What is it?
Charvel has earned the reputation of being a go-to brand for aspiring shredders of all ages, players looking for a go-faster guitar (opens in new tab) that soups up the S-Style paradigm for a very different playing experience.
The Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 is certainly not going to disappoint anyone on that score. We've got an abundance of signature Charvel flourishes here, on what is a high-spec'd Mexican-built electric that has all the tools the modern player looks for. But that's just half of it.
When you take a closer look, strap it up and feel the agreeable 7.5lb weight, there's a reassuringly vintage Fender vibe to its balance and poise – Charvel's parent company has generously donated some of its most famous creation's good looks to the DK22 – quite literally with regards the headstock.
If you were to stick the Big F's logo on the headstock and branded this as the American Ultra Series Mk2, jaws would drop but few would complain. After all, updating the Stratocaster with a more ferocious tonal armoury was part of the Charvel appeal.
So what do we have? Well, the Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS PT CM, to give it its full name, has a two-piece caramelised maple neck – a bolt-on, of course – and a matching caramelised maple fretboard with dot inlay and a playable 12-16" compound radius, 22 jumbo frets.
It has a double-cutaway alder body after the Strat fashion, and this houses a SHR-1B Custom Hot Rails humbucker in the bridge position, with a SSL-6 Flat Strat single-coil in the middle and a SSL-6 RWRP in the neck. The electronics are controlled via a 500k EVH Bourns Low-Friction master volume pot and No-Load master tone, with a five-way blade switch for selecting pickup positions.
The hardware is choice, with a pristine Chrome recessed Gotoh Custom 510 six-saddle floating bridge with screw-in arm and Charvel die-cast locking tuners. While we are more used to seeing a Floyd Rose unit in models such as this, the Gotoh Custom 510 looks and feels like, well, a grown-up choice.
Can we say that? Grown-up? Well, let's say it is a more refined choice if only by virtue of it not allowing for squealing fire-at-the-zoo harmonic whammy abuse you can get away with on a Floyd.
Performance and Verdict
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to that neck profile and very pliable compound fingerboard radius. At 19.7mm at the 1st fret and 21mm at the 12th, you needn't have fingers like Mr Tickle to waltz up and down this fretboard with gusto.
It is also incredibly stiff, totally solid. This DK22 feels built to last. Caramelised, roasted, however you describe the process for the maple, it not only renders it a very appealing deep tan colour, it, allied to the graphite reinforcement, makes it feel super strong.
The rolled fretboard edges are the icing on the cake. Seriously, it takes next to no effort to play the DK22. Any easier and the DK22 would be offering picking tips and chord suggestions on the fly.
That vibrato is no wet blanket. It might be refined, but you can still drop it hard for the odd Friday night divebomb (it'd be rude not to) and the recess is generous enough to facilitate a little whammy bar fun should the mood take you.
• Fender American Ultra Stratocaster (opens in new tab)
All these Ultra features tools at your disposal add up to a really impressive and versatile Strat. This feels like that old familiar friend from Leo’s brilliant mind, given a very well considered modern overhaul.
• Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK22 Ash (opens in new tab)
Even though we were surprised to discover that you don’t get a gig bag for your 800-odd sheets, the body wood, scale length, direct mount Seymours, floating Floyd, compound radius and ultra-stable neck distinguish the DK2 as perfect a shred machine as you’ll find at any price.
Perhaps the only difficult thing about the DK22 is nailing its tone profile to the mast. There are a lot of options, with a very well-tuned tone knob and five positions to explore. It certainly is a crowd-pleaser, with a voice that runs through the ages of early '60s Strat spank and the clear, crystal precision and attack that make Fender cleans so eternally appealing.
By direct-mounting the pickups, you've got a little more substance in the tone there. Interestingly, and very typical of the outside the box yet not too far outside approach that it's just nuts, the DK22's bridge Hot Rails 'bucker is reversed angle to take a little sharpness off the high E and B strings and share the top-end wealth with the low E. It adds a soupçon of bite to your riffs, a focus and a definition that makes your rhythm parts really pop.
And if you are short on treble, just take the No-Load tone to the max and you'll have that extra shimmer you need. This is definitely a guitar on which you'll be jockeying that tone control all night. It is so musical, and combined with a cornucopia of juicy tones that work the unchartered territory between single-coil precision and humbucker warmth, between vintage and modern, it makes the DK22 one versatile instrument indeed.
Oh, and it's finish, Pharaoh’s Gold, is very classy. Don't be fooled by the name on the headstock. You needn't have completed the Perpetual Burn tab book to be invited to the DK22 party. This is the sort of instrument to unite players of all vintages and persuasion in celebration at the potential of the electric guitar. It's heaps of fun.
MusicRadar verdict: 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!
The web says
"While it excels in balls-to-the-wall rock territory and is terrific fun to play, the DK22 delivers tones for all occasions, including some exceptionally dynamic clean sounds. It would be nice if a gigbag was thrown in, but the DK22’s price-performance ratio makes it a very tempting proposition indeed."
Guitar (opens in new tab)
C.A. House Music
The Music Shoppe
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric guitar
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: 2-piece caramelised maple with hand-rubbed urethane finish, graphite reinforcement and Luminlay side dots, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq XL/42.86mm
- FINGERBOARD: Caramelised maple with rolled edges and small dot inlays, 305-406mm (12-16”) radius
- FRETS: 22, jumbo
- HARDWARE: Chrome recessed Gotoh Custom 510 six-saddle floating bridge with screw-in arm, Charvel die-cast locking tuners
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 53mm
- ELECTRICS: Seymour Duncan SHR-1B Custom Hot Rails humbucker (bridge), SSL-6 Flat Strat single coil (middle), SSL-6 RWRP Flat Strap single coil (neck), master volume, No-Load master tone, five-way pickup selector lever switch
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.4/7.5
- OPTIONS: Hard case (£108); padded gigbag (£43)
- RANGE OPTIONS: The Floyd Rose-equipped Pro Mod DK24 HH FR twin humbucker with Floyd Rose vibrato and alder or okoume body starts at £899; a hardtail version is available at the same price
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Pharaoh’s Gold (as reviewed), Gloss Black, Electric Blue
- CONTACT: Charvel (opens in new tab)