Hands-on Review: Charvel Desolation DS2-ST

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-12-01)

Hands-on Review: Charvel Desolation DS2-ST

For years, Charvel has been providing rockers with their traditional sharp, double-cutaway shaped bodies. These weapons of choice usually came stocked with Floyd Rose Tremolos for mad dive-bombing antics to abuse six strings and the flurry of notes that resonated from them. So, you can imagine my surprise when I became aware of Charvel’s latest models, especially the DS2-ST.

Who is this guitar targeted for? Charvel still has its sights set on the rocker and its intended demographic is for the guitarist who is looking for an upgrade from an entry level instrument or a guitar worthy of the stage that will look great and provide entertainment for a full night of rocking out. Let’s check out what the DS2-ST has to offer:

The Desolation features a mahogany body with a carved top set to a mahogany neck with an oil finish, rosewood fingerboard, 24 jumbo frets, “Keystone” pearloid inlays, pearloid body and headstock binding, dual Charvel active humbucking pickups with 3-way toggle switching, Charvel bridge, black nickel hardware, Grover tuning machines, and recessed volume and tone controls. My tester arrived in a Trans Blue Smear finish.

This is the first guitar in a long time that passed the “Tacky” neck test. Almost every neck I’ve played on for my hands-on reviews have been loaded with lacquer or paint and while some of these necks felt ok, the feel of a lightly oiled finished neck is very welcome. I would have liked a little more bulk in my hand for bending and grabbing chords but that’s a personal preference. The profile of the neck is flat but feels very nice.

The beveled cutaway made for easy access to the upper register on the fingerboard and traveling to these higher frets was pleasant thanks to the smoothly dressed jumbo frets. I played this guitar during a band rehearsal and had it strapped on me for 3 hours of uninterrupted duration and came to an obvious conclusion about this guitar: it’s VERY light! The body feels as if it’s made of basswood and not mahogany. This goes a long way in making it a great stage instrument.

I also liked the large caps on the end of the strap buttons. I was confident knowing that my strap was secure and I wasn’t going to lose the guitar during a performance. Believe me, worrying about your guitar falling off your shoulder is very distracting!

The DS2-ST really screams. It’s built for rock and harder styles of music and once you plug in and strum a chord you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s difficult to get a clean sound from this instrument but then you probably want more grit on your sound if you’re buying this. The active pickups push hard and adds aggression to your sound no matter what your amp is set to.

The neck pickup sounds fat and with the volume rolled off a bit, cleaner sounds are attainable. We’re not talking Gretsch or Fender clean here, but a useable clean sound can be dialed in.

When both pickups are activated the DS2 gives you a little punch and adds more brightness. I like this sound as it gives me a little more of an “open” quality and seems to address the frequencies in every part of the fingerboard well for a balanced sound.

The bridge pickup is loud and of course brings to life all the upper frequencies and harmonics as one would expect from an active pickup. The sound was actually a little brittle to my ear so I rolled off a little of the highs and brought the tone of the pickup into a useable spectrum that sounded more full. Again, not a crystal clear tone here…but driving with more bite.

Quality and Aesthetics
This guitar is visually striking and actually took me back a little when I first received it. The combination of black chrome hardware, blue flame top, recessed toggle switch and knobs, pearloid binding and a 3+3 headstock (not a 6 in-line sharp headstock) made me stop and say, “hmmm, this is a Charvel”?

The attention to detail on my tester was also quite good for a guitar at this price point. Binding was clean and carefully applied, fret edges were very smooth and without binding on the fingerboard this was a huge plus. I also appreciated the fingerboard markers. I like something a little different than the old “Dots”. I felt that these markers added a uniqueness and character to the Desolate and even a sense of pride.

The knobs turned smoothly with a consistent feel that stated the quality control department is doing a good job for Charvel. They actually could have been slightly easier to turn only because I like to execute volume swells during performing and don’t like too much friction for the volume…again a small complaint for a well-built guitar.

The Bottom Line
Charvel has surprised me with this DS-2 model. Not only in quality for a guitar with an MSRP of $469.99 - $529.99 USD, but simply because Charvel has broke the mold with a different look and constructed a guitar to appeal to a wider demographic of players looking for more than a double cut-away style.

Visit Charvel at: www.charvel.com to learn more about their latest models.

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