Schecter''s Solo-6 Custom, a classic-looking guitar with extra features, is reviewed.

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Clean - Neck Pickup
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Clean - Middle Pickup
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Clean - Bridge Pickup
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Dirty - Bridge Pickup
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Dirty - Neck Pickup

One of the first things you notice when you pick up a Schecter is that they’re designed to be played with ease—they’re some of the most comfortable guitar designs on the planet. Most of them have pretty traditional design elements, but without the hang-ups you sometimes get with traditional designs.

The other thing you notice is that they’re pretty sharp. The Solo-6 Custom comes in three striking colors: faded vintage sunburst, dark vintage sunburst, and gloss black with gold hardware. For this review, I got the dark vintage sunburst model, and when I took it to an open-mic night it turned quite a few heads.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Great Features—Some Stealthy, Some Not
When the Solo-6 Custom review guitar showed up at my house, it came strung with a set of D’Addario .010s and was ready to be played. All I had to do was tune it. And that was a breeze, thanks to the chrome Schecter locking tuners. I could have unboxed this guitar at a gig and had no problems all night. The craftsmanship is top notch—I couldn’t even find any finish flaws. You can’t say that about a lot of new guitars.

The Solo-6 Custom has a ton of bells and whistles, so don’t let the traditional look fool you. It comes stock with USA Seymour Duncan pickups—a Custom-Custom bridge unit and a ’59 in the neck position. The electronics are of good quality and will likely provide many stress-free years of service. The Master Tone knob also functions as a coil tap, and I found that very useful, especially in tandem with the bridge- and neck-pickup Volume controls. Both Volumes provided a nice sweep and cleaned up heavily distorted tones well. Another nice touch is that Schecter added rubber grips to the speed knobs for better control.

The chrome bridge and tailpiece are both from TonePros, and the added sustain they provide is noticeable and appreciated. The 24 3/4"-scale Custom features a mahogany body with a carved, flamed maple top. The neck is also mahogany and features a GraphTech nut and an ebony fretboard decorated with pearl split-crown inlays. The neck and body are wrapped with a multi-ply, crème-colored binding that is the perfect touch for this beautiful, great-sounding guitar.

The cutaway at the neck joint is very smart and comfortable when playing higher up on the neck. The flatter radius and bigger frets allow you to easily bend without fretting out. The neck is a little thinner than I’m used to, but it’s a very comfortable C shape that most players should also be comfortable with. Further, the nut was cut perfectly, and I didn’t run into any string-slipping or tuning issues.

The back of the body has a slight contour that’s less annoying than some single-cut guitars, and many players will find that this feature makes the Solo-6 more comfortable to play live than similar designs. The neck angle is straighter and less dramatic than traditional single-cuts, too. This allows the pickups to sit in the body more, which I believe yields better bass response and more of the sound of the wood to come through.

Plugging In
I tested the Solo-6 Custom with my Mad Professor head and 2x12 cab and my Fender Deluxe. The tone of the guitar is more aggressive and leans more toward modern sounds than vintage. That said, the Duncans are smooth and responsive. The bridge pickup has a lower-mid growl that makes it perfect for drop tunings and full power chords. The ’59, on the other hand, gives you a beautiful, creamy tone that makes you want to play the blues all night long. In the middle position, the blend of the two pickups is very nice and a bit Jimmy Page-like.

When you pull up on the Master Tone knob, you split both the bridge and neck pickups. This instantly turns the guitar into a Tele-style instrument. I found the single-coil sounds very useful and versatile. The split middle position is great for playing clean with chorus. Single-coil mode means you get the 60-cycle hum when you engage your distortion pedal or amp, but this is a small matter considering you have six sounds to choose from.

Give It a Whirl
Did I mention that this guy lists for just under a grand? It retails for $999 and streets for around $700. That’s a deal in any economy. With this guitar, Schecter proves you can still get a great guitar for not a whole lot of cash. In fact, I’m pretty sure that, by the end of the open-mic gig I took the guitar to, a few guitarists in the crowd had decided to head to their nearest Schecter dealer to check one of these bad boys out. And I would have rated this guitar the same way if it cost $1200 or $1400 bucks. So if you’re in the market for a versatile single-cutaway guitar with a few tricks up its sleeve, give the Schecter Solo-6 Custom a try.
Buy if...
you need a quality guitar with lots of pro features and tone but you’re on a budget
Skip if...
you have a bigger budget and prefer an instrument with a more traditional look and feature set.

Street $699 - Schecter Guitar Research -

The Hagstrom Swede inspires everything from punk to jazz with tons of tones built in at a great price.

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Neck Pickup - regular, filter 1 & filter 2
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Neck Pickup - lead
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Bridge Pickup - regular, filter 1 & filter 2
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Bridge Pickup - lead
Download Example 5
Middle - regular, filter 1 & filter 2

Click here to watch the video review...
For many in the U.S., the Hagstrom name might seem relatively new, but to the rest of the world they’ve been making great guitars for over 50 years. The Swedish Hagstrom Company started manufacturing electric guitars in 1958. The first Hagstrom solidbody guitar featured a sparkle celluloid finish, a very cool choice of materials borrowed from their accordion production line. Hagstrom expanded its guitar line to include hollowbody guitars like the Viking, the flagship Swede series, basses (including the legendary 8-string) and a series of acoustic and classical guitars in the early 1970s.

The original Hagstrom Company stopped production in 1983, making the guitars instant collectables. Twentythree years later, the legacy continued with reissues of the original models built to the same quality and unique designs that made them beloved all over the world. The artists that have played these instruments are as classic and diverse as the Hagstrom body shapes: Elvis Presley, Frank Zappa, Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA), Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music), David Bowie, ZZ Top, Noel Redding, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford (Genesis), The Beatles, and many more. Now that we know where they’ve been, let’s see where they’re going with the new Swede.

The Wow Factor
The guitar showed up in great condition and was wrapped and boxed very well. It was easy to tune and didn’t require an initial setup, so I was able to jump right in and sample this beast. When you first take a look at it, this guitar has lots of wow factor: the classic 24.75" scale single-cut design and snow white finish brings out your inner-punk. It will compel you to pull out your Sex Pistols and Germsalbums, cranking them up and remembering why you play guitar in the first place. When I finished my punk assault upon my neighbors, I sat down with the guitar and really started to examine all the little details that make the Swede a real gem.

Hagstrom's H-Expander alloy truss rod and Resinator composite wood fretboard.
First, you’ll notice the fancy 18:1 ratio tuning pegs, a cut above what you usually get in this middle price range, and which made the guitar stay in tune perfectly. The tail piece is made of a sturdy metal plate that contributes to the sleek look of the guitar and adds a fair amount of sustain to boot. Speaking of sustain, let’s talk about the H-Expander alloy truss rod that adds tension to both ends of the neck and runs its entire length. This allows for the action to be set lower than average with no string buzz. The fretboard is made from a composite wood they call Resinator. It’s a stronger material that provides a smooth feel and complements the 22 medium jumbo frets.

The neck is a husky “C” shape with a flatter fretboard radius and very comfortable feel; it’s easy to bend notes 1-1/2 steps without sacrificing any string volume and sustain. This is also due to the graphite nut that is the icing on this tone cake. It’s these little upgrades and additions that set Hagstrom guitars apart from the crowd; their design philosophy is all about adding sustain, tonality and playability, but they present it in a very cool retro-styled instrument.

The Swede Elements
The 45mm body and neck are both mahogany, and on this model the 10mm carve top is also mahogany, which makes the guitar a little bit darker, but it’s a good complement to the vintage-voiced Custom 58 humbuckers. The covered pickups are a little hotter than true vintage buckers, but the tone is smooth and balanced. For most guitars in this price range the pickups usually are the weakest link and I’d suggest upgrading then. But in this case the pickups are definitely not weak. Hagstrom has gone the extra mile and wound quality-sounding pickups that would suit this guitar.

The Swede also features a high-grade polyester finish, which is smoother and denser, producing a better sonic performance than some polyurethane finishes do. But I wish that the top coat was sprayed a bit thinner. You see this thick glassy finish on a lot of import guitars, and it makes the instruments sound compressed. This is a mistake in my opinion. I also wish that the solid-colored Swedes had a maple top; the Super Swedes do and I’m sure the added brightness makes a difference. The Swede comes with two Volume and Tone controls and a three-way pickup selector toggle, but the fun doesn’t stop there.

The Swede has a second 3-way toggle switch located on the bottom horn that provides filter controls for additional tone options. When the switch is up, you get an added midrange boost, kind of like a half-cocked wah. When the switch is down, you get an added boost of bass. The filters are bypassed in the middle position. These filters work on both pickups and the shifts in tone will definitely make your ordinary riffs sound outstanding. The filters are usable for clean as well as distorted settings, and the added bass was great for jazz. I spent a week nailing my favorite John Scofield riffs, not to mention the mid boost for lead playing. An added bonus of the Swede’s filter controls is that it becomes a very versatile guitar for recording. The filters work great for making your guitar sound different, especially when layering guitar tracks. If you’re looking for that wall-of-guitar sound, then look no further. The Swede will save you from having to run multiple amps in the studio. This guitar is a lot of fun to play and a time saver in the studio.

The Final Mojo
The Hagstrom Swede is a lot of guitar for the money. The attention to detail demonstrated by the custom hardware and upgraded pickups shows that they listen to their customers about what features are important at this price range. The added tonality of the Swede makes this guitar extremely versatile for any style of music. I do have a request for Hagstrom and I’m sure I’m not alone when I ask: when is the Pat Smear model coming out?

Buy if...
you’re looking for a mid-priced retro rocker with lots of upgrades.
Skip if...
you’re looking for a guitar with a locking tremolo and active pickups.

Street $665 - Hagstrom -

Hottie joins the guitar game with a muscle-car-inspired retro rocker.

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Bridge Humbucker
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Split Clean

In this modern age we live in, everything we buy is all about function and portability. We’re all concerned about acquiring the latest and greatest technology and fashion, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, and I’m glad to say that the guitar-playing community goes against the grain. We might be modern in our lifestyles, but we’re classic in our tastes when it comes to guitars. The hottest trends in guitars right now are custom-made, vintage- style instruments and relics, and only a guitar player would pay more for a guitar that looks like it’s been through a war.

Crazy Like a Fox?
The vintage-styled guitars we grew up with are as much a part of our being as the classic cars we fantasize about, and some new guitar manufacturers are figuring this out. But how do you sell a new guitar when so many of us want to play what we know and are comfortable with? How do you make it look and feel like an old friend without being a direct rip-off? Hottie Guitars, a company already well know for Hottie amps and pickups, is taking inspiration from the classic muscle cars of the early ’70s to come up with a guitar that is fresh but familiar, classic and retro: the Hottie 454.

When you first lay your eyes on this guitar, you’re instantly taken back to an era when muscle cars roared down the streets and you spent Friday nights cruising the strip looking cool and feeling badass. This guitar has instant sex appeal, and it’s designed to be played with lots of attitude. When you first pick up this guitar, you can feel right away that this is a quality instrument made from top-shelf custom parts and materials. The one-piece Honduran mahogany body and neck have girth, and the whole weighs in around the same as a vintage Les Paul. Mahogany comes in many different grades, and they’re priced accordingly. I can tell you the 454’s mahogany is the best grade you can buy. They also offer alder and ash body options. The carve top is comfortable and made from Eastern hard rock maple.

Hottie offers two types of neck shapes: a soft-V and a ’59-C. The review model came with the soft-V, and it felt very comfortable right out of the gate. A “V”-shaped neck can take a while to get used to, but this one is probably one of the best I’ve played in a long time. The ebony fretboard came with medium/jumbo frets, and the setup and fret job were perfect right out of the case. I would have preferred bigger frets, because the .010 gauge strings felt like .009s on the 24.625" scale and 12" fretboard radius. String bending was a breeze, with lots of volume and sustain. The Bigsby tremolo system was a nice addition to the flexibility and swagger of this guitar. The vintage tuners held their tune perfectly and the bone nut was cut to perfection.

Don’t be fooled by the simple sleek look of the 454; it has tone for days and is quite flexible for being a single humbucker guitar. The Hottie bridge pickup is another quality addition, and is made from the best materials available. This pickup gives you the impression that it’s the offspring of the classic PAF design, but it has way more personality and attitude. This little Hottie pickup comes stock with fancy flames on the nickel cover and is housed in a custom-made pickup ring. This custom-wound, U.S.-made 8.5k bridge pickup compresses really nicely and has a little more “Pow!” in the lower register. I had no problem dialing in a very nice Gibbons-style tone, and the pinch harmonics rang out with ease and delight. The pickup also cleaned up great when backing off the volume a bit. The 500k pots are a nice audio taper that gives you more control. It’s not one of those “it’s on or off” types of volume pots, and the sweep is very dynamic and usable. The Tone knob is a push/pull that allows you to split the humbucker from series to parallel. This feature shows off the quality of the materials, because most humbuckers don’t sound this good split. When you’re in split mode, you get very good Esquire-type tone, and the Tone knob also shares the same dynamic range that the Volume does.

These guitars are designed and built by Jean-Claude Escudie (Hottie owner) and master luthier Saul Koll (Koll Guitars). Their love of classic hot rods and their knowledge of guitar construction and design makes a noticeable difference. The nitrocellulose lacquer finish was flawless; it’s this step in the guitar building process that takes lots of time and skill. You can always tell if the lacquer was applied and finished properly by looking across the finish in the light. You should not see little waves, cloudiness, or unevenness in certain spots. If you do, the manufacturer may have rushed the finishing process, or used cheap lacquer. The finish should look like a thin layer of clear glass. The metallic red sparkle on this Hottie is beautiful. It’ll make anyone do a double take when lit under stage lights. This guitar will get you noticed!

The Final Mojo
As I said at the beginning, there are no short cuts on this guitar—even the case it came in was quality and looked like a piece of furniture. The guitar is priced like a classic car— and I know not everyone can justify that kind of outlay—but those who demand style and quality will feel that this guitar is a bargain. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s not too often you play a guitar that you can’t really find anything wrong with. The only thing I can pick on Hottie for is that a guitar in this price range should come with strap locks. We get so used to buying guitars that are close to our expectations and then spending additional time and money upgrading them to our exact standards and preferences. You won’t need to do this with the Hottie 454. It’s as close to a mint-condition 1972 Corvette as you can get, and it will turn as many heads and get you the attention you deserve. And isn’t that why we play guitars like this and drive 1972 Corvettes in the first place? It sure is!
Buy if...
quality materials, tone, playability and a classic, retro look are most important to you.
Skip if...
you’re on a budget and need strap locks included.

MSRP $3499 - Hottie Guitars -

How understanding why speakers distort can make all the difference in crafting your tone.

Let’s jump right in and continue with Part II of our discussion that began with “Your Signature Distortion” (September 2009). Part I covered the DNA of a speaker and how the materials used factor into your tone. This month we’re diving in deeper to breakdown how a speaker distorts. We’ll also answer the question, “Is the speaker producing what the amp can deliver?”

There are a number of ways to achieve the distorted tone you’re looking for. If you have a tube amplifier, you can get distortion from clipping your preamp and power amp tubes, not to mention the fact that you can clip your input stage, thus adding a bit of gain and compression right from the input of your amplifier. Of course, you also have a plethora of distortion pedals on the market to give you an infinite variety of distortion. But the funny thing is that all of these distortion makers fall to the mercy of the speakers. Why? Because it’s the way the speakers interpret this signal that will determine your ultimate tone.

How does a speaker distort?
When a speaker distorts, it produces two types of frequencies. The first type is harmonic distortion: this is heard as additional tones which are multiples of the original note played. For example, if the original sound produces 100Hz, you would also get 200Hz, 400Hz and so on, even though these tones are not part of the original sound. The second type is non-harmonic distortion, also known as odd harmonic distortion, and often referred to as a buzz or a rattle in the sound. For example, if the original sound produces 100Hz, the odd harmonic distortion would produce frequencies of 300Hz, 500 Hz, and 700Hz, etc.

When setting your tone, there are a series of specs you need to consider, starting with your guitar and amplifier. The signal from a guitar pickup is mostly all midrange and is not rich in harmonics, with practically nothing coming through above 4000Hz. The sixth string “E” tuned to pitch comes through at about 80Hz, two full octaves above the 20Hz low frequency our ears can pick-up. The standard 4-string bass has a range one octave below the guitar, with the low E at about 40Hz.

The way typical guitar amplifier circuits, such as Marshalls and Fenders, are designed also affects how the speakers will respond. The most obvious difference is that the Marshall circuits let more signal pass through, and the tone controls offer less frequency range. The higher signal means that the preamp tube stage can overdrive the output tube stage more. Additionally, the Marshall circuits have a slight dip in the midrange section, almost an octave higher than Fender amps, metering in around 700Hz. A Fender’s midrange dip is around 400Hz, while the bass response on both amplifiers meter in around 10Hz. Fender’s tone controls allow for a higher midrange frequency to pass with the treble response, meaning more dynamic range for that sparkling, tight sound they’re famous for.

To save time, I’ll spec out the three most popular speakers associated with Fenders and Marshalls, starting with a 25-watt, 12" speaker with a sensitivity rating of 98dB, 1.75" copper voice coil, ceramic magnet and a resonance frequency of 75Hz. Another popular choice is a 30-watt, 12" speaker with a sensitivity rating of 100dB, 1.75" copper voice coil, ceramic magnet and a resonance frequency of 85Hz. The speakers in Fenders are designed to stay clean, so they spec out at 100 watts with a sensitivity rating of 99dB, a voice coil inductance of 1 kHz, ceramic magnet and a resonance frequency of 104Hz.

How does this translate to your guitar tone?
It’s these specs that are directly responsible for your tone, and it’s here where the “disconnect” usually happens for most musicians. We’re not trained to translate these features into the sounds we hear, but it’s this knowledge that can serve as a guideline for you to build your own “tone formula.” Here is an example of a classic one: 50-watt tube Marshall running through two 25-watt speakers (100 watts with four 25-watt speakers will produce similar results). The Marshall circuit allows more signal to pass through, meaning that the guitar input section, the preamp and power section are going to distort. The lower wattage speakers with the smaller magnet and voice coil are going to break up faster at a lower volume. The voice coil will clip and compress, giving you that “sizzle” in the upper frequency range.

This is the classic Marshall tone, but here’s the rub: the lower-wattage speaker distorts so fast that the speaker will not be able to produce the lower frequencies (bass response) that the amp can put out, thus giving you the illusion that the amp has no bottom end. By adding a 30-watt speaker, you can increase the bass response but cut the level of distortion. Now, if you went to the other end of the spectrum and had a Fender amp that was too clean and brittle sounding, you could add a lower wattage speaker with a smaller magnet and voice coil and achieve some nice, mild distorted tones. Changing the magnet to alnico would also add a bump to the midrange section.

Next up in Part III: the “secret weapon” in your tone formula. Stay tuned!

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