REVIEWED: THE CHARVEL USA SELECT SO-CAL

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Charvel’s connection with the Strat hails back to the late 1970s when the guitar manufacturer had a penchant for producing reincarnations of the beloved model. Back then they were referred to as the Superstrat, and regularly featured a Strat-shaped body with a single humbucker and a tremolo bridge system. Within Charvel’s newly released USA Select Series the So-Cal model is the guitar that comes closest to the Charvel Strats of old. And while it’s a loosely tied ode to models gone by, it’s nice to see Charvel revive a long-running relationship with the guitar that helped them reach early prominence.

An alder So-Cal style body is matched with a one-piece quartersawn maple neck boasting 22 jumbo frets, and a maple compound radius fingerboard with black dot inlays. Like the rest of the USA Select series the So-Cal has a slender design, made to hug the body and distribute what is quite a bit of weight for a rather thin guitar. Unlike any of the other models in the series, however, the So-Cal rocks a single-ply black pickguard – a throwback of sorts to the Charvel Superstrat. In what is another unique feature, this guitar has a top-mounted Strat output jack, also in black. The guitar’s construction is rounded out with a Standard Stratocaster headstock.

 

Consistent with the rest of the USA Select series, the So-Cal is equipped with a non-recessed Floyd Rose bridge, a one-way vintage-style truss rod and Charvel branded tuners. It’s clear that Charvel have approached the identity of this particular model and the rest of the series holistically, building from the ground up. The end result of which is quality, uncompromising hardware, dressed in an aesthetically pleasing product.

 

Responsible for the So-Cal’s tone are the DiMarzio DP100F Super Distortion bridge pickup and two DiMarzio DP-116 HS2 pickups on the neck and middle position. With a combination of hot output and mid boost it’s made to push your amp to the brink, and welcomes a ton of gain without losing articulation and the presence of individual notes. When working on hi-gain settings it screams, allowing you to cut through the mix while playing lead. All without any real muddiness or thinness to the low-end – it’s the undeniable centerpiece of the entire series.

 

Position four combines the neck and middle pickups to generate a deep, raucous punch. The breaking up appeal of a split coil is showcased here, with the guitar responding to higher gain settings with a metallic, wirey shimmer and rattle. And then there’s the neck pickup, which on its own produces anything from glistening single note passages, to a warm, wider growl and a powerful distortion. It’s made to blend with humbuckers and does so wonderfully. 

 

Hits and Misses

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The DiMarzio DP100F Super Distortion bridge pickup is a winner

The Strat-inspired elements meld seamlessly with the USA Select aesthetic

Versatility offered by the five-way pickup selector

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