Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora and Randy Rhoads are just a few of the monumental names that were wielding Charvel axes in 80s, etching the brand’s name into the history of rock and heavy metal for ever more. The Californian guitar manufacturer’s new flagship USA Select series taps into the very essence of what made Charvel so appealing back in its 80s heyday – a throwback to fiery pickups, menacing hardware, and the weapon-like, industrial feel of old.
The San Dimas body shape on this guitar is slick and slender. The 80s-inspired body perimeters offer a deeply sculpted glancing pocket, a roomy offset cutaway and well-balanced weighting. It has an alder body with a Satin Polyurethane finish, a maple fingerboard and a one-piece quartersawn neck – the latter of which is finished with a hand-rubbed urethane gel that feels natural and unobtrusive. With the deep cutaway, all 22 of the jumbo frets are easily engaged; making it easy to use the entire neck.
Hardware-wise the SD-1 is equipped with a Floyd Rose Original bridge, Charvel branded tuners and a black dome style control knob, all of which are in pitch black. The inclusion of a Floyd Rose Tremolo is big, with the extra tuning stability a key part of the guitar’s character and intended use. This is an axe that implores aggressive use of the tremolo. With a Floyd Rose on board you can do so without worrying about a string getting hung up, and the guitar subsequently going out of tune.
The crowning glory of the SD-1 is the DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucking bridge pickup. Position one of the five-way blade pickup selector delivers the bridge pickup by itself. It has a ferocious punch, made for expressive licks, arpeggios, bends, tapping and tremolo bar bashing. On clean it’s smokey and humid, but it’s designed to harness OD saturation, and on hi-gain settings it’s perfect for rock and heavy metal.
The middle and neck pickups on board are a couple of DiMarzio DP-116 HS2 pickups. On the middle pickup position the bridge and neck pickups are both engaged, delivering a compact sonic gauge. It’s more growl than bite, with a nice metallic kind of twang, underpinned by warmth. Position five utilises the neck pickup only for greater thickness and a guttural low-end punch. When playing rhythm on the neck down strumming and potent attack is translated with force and vigour into prominent chords. Despite the Floyd Rose Tremolo, there’s some decent sustain on offer here, which is a testament to the electronics on board.
Hits and Misses
The bridge pickup is a shredder’s dream
The slick, industrial construction perfectly matches the guitar’s tonal makeup
Floyd Rose Tremolo is a great inclusion
Despite the inclusion of a five-way pickup selector, having a tone knob is always nice