Schecter's US Air Force-inspired guitars first popped up on the radar back in 2004 with the launch of the Aviation Collection. Resplendent in graphics inspired by the nose-cone art of legendary fighters and bombers of World War II, the guitars were intended as a "playing tribute to the brave men and women past, present and future in our armed forces". The latest addition to this squadron of highly decorated special-edition guitars is the Ultra B-17 Bombshell.
As you can see from the specially commissioned reconnaissance photographs that illustrate this dossier, the Ultra B-17 Bombshell has an etching of a lovely lady doing an upside-down bicycle exercise, or something. The Top Gun vibe is enhanced by the presence of 'Stars & Bars' and 'USAF' fingerboard inlays.
Given the topsy turvy political stuff going on in the Middle East and the world in general these days, some of you may not want a guitar covered in military insignia, not to mention bombs and rivets. That's up to you, but hear this, you 'orrible shower: there's much more to these guitars than some cool graphics. Let's lock on and engage...
It's not immediately obvious, but the Ultra B-17 Bombshell (named after the famous B-17 Flying Fortress) takes some design inspiration from the Gibson Firebird. There's even a Firebird-esque raised strip on the guitar's face that accommodates the pickups, bridge and tailpiece.
The B-17 began life as a slab of mahogany and comes loaded with a three-piece (for strength and stability) glued-in mahogany neck with a slim C profile, 22 beautifully dressed jumbo frets and a 356mm (14-inch) fingerboard radius.
The rosewood fingerboard is also decorated with some love 'em or loathe 'em 'USAF' and 'Stars & Bars' inlays. The hardware is of the distressed chrome variety and looks chunky enough to take a fair old pounding in the theatre of conflict that is the local live circuit.
Access the Ultra B-17's bomb bay, and you'll find a pair of primed Seymour Duncan AHB-1 Blackouts connected to a master volume, master tone and a three-way toggle pickup selector switch. There's no coil-split function here.
Blackouts are active humbuckers (battery access is via a flap on the back of the guitar) commandeered for aggressive playing scenarios such as "old-school metal, garage, punk, thrash, drop tunings and other heavy rock styles". They don't mention country or jazz-fusion...
According to Seymour Duncan, the Blackouts fitted to the Ultra B-17 Bombshell offer "12dB to 14dB less noise, plus more lows, more highs, more output and simply more tone" than the active pickups made by 'other' USA-based manufacturers. Who could they mean? We'll leave you to work that one out.
Anyway, like the other guys, Seymour Duncan has attempted to address the lack of versatility in many active setups by using ceramic blade magnets in the bridge position (for power and razor-sharp definition, natch), and Alnico V mags in the neck position for a touch of old-school warmth.
In theory, this provides a good balance, but the middle and neck positions are really the only satisfying choices on a clean setting. The bridge unit lacks any real character until you drop some tonal napalm in the form of high-gain distortion. Now you're talking!
Hit the bottom strings hard, and you're rewarded with more punching power than the last 10 minutes of a Rocky movie. The note definition is startling - and flicking to the neck pickup only thickens up the delivery, without compromising the clarity to any great degree.
The Ultra B-17 Bombshell is all 'shoot first and ask questions later', with the bulk of its tonal firepower concentrated in that brutal bridge-position Seymour Duncan Blackout. If you signed up for the heavy stuff, and you need a guitar that'll cut through a barrage of bass and drums, then the Ultra B-17 just might be your weapon of choice.