Guitar Gear: Schecter Solo-6 Custom
Author: Andy Lynch
Schecter first appeared in 1976 as a repair shop and manufacturer of guitar parts, which it sold to small custom shops, and notably to Gibson and Fender. Eventually they started making their own custom shop models based on the flagship guitars of the latter companies. Schecters were expensive and gained a reputation for top end quality. Old friend and mentor, session guitarist Billy Lang, was able to fill me in on the early models. He reminisced fondly of his mahogany Telecaster copy, purchased in 1983 for a few thousand dollars – quite a sum at the time.
Some of their guitars fell into the most capable hands of high profile players such as Pete Townsend and Mark Knopfler, but after Schecter was sold things went rather pear-shaped. Eventually Japanese entrepreneur Hisatake Shibuya got involved, restoring the discipline and craftsmanship in the brand. The guitars are now made in Korea, heading off to a Schecter workshop in America for final assembly, fret dress and individual set up – which I suspect is why this well-priced guitar (rrp $1795) was playing great straight out of the box.
Tuning heads are locking with pearl buttons, chrome all round on the hardware. Pickups are from Seymour Duncan – you really can’t go wrong with anything that bears their stamp, so I’m expecting a good noise and possibly a rather lively output too. There are two volume knobs and one tone, which is also a push-pull, which taps the pickups and makes them single coil, as opposed to humbuckers. I’m interested in this particularly, to see if the noise floor rises due to the removal of the humbuckers’ noise-cancelling properties.
Also push-pull pots are super fly. I had the Jimmy Page-inspired option installed on one of my LPs, which put the two humbuckers out of phase – until I broke the shaft off of it, and haven’t gotten around to repairing.
The bridge and tailpiece are called the ‘Tonepros’ system, which I find amusing. From experience anything with the word ‘pro’ in it, is most definitely not for so-called pros! It’s basically a standard Les Paul bridge, tailpiece and pickup configuration, and looks just as good and capable as the real thing.
The fingerboard is ebony. I haven’t played a lot of gats with this extremely dense wood, I grew up on Rosewood Street, on the other side of the tracks. Ebony apparently is a saw blade’s worst nightmare, it’s that hard. But we know the denser the wood, the longer the sustain, and sustain is a beautiful thing.
Sure enough the Solo-6 feels lovely to play. I’m in the throes of tracking the new as of yet, untitled, Feelers’ album, and what better place to take her on parade and do the noise test? I placed her in my paintbox of Teles, Gibsons, Strats, Hofners (and no name trashy pieces of driftwood), and waited for the moment.
The moment came, and it sounded supreme. I tracked the Schecter through a Matchless, a 1950s Gibson 10 watt combo, a ’60s Harmony, a Soldano and a Fender Twin – so lots of bases covered there. Really, a good guitar is gonna sound good if given a decent amp – and these are all great amps – so if there was a weak link in the chain there was nowhere to hide.
Tone proved great, the Solo-6 has it all there, top to bottom. Not unlike an LP, but somewhat brighter. The neck pickup is nice and creamy while the bridge pickup has plenty of snarl. The output is noticeably hotter then the Les Paul too.
Now for that push-pull pot. It definitely puts a corset around the sound, in a good way, thinning the sound out on both pickups and giving you another bunch of colours to play with. The level of hum is raised in this setting, but that’s to be expected with any single coil pickup.
The neck is rather LP-like, just a little more sleek, and easy to get around. Tuning held well, which of course is a must. The intonation was great and just as well, it drives me up the wall if it gets seriously fruity higher up the neck. (My manjo and uke are excluded from this comment as it is part of what makes them beautiful!)
The only test I couldn’t run on this guitar is (of course, due to the nature of it not being mine), the road test. I reckon could make a tidy sum beta testing for the instrument manufacturing industry at large, I seem able to break anything eventually – cellphones and laptops included. I should write a recommendation to Steve Jobs about stronger glass on iPhones too before I forget.
Which brings me to the finish here – lovely. Period. It was refreshing to see a guitar looking like this when mine all have scars from snapped headstocks, chipped paint, and naked woodwork grinning at you from all sorts of bizarre places. The top is a two-piece maple flame, almost like tiger stripes, done in what looks to me like a tobacco burst with a slightly different tinge to the old classics. Schecter calls it Dark Vintage Sunburst.
Time to reign it all in. She’s a looker I reckon, and to Schecter’s credit it’s not just façade, there is a mighty tone, great finish and she’s co-operative on the fretboard. The push-pull pot is a winner in my opinion, especially for Strat lovers. It’s got the Les Paul mojo, with more of the modern Paul Reed Smith approach.
A good tradesman, they say, never blames his tools, but it does help to have good ones. This Solo-6 Custom is one handy tool – and more so given there is every likelihood I might be breaking my own some time soon.
Andy Lynch is a guitarist, cosmic voyager and multi-instrumentalist who has recorded and/or performed with Zed, Atlas, Soul Satellites, The Feelers, Anika Moa, King Neptune, Mahinarangi Tocker and Julia Grace amongst others.