Charvel Warren DeMartini San Dimas Review
January 15, 2009
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I had just started playing guitar that year, and there were plenty of guitar heroes to look up to at that time. This band had two guitar players, but one was definitely the lead guitar hero of the group. So there I was in the front row watching this band rock out, and standing right in front of me was this tall, skinny guitar player. He was playing notes so fast that they were a blur! I couldn’t believe the sounds and tones coming out of this cool-looking guitar. He switched guitars many times that night, and all of them sounded great. He had cool paint jobs on every guitar, and the graphics kept getting better with each one he played.
The band was Ratt, the guitar player was Warren DeMartini, and the guitar was a Charvel. I didn’t really know about Charvel guitars at the time, but this was the year that I was introduced to them. (Yes, Eddie Van Halen played them first, but he had already switched to Kramers by that time!) Two of my favorite guitar players that year were Warren DeMartini and Jake E. Lee from Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Both guitarists were from L.A., both played in Ratt (Warren actually replaced Jake) and both had incredibly innovative styles, not to mention tone. They both played hot-rodded superstrats and their guitars of choice were Charvels. I also learned that year that those cool-looking Jackson guitars that my ultimate guitar hero Randy Rhoads played were actually Charvels as well.
The company has gone through a lot of changes since its inception. I was happy to hear that Fender had bought Charvel a few years ago, and the intent was to return to the high quality American-made guitars that they were originally known for.
When I heard they were releasing a line of Warren DeMartini signature guitars, I knew I had to get my hands on one! The Warren DeMartini - San Dimas line consists of three guitars with the same basic platform, but three different graphics to choose from. The platform is an Alder body and the bolt-on neck is one-piece quartersawn maple with a 12˝ – 16˝ compound radius and jumbo frets. The hardware includes an original black Floyd Rose tremolo, black Schaller tuners and NOS Charvel brass strap buttons. It has a signature, custom-designed Seymour Duncan humbucking pickup controlled by a single volume knob—just like every guitar Warren plays.
I often pick up new guitars and immediately think of what I would do to change it to fit my preferences, whether it is string height, pickups, the feel of the neck, etc. Fortunately, this guitar looked and felt great right out of the box. I was impressed by the overall craftsmanship of the guitar, with high quality parts and flawless artwork.
The body is made of alder, so it’s definitely a resonant, well-rounded tone with incredible sustain. The DeMartini is available in three different graphics: Crossed Swords, Bomber, and Skull and Blood. Crossed Swords has always been my favorite design—probably because that’s the guitar that I saw Warren use the most in the early Ratt videos and concerts.
The neck is silky smooth and has a nice feel. It has the original San Dimas neck shape, with a medium thickness “D” profile. It’s slightly wider than I prefer, but overall the playability is great. You’ll have no problem shredding some hot licks with this guitar! The black locking nut and Schaller tuners are a nice touch, and it’s very pleasing to see the Charvel logo with “Made in U.S.A.” underneath it! The back of the headstock sports a removable sticker reminding the player that the headstock is the registered trademark of the parent company Fender. It’s nice to see Charvel guitars can finally and legally include the Strat headstock like the originals— without having any trademark issues. The headstock also has Warren’s signature on the back, but unfortunately it’s only a facsimile. If you want this guitar signed, you’ll have to track him down yourself and have him personally autograph it! (The case candy does include a photo card with a real Warren signature, however.)
I really like the guitar’s Seymour Duncan humbucking pickup, which is a custom-designed signature model that can only be found on these Charvels. It’s a well-rounded tone, definitely chunky with a fat, full sound. It also provides screaming highs for a clear, crisp tone, and I love the way it sustains. This pickup was definitely built for rocking out, but even when you back down on the volume with a clean tone, it doesn’t thin out the sound at all. What this guitar and pickup configuration may lack in terms of versatility, it definitely makes up for with chunky, aggressive tone.
The custom features of this guitar, especially with the pickup and graphic design, make it a unique instrument that definitely stands out among other superstrats. It would have been interesting to see even more of Warren’s favorite specs incorporated into this guitar, such as his preference for triangle frets and “Big Block” tremolo systems [Editor’s note: see the Big Block on page 188]. Still, the Charvel DeMartini is a well-built, well-designed, high-quality guitar.
Some may argue that this guitar isn’t worth the high retail price. They may say that you can just custom make a replica that can look, feel and sound as good as this guitar for half the price. This was also the argument when Charvel released the Eddie Van Halen Art Series guitar a few years back. I will agree that these guitars aren’t for everybody, and definitely not for the naysayer. This guitar is aimed at fans and collectors like me, who have dreamed about owning a guitar like this since childhood. There is a definite nostalgia factor involved. Just like a lot of other iconic eighties guitars that are now being reissued, I’m thankful that I now get the opportunity to get a guitar I always wanted, and can now afford! It doesn’t hurt to have Fender supporting the Charvel brand name financially, with better manufacturing technology, proper marketing and access to higher quality materials. Thanks to the acquisition from Fender, Charvel is now regaining its reputation as one of the true pioneers of the original hot rod guitar.
You’re a fan of the original Charvels and/or Warren DeMartini
Nostalgia isn’t your thing or you’re expecting all of DeMartini’s specs
MSRP $2400 - Charvel - charvel.com