Charvel’s take on the Tele is something glorious to behold. Here are three fine – and very different – examples. By Peter Hodgson
It’s been great to see the return of Charvel since the brand was acquired by FMIC in 2002. FMIC has very carefully built the brand up to an interesting place in terms of product range: Charvel represents the ‘Superstrat’ segment, incorporating more modern player features, hotter pickups and flashier finishes on a somewhat traditional framework, leaving Fender free to explore the past and future of its classic models, and Jackson to handle the more metal‑oriented stuff.
For this issue, Fender Music Australia sent us three of their finest Charvels, each a take on the classic Telecaster shape but approaching it from a different perspective. Charvel’s Tele-like line is the Pro-Mod Style 2, and it’s an incredibly versatile platform as we’ll see.
THE PRO-MOD SAN DIMAS STYLE 2 HH HT M ASH
Of the three guitars reviewed here, this one is the most Tele-like thanks to its ash body and maple fingerboard. But it’s clearly not designed to be your grandpappy’s Tele. It has Seymour Duncan JB and ’59 humbucking pickups with a push-pull coil split, a No-Load tone control that is effectively bypassed when it’s on full mode, a Charvel HT6 hardtail bridge that seems to take its cues from Hipshot, and a trio of very player-friendly carves in the back: the Shredder’s Cut heel, which takes a little wedge out of the block neck joint; a scalloped lower back bout on the treble cutaway that allows you to more comfortably angle you hand for upper-fret shredding; and a beveled back output jack which places the cord at an angle that ensures it won’t get yanked out and can be easily threaded through the strap.
Sonically, this is a powerful guitar with lots of bite and detail. The JB is a very midrange-heavy pickup, but all that ash and maple ensures there’s enough top end to cut through as well. The ’59 is a fatter, fuller-sounding neck pickup, which balances well with the JB and sounds great when split. In fact, you might find yourself using the split coil modes a lot more than usual on this guitar because they sound quite Tele‑like and versatile. I put it down to the extra high-end clarity. In terms of playability, this is much more of a modern affair than a Tele, with a 12-to‑16‑inch compound radius fingerboard that feels comfortable all the way up and down and handles everything from chunky chords to soaring leads.
THE PRO-MOD SAN DIMAS STYLE 2 HH FR QM
This guitar is similar to the Style 2 HH HT M Ash in some ways, but it’s also very different in some ways. Both have the same neck shape, compound radius fingerboard, Seymour Duncan humbuckers and additional back bevelling, but the HH FR QM is much more of a shredder’s machine. It has a Floyd Rose double locking tremolo, an alder body with quilted maple top, rosewood fingerboard and a glossy finish which seems to reign in the top end a little more and give the overall sound a little more of a compressed vibe.
The JB’s mids really cut through here, making it a great lead guitar or a chunky-sounding rhythm beast. Harmonics practically leap off the strings and jump at your throat. The clean tones aren’t quite as characterful as on the Ash model, and you’ll probably find yourself tending towards the humbucker mode here just because those unrestrained mids and slightly smoother highs are so well-suited to high-gain tones. The ’59 works well here too but you might want to raise the adjustable pole pieces a little to get a tad more treble detail.
THE JOE DUPLANTIER SIGNATURE PRO-MOD SAN DIMAS STYLE 2 HH
This signature model for the Gojira frontman is based on his USA-made signature model, but produced in Indonesia to be more affordable. Despite the cheaper build, however, it feels reassuringly well-made with lots of custom appointments, rather than just being a Tele‑style guitar with humbuckers. For instance, it has the same heel and treble cutaway carve as the other two Pro-Mods reviewed here, as well as a 12-to‑16-inch compound radius ebony fingerboard, 22 jumbo frets, three‑way toggle switch with a unique diamond-shaped switch cap, compound radius-compensated bridge with anchored tailpiece, and Charvel locking tuners.
The neck and white satin-finished body are both made of nato – which has the appearance of roasted maple – helping to give it more of an upmarket vibe. It also has Duncan Designed humbucking pickups, designed by Seymour Duncan but produced offshore. These models are based on the classic JB and ’59.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sonically, this guitar is a little more open-sounding that the other two. It’s slightly more scooped in the mids and a little brighter in the top end, while still retaining much of the same basic tone. And if you’re a fan of the classic Gojora ‘raked harmonic chord’ sound, this guitar will do it with ease. It’s great for atmospheric cleans as well, but unlike the other two guitars, there’s no coil-splitting here: what you see is what you get. And what you get is a very muscular, yet detailed-sounding metal machine with no fuss.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Compound radius necks
• Shredder’s cut and scalloped cutaway
• Seymour Duncan or Duncan Designed pickups
• Locking tuners
• Jumbo frets
• Classic looks but modern tone
• Versatile pickups
• No coil split on Duplantier model
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