16 January 2013

Guitars: Charvel SoCal Type 1 (batch #6)


Note: this entry was originaly posted during January 2010, in my Spanish version of my blog. I am revisiting it here with added comments.

My playing style gravitates around classic Hard Rock and Blues tones so, I am usually feeling at home with classical guitars, like the Stratocaster or the Les Paul, by example and, I am not in the need of excesive Dive Bombing or Ultra High Gain sounds. But, you know, from time to time, I have a lot of fun playing a Floyd-Rose loaded guitar and, going wilder.
I was looking for a guitar with an Original Floyd Rose tremolo but with a reasonable price. The guitar I really wanted was the Ibanez Herman Lee's signature one, since it had all I wanted on papers but, its price tag was so high for what I planned to spend in a guitar of this kind.


The guitar comes with a padded soft case, inside a carton box. While this kind of presentation is usual in Asian imported axes, lately, it seems that is beginning to happen also with well known American brands.
The soft case is of quality and its well padded so, it perfectly protects the axe but, I was expecting a hard case for a guitar that costs 1000 Eur. So, I had to buy a generic hard case for about 30 Eur, since I prefer to store guitars inside hard cases.

Anyway, once you open the case, the guitar catches all your atention. It's so sexy...
The body is an Stratocaster one, with a naked Mapple neck (without clear lack or paint) and an Original Floyd Rose tremolo. Maybe, not the one Made in Germany but, Original Floyd Rose, since Fender bought both companies: Charvel and Floyd Rose.

The fretwork is really awesome. Frets are very well filed and leveled. The overall look of the neck is as appealing as any Fender Deluxe or Ibanez Prestige, by example.


Not my most preferred color (metallized purple) but, it was the only one available. Once on hands, I think it looks like very sexy.
Painting work is also perfect. The guitar accidentally fall and there is no chip or scratch so, I guess this guitar will retain its good lock for a long while.

The most important part of any Charvel is its neck. Shape is of the tyep wide-C and not very deep. Not the shape I like more but, I have no issues. You need need a nice clearance between your pinky and thumb fingers to get the mastil and, it's difficult to me to use my thumb for chords a la Hendrix.
I find the fretboard slightly narrow, with few clearance between strings. The strings' stress is high and, it's difficult to do extreme bendings.
First string, from time to time, gets trapped in the border of the fretboard, during extreme dive bombings. It seems that the rounded border facilitates this issue.

Frets seem medium-jumbo, not so high but wide, what allows a very low action. The low profile of frets makes difficulter extreme bendings.

The dots of the fretboard, instead of being some kind of inlay, are just painted over the fretboard, as the logotype on the peghead.

Frets are perfectly inserted in the fretboard and awesomely well filed and sanded. Excelent work.
One more interesting thing of this fretboard is its composite radius and its steped profile. In first frets, the neck is more deeper and wider, with a greater radius. As you walk down the fretboard, it's loosing some deep and the radius dismishes. You start with quite well plain frets to end with way more curved ones.
This neck would be just perfect for me, if it had the shape of a Light V, intead of Wide C, but, that's just my taste.
Neck seems hard as a rock and, was perfectly build and sanded.

The body is the typical of any Stratocaster so, no surprises, as comfortable as any Strato. The rear cavity, where the springs lay, is totally closed, without any kind of window. The pickguard is metallic, instead of the typical plastic pickguard that Stratos wear.
Controls are the minimal expresion. Just one volume potentiometer and a 3-ways toggle switch as pickups selector. I don't like the look of the knob and neither the look of the toggle but, they work perfect and seem of high quality. The Jack is the typical you will find in any Strato.

The electronics work is the neatest I ever seen in a guitar. Electronics components are of quality, as wel as wires used for the work.

Lastly, the guitar mounts an Original Floyd Rose tremolo but, the rear side of the body isn't carved so, you cannot do extreme pull ups, because the tremolo can go down few milimeters.
This Original Floyd Rose ins't a Schaller's Made In Germany one but, it's Original, since Fender owns Floyd Rose. Where was it made?. No clue but, fortunatelly works perfectly well.
Overall, the instrument has a quality look, at the level of a Fender Deluxe or Ibanez Prestige but, with a more affordable price. 1000 Eur for an axe with Original Floyd Rose and this level of finishing seems to me an authentic bargain, nowadays.

Playing it

The guitar was perfectly tuned (but not in the reference tone) as it came from factory.
Factory action is really low and, probably, the lowest of all my guitars.
I would prefer an slightly higher action, maybe.

As I've mentioned, the special shape of this neck, makes me difficult to use my thumb for chords a la Hendrix, because I've got small fingers and, a relative short hand.

The fretboard is made of mapple so, it's fast and with a good attack. Frets are wide and not tall, and this, together with the high stress of the strings, makes a bit difficult to make extreme bendings.
The first string goes stuck on the border of the fretboard after some extreme dive bombings, from time to time.

The wood resonates really nice unplugged, round and with a nice sustain, even loading a floating tremolo.

Stock comes with a couple of Dimarzio pickups. Evo model for neck position and a Tone Zone for bridge position. Not the pickups I like more but, of the very best from Dimarzio.
I already knew both, since my ex-JEM7V was loading a set of Evos (which I liked a lot) and, I also mounted a TZ in one of my Stratos (I liked it cutting under distortion but, hated how it sounded for clean work).

Don't go fooled, those are very good pickups but, usually, all Dimarzio pickups sound a bit "processed" to my taste, as coloring the natural tone of the guitar.  I've swapped them later, with a couple of Bareknuckle's Nailbombs but, after trying my friend's Japanese charvel, I am thinking on use just the typical '59 / JB pair from Seymour Duncan, because I loved how it sounded in the Charvels.
When I first tried this guitar, it was harder to play than the PRS 513 with 0.10" strings, because the strings' stress made it even tighter than the PRS. But, after I went for 0.10" in all my guitars (except the Charvel), I find it as easy to play as any other. Both, the PRS 513 and the Charvel SoCal have the speedest fretboards  of my collection.
BTW, extreme bendings are not an issue anymore and, that tremolo allows you to do any kind of crazy things. It plays awesome. Very nice guitar, indeed!.

I would say that this one has one of the best fretboards I've ever tried (maybe, just the JEM7V is one step over).

Under slight distortion, overdrive or crunch, I don't dig so much the sound but, it works well in clean and under high distortion (this, with stock Dimarzios!).


A very well made guitar, with Original Floyd Rose, made in USA and for about 1000 Euros?. A winner, without any doubt!.

I find it very interesting for anyone looking for a superstrato and which, after valuating the prices of Fender USA (Deluxes with Floyd Rose) or Ibanez Prestige, wanted that quality at a lower price.
Respect of Ibanez offer, the main difference is the quality of the body wood. Ibanez usually uses basswood (a wood that I don't like, because sounds dumb and boxy to my taste). You can find Alder body in very few models, by example the JEM7 series (way more expensive) or Mahogany in S series (also more expensive).

To have a better idea, in this range of prices, the only interesting alternative was the Dean Vendetta 4F but, we are comparing an Asian importation guitar against a true Made in USA and, a brand with no so good press related to finishing against one of the Brands with best press related to their works. So, the election of the Charvel was a natural choose.

Maybe, this is not a pure metal guitar, in the way as an ESP Eclipse or Jackson Soloist are. It hast 22 frets, instead of 24 and mounts passive pickups (what I prefer), instead of actives but, of course, you can shred with this.

But, anyway, due to the special shape of the neck, I recommend you to test it before buying it.

I am missing a carved cavity under the bridge, to make it possible the pull-ups, as in the JEM7V.

The Video

During my first week playing this guitar, I've prepared this demo video.
First part, very short, shows the clean sounds of the guitar.
For second part, I am improvising over a free downloadable backing track based on "For the Love of God" by Steve Vai.
I am not an shredder in any single sense and, this is my first guitar with FR so, don't expect great things.
This is also not a cover, note by note. Just following the overall line of the song and improvising freely.

I appologize for image effects. This was one of my very first video editions and, I tried everything together.
Sorry for any headache.


Please, feel free to add your comments.