What is it?
Once more, it assumes a souped-up T-style frame. From a distance, that's what it is –a blackguard Tele with more meat on the bones. But the latest round of Duplantier's spec gives it something of a Gibson Custom vibe. That ebony fingerboard with pearloid block inlay is the tell, with the all-mahogany build and the tune-o-matic adding to the illusion.
Don't worry about any stylistic crossing of the streams; it makes perfect sense on the guitar, with the sum of all these influences making for one very classy electric, building on the more minimalist, modernism of his previous Charvel signature models.
This time around we have Duplantier's signature Fortitude humbucker in the bridge position and a DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary at the neck. They make an intriguing pairing, with the PAF a vintage option and the Fortitude a taking that classic frequency response and upping the ante in terms of output and low end – the first building block in Gojira's hefty rhythm guitar tone.
Both pickups have aged nickel covers. It is a pity the hardware isn't aged to match the pickups but that's the sort of detail we would be looking for in an instrument three times the price.
Before we get on to the rest of the spec, a shade over 700 bucks already looks like a square deal. Charvel sure hasn't held back in recent months when it comes to that keenly contested mid-price electric guitar market.
Duplantier's San Dimas Style 2 is a classy looker but it wouldn't be Charvel if pragmatism wasn't writ large in the build. A heel-mount truss rod adjustment wheel is a big time saver when it comes to making tweaks to the neck, and graphite reinforcements ensure that the neck is as stable as can be.
Locking tuners are a welcome sight, too, especially for those who like to hit their chords hard, while the fully adjustable radius compensated bridge and anchored tailpiece is a solid, no-fuss piece of kit.
As with its contemporaries on the 2020 Charvel line, there is a compound radius on the fingerboard running from 12-16" inches, meaning that it's a Gibson-esque profile for fretting chords, and flattens out to Planet Shred towards the upper end of the fretboard.
The rolled edges add a touch of luxury and it is always a treat when the lights go down for you to notice the Luminlay dot side-markers on the neck.
Performance and verdict
Of course, any signature model for Joe Duplantier lives or dies by its ability to weaponise crunch for laying down big haymaker monster riffs, and that is what you get here when you are on the bridge humbucker and dime your amp in the lead channel.
Even when tuned down, there is a warmth and detail to the Fortitude humbucker that treads the gentle balance between contemporary fire-breather and vintage musicality. The control circuit is as minimal as it comes, with a 3-way pickup selector switch and volume knob.
The switch is conveniently located down by the bridge, and without an onboard tone control there is a lot of be said for ping-ponging between the pickups.
The mix position takes some of the white heat out of the Fortitude and opens up possibilities that most "metal guitars" don't bother themselves with. We were thinking when we opened up the case that the natural finish is a grown-up choice, well, so too is this pickup combo.
• Manson META MBM-1
The MBM-1 is in many respects exactly what you'd imagine – it plays quick, the tones are hot, the kill switch is fun, and the finish impressive for the money.
• Charvel Joe Duplantier Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH
The 2017 model is still available and features a pair of Duncan-Designed humbuckers and a nato body. It's a little cheaper, too.
• Charvel Pro-Mod DK22
A sophisticated S-style that balances a hot-rodded hi-jinks and a shred-ready feel with a tonal range that invokes rock of all decades from the '60s onwards. Bravo!
Should you tire of splitting the atom with hyper-aggressive metal rhythm parts, there's a wealth of blues-rock potential to discover so long as you can contain yourself when presented with a neck like this.
Seriously, with its jumbo frets, lean neck profile and natural-oiled finish, it's difficult to restrain yourself; it's just so quick, and the rolled fretboard edges make for a very comfortable ride.
As with the MusicRadar favourite Charvel Pro-Mod DK22, this is a crowd-pleaser. Shredders will love the neck and the pyrotechnics on that bridge humbucker. Rock players will love having one of DiMarzio's best vintage winds at the neck – indeed, Duplantier doesn't even use it.
The best signature guitars always do that, present some artist-curated spec on an instrument that a wide variety of players can get along with. And this is one classy-looking guitar. It wears the natural finish well and with that block inlay and ebony 'board, it's a guitar that looks like it could have come from the 70s. But in the here and now it's one of the best guitars for metal in its price range, one of the best around full-stop.
MusicRadar verdict: A vintage-modern hybrid with heaps of class, Duplantier's signature San Dimas Style 2 is a signature model in name only. Once you pick this up, it demands that you make it your own.
- BODY: Mahogany
- PICKUPS: Joe Duplantier Signature DiMarzio Fortitude (bridge), DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary (neck)
- CONTROLS: Volume
- PICKUP SWITCHING: 3-Position Toggle
- BRIDGE: Charvel Fully Adjustable Radius Compensated Bridge with Anchored Tailpiece
- HARDWARE FINISH: Chrome
- TUNERS: Charvel-Branded Die-Cast Locking
- NECK MATERIAL: Mahogany
- NECK CONSTRUCTION: Bolt-On with Graphite Reinforcement
- NECK FINISH: Oiled
- NECK SHAPE: Speed Neck with Rolled Fingerboard Edges
- SCALE LENGTH: 25.5”
- FINGERBOARD RADIUS: 12”-16” Compound Radius
- FINGERBOARD MATERIAL: Ebony
- NUMBER OF FRETS: 22
- CONTACT: Charvel