Thirty years ago, Southern California was a hot bed for emerging gun-slinging guitarists seeking fame and fortune. Top dogs in this pack, players like Warren DeMartini and Jake E Lee, knew of Charvel, a local guitar shop that made the ultimate hot-rodded superstrat with upgrades like humbucking pickups, locking tremolos and flatter-radius fingerboards with jumbo frets that encouraged speedy, dexterous playing.
For Charvel, success was swift by catering to this new generation of guitarists, but overwhelming demand and sky-high prices kept these instruments away from the average Joe.
Music trends have changed since then but fleet-fingered guitarists have always remained, which is why Charvel’s high performance guitars are still in favor. The new Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR epitomizes the classic stripped down superstrat with premium components and an eye-catching finish that’ll turn heads but with a price tag that won’t leave you down and out on the Sunset Strip.
The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR features an alder body, two-piece maple neck with 25 1/2–inch scale length, 12- to 16-inch compound fingerboard radius, 22 jumbo frets and a heel-mounted spoke wheel for adjusting neck relief on the dual graphite reinforcement truss rods. The guitar comes equipped with a Floyd Rose double-locking, recessed tremolo and a pair of Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups (TB-6 bridge, SH-6N neck), a master volume with push/pull coil-splitting, a master tone and a three-position blade switch.
Showing up in a blinding Rocket Red neon finish, the guitar looks like its ready to race. Plugged in, the So-Cal’s high-output Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups turn any mild-mannered amplifier into a loud fire-breathing beast.
The pickups sound huge with a fat bottom end, warm mids and searing highs when I played with tons of high-gain distortion, and the coil tap on the volume knob is a nice touch to get some brighter spank on cleaner settings. The guitar is solidly built and feels sleek, but more importantly, the guitar entices you to play fast with its “speed” neck profile, super low action and finely dressed jumbo frets that made me effortlessly shred above my talent level. And for whammy bar dips and harmonic screams, the Floyd Rose tremolo kept the tuning in check.
LIST PRICE: $1,249.99
MANUFACTURER: Charvel, charvel.com
THE BOTTOM LINE: Hot-rodded with Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups, a hand-rubbed neck and a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo, the Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR is a street lethal, fretboard-racing machine built for break neck speed.