REVIEW ELECTRIC GUITAR £683
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Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH The humbuckers are passive DiMarzios but this is close to a pre-facelift Desolation DC-1 FR RRP: £727
Jaden Rose Series 2 A shred-ready British-made rocker with twin humbuckers and 24 frets; the Floyd Rose is an optional extra RRP: £899
The factory action on our sample was on the high side (especially when you consider the kind of high-speed work a shallow 24-fret neck is made for), and the bridge pickup was almost touching the strings, but that stuff is easily tweaked. In terms of the fretting, the finish and all the non-adjustable hardware fitting, the list of quibbles is nonexistent. It’s just about the best build quality this reviewer has yet seen on a Chinese instrument.
Sounds The Floyd Rose is a weighty chunk of metalwork, even if it is the Far Eastern FRT-O2000 variant that purists get so sniffy about, but this is still a fairly light guitar which balances nicely on the lap or the strap. Acoustically it doesn’t have a tremendous amount of personality but it’s full enough at the bottom and zingy enough at the top, with no shortage of sustain. But the most striking aspect of playing the DC-1, whether plugged in or not, is the brazen roughness of that unpolished neck. If you like the feel of real timber in your palm, you’ll love it; if you insist on toffee-apple slickness, you’ll be lobbing this thing straight back to the shop via a giant catapult.
That would be a shame, because there are some swanky tones on offer. Those EMGs are blisteringly loud, and you may find yourself turning your amp down a notch or three to stop them pushing it into unwanted crunch, but that’s not to say they’re sonic sledgehammers. Such high output might rule out complex sweetness, but the piano-like purity of the DC-1’s clean tones is pleasing in its own way – and
This is a riffer and a widdle-monster in equal measure, and it scores reasonably well for versatility too
A generous helping of pearl offsets all the blackness there is a certain amount of clucky character to be enjoyed when both pickups are combined. It’s clear and well-balanced, and breezy chords come across just as well as delicate arpeggios. If you accept that it’s on the high-gain frontline that this guitar will earn its medals, then you’ll have no complaints about its conduct on the clean channel.
Right, high gain it is then. On paper it’s a killer recipe: mahogany for lowend warmth, through-neck construction for sustain, 25.5" scale length for harmonic sprightliness, and active EMGs for enough power to bring down a corrupt government. Sure enough, a concerted spell of riffing through a selection of metal-minded stompboxes confirms that the Chinese chefs have not messed the recipe up. The defining characteristic of the DC-1 FR as a lead instrument is its upper-mid bite, which cuts through on all three pickup settings without succumbing to unnecessary spikiness. The bridge pickup is the one you’ll likely favour for shredding the wallpaper and it does so with class, from the first fret right up to the 24th,
A Floyd Rose vibrato comes as standard although you may find that access to the top couple is not quite as easy as it could be. The Floyd’s a lot of fun though, and brings no worries about tuning stability.
Switching to the neck unit for some grandiose drop-D power chords introduces a scary wallop of extra bottom end but not at the expense of clarity and definition. This is a riffer and a widdle-monster in equal measure, and there’s enough difference between the pickup settings for it to score reasonably well for tonal versatility too – not that it’s really suited to any style of playing that doesn’t involve a certain amount of ungodly rage and rebellion.
Verdict It must have been a harrowing day in the Charvel boardroom when they finally got the message about the new generation of rock players and how urgently their brand needed to address them. It’s all about looks, really. In terms of pure tone this guitar is not so different to the thoroughly 1980s So-Cal model with twin humbuckers that we reviewed early last year, but the appearance is different and therefore the vibe is different. It might just be enough to give the Charvel name a real shot in the arm, because the Desolation DC-1 FR looks – and sounds – like a genuine modern rock axe.
FINAL SCORE DESOLATION DC-1 FR Build Quality 19 /20 Playability 18 /20 Sound 17 /20 Value for money 18 /20 Looks 17 /20
56 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012