Since opening as a custom shop in 1976,
Schecter Guitar Research has evolved
considerably over the course of its history.
While the company may be best known
these days for its associations with heavy
rock and metal artists, Schecters have found
favor with players as diverse—and musically
demanding—as the Cure’s Robert Smith
and Beck. Schecter isn’t afraid of tinkering
with formulas either, and over the years
the company has offered everything from
sustainers and 10-string instruments to grab
the attention of adventurous players.
By that measure, the Hellraiser Solo-6
E/A may look a little conservative on the
surface. But even though it’s based on
what’s been one of the company’s biggest
hits, this version uses semi-hollow body
construction and a Fishman Powerbridge to
expand its sonic potential.
A Hellbound’s Heart
The Hellraiser is a very well-built guitar. I
was hard-pressed to find any construction
or finish flaws anywhere on the neck or
body, which is semi-hollow mahogany with
a quilted maple top in a deep Black Cherry
finish. The body also sports a solid center
block with two tone chambers designed to
lend acoustic resonance. The three-piece
mahogany neck is capped by a 24-fret
rosewood slab fretboard and affixed to the
body with Schecter’s highly sculpted Ultra
Access neck joint.
With brightly hued abalone gothic cross
inlays and double abalone binding along
the top of the body, this Hellraiser isn’t shy
about ornamentation. And the lines are
simultaneously classic and forward-looking,
combining an offset waist with Les Paul
and Rickenbacker design motifs. In sum,
it’s a very striking guitar.
The Hellraiser is packed with enough
features and options to cover just about any
musical situation you can think of. Two
EMG active humbuckers—an 81 in the
bridge and an 89 in the neck—are wired
with a coil tap that splits the 89. EMG
humbuckers are known for screaming lead
tone when combined with high-gain amps,
and the 89 ups the ante on that count by
starting with two alnico 5 magnets, rather
than ceramic magnets.
The 89 is effectively two different pickups
in one, and the guitar offers separate
preamps for each coil. When combined in
series, the tone is more like an 85 model.
When split, you get brighter tones more
typical of the company’s SA single-coil. In
the Hellraiser, the coil tap cuts out the coil
closest to the neck, leaving the one closest
to the bridge active.
The magnetic pickups can be combined
with quasi-acoustic tones from the guitar’s
Fishman TOM Powerbridge piezo system,
or removed from the mix completely to
let the Powerbridge sounds shine on their
own. Schecter also includes a TRS Y-cable
for splitting the EMG’s output to one amp
and the Fishman’s to another. There are
dedicated single Volume and Tone controls
for the EMGs, a Volume for the Fishman’s
output, a 3-way switch to select individual
pickups or combine the Fishman and
EMG outputs, and a conventional 3-way
pickup selector switch.
Beer Drinkers & Hellraisers
The Hellraiser Solo-6 E/A isn’t a dark
sounding guitar by any means. Pretty
much every amplifier highlighted its
bright, high-end tendencies, but it excels
at smooth, searing high-gain tones. With
a 2011 Mesa/Boogie Multi-Watt Dual
Rectifier, the fire-breathing EMG 81
pickup was simultaneously detailed and
pummeling amid a flurry of trills, triplets,
and hard-edged, staccato riffing. Thanks to
the guitar’s solid center block, there was no
feedback, which helped the notes bloom
and soar in ways that only a good semihollow
body design can do.
The 89 had a pleasant, thick tone when
I played single-note melodies at low-gain
settings, but sounded less smooth than say,
an EMG 85. The real strength of this pickup
comes from its coil-tapped mode, which
sounded round and punchy with a complex
high end through the Mesa’s clean channel.
With a Fender ’65 Twin Reverb reissue, the
tone was warm and fuller still. You can coax
a lot of great sounds out of the Hellraiser’s
magnetic pickup set, but this one was the
king of all of them. Maxing the guitar’s
Tone control yielded a harmonically rich
jangle that was perfect for ’60s garage rock,
though I typically had to back the control
about 3/4 of the way down to prevent the
high end from becoming overpowering.
While the Fishman’s piezo-powered
acoustic tones were usable and powerful,
they’re also pretty bright. I really would have
liked to have had a
separate Tone control
on the guitar for the
Fishman system, which
would have greatly expanded
the sonic range—especially
when combining the Fishman and
magnetic pickup outputs. Running through
the Ozzy Osbourne classic, “Diary of a
Madman,” I kept having to drop the treble
and bring up the bass on the Mesa when
I would flip to the Fishman for the song’s
classical intro, verse, and bridge buildup sections.
It would have been so much easier to
be able to control that from the guitar itself.
Despite that drawback, the acoustic tones
were still highly detailed with a nice, sparkly
sheen on the highs, even when I would drop
the amp’s Treble knob.
One of the Hellraiser’s biggest strengths
is its ability to split its EMG and Fishman
outputs into dedicated signals to two separate
amps. Using the Twin and the Mesa,
I piped the acoustic signal to the Dual
Rec, which is significantly darker, and
sent the EMG signals into the Twin. For
years, guitarists have used acoustic guitars
in the studio to thicken up backing riffs.
With the Hellraiser, I was able to faithfully
approximate this effect in a live situation,
which was a blast to experience. Playing
the arpeggiated opening line to “Diary of a
Madman” never sounded so good, with the
electric signal filling in a smooth midrange
between the Fishman’s highs and lows.
Schecter’s Hellraiser Solo-6 E/A is an
extremely versatile rock machine that offers
the added benefit of being able to select
acoustic tones on the fly. These tones may
tend to toward the bright side, but they’re
still smooth and fluid with great sustain.
If you need a guitar that can cover all the
bases—including playing acoustic passages
in the middle of a tune—it’s absolutely
worth a play.
Watch our video review:
you need an all-in-one rock workhorse
with usable acoustic tones.
you prefer to work with multiple
guitars or you need a single-coil
in the bridge position.