly have their uses, it’s not often you see them employed in the world of heavier music. This Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Style 2 takes that notion and throws it out the window.

Using the same alder body as the previous entry, the San Dimas (a nod to the location of the original Charvel repair store) Style 2 elaborates on the Tele style with features and appointments specific to the needs of a rock player.

Charvel Pro Mod DK24

Charvel Pro Mod DK24

We’ve chosen this one over other similar models in the range largely because it is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Look at it. The Charvel Pro Mod DK24 in root beer burst finish is a classy number. The quilted maple finish…the white Seymour Duncan pickups…the gold hardware…

Ogles aside, this is another tremendous guitar from the Charvel range. It features the same alder body that goes across the entire range, with another cool feature that the others share; the single tone knob is what’s called a ‘no load’ control, meaning when it’s turned to its extremes the circuit actually disengages, leaving you with a purity of tone that needs to be heard to be believed.

Charvel Satchel

Charvel Satchel Signature

An oddball choice for an oddball performer. The Charvel Satchel Signature is the sig model for the erstwhile Satchel from cult pastiche band Steel Panther.

Satchel is never far from the headlines, and this guitar may provide some insight as to why. Someone once said to us that “the stage is no place to be shy”, and you certainly require some cojones to wield this bad boy. But, putting the aesthetics to one side, it’s clear that this is a pro-level guitar. A set of Fishman Fluence pickups add a touch of high-class to the proceedings.

Charvel Pro Mod Ekoume

Charvel Pro Mod Ekoume

And, as the yin to the previous entry’s yang, we present the most ‘sensible’ of the Charvel range. The Charvel Pro Mod Ekoume is a 24 fret shred monster that looks as if it would be just as comfortable busting out Fleetwood Mac covers.

The Ekoume wood is a beautiful choice, with a vibrant grain and clear, bright tonality. The ebony fretboard (with compound radius) is a joy to fly up and down, and you can play this one while retaining a modicum of decorum thanks to the understated fixtures and fittings.