I just picked up a Charvel So Cal (2016 model) a little while ago, and after playing it a lot at home and at live shows with my various bands, I thought I would do a review on the guitar for those of you considering buying one.

To start with, here is a rundown of the features of the guitar:

Body: Alder
Number of Frets: 22
Fret Size: Jumbo
Fretboard Radius: 12″ to 16″ Compound Radius (304.8mm to 406.4mm)
Neck Material: 1-Piece Quartersawn Maple
Neck Finish: Polyester
Nut Width: 1.6875″ (42.8mm)
Scale Length: 25.5″ (648mm)
Fretboard: Maple
Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan T6-6 Distortion
Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-6N Distortion
Pickup Switching: 3-Position Toggle: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume
Hardware: Black
Bridge: Floyd Rose Special Double-Locking Tremolo (Recessed)

Well first things first, after playing the guitar at live shows and at home, I found that it stayed in tune very well. Even with the floating bridge, I didn’t have many tuning problems at all. At a live show, I had to tweak the fine tuners once or twice throughout a 3-hour gig, but that was it (even with considerable use of the floyd rose). I have since blocked the bridge so it only goes down (see this video for how I did it) and to be honest I think it stayed in tune better when it was floating. I just prefer it only being able to go down in pitch.

The pickups sound really nice, they are quite hot and powerful but sound great for rock and metal. With the in-between position and the ability to split the coils in the pickups using the push pull volume knob switch, you can get some pretty damn good clean tones for funk, pop, etc as well.

This guitar does come into it’s own for hard rock and metal though, and it is ideally suited to me to use in my 80s tribute show All Access 80s. I like the white colour that I got, however there are some other wicked colours available, including some crazy fluro colours such as neon yellow and hot pink.

The neck seems to either have no finish on it at all, or a very light finish, which feels really nice to play. The fretboard starts to get that dirty ‘worn in’ look quite quickly (which I personally think looks awesome), so the more you play it the better it feels to play.

The truss rod adjustment dial at the heel of the neck is a great addition, as it means you can adjust the neck relief without having to take the entire neck off like you do some other models.

Some of the downsides of this guitar that I have noticed include the lack of an allen key holder on the back of the headstock and the pickup selector switch.

The allen key holder would be nice (and my previous Kramer Pacer Classics had one – check out my review here), however it isn’t an essential feature, and I remedied this by wrapping some rubber bands around the headstock to hold the allen key on the front of the headstock next to the string posts.

The selector switch is a bit stiff to move, so if you don’t push the switch hard enough, it doesn’t move into the next position. The switch also doesn’t make contact in certain parts of the range of motion, so where the ‘2’ and ‘4’ positions would be on a regular 5 way strat switch, this switch doesn’t make contact – resulting in no sound coming from the guitar. If you are careful not to accidentally push the switch into these specific positions though, you won’t have any problem. This could be fixed with a new switch if you were really concerned about it, and wouldn’t cost very much to fix.

For the price these are selling for, I think you get a nice array of features and a nicely playing and sounding guitar. There isn’t much that you couldn’t do with this guitar. There are a couple of upgrades you could do to make it even better (new switch, add an allen key holder, add a volume control for the neck pickup), however for not very much money you could do that yourself if you wanted to.

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