Charvel So-Cal Style 1 HH
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Charvel So-Cal Style 1 HH

So-Cal Style 1 HH, Chitarra Corpo tipo Stratocaster from Charvel in the Pro-Mod series.

content in English
Eroachguitar 21/09/2012

Charvel So-Cal Style 1 HH : Recensione di Eroachguitar (content in English)

"Change in manufacturing location has NOT compromised quality!"
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The Charvel Pro Mod (short for Production Model) was introduced in 2009 in response to a resurgence of interest in the hot-rodded fender guitars popularized by Eddie Van Halen, Jake E. Lee, and many other guitarists at the forefront of heavy metal and hard rock innovation of the 1980's. Production was originally undertaken in the USA, but switched to Japan in late 2010, which saw a slight drop in list price, and the inclusion of a custom SKB hardshell case, as opposed to a soft gig-bag included with the American-made version.

But one may ask: How did quality control fare under the switch in manufacturing location and personnel? A close inspection of my MIJ (Made in Japan) So Cal revealed an immaculately constructed and finished instrument. I was floored!

Based on (more appropriately a direct copy of) the original Charvel custom shop San Dimas and So Cal, which were directly modified from stock Fender Stratocasters, the Pro Mod series boasts a plethora of enhancements that make it more shred-friendly both in performance and appearance.

The neck is a quartersawn, straight 12' radiused maple piece with the standard Fender 25.5in Scale Length, and 22 jumbo wide frets. It is much thinner than most standard stratocaster necks, and is finished in a minimalist tung oil layer that renders an almost raw feel. The edges of the fretboard are aggressively rolled, leaving it feeling very broken-in from the first notes. Indeed, the Pro Mod feels like an old six-stringed friend right out of the box.

Hardware-wise, The Pro Mod sports Grover tuners, and a Korean Floyd Rose Double Locking tremolo system, which is reasonably durable, but to those initiated, doesn't quite measure up to the quality exhibited by the German OFR (Original Floyd Rose) tremolos on pricier guitars, and available as after-market upgrades. The string retainer blocks on mine had to be replaced after a year once the surface began to bear grooves from the strings and I began to experience the G, B, and E strings popping out of the saddles during play.

The upshot is that these are easily replaceable. The tremolo is also fitted with the 37mm Sustain Block, which isn't Floyd's lightest or smallest sustain block, so it was nice to see them not cutting corners in the sustain department.

The So Cal's pickups are a pair of Dimarzio humbuckers, operated by a single volume knob, no tone control, and a simple (but durable) 3-way toggle switch. Both pickups are fairly hot, with the Evolution handling the neck and the Tone Zone handling the bridge position. The Tone Zone, in particular, has a slight roll-off in the higher frequencies, which pairs it very well with brighter amps such as Marshall JCM 800's. It doesn't like to be positioned too close to the strings, however. Closer than perhaps the thickness of two stacked nickels, and the sustain and clarity began to suffer significantly due to excessive magnetic pull on the strings. A properly positioned TZ in the So Cal is hot, tight, and has a very focused midrange.

The Evolution is a well-rounded pickup that handles sweep arpeggios, fast alternately picked passages, and clean chord and lead work beautifully. Its only downfall is a slight loss of clarity in the lower frequencies, which I would argue plagues most production model pickups and is only cured by replacing it with an expertly wound, custom voiced boutique pickup.


UTILIZATION

Despite what one might think, the Floyd Rose doesn't make setup or intonation any more difficult. On the contrary, I found that the instrument was intonated pretty much wherever I set the action or neck relief. Some extra tweaking is likely required for those increasing string gauge to 11's or 12's, but that's to be expected.

The only downside of playability is the big, square traditional neck joint made access to the upper frets a little more uncomfortable than some of its contemporary counterparts, which feature a well-contoured heel.

SOUNDS

I've run the So Cal through close to two dozen different models of Fender combo amps. It's also seen action through numerous Marshall heads, Peavey 5150, Bogner Uberschall, Hughes & Kettner Triamp, Dumble, Mesa...the list goes on.

I currently play it through a modified Egnater Renegade 65 head, utilizing only a wah pedal and overdrive pedal.

I've recorded several different genres of music with the So Cal, and it performs well in nearly every context.

OVERALL OPINION

The Charvel So Cal Style 1H-H represents the very pinnacle of quality, bargain-priced electric guitars. Japan has been known for the quality of their electric guitars ever since they began making them, with 80's model MIJ Fenders still being highly sought after to this day.

Though Charvel cut costs by using slightly cheaper hardware and producing the instruments in Japan, the quality and playability of these instruments holds its own against some of the best (and most expensive) production guitars the USA has to offer.