Sound — 9
This guitar is quite obviously aimed at the metal/thrash market, with whom EMG pickups have become almost a prerequisite. The 81 in the bridge is clear and bright without being harsh, and pick harmonics almost play themselves. The 85 in the neck has a smoother, more Vintage tone, which fits well with the way most rock players use their neck pickup. This is the same combination Zakk Wylde uses on his Les Pauls, and it's easy to see why. I was able to coax all sorts of tones from raging metal to classic rock to warm, fat clean without too much trouble. Players Who want more versatility may miss not having a single-coil, but this guitar was meant to be on ten all the time.
Overall Impression — 8
As a dyed-in-the-wool rock/metal fan, the Hellraiser is right up my alley. I own two guitars with EMG pickups, so I'm familiar with their frequency response. I felt very comfortable with the guitar's combination of a slim, flat neck and big frets, so it felt like home in many ways. Make no mistake, the Hellraiser is meant to be played flat-out. Bluesy, funky, or jazzy tones are not really on it's palette with no single coil pickup. If you're into rock or metal, though, this guitar is meant for you all the way. I gave it an eight overall, but you wouldn't find a significantly better guitar for less than double the price.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The Hellraiser is a fairly new model, so long-term reliability reports are not widely available. I have talked to many Schecter players, however, and they all seem to be very happy with their guitars. Schecter has demonstrated excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail, so I can only assume that the guitars will hold up in the long run.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The action is consistently low all the way up the neck, making the overall feel very fast. The set neck construction and smooth heel allows comfortable playing all the way up to the 24th fret. The jumbo frets are great for bending, allowing the player to get plenty of grip on the string without hitting wood. If you haven't played a guitar with big frets, it may take some getting used to, but I have liked having jumbo frets for quite some time. Whether playing fast alternate-picked runs, smooth legato phrases or sweep-picked arpeggios, the Hellraiser let me play it and didn't fight back. It is no slouch on rhythm, either, you just have to be careful not to use too heavy of a touch with your left hand. With the very tall frets, it is possible to pull your notes sharp if you press down too hard. Again, if you're used to jumbo frets, this won't be a problem. The guitar does need a battery, but a single nine-volt is good for 1500 hours or so, and as long as you don't leave it plugged in all the time, this makes for a lot of playing time. Schecter made battery changes easy, too, by putting the battery in it's own compartment with an easy-to-remove lid. This kind of touch shows that the designers at Schecter are players first, engineers second. In fact, the workmanship all around was very slick and clean, with no flaws in the finish, fretwork or hardware.
Features — 8
Schecter's black cherry Hellraiser is firmly entrenched in the Superstrat realm, with a double cutaway mahogany body, arched quilted maple top, and dual EMG humbuckers. You can select either the EMG 81 in the bridge position, the 85 in the neck position, or both via a simple three-way Switch. Each pickup has it's own volume knob, and there is a master tone knob. The slim mahogany neck sports extra jumbo frets, black binding, and a rosewood fretboard with abalone gothic cross inlays. The body and headstock are both bound with abalone, a nice but not-too-gaudy touch. The strings go through the body and over a Tonepros locking bridge (much like a Gibson Tune-O-Matic), and the tuners are sealed Grovers. All of the hardware is black chrome in color, and the scale length is 25.5", like a Strat.