Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas PJ V: What is it?
It makes perfect sense for Charvel to be owned by Fender considering it built its brand in the modding game, taking classic electric guitar designs from the Big F and hot-rodding them. There is so much shared DNA, and so many possibilities for both brands to learn from one another.
This five-string bass guitar is typical of the synergy between Charvel and Fender and presents what could in an alternate reality be a Fender product in its own right. When we look at the modernistic spirit of the Player Plus models, is this not the influence from Charvel reflected back across the Fender canon?
Well, that’s for another day, what is clear, particularly from the Fender licensed Precision Bass headstock, is that this San Dimas five-string, with its solid alder double-cutaway body and bolt-on build, is going to appeal to similar demographics. Charvel is a high-performance brand, sure, but it’s high-performance for grown-ups, eschewing pointy headstocks and body designs, saving the fireworks for what comes out of the speaker and what you feel on that fingerboard.
The neck is a deep toffee-coloured piece of caramelised maple that has been fashioned into a slim C profile and – as is the house style at Charvel – reinforced with graphite to make it endure temperature changes and whatnot. The matching fingerboard is also of caramelised maple and features a 12”-16” compound radius, just like the guitars, and just the sort of dimensions you might need for playing fast and busy basslines. Showing off.
Charvel also makes sure your dollar goes far, here, with a super-solid Hi-Mass bridge, a DiMarzio Area J DP551 bridge pickup complementing a Charvel P-style split-coil, a three-band active EQ with push/pull toggling between active and passive modes, and all the premium appointments we have seen on the guitar line – Luminlay glow-in-the-dark side-dot markers, rolled fingerboard edges, a build quality that belies the modest price.
You’ll pick this up on the street for less than a grand, and it unquestionably feels like a pro-quality instrument. The heel-mounted truss rod adjustment wheel makes for easy adjustments and setups, the Charvel open-gear tuners look vintage and feel lightweight if the balance of the instrument is anything to go buy.
Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas PJ V: Performance and verdict
At first blush, the San Dimas PJ V might make you giggle a little. There is not shame in that, in getting a little giddy when you first engage those strings. The playability here is off the charts. The neck, which joins the body via a four-bolt joint, is also described on the Charvel site as a Speed Neck and that seems like both a sexier and more appropriate way of describing a Slim C.
With basses such as this, sometimes the challenge is not to overplay. This, however, is all part of the design, and the reason why Charvel exists in the first place. It’s a retro concept. The instrument’s silhouette suggests we’re in the ‘60s but the playability and the super-quick ride date this to the ‘80s, the dawn of shred and an outgrowth of virtuosity in rock, metal and fusion styles.
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This clearly caters to all of the above. In active mode, that low B string thunders. You want to go easy on that bass control for fear of structural damage… Or not, dime it and give your band’s mix a low-end of serious power. It’s not all bass, bass, bass. The treble and mids controls will help you find some bite in your sound, great for aggressive basslines, particularly those performed with the aid of an overdrive pedal, but also for finding bouncier tones that facilitate percussive styles. Articulation and definition are easily dialled in.
The DiMarzio pickup is excellent and yet you might still want to explore that blend control to its fullest. It’s there for a reason and will help root out all of those in-between tones. Finding a place in the mix should be easy.
There are only two finish options and both are grown-up and classy, if pushed we’d go for the Platinum Pearl as reviewed over the Metallic Black but that’s a matter of taste. The lack of a pickguard makes for a minimalist look but there’s nothing minimalist about a five-string bass that has all the thunder for metal but the subtlety and range to make it a serious option for those who looking to cover a range of styles.
It would please many a session player. Who among us doesn’t appreciate rolled fingerboard edges – they give the San Dimas a lived-in feel, a well-worn catcher’s mitt that fits just so. At this price, too, it makes a superb option for the ‘First serious bass guitar’, and for the jobbing pro looking for a five-string with attitude and refinement.
MusicRadar verdict: Superb playability, understated design, with tones that range from the subtle to the muscular, this Charvel five-string is the sort of hot-rod you could rock in any company.
Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas PJ V: The web says
"For around $1,100, or £1,100 if you prefer, you’re getting a lot of bass. The new San Dimas five is solid, sleek, and professional, and offers 99 percent of all the tones you would ever need.
"It looks and feels great, and plays flawlessly, with the only possible hesitation before purchase being the fact that there are hundreds of other, equally tasty basses available at this exact price point. In that case, your incentive to buy it is the Charvel name and heritage, both assets that should help with its value retention and (admit it) bragging rights."
Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas PJ V: Hands-on demos
Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas PJ V: Specifications
- MADE IN: Mexico
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, graphite reinforcement
- NECK JOIN: Bolt-on, four bolts
- FRETBOARD: Caramelised maple, 20 frets
- PICKUPS: DiMarzio Area J DP551 at bridge, Charvel Split-Coil P in middle
- CONTROLS: Three-band active EQ, pickup blend, master volume with push/pull selector for active/passive modes
- HARDWARE: Charvel tuners and hi-mass bridge
- WEIGHT: 9 lbs / 4 kg (approx)
- CONTACT: Charvel