While now built primarily in Mexico and the USA, back in the late 1980s Charvel guitars were manufactured exclusively in Japan. Japanese rock guitars from the golden era age of shred are eulogised by a certain breed of player and Charvel’s new MJ series – which also comprises signature models for Guthrie Govan and YouTuber Rick Graham – harks back to those heady days while showcasing the evolution of rock guitar.
Thankfully there’s no pointy headstock here, but the MJ’s huge jumbo frets bring back memories of those shred guitars from the days before grunge’s meteor strike spelled the end for the hair-metal megafauna. Unusually for Charvel, the neck is made of wenge and it has a hand-rubbed oil finish and slim C-carve similar to the Guthrie Govan model. Also notable is the neck’s graphite reinforcement that helps to keep the neck straight and stable whatever the climate – though should it need a tweak, an adjustment wheel is located at the bottom of the fretboard for easy access.
Back in the day, on a guitar such as this a Floyd Rose vibrato would have been standard-issue, but these days a Floyd is no longer a must-have appointment. Whammy bar addicts fear not – the much-vaunted stability and subtle response of our review guitar’s Gotoh locking tuners ensures our double-locking friend is not missed, while a neatly carved vibrato recess allows a generous upwards pull of the bar.
The reinforced neck brings with it a slightly increased string tension, which means our freshly installed 0.010-gauge string set feels a little heavier due to the reduced flex in the neck. After 15 minutes that initial sensation of tautness begins to evaporate but the factory fitted 0.09s were probably a slightly better fit.
Plugged into a Marshall Super Bass, the Charvel’s dark aesthetic doesn’t translate to its tone, and the combination of ebony ’board, mahogany body, and figured walnut top provides a healthy clarity and an even midrange. Despite its name, the Seymour Duncan Full Shred bridge humbucker is a medium-output pickup with a slightly scooped midrange which, when fed through our Tube Screamer-driven Marshall, delivers the consummate ‘brown’ rock sound.
In contrast, the neck-position Alnico II Pro is a more vintage affair with a snappy twang rather than a saturated or soupy neck-humbucker sound, making it ideal for blues-rock rhythm and lead playing. The in-between sounds on the five-way switch combine different coils from each pickup, adding further versatility. Position three (the inner coils of each humbucker) delivers a authentic country-rock tone that’s enormous fun, while positions two (middle pickup plus bridge inner coil) and four (middle pickup plus neck outer coil) provide Strat-like spank for fancy funk workouts.
The MJ DK24 provides something of a paradoxical experience. It’s so much fun to play but its superb build quality and high-spec materials and parts are a simultaneous reminder that it’s also a serious instrument –and one that offers the kind of versatility demanded by the modern-day pro. This is custom shop quality at an affordable price and a supremely balanced yet raucous rock guitar.
- PRICE £2,039 (inc hybrid case)
- DESCRIPTION 6-string double-cutaway electric guitar, made in Japan
- BUILD Mahogany body with figured walnut top, bolt-on graphite-reinforced wenge neck with ‘shredder’s cut’ heel joint, 12-16” compound radius streaky ebony fingerboard with rolled edges and pearl dot inlays, 24 jumbo frets, Graph Tech Tusq XL nut
- HARDWARE Gotoh diecast locking tuners, Gotoh Custom 510 vibrato bridge
- ELECTRONICS Seymour Duncan Custom Alnico II Pro APH-1N (neck) and Custom Full Shred SH-10B (bridge), Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coil (middle), 5-way blade pickup selector, 500k EVH Bourns low-friction volume control and no-load tone control
- SCALE LENGTH 25.5″/648mm
- NECK WIDTH 43.3mm at nut, 52.1mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 20.6mm at 1st fret, 21.4mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 37.3mm at nut, 52.9mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 3.5kg/7.72lb
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISHES Satin natural finish
- CONTACT charvel.com