The Pro-Mod DK22 puts a sophisticated spin on the shredder's guitar, offering a wide variety of tones and a very enjoyable playing experience.
Tones from metal to soul.
Liberal use of the trem can lead to tuning trouble.
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The first generation of teenagers to idolize Eddie Van Halen’s roaring brown sound, fiery and fluid speed phrasing, and trademark striped Charvel superstrats are mostly in their 50s now, graying a bit and wearing suits more often than spandex.
And while owning a built-for-speed heavy-metal guitar, with all the requisite flashy appointments, is fine for kicks, the bulk of what passes for metal-performance guitars these days is just not – how to say it? – “age-appropriate” anymore.
A generation later, though, Charvel – the San Dimas legends who arguably kicked off the entire superStrat phenomenon in the late 1970s – are bridging the divide with the excellent Pro-Mod series.
The Pro-Mod guitars pair hot-rod performance features – including Gotoh trem/tailpieces, a wide neck radius and a hot humbucking bridge pickup – with classy, stripped-down aesthetics that make them as suitable for grown-up “dress gigs” as for high-flying fusion and metal jams.
Younger players, too, may well find them a refreshing break from the deluge of more literal-minded vintage-style guitars, touching on an ’80s vibe but feeling more newly minted, fresher and less cliché than either a reissue classic Fender or a maudlin metal machine. Grown-up they may be, but the Pro-Mods are anything but boring.
The DK-22 SSS 2PT CM reviewed here, for example, is flashy, but in an elegant way, with a lovely Pharaohs Gold satin finish, caramelized (i.e. roasted) maple neck and fretboard, and the kind of contoured, sleeker-than-a-Strat, alder Dinky body familiar to fans of Jackson’s pointy metal machines.
The DK-22, however, goes for minimalism. You’ll find no pickguard whatsoever, no lightning bolts or skull graphics, and no Floyd Rose bridge or locking nut. A Gotoh Custom 510 tremolo bridge suits this upscale axe just fine, and there’s even a pre-CBS-style licensed Strat headstock.
Heck, the front of the beautifully tapered DK-22 doesn’t even boast an input jack. Instead, it’s been cleverly tucked into a beveled edge on the backside of the lower bout, just under where a typical Strat jack would be located.
With the jack removed, that leaves a single five-way blade switch, a 500k-ohm EVH Bourns low-friction potentiometer for volume and a single no-load tone control to grace the guitar’s face, along with three terrific and distinct Seymour Duncan pickups: a Custom Hot Rails Strat SHR-1B single-space humbucker in the bridge, an overwound SD Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coil in the middle, and a Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 RWRP single-coil in the neck slot.
Plugged into a classic medium-to-high-gain amplifier – in this case, a Marshall JCM800 2203x – the DK-22’s bridge pickup delivered immediate Eddie-approved growl, delicious pick harmonics, a balanced blend of grind and girth for palm-muted riffs, and a razor’s-edge cut for runs from the 7th to 17th frets.
Once the bridge pickup is paired with the middle pickup, though, the wind starts crying Mary, producing a grainy, warm, rounded-mid rhythm scoop that’s perfect for Mayfield and Hendrix territory.
The reverse-wound/reverse-polarity neck pickup on its own delivers syrupy, beady, vacuum-lifted SRV tone in spades.
Pair it with the middle pickup, and switch to a clean amp (I used a 40-watt Fender Deluxe Reverb), and one enters classic indie-rock territory with aplomb, a sound perfect for those cleaner 16th-note African-inspired rhythms heard in Modest Mouse or Vampire Weekend. Yes, all that from a Charvel. You read correctly.
The 22-fret Charvel Speed Neck, custom Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut, sculpted bolt-on neck joint, jumbo frets and Gotoh tremolo bridge on the DK-22 comprise one of the friendliest fret spans imaginable.
The hand-rubbed satin urethane finish, rolled edges and 25.5-inch scale length feel entirely comfortable, too.
Not only is the compound 12-to-16-inch neck radius heaven sent for larger hands and sweeping arpeggios – as is the generous 1.6875-inch nut width – but the sculpted Shredder’s Cut heel, with its scalloped lower back bout, gives your hands an unimpeded sense of space and control.
While exploring arpeggios and Eric Johnson–approved runs in the 12th-to-22nd fret range, I had the distinct impression that I was finding a strong and stable new carriage for my left hand and wrist in that area of the neck that allowed my technique to really show its colors.
It’s almost like the sensation of jogging with ankle weights and suddenly taking them off for the last mile: There’s no resistance. (The smart, heel-mounted dual-action truss rod with adjustable spoke wheel makes the neck even more versatile and user friendly.)
The DK-22 usually ships with a set of .009–.042 nickel-plated steel strings, but I opted to put on a set of .010s, and I still felt like I was in the buttery-smooth realm of the super-shredder on the DK-22, with just a hint more work required for hammer-ons and big bends.
If you thought your speed days were behind you, the DK-22 may just help you rediscover the joys of sprinting, without the silly spandex running outfit. And even if your top velocity isn’t quite what it was in your 20s, the DK-22 is poised to speak with equal authority to the seasoned and understated player in you. Look at you, shredder, all grown up and still having fun.
- PRICE: $1,049 street, gig-bag included
- NUT WIDTH: 1.6875”
- NECK: Two-piece graphite-reinforced caramelized maple
- FRETBOARD: Caramelized maple, 25.5” scale, compound 12”-16” radius
- FRETS: 22 jumbo nickel
- TUNERS: Charvel-branded die-cast
- BODY: Alder with satin finish
- BRIDGE/TAILPIECE: Gotoh Custom 510 tremolo
- PICKUPS: Custom Seymour Duncan Flat Strat SSL-6 RWRP single-coil (neck), Custom Seymour Duncan Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coil (middle), Seymour Duncan Hot Rails SHR-1B single-space humbucker (bridge)
- CONTROLS: 1 x master volume (500k Ω EVH Bournes low-friction pot), 1 x master No-Load tone, 5-way blade pickup switch
- FACTORY STRINGS: Nickel Plated Steel, .009—.042
- WEIGHT: 7 lbs, 7 oz.
- BUILT: Mexico
- CONTACT: Charvel