4 brutal 7-string electric guitars
Let’s start with some clichés. 7-string electric guitars are the reserve of angry US nu-metallers with boiler suits and cornrows. They are only good for playing drop-tuned sludge, will see you laughed out of rock clubs, sneered at in guitar shops and followed around by an annoying bloke in a red cap.
Reality check. In the right hands, 7-strings rock. The simple addition of a thick-as-hell bottom string (typically tuned to A or B) can blow your playing out of its rut, put a hugely extended note palette at your fingertips, unlock new chords, and provide the kind of seismic rumble that means you can finally sack your bassist.
Sevens existed long before Korn (check out Steve Vai’s Passion And Warfare for a masterclass) and have survived after them, finding favour with players from Matt Bellamy to Matt Heafy - along with endless jazz cats. And there are plenty of them still out there, making it a tough job cutting this round-up down to four.
First up is Ibanez’s RG1527 (£949), followed by Schecter’s Blackjack C-7 (£749), the LTD Viper-417 (£779) that hopes to hiss all over the competition, and finally Dean’s RC7X (£1099).
First up: Ibanez RG1527 Prestige price and spec
Ibanez RG1527 Prestige specifications
Body: Solid basswood
Neck: Maple/wenge, 5-piece, bolt-on
Fingerboard: Rosewood with dot inlays
Pickups: V77 (neck) and V87 (bridge) humbuckers
Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way pickup selector
Hardware: Black chrome
Finish: Royal Blue (pictured)
Ibanez RG1527 Prestige review
Back in the late '80s, when Munky and Head had yet to graduate from short trousers to long shorts, Ibanez and Steve Vai designed the first commercial seven-string with the Universe UV7. The Japanese giant stuck with the format when everyone else hid theirs in the attic, and at the top end of the product range, nobody does it better. No pressure on the RG1527, then.
We’ve played the RG in a million incarnations, but it’s a watertight design for speedy techniques, even if this Ultra neck can’t quite motor like the ‘Wizard’ profile. Cynics argue that seven-string players all sound the same, but the strongest argument for the RG1527 is that it offers massive tonal versatility.
Drop a step and the bite of the V87 bridge unit stops you sounding turgid; tune back up and you can isolate the inner coils of each humbucker for a glassy rock ’n’ roll punch. A jack of all trades, then, even if it doesn’t quite match the depth and muscle of the EMG brigade.
Ibanez RG1527 Prestige verdict
As the first contender in this test, the RG1527 flags up two home truths: that sevens are pricey and that they have more challenging necks. Accept that and this becomes a bulletproof choice for the player who wants to do more than chug, offering a diverse tonal palette whose only drawback is that - in the context of this test - it doesn’t grind like some still to come.
Throw more dough at Ibanez and you’ll get the finest of seven-strings, but today the king has been beaten to the throne.
Pros: Versatile tone, great finish.
Cons: Lacks EMG punch, price.
Schecter Blackjack C-7 specifications
Body: Solid mahogany
Neck: Maple, set, 3-piece
Fingerboard: Rosewood, with Blackjack inlay
Pickups: Seymour Duncan JB/'59 (with coil tap)
Controls: Volume, 2 x tone, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: Black chrome
Finish: Gloss Black (pictured)
Schecter Blackjack C-7 review
Screw the ‘ace of spades’ fret inlay: the Schecter Blackjack’s real trump card is up its sleeve. It’s the only axe here that features a 26.5” scale length, meaning that you should be able to ditch the pitch through the floor to Korn-style ADGCFAD tuning, and bask in bottom-end ecstasy.
Contoured, bound and buffed, the Blackjack seems pretty sleek… until you start fretting and realise that the neck is seriously chunky, to the point of cancelling out the benefit of the ultra access cutaway. The flipside is the monster warmth and sustain, helped along by the sheer mass of the mahogany body, and working best when you detune by a 5th and start churning out single-note rhythms like it’s 1999.
The Seymour Duncan units are great for this sort of mayhem, while the longer, almost baritone scale means this is easily the most convincing for nu-metal, making your ears flap, but not your strings. We like.
Schecter Blackjack C-7 verdict
The C-7 is for players who never stopped loving Korn, and who want to nail those stalking low-tuned grooves. If that’s your aim, then mission accomplished - this baby will empty the bowels of any audience. By contrast, if you’re happy to dip a toe into nu-metal, but want to play jazz leads too, you could be better off choosing a more balanced model with a standard neck. Might we recommend the Ibanez?
Pros: Long scale, seismic sound.
Cons: Very fat neck.
LTD Viper-417 specifications
Body: Solid mahogany
Neck: Maple, set
Pickups: Active EMG 707 (neck) and 81-7 (bridge)
Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: Black nickel
Finish: Black (pictured)
Next: LTD Viper-417 review
LTD Viper-417 review
Few entry-level ranges get us hotter than LTD, and with a mahogany body that looks like it’s permanently throwing the horns, a double-dose of active EMGs and the same colour scheme as Tony Iommi’s bedroom, the Viper-417 screams ‘rock!’ without saying a word. Heroes like Deftones’ Stef Carpenter trust LTD to make their signature models - should you trust them with your wedge?
OK, so the ‘squashed SG’ shape sits awkwardly on your knee and doesn’t balance that well on a strap, but its physical performance is brought back from choppy waters by a neck that counteracts its inevitable width with a slender U-shaped profile, monster fretwire, and a simple tune-o-matic bridge that lets you drop and raise tunings without Allen keys.
You’ll find yourself punching out the same big riffs and searing solos as you would on a 6-string, but the back-breaking prevalence of mahogany also gives awesome capacity to shake the room when you hit the bottom string.
Next: LTD Viper-417 verdict
LTD Viper-417 verdict
Every round-up has a Viper-417. It’s the rock-solid choice, well priced and well spec’d, executed to a high standard, leaving little to criticise (except the slightly iffy weight distribution). The mahogany body and EMGs make it a great option for rockers of a ‘classic’ persuasion, its iconic body leaves you with no fear of ridicule on the club circuit… and yet the Viper doesn’t end on the podium because it’s up against such stellar rivals. Life’s tough, eh?
Pros: Pickups, beefy body, fair price.
Cons: A bit unbalanced on the strap.
Next: Dean RC7X price and spec
Dean RC7X specifications
Type: Solid alder
Neck: Maple, bolt-on
Fingerboard: Ebony with octave inlay
Pickups: 2 x active EMG 707 humbuckers
Controls: Master volume, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: Black chrome
Finish: Metallic Black (pictured), Metallic White
Next: Dean RC7X review
Dean RC7X review
When Rusty Cooley describes his Dean signature as “the Lamborghini of 7-strings”, he means it’s fast, not expensive (although it’s that too). “The neck is really thin so you can do maximum shredding,” says the Outworld wizard. “Also, the frets are, like, the biggest frets on the planet, so your fingers never drag across the fretboard or get slowed down…”
Whether by accident or design, Cooley has eased one of the perennial headaches of the 7-string - that most necks are so thick it’s like playing a lute. The maple bolt-on is still fat but it’s manageable; you can happily wallow around with drop-tuned textures and still fill out your sound with bassy notes while pulling out the fireworks.
Cooley should have included more dials (it’s useful to tweak your tone when you drop tune) but these EMGs are magic, sounding seriously ballsy due to the midrange punch of the alder body. This couldn’t be further from the nu-metal stereotype.
Next: Dean RC7X verdict
Dean RC7X verdict
A 7-string isn’t something you can ‘dip into’; you need to rebuild your guitar technique to an extent, and not everyone will stay the course. As such, if this is a passing interest, then sinking £1099 into the RC7X is reckless at best. This guitar is an investment, perhaps for a seven player who’s ready to upgrade from a cheaper model. If that’s you, this is the one.
Pros: Mighty tone, nice feel, great neck.
Cons: Price, lack of control.
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