’89-91 Charvel Spectrums

A personal peccadillo, the Spectrum. One of my friends, a fine player, used to get some great stuff out of one of these when they were first around in the late 80’s, but I was too busy, snobbishly turning my nose up at anything but Tom Anderson.

Many years later, I was reflecting and wondered if I could find one of these. A few years further on, I have this set including a one-off sparkle/pearloid variant made for a trade show. As far as I can tell, it is the only complete set of rosewood-fingerboard Spectrums in the world. (I’m not quite insane enough to to start over and build another collection of maple fingerboards too. But having assembled this group, if and when I sell these, it will be as a piece to another serious collector or not at all.

They were offered in turquoise green, magenta pink, fluorescent orange, black, metallic dark blue and ‘desert sand’ – a pale beige finish with black hairline cracking. All colours were offered with both rosewood and maple fingerboards, and as you can see all of mine are rosewood, so I wouldn’t mind finding one or two with maple boards too. I’m also in the market for several original cases, preferably the shaped ones though rectangular ones would be ok too.

The three pickups are stacked Jackson single-coil humbuckers with good output and tightly-focused magnetic fields, so they’re fairly bright. The tone circuit has a switchable active option, giving volume boost and onboard sweepable tone boost rather like a wah pedal. Great for big hair solos.

The earliest of these have jackson-branded Floyd Rose trems (adjustable from behind), no back rout for bending up and no scalloping around the neck plate on the rear to give better access to high notes. The more common later models have a Jackson-licensed trem unit (adjustable from the top), trem routs for upward bends and scalloping around the neck plate to aid access to the upper frets. To my knowledge, this is the only way of dating them as the serial numbers on the neck plates are not sequential.

The Charvel Spectrum follows on from the rare Charvel Model 8, which looks identical except for the earlier US Charvel headstock logo (see second last and last pix, sadly neither one of mine), whereas Spectrums all have the ‘toothpaste’ logo. Jeff beck played a custom Jackson around the time of which acted as the prototype for the Model 8 and subsequently the Spectrum (the last pic shows him with it on the cover of a contemporary magazine. The video for ‘Ambitious’ featuring the prototype Model 8 is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbpQf22c494).

Made in Japan they might be, buy these are great guitars, easy to play, lots of great sounds and naturally resonant. They look cool and come in lots of great colours.

I’ve just bought a cheap Chord stand for them on eBay, so I’ve added a pic of them in the stand to the gallery.  Awesome…

48 Responses to ’89-91 Charvel Spectrums

  1. Frankie G says:

    I have a nice Sea Foam Green Spectrum with maple fretboard. Plays great, has a few nicks on it, frets are excellent. These are fun guitars, you have an amazing collection.


  2. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks, Frankie. I love Spectrums. Enjoy Yours!

  3. robert m says:

    Hi there…just bought my first Charvel…Happens to be a Spectrum and what a buy it was….only problem is that I need a pick guard…any suggestions…?…If it comes to the worst I reckon I can take a template of the guitar and make one outa what ever material takes my fancy but would prefer an original to go with the tasty blue finish…Have also read that the body wood is bass and some others say poplar…which would be correct…?..

  4. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, Robert, thanks for your post. Unbelievable as it may seem, a pickguard is just about the only spare part for a Spectrum I have!

    You might have noticed that Spectrums have become largely unavailable, suggesting that someone apart from me is also hoarding them. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them emerge as very desirable collectibles in the next round of vintage frenzy when the market comes back to strength. They’re great guitars, quite scarce and also very pretty.

    I don’t know what you paid for yours (congratulations on finding a blue one, though, they’re beautiful and most of my friends have a couple of pinks/greens/oranges/desert sands but they envy the blue one most. Rosewood or maple neck? As you’ve seen, I’m a rosewood fan) – but assuming you paid the current market price, then what I would want for my spare might be relatively uneconomic for you. But I could send you a pic if you would like.

    For a more sensibly-priced contemporary replacement I would recommend Pickguard Heaven. They’re part of US Chandler Guitars and I found Paul Chandler very helpful when I needed a pearloid guard for my MusicMan Albert Lee signature to make it just like Albert’s. Try not to deal with his female colleague though – she was really obstreperous when it transpired they had cut me an earlier screw hole pattern, and it wasn’t resolved until I could get past her to Paul. The Spectrum is listed on the page at http://pickguards.us/pricecharvel.html, and you’ll see the price is ca. USD 40 depending on material.

    Finally, I’m not sure about body material, but I don’t think these things were made with luxury in mind so my guess would be plain old basswood.

    Best wishes, ‘Rockbeare’

  5. robert m says:

    Thank you for your reply and I’ve been doing a little looking into the pickup guard scene and see I can get a copy for a reasonable amount but of course a copy’s not what I want…this is a very under rated axe….after spending a little time setting the floyd rose up and getting to know the guitar I gotta admit it’s growing on me…I just enjoy a little more space on my 1st and never have had a floyd equipped guitar before…set up is real fun though..just got the one proper ding on the top shoulder but apart from that it’s a clean unit and thought I’d be stripping the electrics down and rebuilding but they’re all perfect.

    yes it’s a rose wood model….!!!!

    On a sadder note I’d be honoured to mention..as a tribute… the sad lost of Gary Moore one of the finest ever to have graced a fret board….

  6. robert m says:

    Hi again…( not becoming a stalker….honestly….!! )
    You mention current market value…what would that be for a Charvel Spectrum in good condition….?…Going to look at another and was wondering what would be the max one would pay…? Hopefully maybe hear from you soon…

    Kindest regards….Robert

  7. Michael says:

    Loving your site Rockbeare. I am adding to my Charvel collection with a Spectrum (blue) that I’ve just bought on ebay for $350 (aussie dollars). Sometimes I think we miss out down under my I was the only interested buyer & I think guitar collcting in Oz is not as popular as the US or Europe so this can be good. My next target is a Charvel explorer from the late 70’s or early 80’s. Thanks for the opportunity to read about your awesome collection.

  8. Hi
    Just bought my first Spectrum. Mine has a cutaway in the neckjoint, do you know anything about that? Mine is seafoam green. Second Charvel in my collection.
    Hope you know if it is early or late or why mine has this cutaway.

  9. Rockbeare says:

    Hi again! Congratulations on acquiring a Charvel Spectrum. As you’ve seen from the site, I REALLY rate these things even though I don’t often play the ‘big hair’ music they were originally intended for.

    Mu understanding is that most Spectrums had the cutaway on the rear around the neck joint which you refer to. Only one of mine – the green one which also has the earlier Schaller Floyd trem – doesn’t have it. Nor did the very rare Charvel Model 9 which was the ‘missing link’ between Jeff Beck’s orange Jackson and the Spectrum.

    So its presence indicates that it’s not an early one, is all. What colour is it, and which fingerboard?

  10. Ed D. Metal says:

    Hi Rockbeare,
    Thanks so much for the great webpage featuring the Charvel Spectrum… a personal favorite of mine from the Charvel brand! I first saw the Spectrum in a Musician’s Friend catalog back in 1989 and I was astounded! I didn’t have the money to get it at the time and it was eventually forgotten until one day in 1992. I accompanied my sister to help pick out a guitar for her guitar class at school at a store called “Bizzarre Guitar” in Phoenix. I wasn’t even looking for anything other than a decent acoustic guitar for my sister. I quickly glanced through the electrics and then the light came down from the heavens upon this bright neon orange guitar, I recognized it immediately as the Charvel from the Musician’s Friend catalog! As I got a closer look I just the chills and a tingling sensation. I asked the clerk to let me play it and it was OK, I wasn’t overly impressed by the way it played or sounded for that matter. We bought the guitar for my sister and left the store. However, I could not stop thinking about that orange guitar and ended up going back to Bizzarre Guitar and made them an offer for it (**uh… let me talk to my manager…). I got the guitar for $500 plus sales tax… a real bargain for that kind of guitar at that time! I have since then hot-rodded it… I replaced the Floyd Rose licensed tail-piece that it came with (adjustable from behind as described above) with an other Kahler brand licensed Floyd Rose (with the tremolo arm that threads onto the tail-piece). I replaced the bridge and neck pickups with DiMarzio Fast track double coil pickups both in green. The thing totally screams not to mention turns heads when I pull it out of the case!! Thanks for letting me ramble on about my most prized electric. I’ve had other guitars but I can honestly say that I would be lost in life if I didn’t have that guitar. You can see it pictured on my Myspace page. All the best,

    Eddie (aka Ed D. Metal)

  11. Rockbeare says:

    Cool story, Eddie. I think they’re bloody lovely guitars, though mine are mostly stock apart from the sparkle one has a Seymour hot rails in the bridge position and the black one a Kinman noiseless to replace the exceptionally nasty cheap Chinese Strat replacement pickup it arrived with. And green pickups on an orange guitar – whoa!

  12. Rob Whiting says:

    I just bought a fluoro orange one for £180 ($250 ish), covered in a really bad spray job… Took her to bits, removed the spray job from the body and headstock, and put a couple of coats of Turtle Wax on (Don’t know why, but it works). I totally love this guitar, it has the Schaller Floyd Rose but is missing a scratchplate.. Went on pick guard heaven, toying with the idea of putting a black one on it, the spray job has seeped into the fluorescent orange and I don’t want to T-Cut it any more than I have in case it gets down to the undercoat and I think a black plate will contrast more with the slightly less shocking orange.. Anyway. What a f**king guitar!! She sits nicely with my 475 Deluxe which I’ve had since 92… Hopefully I can breed them 😀

  13. Rockbeare says:

    Good story!

    By coincidence, the only spare part I have for a spectrum is an original pickguard.

    A custom Pickguardian replacement costs $50 plus shipping so an original has got to be worth twice that. If yuo’re interested in taking it off my hands, let me know…

  14. Dennis Kinastowski says:

    Dear Mr. Rockbeare
    I´ve asked you questions about the Spectrum that I own before, but now I´ve completed my work on it. When I bought it, it wasn´t in a good shape and the original parts where replaced. Now it´s put back together again and working like it should.
    I have noticed that my Spectrum has a cutaway, much like the Stephens cutaway from the Washburn N4 series. Not quit as deep though. On all the photos that I have seen of the Spectrums, none of them looks like mine. Around the bridge pickup and the middle pickup on my guitar, there´s a steel chrome plate, that surrounds the pickups. It also has a Schaller floyd rose trem. But what realy makes me wonder is this. On the inside back plate for the trem system, it says Chandler made in USA #850-2 Charvel Spectrum BP. The numbers are handwritten. on the plate for the controls it says ” Chandler made in USA #848-2 Charvel Spectrum control plt.” numbers are again handwritten.
    Can you tell me anything about it, or do you know where I can learn more about this guitar? Could it be a bastard type Spectrum maybe or a prototype?
    I hope you know the answers for my questions. Best regards from Denmark

  15. Dennis Kinastowski says:

    added to the above….it´s sea foam green with a rosewood fingerboard

  16. Jesse Friedman says:

    Hello. I just found this thread . I’m not sue anyone’s on it anymore, but I’m Spectrum convert. I traded for a desert crackle that belonged to Mike Hampton of George Clinton’s band (Kidd Funadellic- R and R hall of fame-er). This was his main axe. Used on stage and to record. He pulled up on the Floyd Rose too hard and broke it, and subsequently gave it to his friend, autographed, who is my friend, from whom I acquired it. It’s great to play, but I hate the j 1200 system. I’m thinking about the Seymour Duncan Everything Axe pickup configuration. Any ideas?

  17. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, Jesse and thanks for your post. Your Spectrum sounds like one of the few with some kind of provenance.

    I’m guessing the break was in the wood of the body between the treble side trem post and the bridge pickup – it’s only about 4mm thick at that point and I’ve seen a number of examples where the trem was yanked back in anger and the wood had just shattered. It’s an easy fix for any decent luthier, but subsequent refinishing really adds to the cost.

    As for your pickups, I love the J200’s and wouldn’t change them. In fact, I’d be quite interested in buying yours if you do decide to replace them as I need two.

    But if you do decide to drop something else in, the very best S-type pickups I’ve come across are Lollar Special S or, more esoteric, Amalfitano SVL Daytonas. Bear in mind I’m a vintage guy, so these are moderate output but lots of tone. For something hotter, I can’t beat Seymour Duncan Hot Rails and I can attest that they sound good in Spectrums.

    Please contact me if you do decide to replace your pickups, and maybe we can do a deal….

    All best

  18. Tom says:

    Hey Rockbeare,

    I’m received a most excellent gift from a friend: a mint condition Charvel Model 8 (I think). I’ve been trying to identify it and date it. From what I can tell, the 1988 Model 8 is very similar to the Spectrum, with the main difference being the tremolo. The model 8 has the older JT-6 licensed Floyd Rose, while the Spectrum has the Schaller Floyd Rose. Visually you can tell the difference because the Schaller has tuning knobs on top of the tremolo, where the JT-6 tuners surround the allen bolts that hold the strings in place.

    The reason I mention all of this is because everything I can find on the Model 8 tells me that it should also have the old guitar-shaped Charvel logo on the headstock. But mine has the toothpaste Charvel logo. So that makes me wonder if it is truly a Model 8 or a Spectrum. The headstock logo makes me think Spectrum, while the older JT-6 tremolo makes me think Model 8. I know that my friend bought it new and never modified it. But he doesn’t remember what year or model it is. Any ideas on how to identify it for sure?

    Also, while I’m on the subject, do you know what the approx. value of a mint condition Model 8 or Spectrum is? I don’t want to sell mine, but I’m curious what it is worth.


  19. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for your post, Tom. From what you say, I think you have an early Spectrum, not a Model 8.

    All the Model 8’s I’ve seen have the previous guitar-shaped Charvel logo, and all the Spectrums have the ‘toothpaste’ logo.

    However, the early Spectrums (my green one is my earliest and has this) have the slightly different trem you describe. Both this and the later version are branded Jackson and are made by Schaller.

    They also have two critical differences on the body : no curved rout on the back around the neck join & plate, and no rout beneath the trem plate, so the trem plate sits flat on the body. Good for tone, some (including EVH) say, but a nuisance if you forget and yank the arm up hard in anger because the wood between the trem and bridge pickup on the treble side is thin and you can pull the mounting stud clear out of the body. A costly repair.

    So I think you have an early Spectrum. Do send me some pix if you like – I always like to see others.

    As for value, Spectrums seem to have gone to ground, the sellers of those those that do surface usually asking for almost $1000. Model 8’s are so scarce that a few silly people like me would probably pay even more than that!

    Hope this helps and all the best / Rockbeare

  20. Tom says:

    Thanks for the info, Rockbeare! Mine doesn’t have the body cut out around the base of the neck. The tremolo plate sits up away from the body a few millimeters – maybe a 1/4 of an inch, and the body cut-out beneath the tremolo is only behind it for rocking backwards rather than the full cut-out on the Schaller models. Looking closely at the photos of Model 8s and Spectrums, mine’s definitely got the Model 8 style body and tremolo. The serial number is 317467 and the neck plate has the Ft. Worth address on it. According to another web site I found, the highest serial number for the 1988 model series is 321475. That puts mine in the Model 8 range, I think. But that toothpaste logo keeps throwing it off!

    I’d be happy to send some photos. I just tried with my phone, and the quality is terrible. So I’ll wait until my camera battery charges. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to see?

    Thanks again!

  21. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks, Tom – really interesting, at least to a Spectrum geek like me.

    I’d love to see pic of neck plate & surround; trem and surround; and headstock.

    I’ll then respond wit a couple of detailed pix of mine.

  22. Pingback: I would say this… | Rockbeare Guitars

  23. Logan Kinsella says:

    I have a blue Charvel Spectrum. I must say, it’s one of my favorites.

  24. LS74 says:

    I have a Turquoise Model 8. It has the small logo, no neck plate route, JT-6 tremolo, and no route on the tremolo. The studs mount directly to the body with no recess around them. It also has a factory Kahler nut to go with the JT-6! I’ve had to replace some moving parts (the corroded jack was a problem) and I’ve recapped the board (the original electrolytic capacitors had dried up), but it’s in EXCELLENT condition and one of my favorite guitars.

    I understand your addiction!


  25. Fernando says:

    Hello everyone,

    I have a blue maple neck charvel spectrum on sale. If anyone is interested please get in touch with me on [email protected]. I am in Spain.

    thank you very much

  26. Rockbeare says:

    Pic and price to [email protected], please!

  27. Justin says:

    Hi Rockbeare,
    really interested to see your fantastic site on these! I bought my Charvel when I was in high school in 1990. It’s serial number 317558, and is a desert sand colour with a rosewood fretboard. It was half price at the time, and the shop had a couple of them that had been kicking around for a while so not sure what year it was made; in hindsight I should have gone flouro orange maybe….

    I picked up the catalogue (the 1990 one with a picture of Dave Murray on the Spectrum page) when I got it so had always assumed it was an older spectrum, though now wonder if mine sounds more like a model 8 possibly – it has the old guitar shaped logo (not the toothpaste one), no heel contouring at all, and the older Jackson Branded tremolo with the fine tuners along the barrel of the rear allen bolts, not coming down from above. I have the manual for the tremolo unit, though it doesn’t give a model number for it. The one thing that may make it an early spectrum though is that the Floyd unit is floating, not flush with the top, so you can pull up on the bar. Although the routing looks more or less the same as your desert sand spectrum photo above, on closer inspection it’s not quite – the back where the fine tuners is is similar, but there’s no routing in front of the whammy bar socket. That means there’s about a cm of wood behind the bolts it pivots on before the routing.
    The locking nut is branded Kahler. The pickups I assume are the standard J-200’s.
    It’s lasted well – only the Jack socket and collar for the whammy bar have needed replacing, otherwise 25 years of use and still going strong! It looks identical to the green model 8 in your photo above, though I can’t make out if the Floyd routing is the same in that photo.

    It’s still a good guitar too; playability not shamed at all by the pricier (and less unusual) guitars that have joined it over the years.

    Even in those pre-internet days I was curious about the guitar, as even with pointy guitars being the norm at the time, it was still quite striking, between the unusual finish and the reverse headstock.
    I wrote to Jackson asking about it, and unfortunately don’t seem to be able to find the letter they wrote in reply. The one thing I definitely remember though which may be of interest, is that they said the body was made of Basswood.

    Good luck with adding to your collection!

  28. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks, Justin. If it has the small logo on the headstock, it’s probably a model 8 and rare enough in any colour let alone Desert Sand!

    Any chance you can send me a decent pic or two which I can add to my guests page?

    Best / Rockbeare ([email protected])

  29. peter says:

    plss man ,, if u intrested i have a charvel spectrum with old logo not tuthpaste , sea green with serial nomber- 318680
    i now that is the very rare guitar but i have a litlle informanion , i live in bulgaria …….
    guitar is muddlle to bad condition with no electronics just picups are here but some body
    just open 1 of them them , i think knobs is gone and bridge picup now is emg 81 :(.
    plsss sendi email to get some information .

  30. martin ryan says:

    I own a surf green Charvel Spectrum, white toothpaste logo, can you ID year if i email serial number?
    Yours Faithfully
    Martin Ryan.

  31. Rockbeare says:

    Hey, Martin, thanks for your post.

    Spectrums were only made for about two years, ’89-’91, and can’t be placed more precisely between those dates as the numbered neck plates were produced in a single lot and not used sequentially.

    The only way of telling if it’s an early one is by the routing on the body and the Trem unit. The smaller number of early ones carry features over from the Spectrum’s rare predecessor, the Model 8 : a Jackson-branded Floyd Rose trem unit which sat flat on the body with no rout beneath, and no rout around the neck plate on the back of the body.

    The later models, of which there are more, have a Schaller-stamped Trem, a rout beneath the trem which allows it to float, and a curved rout around the neck plate to assist access to higher registers.

    (There’s not much wood between the bridge post and bridge pickup on the treble side of a Spectrum so it’s prone to breaking. On Model 8’s and early-model Spectrums, the trem is bottomed on the body behind it, so any attempt at uptremming creates a moment of leverage around the bridge posts which causes the thin surrounding wood to fracture. If this happens, the bridge edges forwards under string tension, destroying intonation and rendering the Trem nearly useless. It’s an expensive repair job, which given the guitars’ value was seldom undertaken. In the Van Halen ‘make your own bitsa era, such guitars were usually raided for parts and the bodies scrapped, which why you sometimes see all sorts of Spectrum parts, even necks, turning up on other instruments).

    You’ve probably already seen the pix of two lovely Model 8’s under guests on my site.

    Hope this helps – enjoy your Spectrum and happy playing!

  32. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks, Peter. It doesn’t sound as if it’s worth anything but can you send some pix to [email protected]?

  33. glory says:

    hey there.

    i have a jackson usa custom shop jeff beck soloist. identical to jeff’s / built in the cs at the same time of jeff’s in the 80’s. this one has a kahler and a black logo, his had an ofr. here’s a pic or two…



  34. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for this, I just hadn’t got round to looking at pending incoming. Post now approved. Interesting guitar.

  35. Steve Whitehead says:

    I have a virtually unused Orange/maple Charvel Spectrum for sale. Front is faded a little from shop window sun, otherwise no wear.

  36. Rockbeare says:

    Photos & price?

  37. Adam says:

    I have a chance to buy a spectrum that is all original has the old floyd and case and is rainbow crackle paint.Is this rare and not a clue what it’s worth cannot find any rainbow crackle ones?Please help so I don’t miss the sale should I invest?

  38. Rockbeare says:

    Sorry for my delay, was away. Depends on condition and price, but these are great guitars. The only crackle ones are the ‘desert sand’ black crackle on flat beige – I don’t know what a rainbow sparkle is, but its not original unless its a documented one like my sparkle one made for a trade show. Hope this helps.

  39. Diego says:

    Hi what else could you tell me about the Charvel Model 8. How many of those were made? Were they conditioned? prototype only? or artist signature only? were they all made in Japan? Which one is the most rare? Etc…

    Thanks really love this thread!

  40. Rockbeare says:

    Apologies for my sloth, travelling. Not much – a few model 8’s were made after Jeff Beck’s custom, set neck orange Jackson, of which there were allegedly three. The only difference between Model 8’s and Spectrums is the headstock logo. Apart from that they’re identical, to play as well. The earlier US Charvel guitar logo just makes them (much) rarer which is why collectors go wild for them and pay 2-3 times as much. Seen them in green, pink and orange, always with rosewood fingerboards which I prefer. I don’t think they were made in desert sand, blue or black, or with maple boards. Hope this helps.

  41. Diego says:

    Thanks a lot for your reply.

  42. AngelDeVille says:

    I’d trade my Blue one for a pink one!

  43. Juan says:

    I just purchased a model 8 (with the guitar logo) whit the original hang tag and warranty from Argentina. i would like to know more about this it and the price, i can’t find any information.

  44. Rockbeare says:

    Then you’re very lucky as they’re rare, even if they are identical to the (slightly) commoner Spectrums except for the headstock logo.

    They were only made in ’88, maybe early ’89. The Jackson fan website has a litte info on their existemence but not much more. Enjoy yours!

  45. James says:

    I have one. I dont know if it is a Model 8 or Spectrum. How can you tell the difference? It says Ft. Worth Tx on the neck plate on the back. It has a Jackson, Floyd Rose Trem and Jackson Turners. Cream in color with fine Black Cracks finish. The back pickup may have been changed. It looks like a Lace Sensor. Serial Number is 333680 Its missing the pick guard. which i would love to have. Any help IDing this axe would be great.

  46. Fyl says:


    Ft. Worth TX = Nagano JAPAN lol

    (80s marketing humor, same way a Kramer says Neptune NJ actually means ESP Japan)

    Main difference is in headstock logo font. Google Charvel headstocks by year or something.

  47. richard shoemaker says:

    I got a Dessert crackle i picked up in a pawnshop a few years back. It had a couple small paint chips. I started my bidding game with the rep and the winning factor in my steal was when I shook it and a big rattle came from the back plate. I looked at him and said
    “If it comes with a hard case I’ll give ya 225 for it” He pulled the original case down and took my money LOL. The rattle was the 9 volt battery HAHA. Best deal I ever made and the best all around player I have and I have many. Someone had put the SD dual rail in the bridge and I replaced the FR with a real one. Other than that its all original. If you have a wiring schematic on these send it to me please.

  48. Rockbeare says:

    Sounds like a good score but sadly, I don’t have a schematic I can oblige with.

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