Schecter Hellraiser Solo-6 E/A Guitar Review
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.