There's a reputation with some electric guitars. Unfair as it is, guitars tend to be judged on the company they keep. We look at them and within seconds decide whether we want anything to do with them.
Rickenbacker? Lovable mop tops. Jingle jangle. End of. Gretsch? Easy. Rockabilly throwbacks. Next. Well, what of the Charvel Pro-Mod DK22, minding its own business here? Surely you'd have to be a bearded slab of tattooed meat to consider shredding a Charvel. Right?
- Need the big 'F' on that headstock? Have a look at the best Stratocasters
- Absolutely need those 2 extra frets? Here's the Charvel Pro-Mod DK24
Well what if you've got this six-string Goldilocks all wrong? This isn't for those whose sole clean sound happened one fateful day when the battery in their HM-2 went on the fritz.
You might even begin to regard this guitar as a perfect contemporary interpretation of the Fender Stratocaster once we're done with the gentle persuasion. And yes, indeed, we did go there. But can the DK22 back us up?.
Let’s look at the nomenclature first. As a Pro-Mod, this DK22 is from Charvel's Mexican-built range.
The DK comes from the Dinky body shape, which is effectively a scaled-down Strat-style silhouette, with ‘22’ denoting the number of jumbo frets. ‘SSS’? Yes, you guessed it; that means a trio of single-coil-sized pickups, while ‘2PT’ points is a little more arcane, in reference to the two pivot point recessed Gotoh Custom 510 vibrato.
Lastly, ‘CM’ is shorthand for caramelised maple, which is what the 648mm (25.5-inch) scale neck is carved from. You'll have heard of roasted or torrefied maple, well caramelised is just another term for that same process in which the wood is heated in a kiln to remove moisture. This treatment makes it more stable and gives it a lovely tan colour. The neck here has further reinforcements courtesy of a pair of graphite rods.
The better-dead-than-shred brigade might have some assumptions of their own with this one. Maybe they'd have it pegged as a basswood body, a popular choice for the modern metal guitar. It is in fact an alder body – very classic strat – that's hiding under the lovely satin urethane Pharaoh’s Gold finish.
The rear of the Dinky's body is sculpted for player comfort. The Strat-style jack plate is convenient, too, angled upwards so you can train your cable over the strap or into a radio pack.
A scoop cut into the rear of the treble side cutaway ensures upper-fret access is excellent – while a nicely rounded body heel does well to keep out of your way. The 22 frets are fitted on a a 305 to 406mm (12- to 16-inch) compound radius fingerboard.
Now, that is a ‘shred’ appointment but remember that Fender’s new American Ultra Stratocaster has a compound radius ’board, too – albeit 10 to 14 inches. Oh, and it is similarly heavily contoured... And promotes upper-fret access. Food for thought, right?.
Some restraint has been shown in the hardware. We have a lower-profile Gotoh Custom 510 vibrato here where Charvel might have played to type and chiselled in a double-locking Floyd Rose.
Those double pivot points make for super-smooth operation. It is a nice bit of kit in which the centre-threaded screw-in arm stays put wherever you leave it. The locking ’heads and slippery Graph Tech Tusq XL top nut helps provide faultless tuning stability.
Now, the electrical stuff. As an SSS format guitar, the DK22 is a little misleading. It really has a single-coil-sized humbucker in the bridge with two single coils in the neck and middle.
At the bridge there's a Seymour Duncan SHR-1B Custom Hot Rails humbucker, in the middle there's a Seymour Duncan SSL-6 Flat Strat single coil while the neck is served by ‘Reverse Wind, Reverse Polarity’ (aka RWRP) SSL-6 to cut hum whenever it's in conjunction with any of the other pickups.
The control circuit features a 500k EVH Bourns Low-Friction master volume, with a No-Load master tone, plus a five-way pickup selector blade switch.
Feel & Sounds
As necks go, the DK22's is slim, measuring 19.7mm at the 1st fret, 21.1mm at the 12th. And yet, snake-hipped it might be but this Charvel has quite possibly the most stable neck we’ve ever come across.
That’s down to the graphite reinforcement and the caramelisation process, but impressed nonetheless. This is designed for comfort and speed. With the rolled fingerboard edges and the compound radius, it almost feels like the DK22 is playing itself.
The vibrato recess is generous enough for a respectable amount of pullback and you can dive-bomb it, too, if that's your style.
Our preference was for the warble and sustain from gently manipulating the vibrato arm – more Jeff Beck than Steve Vai, but it makes the most of the Gotoh Custom 510’s travel. Once more, the tuning stability never wavers.
Let’s look at those switching options. Position one engages both coils of the the bridge SHR-1B Custom Hot Rails humbucker. The second position on the switch splits the bridge 'bucker's coils offering the inner coil in partnership with the middle SSL-6 Flat Strat.
Position three finds the outer coil of the bridge pickup in partnership with the neck position SSL-6, while finds both middle and neck single coils in unison and the final position has the SSL-6 Flat Strat at the neck on its own.
Plugging in, you quickly realise that the DK22 has table manners. This is not some bovver-booted yob with too much to say for itself. The voice is sophisticated. Direct mounting the bridge pickup has surely given it a touch more tonal girth – even in the split modes – than a traditional Strat single coil.
By putting it at a reverse angle a la Jimi helps to emphasise the low-end, softening the top E treble – but there are classic ‘glassy’ Fender tones here, too. Turn to positions two and four on the switch dial for the Hendrix ‘in-between’ tones. Position three comes over like a Tele's middle position, with a little warmth on top.
The aggression of the bridge pickup is intensified with more overdrive but there's more focus here than with a full size ’bucker. The detail and note separation is exceptional. Wherever you are on the five-way switch, turning the No-Load tone control to its highest notched setting reveals brings forth some considerable additional presence.
The Charvel just goes to show: you typecast electric guitars at your peril. Yes, we all know that Gretsch guitars cut plenty of mustard outside of their supposed comfort zones, Rickenbacker, too. And similarly, the Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM is should not be pigeonholed as just another shredding machine, even if that is Charvel's core demographic.
No, the customer base for this guitar is potentially wider. Blues, classic rock... Country? The DK22 has got your back, whatever turns you a coin.
If this were a Suhr Classic or maybe a Fender American Ultra, there'd be no need to dissuade you of your prejudices and those preconceived notions. This guitar has that same combination of vintage and modern appeal, though, and for less money.
Here's the rub: the Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM is exceptional. It is a well-built electric with incredible playability and a tonal range that runs from vintage to modern. Judge it on its tone and feel first, with looks a distant third.
- PRICE: $1,049 / £949
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric guitar
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: 2-piece caramelised maple with hand-rubbed urethane finish, graphite reinforcement and Luminlay side dots, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq XL/42.86mm
- FINGERBOARD: Caramelised maple with rolled edges and small dot inlays, 305-406mm (12-16”) radius
- FRETS: 22, jumbo
- HARDWARE: Chrome recessed Gotoh Custom 510 six-saddle floating bridge with screw-in arm, Charvel die-cast locking tuners
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 53mm
- ELECTRICS: Seymour Duncan SHR-1B Custom Hot Rails humbucker (bridge), SSL-6 Flat Strat single coil (middle), SSL-6 RWRP Flat Strap single coil (neck), master volume, No-Load master tone, five-way pickup selector lever switch
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.4/7.5
- OPTIONS: Hard case ($159 / £108)
- RANGE OPTIONS: The Floyd Rose-equipped Pro Mod DK24 HH FR twin humbucker with Floyd Rose vibrato and alder or okoume body starts at $949/£899; a hardtail version is available at the same price
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Pharaoh’s Gold (as reviewed), Gloss Black, Electric Blue
- CONTACT: Charvel