Aesthetics: (5 / 5) Build Quality: (4 / 5) Playability: (5 / 5) Tone (factory): (3.5 / 5) Tone (custom): (5 / 5) Average: (4.5 / 5)
The Schecter C-1 Classic is, for better or worse, my main axe at this stage, having owned it for two years and a half. I used it in most common scenarios, from home practice to recording, rehearsal, and gigging.
Here’s a review of it.
This is a Korean-made (mine was made in 2007), 24-fret, 25.5″ scale electric guitar, with a Stratocaster-inspired body shape – and this is where the similarities with a Stratocaster end.
The C-1 Classic boasts a neck-through construction, with Schecter’s own Ultra Access neck-to-body transition. This makes the neck heel virtually non-existent, turned into a gentle slope.
The neck is made of maple (three pieces) and walnut (two pieces, interposed between the maple strips), and has a “C” profile, as far as I can tell.
The fretboard is rosewood, and a lot of it is decorated with the Vine of Life figure, which is made of abalone. The 12th fret is marked with the word “Classic” on a banner, but there are no other fret markers on the fretboard – this may be a problem for fretboard gazers that use their sight extensively for guidance. There are, however, abalone marker dots on its edge, encrusted in the cream-colored neck binding.
Fretboard radius is 14″, which makes for a nice, flat surface. The nut is, I think, graphite, but on the current model it’s a Graph Tech XL Black Tusq.
The headstock shape is typical Schecter, the “nice” (i.e. non-metal) variant, not too “masculine” and not too delicate, just right for a musical instrument. The binding continues on the headstock, too; the headstock is finished with the same maple pattern as the body top, and it displays the “Schecter Diamond Series” text unobtrusively. The black, white-rimmed truss rod cover plate says “Classic”. The headstock is angled, Les Paul-style.
The tuners are Grover, non-locking (probably the 14:1 ratio model), in a satin gold finish.
Moving on to the body, it’s made of two pieces of mahogany attached to the central neck. It has a 5 mm (about 3/16 inches) thick maple top and PRS-style faux binding, meaning the maple top edge is left undyed, which creates the impression of wood-colored binding. The top has a quilt maple pattern, in a color that Schecter calls Antique Amber. The pattern is most likely maple veneer, on top of the solid maple cap.
The body has an arched top, has a “belly cut”, and the overall body thickness varies between 38 and 40 mm on my particular guitar. The electronics are placed in the back control cavity, there is, thankfully, no pickguard to speak of.
The hardware is all satin gold, except the humbucker covers (which are glossy gold). The C-1 Classic features two humbuckers attached to black plastic rings (a Seymour Duncan Jazz and JB set), a Tonepros T3BT (Tune-o-Matic) TOM bridge with a string-through arrangement (i.e., there is no tailpiece).
There is a 5-way switch (with a black plastic olive) and two metal knobs, one volume, one tone, controlling both humbuckers.
The guitar sports simple strap pins (i.e., no straplocks), and a football-shaped jack cover plate, also finished in satin gold.
Its weight is about 3.7 kg (about 8 lbs).
The overall construction and finish is generally outstanding – there are, however, a few misses, such as the screws of the jack plate becoming loose, and the plate itself not being bent enough to follow the body curvature.
The glossy polyurethane finish seems very durable – I banged the guitar against many things and managed to produce only minor damage. If you’re more of a “collector” than a player, I’m sure you’ll be able to find some very minor shortcomings in the paint job, but then this review isn’t for you.
The C-1 Classic’s aesthetics are bound to be controversial. To some they will seem over the top, to others too “classic”, and to others completely unappealing. However, I belong to another group: I find this guitar gorgeous. Pictures don’t do it justice, at all.
For instance, its most “problematic” feature, the “infamous” Vine of Life, appears exaggerated in pictures. In real life, due to it being made of beautiful abalone, the effect is extraordinary. The Vine is discreet even in strong light due to the uneven reflections it gives. Its colors are much nicer and deeper. It truly is beautiful, and a showcase of craftsmanship, if you ask me.
The quilt maple patter is also rather discreet and suited to the guitar color and shape. The Antique Amber (pictured) is the only option now. I think there used to be also Trans Blue, Trans Green, and a sort of “natural maple” transparent finish.
The guitar’s relative proportions are perfect. The 24-frets 25.5″ neck and the deep upper and lower body cuts create the illusion of an extra-long neck, like that of a longer-scaled baritone guitar, and this, in turn, produces the impression of a certain finesse and elegance. If you’re a bigger, taller fellow, the C-1 won’t look like a toy on you.
The binding is a big plus, both on the body and the neck, since I’m a big fan of binding on most guitars.
If you’re tired of the run-of-the-mill Les Paul-type bursts, especially since it’s going to be on a non-Gibson Les Pauls, or Fender pickguards and silly colors, or that obnoxious (and apparently ubiquitous) metal aesthetic, you might consider the C-1 Classic for its looks. Try to see it in person to appreciate it fully.
Playability, ergonomics, setup
I wouldn’t call the neck “thin”, but it definitely isn’t thick either. It’s a very comfortable, fast neck, but it does let you feel you’re holding a solid piece of wood.
The Ultra Access neck-to-body transition, along with the deep cuts, makes upper register access seamless. This is truly a guitar that gets out of your way above the 12th fret. The most comfortable I’ve ever played above the octave, on par with any Ibanez S series. This is quite a feat for a much bulkier guitar.
The fretwork is impeccable. Everything is rounded and polished, all fret ends are nicely buried in the plastic binding. The left hand glides completely unhindered across the neck.
The truss rod works well, turns easily, I had no problems with it.
The Schecter C-1 Classic balances well on a strap, and is comfortable to play standing for hours on end. However, the headstock is pretty heavy, and turning the guitar face-up will add a few cents to your notes due to the neck being back-bowed by the weight of the tuners.
The switch and knobs are placed ergonomically, they don’t get in the way of your right hand, but they are readily accessible mid-song. The volume knob is a bit far for comfortable volume swells, but it will do.
The Tonepros TOM bridge is arguably one the best TOM variants out there. It doesn’t have that pesky, vibrating retainer wire, and it’s a breeze to work with. It allows for excellent intonation and perfect action setup.
Intonation is spot on (or can be made so), this guitar is the closest I could get to what perfect intonation means in the context of equal temperament.
The action can be set as low as 1 mm with minimal (if any) fret buzz, which is a testament to the excellent fretwork. I’m sure you could co lower, if it’s in the advantage of your tone and playing style. Of course, provided you set the neck relief properly. However, I keep my action at about 1.8-20 mm, I find it sounds much better for clean tones (which I use a lot).
This is, overall, a very playable guitar that I think would satisfy a demanding player of any genre. The bluesmen can happily bend with no fretting out anywhere, the shredder can fly all over the fretboard with ease, and the rhythm guitarist will find big clean chords, as well as distorted powerchords really easy to finger on this neck, even with higher action.
The Schecter C-1 Classic comes factory-equipped with the famous Seymour Duncan Hot-Rod Humbucker Set, consisting of the Jazz SH-2 neck humbucker, and the JB SH-4 bridge humbucker. I think there may have been some models with a different factory setup, such as the Seymour Duncan ’59 neck, and Custom Custom bridge, but I am not sure if that was really factory or aftermarket.
The switching is done by a 5-way mega-switch, which allows for more versatility than the conventional Strat-style 5-way switch. This is the wiring schematic for the one volume, one tone variant (the one I own), showing the coil combinations.
The pots are nothing special, but they are the big-case kind, and are solid. In mine they were both linear pots (and were promptly swapped-out). The tone circuit uses the garden variety .047µf green polyester film capacitor.
In my particular C-1, all of the above is irrelevant, since it’s been completely changed.
Here we are. The most important, and most subjective, criteria for assessing a guitar. Therefore please take all my following statements with a grain of salt, and understand that things may be very different for you, not because your ear is radically different from mine (ears are a pretty constant physiological thing), but because your expectations, desires and preferences may be very different.
Without further ado, I’ll say that the Seymour Duncan Hot Rod set, the Jazz/JB combo, is an exceptionally bad idea in this guitar. So there. Why? I’ll start with the wood, to the exasperation of those belonging to the “wood has no effect on tone in electrics” school of thought.
The Schecter C-1 Classic, at least my specimen, is a true screamer. In a (mostly) maple 25.5″ scale neck-trough, the mahogany wings will have little to contribute to the tone, adding practically none of that mellow depth Les Pauls are known for. This is only the theory, but practice confirms it completely: this guitar screams, and there’s no mix it won’t cut through effortlessly (i.e. you don’t need to fiddle with the amp endlessly simply to get yourself heard).
Another particularity of this guitar is it seems to produce a very strong fundamental tone, and very little harmonic content, which makes it sound very dry, “in your face” – a good thing for aggressive solos, but not so good for mellow chords or single-note lines, where you may find a very acute lack of “mojo”, which may prompt some to describe the tone as “clinical” or “sterile”.
As fine as that may be (who doesn’t want “cut”?), the problem soon becomes apparent: this thing wants to scream all the time! Now that prompts a lot of amplification chain adjustments, and, to cut a very long story short, the factory C-1 will give you a very hard time finding the sweet spot between muddy and shrill, on high gain as well as on clean, unless you’re using it exclusively to do solos in the upper register.
The C-1 screams on account of its natural upper mids “emphasis”1, rather than emphasising the actual high frequencies. It exaggerates the upper mids right where the ear is most sensitive, hence the extreme “cut through the mix” this guitar seems able to produce with almost any pickups you put in it. But where the ear is most sensitive is also where the ear is most vulnerable, prone to get tired and irritated very fast.
The C-1 also has a fair amount of lower mids, right in the “mud range” and below, which combined with the wrong pickup and the strong sustain of a the neck-trough build is a sure recipe for muddy tone. Those sustained low-mids and upper-bass frequencies really stand in the way of note separation on the wound strings, without even the benefit of rich, low, thumping Les Paul bass.
Now I can get back to my opinion that theJazz/JB set is a very bad idea in this guitar. This is obviously a statement that deserves some explanation.
First, the Jazz. The Jazz is the most acceptable of the two in this set. The C-1 being a 24-fretter, the neck pickup is pushed towards the bridge, which obviously tends to make it less bassy, but brighter. Given the natural characteristics of this guitar, less bass may be a good idea, but more brightness definitely isn’t.
So the neck tone is either muddy, with poor note separation on the wound strings, and full and chimey on the unwound ones, or acceptably clear on the wound strings, but shrill on the unwound ones. In other words, you’d need a pickup able to make the tone more even across all six strings. The Jazz is not that pickup, not in this guitar, precisely because the “more detailed treble response”. Nor is the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates. The Tonerider AC4 neck gets closer, but has other shortcomings (for me).
On the bright side (sic!), the Jazz achieves some very usable clean tones, especially in split combinations, and those great, sought-after flutey tones on distortion above the 12th fret.
The JB is, however, the worst choice in this set – the poorest choice possible, as has been my experience. Mind you, I’m not a JB hater, let’s be very clear here! The JB is an absolutely high quality pickup, with a stellar tone for certain applications (applications I seldom need it for nowadays).
But in this uppermid-crazy guitar, the JB is murder. As I said above, if you tune your amp for playing high gain solos on the unwound strings exclusively, the JB will deliver all its legendary goods: the rich harmonics, that particular aggressive-squish attack, the “cut”, the sustain. But with those settings, as soon as you go on the lower strings, you’ll pass the “Welcome to Mud City – Please Enjoy Your Dull Stay” road sign. The bass is flabby, note separation is lost, and there’s no chance of any decent powerchord “chug” whatsoever, due to the extreme squishiness of the attack and the excessive harmonic bloom that blurs out everything. Attempt to correct that, and then when you go back to the higher strings, you’ll see the opposite side of said road sign, displaying the friendly message “Welcome to Shrilldom – Please Enjoy Your Ears While They Last”.
The JB cleans are not the stuff of legend as it is. On the Schecter C-1 Classic, you get a midrange fest that sounds like wire being plucked, the wire not being a guitar string, or even being attached to a guitar. In my opinion, the JB by itself in this guitar is absolutely unusable clean. However, in split positions, combined with the Jazz, it imparts a certain body and fullness to the tone that I find remarkable – it makes parallel combinations sound almost as full as a hot single coil, plus the comb filter (i.e., quacky) factor. Very good tones to be found there with some effort. Unfortunately, they are still plagued by the bass/highs discrepancy, albeit in a lesser amount since.
In the end, with few exceptions, a good player can play anything with anything just by adjusting technique, therefore the Jazz/JB will do. But on your main axe you don’t want something that will merely “do”. You want something that makes what you want easy. And the original pickups on this guitar make want I want harder.
Tone chasing and customisation
First, I need to state what I’m after. Well, nothing much really. Yeah, right…
- Sparkly, yet fat cleans on the neck pickup
- Well-defined big chords on the neck pickup
- Quacky, yet full in-between tones
- Flutey, sweet, hollow neck tones on distortion
- Rich distorted bridge tones, great pinch harmonics, “cut” without piercing shrillness
- Great definition/separation on bridge distortion in the lower register
- Decent percussiveness and clarity of powerchords on the bridge
Close to describing the Holy Grail here, eh?
The main application would be songs with big, wet, chordal passages, clean melodic lines, “big” solos, plus aggressive, tight rhythmic passages, both clean and distorted. The tone should afford an overall modern sound, but “vintagey” enough to know you’re still listening to a guitar, not a synth or high gain machine gun.
So I did a lot of work on my C-1 Classic electronics2.
I experimented with the equivalents of ’50s and modern Les Paul wirings. I tried different capacitor values. I changed the pots to push-pulls with various wiring options. I changed the switch to a 5T4P 5-way superswitch.
Left unsatisfied, I then moved on to pickup swapping. I replaced the Jazz with a Pearly Gates neck. It got ruder and middier, actually a change for the worse in light of my goals. Then I tried the Tonerider AC4 set neck and bridge. Better, but too weak, especially in split combinations.
I managed to stop myself before acquiring any more neck humbuckers. I admitted to myself a very simple fact (obvious, if you think about it), that the neck position needs some sort of single coil pickup that would not damage the looks of the guitar. I’ll spare you the long details and research – that pickup ended up being the Seymour Duncan Phat Cat neck.
Having sorted out the neck, I replaced the JB with a Custom SH-5, which I liked much better for a short honeymoon, but in the end its edgy harshness got to me, and since it was an uncovered pickup I felt it was a shame to ruin the Classic’s aesthetic anyway. I decided it wasn’t worth buying the gold cover version of the Custom or mess around with a separate cover.
Then I replaced the JB with a Custom Custom SH-11, another Seymour Duncan offering which is in fact precisely the Custom SH-5 coils with an Alnico 2 magnet which I hoped would be something in between the JB and the Custom. It wasn’t. Not much improvement in lower note separation (there was some, simply due to less bass and less pickup output), but the “cut” was severely reduced. As others have complained, the Custom Custom really is not suited for “busy” mixes (i.e. where you have more than a three-piece outfit, especially if you have another overdriven guitar). The Custom Custom was almost inaudible where the JB ripped.
I then replaced the reinstated JB with an Irongear Hot Slag3, and this was a great surprise indeed. It actually stayed in the Schecter until recently. Definitely tighter than the JB, and with a harmonic richness in the upper register that almost matched that of the JB. Almost, but close enough. A small price to pay to have at least some powerchord tightness. In combination with the Phat Cat, it provided a lot of great, great tones. Until I realized it was still too middy for my needs, that is.
Then I remembered I had read about the JB2 a while ago – a JB that uses an Alnico 2 magnet instead of the factory Alnico 5, but was lazy to try it on mine since I had to take down the cover first. On a whim, I tried it, and then placed my new home-made JB2 in the Schecter. What an amazing transformation of the JB, which I’ll have to write about sometime! It worked so much better in the C-1, I was convinced I’d leave it there. The bass was still squishy and undefined under distortion, but I was now able to correct that without getting every high note to sound shrill – and that is of essential importance, think about that when you foolishly dismiss the Alnico 2 magnet because the Alnico 5 is tighter.
Finally, in an overzealous mood, and purely because I thought I could get better powerchords, in the name of science, I put the Alnico 5 magnet I had removed from the JB into the Custom Custom, effectively turning the latter into a Custom 5, and placed it into the Schecter C-1’s bridge pickup rout.
It was an eye-watering revelation, and this is definitely the final swap – that pickup is not going anywhere. This is the elusive cross between the JB and the Custom. The Custom 5 sounds as rich as the JB, produces great harmonic content, the pinch harmonics sound actually sweeter and richer than the JB’s, and are just as easy to produce, it has the same presence and cut as the JB, and none of the shrillness. There’s none of the harshness I had experienced with the Custom (ceramic magnet), either.
The bottom end is proper tight, well-defined, rich on cleans, and it maintains these characteristics under high gain. The palm mutes are finally (finally!) percussive, the powerchords are chugging away in divine separation.
The split and in-between positions are a joy: full, punchy, quacky, modern-sounding.
The Custom 5 is precisely what the Schecter C-1 Classic needed in the bridge. Just goes to show how misleading descriptions can be : the Custom 5 is recommended “for balanced and warm instruments”, and I put it in a bright screamer, that is anything but balanced or warm.
My conclusion is, evidently, that the Phat Cat/Custom 5 set would be the perfect match for this guitar, if you want it to sound like I want it to sound.
The Schecter C-1 Classic is a well-built, tremendously beautiful instrument, and a very playable one. With the proper setup it plays like a dream.
Sadly, the factory pickup choice is not the best one, and that is genre-independent, because there’s no genre that looks for muddy or shrill (or both simultaneously!) guitar tone. But with the right pickups this guitar is killer: looks, ergonomics, playability, tone, in one marvellous package.
The C-1 Classic has been discontinued at some point, so you were only able to buy it used or old stock, if you could find it. Luckily, Schecter decided to reintroduce it in their line – an inspired move, even if in only one color option.
When you consider the price, circa $/£ 750-800 new, $/£ 250-350 used, the Schecter C-1 Classic is a fantastic deal.
- Before you grab my throat and yell in my ear that the wood does not add frequencies, understand that the quotes around “emphasis” mean simply that the upper-mid frequencies are less attenuated – dampened by the wood – than the others, hence they appear emphasized ↩
- But not before trying several types of strings – and settling for the Pyramid Nickel Classics -, and plectrum materials – settling for the Dunlop Big Stubby 2.0 and the Dunlop Ultex 2.0 ↩
- This is a surprisingly good unit, and not just for the money. I will do a review of it at some time, it deserves it. For a price almost three times less than a Seymour Duncan, I would strongly urge you to try it. ↩