Charvel Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28: What is it?
In some circles, you might find Prashant Aswani being described as the ‘Guru of Groove’, in others he might be discussed as one of rock fusion’s elite. He is often counted as a shredder, a Greg Howe acolyte, but then what about those pop sensibilities, the gigs with Timberlake? Little wonder Aswani needs a signature guitar like this.
The Charvel Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28 is a bit of a mouthful but then so too are all contemporary Charvel designations, and like its contemporaries in the original hot-rodding brand’s 2023 lineup it’s super playable and super versatile. Indeed, it might just be the most versatile of the lot.
We’ll get to that but first the fundamentals. Aswani’s new model is a Superstrat, no question; it even has the Stratocaster headstock, here on license from Charvel’s parent company, Fender. There’s more Fender DNA. Look at the double-cut body shape.
From the front it is unmistakeably Strat-esque, and Aswani’s decision to plump for a 2-point vibrato unit from Wilkinson over the more commonly found Floyd Rose feels more in keeping with the classic Leo Fender design. A set of Charvel-branded locking tuners helps keep things stable.
Again, in keeping with the Strat recipe we have a bolt-on maple neck, a solid alder body, skirted control knobs and a five-way blade style pickup selector switch. There’s a single-ply parchment pickguard in white that complements the Inca Silver finish nicely, with that solid colour reflecting almost silver-white or silver-grey depending on how the light hits it.
As finishes go, it’s a real cracker, grown-up, muted but not dull. Little wonder Charvel and Aswani had the good sense to reprise it on the headstock facing. It looks the business, and is a close rival to the Pharoah’s Gold for the coolest finish in the Charvel paint room, and given shine by the gloss ‘thin-skin’ nitro lacquer applied to the body and headstock. It’s sure to age well.
The neck of course is left with a satin-smooth feel, hand-rubbed with urethane. Charvel leaves its fingerboards unbound but not unloved; there are rolled fingerboard edges here, which immediately make the guitar feel lived in and comfortable, and the 12” radius feels a little different to the compound 12” to 16” radius we more commonly see from its high-performance electrics.
There are 22 jumbo frets, with cream dot inlays on the rosewood ‘board. Luminlay side dot markers make their presence felt as these nights draw in, gently illuminating like cat’s eyes on the fingerboard’s side – a welcome safety measure for those moments when you look down and forget where you are.
The most radical features are hidden from the naked eye. Around the rear of the instrument, there is extensive contouring to make trips up to the top end of the fingerboard as comfortable as can be, all while retaining that classic next-gen Strat look. Furthermore, while the Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut measures a fairly conventional 42mm, the fingerboard tapers out to offer more space up top when soloing.
Finally, the pickups – a pair of Charvel PA28 humbuckers, co-developed with Aswani – offer more than just your typical neck, rhythm or both options via that five-way switch, and with Alnico III magnets they are designed to cover everything from high-gain metal shred to funk and R&B, with position four on the switch combining both inside coils, position two both outside coils.
You could describe the vibe as “grown-up shred machine” or as “session player Swiss Army Knife” but whatever it is it ain’t ostentatious. The only way you would know that this was an artist model is a subtle “PA28” decal on the rear of the headstock. There’s no neckplate to make more room for the fretting hand.
There is also no tremolo back plate so you can make adjustments to it easily – it arrives set-up with two angled springs. If you need to tweak the truss rod you will find an adjustment wheel at the top of the fingerboard.
Charvel Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28: Performance and verdict
This is a modern electric guitar that holds the practical and the aesthetic in equilibrium. By anyone’s lights, this is good-looking instrument, redolent of the clean post-Fender designs that Charvel has its name in but really perfected over the past few years as the brand has enjoyed a hot streak. It puts a little distance between Charvel and Jackson, whose histories have long been entwined, with both now owned by Fender.
Where the latter feels explicitly dedicated to rock and metal guitar, Charvel is more open ended; high-performance but where you take it is up to you. And across the board, Charvel is bolt-on builds, a la Fender.
But for all the Fender touch points, Aswani’s signature model feels faster than a Strat, as though no matter what you are playing everything feels downhill, easy, with the wind at your back. The satin finish neck helps. There’s no threat of gumming up. The generous belly cut on the back of body makes it sit nicely whether it’s on your lap or guitar strap. The balance is bang on, too.
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The sense of balance extends to its tone, too. The bridge humbucker is bright and hot but has plenty of presence in the midrange, enough low-end to to give the bass notes in a powerchord some weight. The neck pickup is warmer by virtue of geography but plenty of clarity.
There is still some treble, but you can roll this off nicely with the tone pot and noodle away on more bass-heavy, woody piano cleans. With gain, the neck pickup makes an exceptional lead voice.
One of the great things about the Aswani Pro-Mod is how you can take it from its naturally effervescent modern rock voicing at the bridge, then pop it in position four, roll back the volume, and it cleans up into a very musical semi-clean tone for bounding some triads around the fretboard. The attack is fast and snappy, and Strat-esque. The upper-fret access promised by the cutaway is delivered. It’s a guitar you can show off on or disappear back into the rhythm section.
Most players will find the Wilkinson two-point vibrato more than fit for purpose. The saddles are comfortable for palm-muting. There is enough play for hitting a harmonic squeal and divebombing it. Okay, not quite with the same amount of travel as a Floyd but you can make the strings slack, it behaves very similarly, with fewer setup issues, less faff when changing a string. The action is smooth and pleasing, whether you are just using it to add some shimmer to a chord or to for something a bit more Shrapnel Records, circa-1989.
The vibrato's design incorporates a solid machined block, through which you feed the strings, and with Wilkinson’s locking saddle system the strings are locked at the intonation point to enhance tuning stability and sustain. If you have ever fancied taking a ride in a Superstrat but were put off by the Floyd, you have to try this.
If you have ever tried a Superstrat and been put off by overly hot humbuckers, again, these hit a sweet spot between that vintage clarity and balance and the heat you need for high-gain playing.
MusicRadar verdict: Balance is the word; that is the through line. Balance between power and finesse, between classic and modern. And your bank balance, too. Because at this price, Aswani’s signature model, with its custom shop vibe and easy playability, is a more than fair deal for a top-tier electric.
Charvel Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28: Hands-on demos
Charvel Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28: Specifications
- TYPE: Solidbody electric guitar
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, bolt-on
- SCALE: 25.5"
- FINGERBOARD/RADIUS: Rosewood, 12" with dot inlay and Luminlay side markers
- PICKUPS: 2x Charvel PA28 humbuckers
- CONTROLS: Five-way blade pickup switch, volume, tone
- NUT: 42mm Graph Tech TUSQ XL
- HARDWARE: Wilkinson WVS1302P 2-point tremolo, Charvel-branded locking tuners
- CONTACT: Charvel