Schecter Guitar Research had a late start to the booming guitar market, at least when contrasted to old names such as Fender, Gibson, and Rickenbacker. But Schecter, despite some setbacks early on, have managed to become some of the most sought after instruments in the industry.
The Schecter Guitar Story
Gibson started in the 1800s, and Fender and Rickenbacker launched before 1950, but Schecter--as noted in its company profile--didn't start building guitar products until 1976 in Van Nuys, California as Schecter Guitar Research. Even then, they were not making guitars but just building parts for Gibson and Fender. That all changed a few years later.
- 1979: Schecter decides to jump into the guitar market, and they produce their own line of high-end custom guitars that blend Fender-style guitar bodies with Gibson humbuckers and pickup switches. It is an exclusive, expensive custom guitar only sold in a handful of shops across the country. Thanks to their uniqueness and high quality, the music world takes notice. Big-time artists, such as Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Pete Townshend of The Who, request custom models.
- 1983: Schecter is bought and moved to Texas where it gets the commercialized mass-production treatment, which means non-custom guitars made with cheaper parts. Schecter's reputation as a high-end custom-only guitar producer wanes. It still maintains a presence in the industry, however, and attracts big names such as Yngwie Malmsteen to its lineup.
- 1987: A Japanese businessman, Hisatake Shibuya, buys the company, returns it to its California roots, and trashes the cheap guitar production business model. Schecter returns to building a small number of superb custom guitars of the highest quality. This brings immediate results: Sean Yuenger from popular metal band White Zombie and Robert DeLeo from the chart-topping alternative rock band Stone Temple Pilots join Schecter's lineup.
- 1997-present: Their custom-only model limits the company output to forty guitars a month. To stay competitive, Schecter adds an offshore manufacturing plant in South Korea. Guitars are made cheaply there and then sent to California where Schecter's plant sets up each guitar before selling it. This lowers prices for consumers but retains an acceptable degree of quality. In addition to their cheaper non-custom models, Schecter continues making its high-end custom guitars.
Schecter's Frankenstein-like blend of Fender and Gibson's best guitars has fascinated and attracted guitar players for decades. The following eight guitars represent important variations of Schecter's impressive work.
Pete Townshend's 1980 Custom Telecaster-Style Schecter
The original Schecter guitars played by Pete Townshend of The Who are sometimes on the market in vintage guitar communities. This 1980 guitar, which costs around $32,000, is out of range for most guitarists, but it is the classic portrait of what Schecter is all about: A Fender Telecaster-style body with Gibson-style humbucker pickups and other features.
Fortunately, Schecter has used the Pete Townshend design for many of its affordable guitar lines. Wherever you see a "PT" in the name of a Schecter guitar, it means it uses the original Townshend design as its template. You can get affordable PT Schecter guitars at retailers such as Guitar Center, where used and new PTs range from about $180 to $600 or purchase directly from Schecter with their 2017 PT Special on sale for about $600.
Mark Knopfler's Dream Machine Strat-Style Schecter
When the Dire Straits guitarist started using custom Stratocaster-styled Schecter guitars, it elevated the Schecter brand considerably. This video captures the exciting moment when a huge Dire Straits Mark Knopfler fan gets the opportunity to play Knopfler's original Schecter Dream Machine Strat that the Dire Straits used on some of its most famous recordings.
The Knopfler Dream Machine auctioned for $50,000 in 2004. Whereas Pete Townshend's Schecter guitar blended a Fender Telecaster style with Gibson-styled electronics, Mark Knopfler's guitar uses the Stratocaster for its inspiration. Dream Machines can be hard to find in stock at normal guitar retailers, but you can get Dream Machines at Riff City Guitar for about $2,800.
The E-1 Standard brings Schecter's creative twist to their guitar design. Its lightning bolt-like body shape, honey sunburst color, mahogany wood body, chrome hardware, humbucker pickups, and gorgeous pearloid and abalone inlays made into the "Tempest Split Crown" shapes make it a beautiful axe.
It retails new for about $630 at Sweetwater. Its design, while clearly reminiscent of the Gibson Explorer, has a unique look and sound that only Schecter can produce.
Banshee-6 FR Extreme
The Banshee-6 Extreme has the classic Dream Machine body shape with stunning visuals on quilted maple top material and fretboard Vector inlays made from pearloid and abalone. It features a Schecter-exclusive Floyd Rose "Hot Rod" locking tremolo, ocean blue burst color and a combination of Diamond Plus and Diamond Single coil pickups.
It is also one of Schecter's more affordable electric guitars at about $540 new at Schecter's site or other guitar retail stores such as Sam Ash.
The Ultra-III is one of Schecter's most stylish, eye-catching retro-inspired guitars. With a vintage blue color, sculptured edges and retro knobs, it channels a classic California surf-retro vibe, which is appropriate considering that Schecter is based in Van Nuys, California. It also offers a large array of tone colors to choose from when you play.
It goes for around $700 new at Jet where you get free shipping and a discount if you opt out of free returns.
2017 Corsair Custom
Available in elegant natural pearl, vintage sunburst pearl, or charcoal burst pearl, the retro-inspired Corsair Custom is one of Schecter's most attractive designs and especially one of its best sounding guitars, as you can hear in Schecter's video demonstration.
It costs around $1,200 at Schecter's site. Although the 2017 Corsair Custom is not easy to find used, you can get older models of the Corsair line, such as the Corsair Bigsby, for around $900 at Musician's Friend.
With color and material names such as rusty grey and swamp ash, you know Schecter is going with a certain theme with its new Apocalypse series. Despite its dark descriptors, the guitar actually has a noticeable beauty and elegance with its wood pattern and aged, subdued color tones. Its Apocalypse VI pickups give it a powerful sustain and clarity.
The Apocalypse can be expensive, but you buy the guitar at Riff City for about $1,200. The store also provides a number for you to call for any product over $1,000 because they often have behind-the-scenes deals on high-end products.
Schecter's ERG (Extended Range Guitars) 8-String Guitar
It's a little hard to believe, but the ERG (Extended Range Guitars) that Schecter sells features seven-string, eight-string, and nine-strings. Schecter essentially takes existing models such as the Blackjack with all the usual Schecter styles features, but adds more strings to them on the bottom end. This give you a chance to create low, crunchy, heavy sounds on a distorted, or low ethereal tones on a clean setting. This video features an eight-string Schecter Blackjack.
Schecter's ERG line ranges from around $600 to $1900 on Schecter's site and any other retail store if you buy them new. You can get them used at Guitar Center for as low as about $200 for the cheaper C-7 models.
Synyster Custom Line
The Synyster Custom Diamond Series with USA Pickups is the custom guitar that Schecter made for Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates. It is a classic example of Schecter's custom work that it still does for big-name artists just as it did for The Who and Dire Straits when the company first started in 1976. The Avenger Synyster Custom, besides having a look all its own with a horn-like headstock and skull art, has its own trademark humbucker pickups that give it a fat metal sound.
The Synyster line is one Schecter's biggest lines with many variations. Models range from arout $900 to about $3,400 or more if you buy one new either on Schecter's site or other guitar stores. If you buy a used Synyster from Guitar Center you can get one for as low as around $400 depending on the store's stock and the condition of the guitars.
Schecter: The Perfect Symbol of American Guitar History
Schecter's highly unusual blend of Fender and Gibson guitars, mixed with its own California-style innovations, has become a living symbol of American guitar history: two of the oldest, most successful American guitar styles merge into a new guitar, the Schecter guitar, and it becomes something new and different for twenty-first century musicians to embrace.