So you want an 8-string guitar but don't know which to buy? We gave Schecter's mighty C-8 Hellraiser to GI's new extended guitar columnist, Sam Bell and stood well back.
As extended range guitars become increasingly popular in Progressive and Metal styles, guitar manufacturers are working overtime creating the next generation of 7 and 8-string instruments. Schecter was one of the first on the scene to introduce an affordable 8-string guitar a few years ago, but today I'm reviewing the Schecter C-8 Hellrasier, the top model available in the company's 8-string range.
Starting at the headstock end, we find eight Schecter branded locking tuners featuring a 19:1 gear ratio for super fine tuning and a 10mm diameter peg hole for threading through the thicker strings needed for an 8-string. As we move down the guitar there's a rosewood fingerboard with grey pearl gothic style crosses as fret markers, a feature available on most of the Schecter range. Given the market for 8-string instruments it isn't hard to see why Schecter has given this model the looks it has!
Perhaps one of the most important features of any 8-string guitar is the scale length, which is fundamental to tuning stability and resonance in the low end. The Schecter C-8 features a 26.5 inch scale length, a whole inch longer than a regular 6 string guitar, but fear not: players new to 8-string guitar will find the transfer between 25.5 and 26.5 a breeze as the neck also features jumbo frets which help fretting and bending.
The Schecter C-8 uses a set neck (ie glued) construction, built using three pieces of mahogany with carbon fibre rods giving it extra stability. This probably adds a little bit more weight to the guitar, but having extra strings to contend with, you really need the extra strength, particularly on a guitar that is going to be gigged and will have to travel.
Mahogany is also the body wood of choice but faced with quilted maple, featuring a binding that utilizes the same grey pearl we found in the fingerboard. The body has a slight arch which makes picking hand wrist placement comfortable, and is made even more so by the Hipshot custom 8-string bridge, which features eight durable stainless steel saddles, keeping the lows resonant and the highs bright.
Flip the Schecter over and you find the 'string through' holes are staggered, the first six regular strings being aligned, but from the E to the low F# string the string holes move towards the back of the body which slightly increases the string length. In conjunction with the 26.5 inch scale length, this helps keep the lower strings more tight and resonant.
This guitar is loaded with active EMG 808 pickups, which are a solid choice for an 8-string as they provide a good deal of crunch, clarity and evenness across the range of strings. On the back of the guitar we find a 9 volt battery compartment which makes battery changes quick and easy. The pickups are controlled by a three way switch, two volume knobs, one for each pickup and a tone. The knobs and tuners on this guitar feature a black chrome finish which looks fantastic against the (what Schecter calls) Black Cherry body. The Hellraiser is also available in white and black featuring the same black chrome hardware.
OK, on to how it sounds and plays! The bridge pickup delivers a clear, snappy, cutting sound which is ideal for rhythm playing and really compliments the low range. When playing power chords and complex chord voicings with distortion, the notes remain clear. The neck pickup features more of a rounder sound, ideal for distorted leads and clean sounds. With the nature of active pickups we get a slightly more compressed sound, which, while making playing a bit easier and even sounding, still highlight a lot of dynamic range and detail. Switching to a middle position with a clean tone creates a pleasing, crisp and clear clean tone, which would sound perfect with modulation effects, like reverbs and delays.
There's no doubt that Schecter's C-8 Hellraiser is a well built, solid and surprisingly versatile instrument. Due to its hardware, electronics, scale length and build I feel it’s perfect for the live gigging musician, and for recording. As a top-end model it isn't cheap so it's possibly not the ideal instrument for someone who isn't quite sure they want to commit to 8-string just yet (not unless you happen to have a lot of money!) which makes it more of a guitar for a pro player or for someone who really knows what they want. Fortunately, Schecter also make a more affordable Blackjack series model featuring active Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups, or the even more affordable Damien-Elite series that have EMG 808’s but with a bolt on neck construction, all which retain a similar quality and durability to the Schecter Hellraiser (see this issue's amazing competition! - Ed). Also, the Schecter Hellraiser series also includes the same C-8 model featuring a Floyd Rose floating bridge system for some seriously low dive bombs, and also a left handed model - so there's something here for everyone.
If you are serious about 8-string guitar this is a model you need to add to your 'ones to try' list.