The Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST – An Experienced Review – Two in the house, one gigged and one pristine!
My son talked to me about the new Charvel Desolation series of neck-through guitars. Some are hard-tail, some are Floyd-rose enabled, some are double cutaway, and some are single… (Charvel has just introduced a Star-like version. Can’t wait to play it!)
I listened long enough that I decided to get one for myself when we ordered his. I like neck-through guitars for their sustain. I’ve got a few different ones, including my Gibson Firebird. I do think the neck-through thing is definitely worth the design. They sound great, tend to be very resonant, and actually play in a more lively way!
I am always on a budget (well, except when someone is generous with me!). So, I tend to think in terms of finding the best value for my money. I buy and sell a lot of gear, so cash flow is always tight when it comes to non-essential funds. These Charvel Desolation guitars are feature-for-cost heroes! They’re low priced and play like a guitar that’s much more expensive.
Quick Opinion: I give the Charvel Desolation a strong B or B+. I like the guitar a lot. If I wasn’t in a budget crunch, I’d keep mine for a very long time. It’s one of the few low-cost guitars that I’ve not been driven to mod! It’s well-appointed and has great features. It looks and plays wonderful, too.
Playability: For the most part, the Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST is a very playable guitar. It is easy on the shoulder, easy to play, and doesn’t get in the way of your music. I think this is the strongest part of this guitar’s overall value. Playability is king with this type of Charvel.
The neck back is raw mahogany that has been oiled. There is no grabby finish, nor is their the nice satiny feel of a matte-finish neck, either. The feel is visceral and simple. It feels like smooth wood. The tight-mahogany-grained neck feels nice when you keep it oiled. My son gigs his black-transparent one quite a bit – he loves the feel of the neck even when he’s sweat all over it for three hours straight.
I think the double-cutaway design is nice. As much as I love Les Paul guitars and other single-cutaway designs, this simple double-cutaway makes it easy to get ANYWHERE on ANY fret of the neck. NICE! The cutaway design is reminiscent of a PRS double cutaway, but with smaller horns and similar edge design.
The guitar is amazingly light! When you first pick it up, you think that it might be a 13/16 size guitar. But it isn’t! It’s a full-size guitar that just feels light as a feather and easy to play! I was truly impressed. This is on par with the new lightweight re-issued Gibson SG Special HH guitar. Resonant, light, easy on the strap, effortless to play!
Sound: There are many components to sound quality in an instrument. Like the many of my more recent reviews, the “sound” portion of this review deserves a little more depth than usual. Overall, the Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST is a HOT ROD with sound. No clean stuff or Kenny G here! Just outright ROCK, Metal, Alt Country, and Punk! You can’t get a smooth warm sound from these hot rods. Charvel has certainly earned it’s nickname with these!
Here’s a breakdown of the sound:
2) Tone woods, body, neck, bridge
Pickups and Electronics: The electronics are very basic, very simple active electronics. The back of the guitar has a battery access door for a single 9V battery to help boost the low-impedance pickups and electronics. You won’t find high-end electronic components here – but they’re on par with the Japanese-made Jackson Pro series of guitars and the Fender Blacktop series guitars.
The electronics components make the sound simple and strong. There’s not much variance in the control, though. They go from loud to quiet with not much in between, and from bright to dark with very little smooth transition. I do wish these were more precise. The components are recognizable brands, but they aren’t very subtle. Of course, if you’re playing metal or Alt, you don’t do subtle, do you? 🙂
I do need to spend a paragraph or so on the pickups. These are definitely NOT smooth AlNiCo 8 kOhm PAFs. These are more in line with the Seymour Duncan Blackouts: aggressive, high-gain, very easy to produce pinch harmonics, and LOUD. These pickups are the kind you would probably just leave in the guitar and not upgrade as you grow used to the guitar – except for one thing: The neck pickup is muddy. The bridge pickup is all rock, alt, and punk – I love it. But if you throw the switch to the neck and start to do some “b” section work with chords or subtle overtones, you can’t get there. The chords and fast-speed finger plucking detail gets lost.
Before I placed mine on the market, I found an old first-generation Seymour Duncan Blackout – I was going to replace the neck pickup… Honestly, if you just do rhythm guitar, you’ll not notice the neck pickup. But if you get into a lead where you want the darker sound of the neck pickup – you’re going to lose detail.
Tone woods: Tone woods make this a guitar that has more value than its price. The wood of the neck is very resonant, and the body wood is thin and simple enough to sound good. Note this, though: The body is made of lots of pieces of wood that are glued together. It’s not junk wood, but there are a bunch of pieces for a guitar with a body this small…
In general, the mahogany body rings and vibrates in a pleasing way against my chest. I like the way it keeps singing long after a note is plucked or strummed.
Quality: OK Charvel, I have loved your guitars for decades. They’ve been fun, interesting, and a rock-star friend. But these Desolation guitars left me wanting when it came to quality. Some are As in quality, and others are downright C-minuses in quality. I had to go through one or two until I got one with which I was satisfied. My current DC-2 is excellent. My first one broke my heart!
The back of the neck is unfinished and is just oiled wood. The candy-coating red color of the body is beautiful, hard, and thick. But… where the two meet isn’t very nice. The paint stops abruptly and is actually so thick that it feels like a rubber band is around the base of the neck. When you’re playing in the high registers, your hand objects to the sharp, sudden transition from raw wood to paint. Charvel, this wouldn’t have been hard to feather! I wish the neck was either finished or that the unfinished wood was smoothly tapered under the painted part of the body.
The fret ends on both guitars were sharp enough to scrape skin. Since I have a guitar tool or three, I had the patience and time to dress the ends of the frets and made them fit just right. I must say, it took an hour to get them nice and smooth. The factory could do a better job clipping the ends on these. Really.
Other than the neck-to-body joint, the paint is flawless! I’ll give it an “A.” The headstock finish, the body and binding finish – all are exceptional. This is a DOWNRIGHT BEAUTIFUL guitar. I love the binding all around the body and headstock. Charvel out-did itself on the way the lower horn cuts away so nicely without binding, then the binding subtly picks up and runs around the front. The flamed top looks like great stuff, and the rich color of the paint is awesome!
Inexpensive guitars with lots of inlay do tend to have lots of little black putty fill-ins. This guitar is right on the money. The fretboard inlays are sharp and well-done! I love the way these guitars look!
My second Charvel DC-2 ST is good with quality in most aspects, but with some issues here and there. My son’s DC2 (the third one we purchased) had lots of little foibles, too. His needed many different adjustments, truss rod adjustments, fret end dressing, and some steel wool on the neck to take out spots that were downright rough.
Value: These guitars are a STRONG value. They’re worth more than $425 (Street) when they’re new-in-the-box, and are (as of this writing) $349 for flat black and $399 for gloss finishes. They have LOTS of features, LOTS of mojo, and drive my Windsor 120w head to screams!
Features: Charvel Desolation guitars are feature rich. They have more general features than most guitars in their price range. One could even argue that they’re the most feature-rich guitars in their price range!
These guitars have impressive feature sets:
* Neck through!
* Lots of Mahogany and dark wood fretboards!
* Great inlays. Nice touches!
* Active electronics
* Light weight
* Easy upper-fret access
Wishes: I wish the neck finish was silky and smooth. More steel wool or polishing pads would have made all the difference in the world.
I wish the neck pickup could play in a more articulate way. The fun low-cost Dragonfire pickups have more definition in chording and complex sounds… Maybe hook up with their manufacturer? You can see what I mean by visiting their website here…
My Other wish? Get those Star Desolation guitars to more outlets! They’re nowhere in my local area!