The new USA Production Series is here to remind us all of Schecter's Custom Shop credentials. Here we take a look at the CET-Contoured Exotic Top.
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 models to land on UK shores: the CET-Contoured Exotic Top double-cut.
As model names go, 'CET-Contoured Exotic Top' is a smidge unwieldy but it neatly sums up this guitar's major selling point. That is, its contoured exotic top of bookmatched flamed maple is draped over a double-cut alder body. By the way, you can spec a quilted maple top over swamp ash option. That'll add £199 to the final tally of your CET.
While our CET features a HSS (humbucker/single/single) format, you can specify a HSH or HH layout if you so wish. Amply filling the pickup cavities on our CET is a ceramic magnet-loaded SuperRock humbucker and an equally ceramic-fuelled deuce of tappable MonsterTone single coils with their trademark fat polepieces (you can substitute a Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB humbucker and twin SSL-2 single coils for no extra cost). These are controlled by master volume, a multi-tasking master tone with pull/push coil-splitter and a five-way pickup selector lever switch.
The CET's bolted-on (via a sculpted heel) quarter-sawn maple neck has a 'Custom C shape' profile. This wonderful neck feels wide, flat yet still reassuringly meaty all at the same time and shares the 355mm (14-inch) radius Indian rosewood fingerboard and 22 beautifully finished extra jumbo Jescar frets.
The other big-hitter rock guitarists will have noticed on the spec list is the Floyd Rose Pro Custom double-locking vibrato and its matching R2 top nut. Housed in a recess to enable pull back shenanigans, this Floyd is your top spec item. It looks like it'll survive any number of divebombs and pitch-mangling wiggles.
Aside from the aforementioned body wood upgrade, you can opt for gold hardware for an additional £129. The choice of maple or Indian rosewood fingerboard, black or chrome hardware, and the pickup layout won't cost you a cent more. If you plump for the HH format CET you can pick between a Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB and SH-1 '59 set or a pair of Schecter SuperRocks.
A set of active EMG 81/89s or Seymour Duncan Blackouts set will scoop out a further £79 from your wallet.
Before we move on, we should point out that our CET came loaded with Gotoh tuners; your guitar will come with Hipshot tuners.
The SuperRock 'bucker that occupies the bridge position defines the harmonically rich, fat polepiece character of modern Schecter guitars. The 10k ohms DC resistance is still modest compared to most contemporary humbuckers but the ceramic magnets give this pickup some bite.
It still has plenty of character through a clean channel - activating the coil-split really sweetens the tone - but it really comes to life when you unleash the gain. The MonsterTone single coils have a hot-rodded Texas blues vibe when run at full tilt, but tap their coils with the coil-split control and you'll release those classic glassy Hendrix and Knopfler tones.
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 CET-Contoured Exotic Top 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.