With the USA Production Series, Schecter puts custom shop guitar quality within the reach of us mere commoners.
Schecter has done such a great job establishing the quality credentials of its sub-£1,000 Korean-made Diamond Series, that it's those guitars and basses that have come to define the brand.
It's entirely likely that the majority of Schecter's contemporary fanbase aren't even aware that the company was established in 1976, produced its first custom shop instruments in 1979, and sired some of the most desirable guitars of the 1980s - more than a decade before the Diamond Series was even launched.
The company's new USA Production Series should set the record straight, with its recently expanded California Custom Shop offering a portfolio of instruments that promise boutique quality at a competitive price.
On test here, we have one of the first USA Production Series model to land on UK shores: the new PT Standard, based on Pete Townshend's legendary custom Schecters of the 1980s.
You might have the US-made PT Standard pegged as a doppelgänger of the established Korean-built Diamond Series version. While the slab alder body of conspicuous origin, pickup and hardware layout, and the graceful headstock shape are unmistakable, there are a few things that'll help you pick this guitar out of a line-up.
For a start, the USA PT is top-bound only. The Diamond Series model is double-bound. The US PT model improves on the handling of its more affordable brother with a sculpted neck heel. Plus, in deference to the classic Schecters of the 80s, it has three strap buttons: one on the upper bout, two on the lower.
The PT-H bridge houses one of the guitar's two chrome-covered Schecter SuperRock Vintage humbuckers. Both the bridge and neck 'buckers are routed through a master volume control, a combined master tone pot and push/pull coil-split, plus a three-way pickup selector switch.
While the PT's bolted-on 'Custom C shape' Eastern hard rock maple neck boasts plenty of meat to fill your palm, the 355mm (14-inch) radius Indian rosewood 'board makes for comfortable fretting and butter-smooth string bending across all 22 of its beautiful extra jumbo Jescar premium German silver frets.
"Your PT Standard can be pimped via a list of standard options that won't cost you any extra"
By the way, the frets - "the gateway between the musician and the instrument", as Jescar poetically puts it on its website - are designed to be harder wearing than regular 18 per cent nickel silver units. They shine up pretty nice as well...
If you want to try something different, your PT Standard can be pimped via a list of standard options that won't cost you any extra. These include a maple or Indian rosewood fingerboard, chrome or black hardware, and a trio of pickup choices - the Alnico-loaded Schecter SuperRock Vintage humbuckers (as fitted to our PT Standard), the pokier output Schecter Z Plus humbuckers (also Alnico-loaded) and the classic Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB and SH-1 '59 combo.
A couple of spec options do come at an additional cost, however. A swamp ash body switch adds £99 to your PT Standard's price tag; gold hardware, a further £129.
Before we move on, we should point out that our PT Standard came loaded with Gotoh tuners; your guitar will come with Hipshot tuners.
While it's easy to be seduced by the all-too-familiar charms of the Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB and SH-1 '59 setup on the PT Standard options list, you're strongly advised to give the Schecter SuperRock Vintage pups a tinkle first. The bridge unit's modest Alnico V-fuelled 9k ohms DC resistance produces a bright open tone that pulls the best from a good valve amp.
"String definition on both the bridge and neck 'buckers remains impressive regardless of what number the gain control creeps up to"
Run clean, the SuperRock Vintage sparkles in a way that a slavering overwound metal beast just couldn't hope to emulate. These pickups are designed to nail the Pete Townshend tone of the late 70s and most of the 80s. Job done. It didn't matter how much overdrive Pete dialled in, you could always hear his right hand hit the strings.
That sums up the voice of the SuperRock pickups. String definition on both the bridge and neck 'buckers remains impressive regardless of what number the gain control eventually creeps up to. Splitting the coils gives the PT some blues and country appeal, even if the flat fingerboard takes some getting used to for those acclimatised to an old-school smaller radius.
The USA Production Series is a shrewd move. Yes, the Custom Shop service has been available for many years but we have to wonder how many of you would think to call on their services if you had a few grand to burn.
Well, the PT Standard reaffirms the brand's standing as a purveyor of objects of desire. The build and finish quality, and the playability and tone on offer is as good as it gets at this price point.
We also love the sensibly presented list of optional extras. It's focused enough to allow you to craft your dream guitar without potentially losing sight of what you actually need from what will ultimately become your personal signature model.