The recipe is familiar, but if you’re looking for custom shop quality and tone at a fair price you’re on the right page. Review by Marcus Leadley
Description: Solidbody electric guitar, made in USA. Hard case included
Contact:Westside Distribution – 0844 326 2000 – westsidedistribution.com
While the Schecter Custom Shop is still very much in the business of making one-off guitars for its star clientele, it’s come up with a smart way of making the same level of quality more generally available: the USA Production Series.
This means small runs of as few as four or six instruments with the same body shapes, materials, fittings and finishes, but made by the same master craftsmen as the most personalised instruments. Specs and finishes are changed from series to series so there’s still a serious degree of exclusivity attached to the process.
With its mahogany neck and mahogany body with a maple cap, the Hollywood Classic clearly shows its Les Paul-based heritage. The highly-contoured double-cutaway body aligns with the new generation of LP-inspired instruments such as the PRS Custom which began to emerge after the mid-’80s, but the longer 25.5″ scale length reflects a preference for Fender-style string tension and a snappy, more twangy feel.
Everything about this Hollywood is tasteful and measured. The price bracket bags you a one-piece Honduran mahogany body and a neck made from the same timber, and the grain looks fantastically detailed through the transparent vintage sunburst finish. The sunburst also works extremely well over the bookmatched flame maple cap, where it helps to create a very three-dimensional effect.
The look is enhanced by the addition of a flame maple cap to the headstock, which is more than a veneer as the edges are left unstained like a faux binding, echoing the edges of the body. Decked out with chrome hardware, including a TonePros tunomatic bridge and Schecter-branded locking tuners, it really is a looker.
The neck feels fantastic; a little on the vintage/chunky early ’60s side, perhaps, but a very familiar offering for Gibson or PRS players. The fingerboard is made from Indian rosewood, the medium-gauge frets are faultlessly installed, and the set-up is spot on. At this price you shouldn’t expect anything less, but the guitar is simply really nice to play. The only thing I’m not mad about are the elaborate custom cross inlays. They’re beautifully done, but a little too ornate for my taste.
The Hollywood Classic’s pickups are Schecter’s own brand humbuckers, a high-output, ceramic-magnet Sunset Strip at the bridge and a softer, more PAF-sounding Pasadena with alnico magnets at the neck. The pickups are wired through a standard three-way selector and master Tone and Volume controls. The Volume control has a push/pull action, so the humbuckers can be tapped for single-coil operation.
Although the Sunset Strip is a high-gain pickup, it’s quite articulate with none of the midrange hump often associated with pickups of the alnico persuasion, making it comfortable with clean chords and simple melody lines. There’s a lot of dynamic touch-sensitivity here, which is very expressive and works well with a valve amp that’ll start breaking up if you hit the strings hard.
As a result, you can get a great blues rock sound. In higher-gain territory the Sunset Strip can slide effortlessly from hard rock into classic metal and on to extreme destinations. It can shred, but the Hollywood’s chunky neck and the limitation of 22 frets don’t make this guitar the obvious choice – and there are certainly other Schecter models more suited to the task.
The neck Pasadena is sweeter and more coloured, with slightly more exaggerated upper mids, and here in the neck position where the instrument’s acoustic performance is more open and resonant, it sings beautifully. Simple chords ring out and every nuance of a clean melody can be executed with confidence and clarity. Jazz is a natural here, and a slight tone roll-off delivers a professional silkiness. You can up the gain for authoritative, chunky power chords, and all forms of boogie and hard rock sound great. Winding back the tone control gets you into that crying-tone solo territory.
Combining the two pickups delivers a surprisingly bright and funky tone that’s great for general rhythm and stands out particularly well in a guitar-rich mix. Driving the same twin pickup setting gives a big blues tone, but I prefer the individual pickups for lead playing as the characteristics are easily manageable and deliver a palette of broadly familiar, contemporary tones.
The Hollywood also functions extremely well in single coil mode with the coil tap switch pulled up. Not all humbuckers can be split successfully, but both the Sunset Strip and the Pasadena perform admirably. The Sunset is extremely dynamic and quite edgy; it’s not quite as angular as a Burns Tri-Sonic (the archetypal ceramic magnet sound), but it has a similar, slightly brash voice and a little less harmonic content – which no doubt reflects the more standard approach to winding and a bobbin-based structure.
You can get raunchy with this pickup, and it’s great for wiry alt.rock thrashing. The Pasadena in single coil mode delivers a more even sound with less obvious highs and lows; in many ways it sounds a lot like a Strat single coil in the neck position, so it’s a very flexible sound. The twin-pickup sound retains a lot of funkiness, especially because in single-coil mode the middle position is phase-cancelling, giving less noise and a useful, slightly quacky sound.
In terms of design and performance Schecter’s Hollywood Classic is a real thoroughbred with great potential appeal for the kind of players who are hooked on this kind of Gibson/Fender hybrid concept. If you’re not familiar with the form it’s definitely something to check out if you consider yourself a soloist and are looking for sustain and classic tones.
This is a contemporary, grown-up rock guitar with a whole lot of attitude and a design that majors on playing ease and mechanical stability, with no quirky bridges, tremolo systems or curious electronics to compromise the basic electric guitar sound.
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