Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 review

The ultimate rocker gets updated

  • £727.33
  • $1169
At just £727, the So-Cal is an utter bargain.

MusicRadar Verdict

All that separates this from the deleted US models is the price; great rock tone, high spec and the Hollywood vibe remain. At this price, you must seriously consider one.


  • +

    The unmistakable hot-rod vibe. Price. Neck.


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We fell head-over-heels in love with the Charvel USA production models released in 2008 and waited with barely hidden excitement for the new batches of custom finishes that were introduced every quarter.

As much as we'll always have a soft spot for a flat black San Dimas Style 1, our favourite had to be the Trans Red Ale So-Cal from the seventh batch. But all good things come to an end… or at least they change direction slightly.

"It's Hollywood Boulevard where the So-Cal is most at home - as playing around with some classic US rock songs from the '80s proves."

Charvel has refined this popular concept; the T-style San Dimas Style 2 has been retired, with the SD and So-Cal Style 1 remaining. These will be generally available in a choice of three standard finishes and specs under the Pro Mod banner and, perhaps of most nominal significance, will be built in Japan, not the USA.

Aside from the location of its manufacture, this So-Cal is of exactly the same spec as the USA model we reviewed in July 2009.

Available in Ferrari red and black, in addition to the snow white version we have on test, this is surely an out-and-out rock machine.

Powered by two DiMarzio humbuckers - a Tone Zone DP-155 in the bridge and a neck-mounted Evolution DP-158 - and regulated by just a single volume control and three-way toggle selector, the So-Cal also features a one-piece maple neck (with rolled edges) taken straight from Charvel's halcyon days.


The So-Cal should satisfy any rock purist as the bridge Tone Zone is high in output, full and cutting.

It's possible to ignite some seriously high-octane metal riffs and even dark, Sabbath-style rhythms, but it's Hollywood Boulevard where the So-Cal is most at home - as playing around with classic US rock songs from back in the '80s proves.

Flicking to the neck Evolution provides a smoother yet surprisingly trebly sound and, although we'd prefer it if the toggle switch was slightly closer to the action, there's very little that we can criticise about this guitar.

The £999 price of the previous USA production models scored well in our value category, but the reduced price of this model is more than welcome. It also includes a hefty SKB road case, making it, if anything, even better value: at £727 the So-Cal is an absolute steal.

Any rock player will surely find their love for the genre reinvigorated by this model. It's well-made, play superbly and offer their own sonic highlights, and rocking out with it will vociferously recall what first made Charvel great.

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.