Jul 19, 2014

Ultimate Guitar Design

    Now this is a little unusual for me, but I'm going to write a little something just to explain how great the designs of Schecter's guitars, specifically the Omen-6, are.  This isn't some fan's rave though; I'm going to go through, piece by piece, and analyze what parts are good, what are bad, and why that is so.

     This doesn't just apply to Schecter either - it encompasses Fenders, Gibsons, Jacksons, First Acts...

I'm going to run down the parts from headstock to strap button and cover what decisions were made right on the Omen 6, using it as (usually) an example of what was done right, and give examples of other guitars that, well, didn't get it right.


     There are mostly only two main types of headstocks in the guitar world - 3 to a side angled, and 6 to a side non-angled.  Now a little backstory - 3 to a side angled headstocks are how luthiers made stringed instruments for hundreds of years, with 3 to a side to keep tension balanced, and angled to keep pressure on the nut.

     6 to a side flat headstocks were designed mostly by Leo Fender to be a more cost-effective alternative with the technology available in the 1950s.  They're an acceptable substitute, with string trees replacing the angle for providing pressure.  But frankly not as good as 3 to a side, because string trees always get hung up while tuning, making it harder to tune.  Given the advancements in technology in the past 60 years, it probably isn't much more expensive to make angled headstocks, and it's certainly an improvement.

     As far as the design goes, I like the Schecter's as a more interesting alternative to Gibson's classic mostly rectangular headstock.  Music Man headstocks are pretty cool too though.


     The Schecter tuners included are fine.  Not super high end Grovers, but that's quite alright, they hold tune well and the extra bucks wouldn't go all that far.  Cheap tuners are a huge issue on most inexpensive guitars though, and if they are worse, like the Squier Strat's, they should be replaced if possible.


     This is one area that I doubt Schecter or any other brand could do any better on.  The Omen 6 and probably all their other models come stock with a Graphtech Tusq nut.  Tone-wise it seems pretty good to me, practicality-wise it's absolutely perfect.  Tough as nails and never gets hung up.  I'm happy.


     The fretboard is rosewood, which I like for both looks and playing.  Maple fretboards stick, rosewood is naturally oily and great on the fingers.  The frets are jumbo, which dosen't seems to make a whole lot of difference to me, but is supposed to help you play faster.  They're polished pretty well and don't stick out and that's how it should be.

     Schecter necks have 24 frets.  Like it or not, a whole lot of songs are in the key of E.  This means 24 frets gives you a full 4 octaves.  Which is absolutely great.  So what if you don't use the last three frets?  It still means easier access to the other normally hard to reach frets 19-22.  A possible downside of a longer fretboard means the neck pickup isn't as far up the neck, so it's slightly less mellow.  That's a risk I'm willing to take.


     Schecter necks are pretty close to Fender necks in terms of thickness/diameter.  This is a matter of personal preference, but I find Fender thickness necks to be the ideal thickness, easier to play than the fat Les Paul necks but not as flat as Ibanez type necks.

     Scale length is 25.5 inches.  It's rare to find a neck that isn't either 25.5 or 24.75 inches.  That being said, 25.5 seems to be more common, and I prefer it because the longer scale length makes soloing up high easier.  Longer length also allows lower action without fret buzz.

     Most necks have a thin coat of lacquer on the back.  This makes them stick a little, but if you lightly sand with some fine sandpaper the neck magically becomes lightning smooth.  Schecter's neck has a thin coat of clear coat, my Squier had a slightly thinner coat, a cheap Rogue guitar I got had no clear coat at all and was ridiculously fast.  Les Paul necks have a bunch of paint on the back *confused*.

To recap the necks:  Fender - Good scale, good thickness, thin paint.  Schecter - Pretty much the same.  Gibson - Scale too short, neck too thick, paint on back.  But in the end, necks are pretty much personal preference, and if that's what you like and it doesn't affect your playing, go for it.

Neck joint:

     I don't believe all Schecters do, but the Omen has a bolt on neck.  Some tone purists don't like bolt on necks, saying they reduce sustain.  Aside from the fact that this is pretty much nonsense, bolt on necks are cheaper, and the neck can be replaced if damaged, or removed to paint the body, or replaced for a better feel.  Bottom line is that set necks are really no advantage.

Body shape:

     Stratocaster > all others (in terms of comfort).  Most Schecter bodies are Strat styled, although a little less round at the edges.  My gripe with Schecter's version is that it has hard corners to look more defined or "metal", where it's really just less comfortable to hold.  Not that it's bad, I still find it an improvement over a Les Paul or Telecaster in terms of comfort, but could be better.  The biggest issue is why they decided not to round the corner your right arm rests on all the time.  That's just careless.  I'd sand it myself except that it would ruin the finish.

Body wood:

     Low end Schecters (indeed, a lot of "low end" guitars) are made of basswood.  Basswood is cheap, fairly lightweight, and resonant.  I see no reason to replace it with mahogany, which would raise the price and weight significantly.

     In all honesty though, wood isn't magnetic, and solid-body guitars don't resonate enough with the air to be audible when amplified.  What does this mean?  The wood a guitar is made out of barely makes a difference in tone.  Yep.  Short of making your guitar out of MDF (which would dampen vibrations), tone wood is such a small part of your sound it shouldn't be worried about.


     Pickups make up the majority of the tone straight from an electric guitar.  So why am I not really bothering to discuss this?  So many people swap them out anyway.  Regardless, the stock Schecter pickups are pretty decent, and the twin humbucker design is pretty standard and will get you most places except country music.


     The Omen has a 3 way toggle pickup selector, a tone knob, and volume knob.  I'll take two knobs over four, especially if I were on tour, because having two knobs for each function is unnecessary for me.  The pots used look like decent quality.

     Where they went wrong must have been in choosing the pot's values, because the tone control is basically an on-off switch, without any intermediate tone control.  That could certainly be fixed.


     The Omen has a Tune-o-matic style bridge.  Does this mean excellent tone and sustain?  I don't know, to be perfectly frank.  But it intonates well and sustains plenty long, so I'd suppose it might.

     For a primary guitar I consider a non-tremolo guitar to be preferable because of the tuning stability.  Floating bridges with locking nuts (Floyd Rose) have good tuning stability as well, but if you break a string you're screwed.  Additionally, a fixed bridge is much cheaper to produce.


     This is a tad misleading since the Omen is a string through guitar.  String through design supposedly means better sustain.  I'd suspect it's much cheaper to drill a few holes than add another chunk of steel, which is also a positive.  So, if I'm going with fixed bridge, I'll take a string through design.

Strap buttons:

     No, they're not locking buttons.  But they might as well be because Schecter's strap buttons are much larger and more stable than a Strat's.  It's to the point where it's a little difficult to remove a leather strap intentionally.  Which means you should never accidentally lose it, even if you're dumb enough to do guitar spins.

Well, I'm finally gonna wrap it up here.  Maybe some other guitar design company will find this and make the "perfect guitar".  I tend to doubt it.  Anyway, in the event that you actually read this whole thing, congratulations.  You just won the internet and 500 free internet cookies!

Peace out everybody.

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