A Big Disappointment
So I thought I would do a review of the Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Style 1 Made in Mexico (MIM) guitar. I purchased mine in September 2015. I have been playing since 1978 and have been fortunate to own Fender, early '80s Kramer, Ibanez, Brian Moore, and Gibson guitars. I always wanted a Charvel but at the time never got around to getting one. Now, a USA made San Dimas is just too much green for me to consciously spend when I have several other wonderful guitars. From what I read, this Pro Mod San Dimas Style 1 was being offered very close to the original and spec, so for $849, I figured what the heck.
For me this was the highlight of the guitar. It is an oiled neck that feels simply great. The fret work is surprisingly good. Many times I have to dress cheaper guitar's frets, but this one is pretty much spot on. Nice and straight, just a bummer the truss rod adjustment is in the heel, but that's the way the originals were as well.
The pickups are what you would expect from Seymour Duncan and these specific models. More about that later though. Good quality with no surprises. The volume pot is Korean made but very smooth. Survivability undetermined, but nothing bad expected. The 3-Way toggle is a mystery, time will tell. The input jack is a mystery as well. Graphite based shielding paint is used inside the control and tremolo springs cavities. Not the best, but functional, the problem is it was done so thin that I'm sure the conductivity of the paint is less than adequate.
Well, Charvel (Fender) pulled an underhanded one here. They advertise this model as having an Original Floyd Rose, well sort of. The nut is a mystery. When you purchase a Floyd Rose, it comes with a Floyd Rose Nut of your choosing. Fender looked at shaving some cost on this for the sake of profit. It looks to be of good quality, but honesty would be nice. The tuners are Chinese styled after Gotoh labeled Charvel using 2 pins versus a set screw. The string tree is another mystery but the finish is good, so no complaints.
Here is where it all goes downhill. No matter how good the pickups may be, the guitar sounded lifeless and choked to me. Upon close inspection, the body cavity rout edges almost looked frayed/splintered. This got me wondering. Charvel advertises this model as having a Flame Maple Veneer Top. When they say veneer, they should say "paper thin flame maple veneer top similar to the faux sticker tops used by imported Jackson's in the mid to late 90's. This would be a more honest statement. I'm saying, this veneer is so thin, it can barely be sanded smooth due to the grain being the depth of the veneer. Now I understand why the rout edges were frayed/splintered, the veneer is so thin, the grain is all that is left creating a situation where it cannot be smooth sanded. So how do you create a smooth surface in this situation? Gobs and gobs of paint finish. When I say GOBS, I mean GOBS! And this is exactly what Charvel/Fender did. I didn't expect a nitro finish, but this is ridiculous. This finish laughs at heavy duty paint stripper. So how do I know this? I did it, and it took a week using a heat gun to get through the exterior finish layer, days of stripper on the lower layers, and finally careful use of sandpaper on the final spots that nothing would take off. This is also when I discovered the fuzzy truth in the "Alder Body" statement. OK, they were honest, Charvel just didn't say a "three piece glued together alder body", which is exactly what it is. Fender/Charvel have definitely stretched the "truth in advertising" statement with this guitar.
Short of the neck, pickups, and fulcrum body, a person can do much better elsewhere. In reality, if a person wants a Charvel to '80s specs, several companies exist online that sell exact bodies and necks that can be fitted with name brand hardware for less than the price of this guitar. Thankfully, by the time I get done refinishing this guitar and replacing some of the hardware, it should be what I was hoping for in the first place. Would I buy one again, definitely not!