Price paid: $ 330
Purchased from: Local shop
Features — 8
My particular model is a 2012 by the serial, made in South Korea, and it's the FR Elite. Specs include a mahogany arched top body with a low-gloss black finish that's got just a hint of a metal fleck to it - very attractive and classy without losing any of its more aggressive appearance while not venturing into the realm of the tacky/gaudy. It's got a 3-piece maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard at a 26.5" extended scale length with 24 XJ frets, and their "stained cross" inlays, which are, again, attractive and not to the point of being overbearing, which some Schecter models are, to my taste. It's got a fretboard radius of 16", and a thickness of .787" (20mm) at the first fret, and .866" (22mm) at the 12th Fret. Neck shape is "thin C," and it's topped off at the end with Grover tuners. It comes equipped with two EMG 7-string humbuckers - an 81-7 and 85-7 at the bridge and neck respectively, and a Floyd Rose Special bridge. Simple controls with a three-way switch (Br H, Both H, NH configuration), and master volume and tone knobs. For those into specifics, it's got a two-way adjustable truss rod accessed via the headstock behind the nut, and using a 5/32" (4mm) Allen wrench. 9v battery compartment is located at the rear butt of the instrument. There's a case available and made specifically for the guitar, but it is sold separately and was not something included or sought out in my transaction. It all suits my needs well, but I can't give it a ten because the obvious improvements would be locking tuners, a flamed or quilted top (if that's your thing), and though the inlays aren't horrid, my own preference is for a clean fretboard.
Sound — 8
I play a myriad of genres, but most commonly I'm playing metal/progressive metal, so this suits my needs fine. The EMG set give plenty of bite and percussive quality, though not quite so much punch or clarity as, say, a Bare Knuckle Nailbomb or Aftermath. They're very harsh on your playing, however, and any mistake is amplified due to the nature of the pickups themselves. The pickups are pleasantly silent barring the obvious (nearing a monitor or TV, etc), and the volume/tone are smooth and even in their control of tone. I'm playing through a Peavey XXX 2x12 currently, and I haven't found much need to change, unless I'm going for broke, in which case I'd be magically able to afford a 6505 and a 4x12. However, this amp does the job well enough, and the Schecter compliments it well. Both pickups together give a rounded but clear tone, the neck alone is fat and percussive at mid-gain settings, and clean and thick on the clean channel, depending on your EQ. Generally I find myself muting it a bit by rolling off the tone knob a touch, but that's personal preference, and it does quite well without it. The bridge pickup is classically an EMG 81, but engineered to take the low B's frequencies better. It's a biting pickup, high in the treble, and I actually found myself rolling the highs down on my amp a touch to compensate for it. Though I play primarily progressive metal, this guitar does most genres competently, though it is obviously geared towards metal and harder-edge music. I have little difficulty conjuring up a bluesy overdriven tone or a fat, slappable one, and it shines in a well-rounded clean tone particularly with both pickups active. I wouldn't feel uncomfortable playing most styles of music on this, and I could definitely use it as an all-around when it comes to a seven string guitar. Country might be a stretch, though. Other than that, it's got strengths and weaknesses, but can do sufficiently in most. My only gripe might be that the 81-5 is a bit too abrasive in the higher frequencies for me, and I'm considering swapping a 707 in the bridge to test it out. Otherwise solid.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I bought the guitar second hand, so the set-up was done before hand at the shop I got it from. They had it a bit high on the action, and the neck was a bit straight for my taste - I prefer a guitar with a little bite-back when I play, and flat-set racetrack necks don't do that for me. All the routings are sound, save for the bridge, which has a small chip out of the corner from what seems like improper care of the bridge during re-stringing, but it could have a tad more room between the edge of the bridge blade and the body itself to safeguard against this. As it sits now, it's a snug fit. The same can be said for the direct-mounted EMGs. They're measured nearly to a paper-thin width from the body, and I'm almost dreading taking them out to swap for a 707. This is the primary reason for the lower score in this category. Fretwork was done nicely - there was no issue with gaps or wire rising out, and one of the first things I did was try to slip a piece of paper under the fretwire to test for smaller nuances in the settling wood, but found none. The neck was dirty, but straight and undamaged, and the body was well cared for. The neck is seated properly in the pocket, and all the electronics are snugly in place. Knob rolling is smooth and easy with a good amount of tightness to prevent that loose sort of motion they get over time, and the bridge was in good condition, made even better after a good cleaning. The pickup selector was clean and quiet, as were the knobs, and once I cleaned and re-seated the jack, it was silent as well. All things expected of setting up a used guitar.
Reliability & Durability — 9
As far as reliability, I'm a bit finicky and paranoid about second-hand gear, so I played on this for probably forty minutes before I even called the salesman back. I spent a good fifteen minutes or so running up and down the neck acoustically before I touched an amp, and the guitar is both well built and resonant. I would take it gigging, and intend to, without hesitation, and the hardware seems to be holding up well and of good quality. As far as gigging without a backup, I'd hold off on it until I've spent much more time with the guitar, and even guitars I've had for upwards of ten years have a backup, so that's not a complete comment on this guitar specifically. The finish seems sturdy enough, but if I'm honest it's the least of my concern. Guitars wear over time - that's part of loving and playing them. The hardware seems as if it'll hold up, however, and I have no concerns about that. I can't give a ten because I haven't gigged with it yet, and so it hasn't been fully fire-tested.
Overall Impression — 10
As a progressive metal player with over ten years of experience, this guitar satisfies all of my needs, and I can honestly say I was floored by it. I expected it to be a decent guitar, and that it would be something I used for a while until I could eventually afford better. The experience, however, is that I enjoy this guitar so much, the next six string I buy will be a Schecter as well, and this is coming from someone who played Ibanez almost exclusively (save for my Strat). Were this guitar stolen or lost, I would absolutely replace it assuming I could find the same model, but my only gripe about it is the tremolo. Not that it's bad. On the contrary, it's quite good. My preference at this point is a hard-tail, and that's what I had set out to buy. This was such a good deal though, and I found that I liked the guitar enough to overlook the trem. In short, this guitar does everything I need without complaint, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it or buy another. This is the only category I'm going to cheese and give a direct 10 to, because it not only blew me away for the price and when compared directly to comparable competitor's models (Ibanez RG/S models, ESP models, Jackson models), but it does exactly what I want without problem.