With through-neck construction plus quality pickups, hardware and plenty of decoration to go, the C-1 Classic ticks a lot of boxes. Review by Martyn Casserly
To those in the know, Schecter is a maker with a strong heritage and a user list that’s included players like Pete Townshend, Mark Knopfler and Yngwie Malmsteen. To others it may represent just another budget brand, due perhaps to some of their cheaper models being piled high in Sound Control shops shortly before the chain’s demise. Alongside their Californian Custom Shop guitars sits the Diamond Series, made in South Korea, then set up in the US. So are they full of Eastern promise or do they flatter to deceive?
One of the first clues that this isn’t your regular Far Eastern knockoff is the moulded plastic hardcase lined with plush blue velvet. Lifting the guitar out reveals a sturdy weight: this C-1 Classic feels solid and expensive. The body shape may owe much to California’s most famous maker, but the S-type similarities end there. Mahogany is used for the body, with a nicely flamed maple cap featuring a tidy ‘natural’ edge binding. The through-neck is a multi-ply mixture of maple and walnut, with an ‘ultra access’ heel that makes reaching all 24 jumbo frets a doddle. The deep sea green lacquer is very attractive, with a matching headstock and cream binding adding to the air of quality.
The only possible fly in the ointment is the rosewood fretboard with its lavish/garish abalone vine inlay. Ornamental designs like this have featured on some of the biggest brands in the world – PRS, Martin, Gibson and of course Ibanez have all sported similar fingerboard bling – but to my mind while this guitar has much about it that exudes quality and pedigree, the over-the-top decoration makes it look substantially cheaper. It’s like Scarlett Johansson arriving at a party wearing three tons of makeup and a Burberry baseball cap… it’s just not needed.
For the hardware Schecter has opted for a TonePros tun-o-matic style bridge, a popular choice at the moment, and with through-body stringing and the solid mass of the body it should help give plenty of sustain. The three-a-side Schecter locking tuners are easy to use and hold their tuning very well.
The electronics feature a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers, a JB at the bridge and an SH-2N Jazz at the neck, controlled by an unusual combination of master volume and tone with a five-way ‘mega’ selector switch. In positions 1, 3 and 5 you get the normal neck, mixed, and bridge options of the humbuckers, but 2 and 4 offer the back half of the bridge plus all the neck, and half the neck and half the bridge.
Construction is of a very high standard: the C-1 feels as if it’s a cut above not only many guitars from the Far East but also several US manufacturers. The neck is hand-filling but fast and sturdy, giving an easy-playing feel with just enough resistance, and the jumbo frets are low and installed perfectly with no buzzes or sharp edges to slow you down. On a strap the C-1 is nicely balanced, if a tiny bit heavy, and a few quick strums reveal a loud and punchy tone that should transfer very nicely when plugged in.
As you might expect from a heavy mahogany-bodied guitar the sounds that come out of the C-1 Classic are deep and rich. Dialling back the tone control on the neck and setting the amp to clean gives a cool jazz tone with plenty of expression. Drive the amp slightly and you creep into BB King territory with a nice fuzzy bite for smoky-roomed blues.
The bridge tones are harder-edged, but not shrill. There’s enough bite for a bit of country, classic blues/rock tones are coaxed out without much persuasion and Angus Young riffs sound cracking through a Marshall. Positions 2 & 4 give a slight drop in volume and a tighter voice. There’s no single coil quack, but the sounds add another colour to the palette.
Throw some proper gain at the Schecter and it comes out fighting. Lead lines soar on the neck pickup, with enough sustain to keep rockers smiling for hours. Full throttle on the bridge gives us a disciplined but raucous attack that makes you feel in control of the sound without actually needing to tame it. Guns N’Roses, Metallica and Muse licks are all mopped up, leaving the C-1 hungry for more. Once the detuned mega-distortion riffs appear you know that this guitar is a keeper; sure, the single-coil tones aren’t the best, but once you get going on the humbuckers you won’t look back.
There's no shortage of twin humbucker choices, and at 799 the C-1 Classic is up against some of the US big boys - but Schecter has pulled out all the stops and produced a guitar more than capable of cutting it with the best of them. The body shape might suggest a Fender-like sound, but there's more of the Gibson tone going on here - huge crunching chords, long sustain, and a deep, rich quality of sound. But this is no copy: the C-1 has a look (whether that inlay appeals or not) all its own and a sound that will get you noticed. The quality of construction is top notch, with high quality parts. If you're unconvinced that you want to spend this kind of money on a Korean guitar, maybe it's time to realise that they are a significant force in the market, and quality is improving all the time. With the current state of the pound you'd be looking at 1500 for a new Les Paul. The C-1 Classic is about half that, and no way is it half the guitar. If you want a rock guitar that will sound good, look different and play like a dream, make sure you check one of these out.