Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Charvel So-Cal Style 1

Year: 2010

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck and fretboard

Electronics: DiMarzio Tone Zone & Evolution humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, 3-way switch

It’s all about the neck.

This is almost the perfect rock guitar, there’s no other way to put it. There’s nothing here which doesn’t need to be here, it’s stripped back and distilled to the essence of what a rock guitar should be.

When you start with the familiar Strat core, mated with a Floyd Rose bridge and two good quality humbuckers, it really is hard to go wrong. The alder body is light and resonant, routed for HSH underneath the plate. The bridge sits flush on the body, there’s no routing to allow the bridge to raise pitch too much.

The pickups are reasonable output, enough to drive an amp well, but both clean up nicely. The Tone Zone isn’t too far away from the sound of the wonderful JB, which is just fine by me. Really, there’s little to complain about, it’s a great sounding guitar.

Now on to the neck, probably the greatest production neck out there. It’s an amazing shape, supremely comfortable. It’s not a skinny Wizard type, it’s not a chubby traditional type either. It’s somewhere in the middle, but delightfully rounded, even with quite a flat fretboard. It feels just right. The oil finish is smooth and quick. It’s the kind of neck you’d be happy with on any guitar. It’s spectacular.

The mystery is why they made it so you have to take the neck off in order to access the truss rod. A spoke wheel, move it to the headstock, anything but what they actually did. It’s the one infuriating mistake on the almost perfect rock guitar.

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Charvel Predator

Charvel Predator

Year: 1991

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Jackson J90C & J200R humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, five-way switch

I do love a Superstrat. Aesthetically, they might be too much for many but there is a change taking place. At the moment, there’s a growing appreciation for metal-orientated guitars from the 80’s and ealy 90’s but the prices are still fantastic, so pick them up while the going is good, I say. They’re worth more than their current value, if that makes sense? This Predator fits that bill. It’s a simple enough design but is capable of so, so much more than you’d think on first glance.

First, the neck. A Charvel neck from this era is something to treasure. They’re fast but if, like me, you find the Ibanez Wizard necks too skinny, these could be just what you’re looking for. They feel substantial but not chubby, they allow for fluid lead work but also work well for a regular player who lives down at the lower frets. It’s the kind of neck you can play for hours and hours without fatigue, really a great design.

The basic specification of these is good too, as is the fit and finish. The neck joint allows for good upper fret access. The bridge is a German made Schaller licenced Floyd type, very high quality. The controls seem basic, just a volume pot and a switch but the switch gives you 1) neck in series, 2) neck and bridge (parallel), 3) both full (series), 4) both full (parallel with filter circuit), 5) bridge (series). There’s a lot of very usable tones in there.

Then you must consider the pickups. The J90C is a very nice medium-high output humbucker which isn’t too far away from a JB, which is not a bad thing at all. The double-blade neck pickup is meaty without being weighed down by too much low end, it’s airy but with substance. Consider also that the legendary Abigail Ybarra was winding pickups for Jackson in this era and, at the moment, if you can find one you can pick one of these up for less than a second-hand Mexican Fender and you’ve got a great guitar at a really great price.

You’d be stupid not to have one of these.

Charvel JP Bass

TECHNIKA SH-A366

Charvel JP Bass

Year: 1991

Made In: Japan

Specs: Poplar body, one-piece maple neck, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Jess Loureiro Classic P & J pickups, Noll TCM-3 preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull preamp bypass, pickup blend on the first stacked pot. Bass and Treble cut and boost on the second stacked pot. Passive tone, mid cut and boost on the third stacked pot.

TECHNIKA SH-A366

This one was in pretty bad shape when I got it, and it had quite a few owners before I laid my hands on it, but I suspected there was a hidden gem within. It’s a rare enough model, but there are even fewer with the “lawsuit” headstock. I’ve seldom encountered junk among 80’s or 90’s MIJ instruments and this one was priced nicely enough to be worth a gamble. I traded two Boss pedals and a set of tuners for it, which felt like I was robbing the guy, but he seemed happy enough. Originally, these came with a 22 fret rosewood board. However, at some point, someone had the rosewood replaced with an ebony fretless board with an additional overhang. The original Reflex active pickups and preamp were there, but the shaft of the tone pot had been broken. The stock bridge had been replaced with a good Gotoh unit, but it was a big bridge with a thick baseplate and, coupled with the fret removal, meant the action could go nowhere near low enough to make it a decent player. It was also installed slightly off-centre, which was irritating, rather than an inconvenience. It just didn’t all work as a package and I can understand why it changed hands so much, as it was.

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First, I set about addressing the action. I bought a very decent no-name brass bridge which allowed me to get the action down to a reasonable level. I wasn’t entirely enamoured with the sound of the Reflex pickups, so I installed some of Jess Loureiro’s pickups in combination with a Noll TCM-3 preamp I had removed from the Hotwire. It’s a very nice preamp with a huge amount on offer in a traditional three-knob Jazz format. I still wasn’t happy though. The neck is very thin, almost like an Ibanez SR neck, but it’s the width of a Precision at the nut. The ebony fretboard is also thinner, I’d suspect, than the rosewood board it replaced and, to me, it was just too skinny. I didn’t want to give up on it, though, so I had it fretted with 6105 narrow and tall frets.

This proved to be the key transformation, the additional fret height putting enough bulk in hand to make it comfortable over extended periods of playing. It all clicked into place. It’s a wonderful player with enough tonal scope to go from thumpy traditional tones to almost Warwick-like active growl. The Noll preamp, which had been such a let-down before, finally showed what it’s capable of when paired with Jess’ fantastic pickups. The neck is fast but has meat. It’s a bass for all occasions, a one-trick pony it is not, and I’m really delighted with it now.

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

Basses of 2015

TECHNIKA SH-A366 Clockwise from top left: EBMM Stingray, G&L L2000, Charvel JP, Mightymite Jazz, Hotwire Custom, Warwick Streamer LX, Godlyke Disciple, ESP 400 Series Jazz, Warwick Streamer Stage I, Status S3000, Bacchus 02 Standard 5, PRS Electric Bass 4,  Alembic Orion, Bacchus 24, Warwick LX Streamer Jazzman, Bacchus Woodline P Classic

Guitars of 2015

TECHNIKA SH-A366

Clockwise from top left: Edwards E-FV-100STD, LTD DV8-R, Bacchus T-Master, Bacchus G-Player, Charvel So-Cal, Bacchus Empire, Tokai ES-130, Bacchus BST62, Steinberger GR4, Eggle TI Legend, BC Rich Stealth, Bacchus Duke, Charvel Predator, Warmoth Strat, Ibanez Destroyer DT-380