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Charvel’s affordable metal machine offers incredible playability and crushing overdriven tones.

Since the ’80s, the name Charvel has been more or less synonymous with hot-rodded solidbodies. With strong Fender roots, Charvel adopted a no-frills approach to guitar design that helped usher in an era of streamlined shred machines for players seeking the perfect platform for acrobatic lead work, raunchy rhythms, and supreme tuning stability for tremolo dive-bombing.

Fast-forward to 2013, and Charvel—now operating under the umbrella of the Fender family—is still building guitars that expertly blend proven designs with stripped-down, shred-oriented elements. The Desolation Soloist DX-1 ST blends classic “super strat” concepts that metal players have grown to love with a silky, slender neck, a deeply carved neck joint, and mammoth-sized tone.

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The diminutive Woodland Pro parlor generates a bottom end full of overtones, body, and dimension, with mind-blowing sustain.

Parlor guitars, and the family of 6-string instruments from which they evolved, are some of the oldest, most venerable flattops in history. These guitars date back as far as, well, when folks still used the word parlor, and in the last few decades, they’ve moved in and out of vogue, but the expressive and practical qualities of good parlor models are beyond question. They’re small enough to be perfect travel companions, they’re inconspicuous enough to stow in a corner or hang on the wall at the ready for an impromptu house (parlor?) jam, and they generate tones that can be tough to coax from any other type of 6-string.

Made in Canada, Simon & Patrick (along with its sister brands in the Godin family) have, in part, made guitars with unique voices, shapes, and feel their stock-in-trade. So a parlor seems a natural for the company. Even so, the entirely solid spruce-and-mahogany Woodland Pro is a fantastic and intriguing guitar by any measure.

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The 000X1 sounds like it was made for fingerpicking and it rewards a nuanced touch and inventive fingerstyle techniques.

Few small-body guitars are as important or influential as Martin’s venerable 000. Legions of players consider it the perfect acoustic—an ideal convergence of volume, harmonic balance, comfort, and responsiveness that can deliver musical magic. Some of the 000’s biggest fans are fingerstylists who love the aforementioned qualities of the 000 and its wide-neck, longer-scale cousin, the OM. But a good fingerstyle guitar has to be playable, and it needs some proper balance of the power/complexity/comfort equation to really communicate the nuances of intricate fingerstyle work.

Few mass manufacturers deliver so regularly on that combination as Martin. They all but invented the template, after all. But it isn’t easy to put all this together in a package the budget-minded player can afford. And that’s where the Mexican-built 000X1AE enters the scene.

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