REVIEW: Schecter Blackjack SLS C-1 FR-S

Schecter

Although Schecter was initially known for slightly more traditional guitars, they’ve really hit their stride in the past decade-plus as purveyors of fine high-performance axes aimed at the metal market. They still cater to the traditionalists – especially with the new USA Production Series unveiled at NAMM in January), but the SLS Blackjack C-1 FR-S is a great example of how Schecter unifies a whole stack of shred-friendly features that are unashamedly pitched at those who dwell on the dark side.

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The SLS has a mahogany body with your choice of Crimson Red Burst or Satin Black finish. The latter is the model on review here: the finish seems particularly well applie, and nicely offset by multi-ply binding. The neck is made of three-piece maple for enhanced stability, and there are 24 Jumbo frets on the ebony fretboard. The headstock is a bound three-tuner-per-side variant featuring Grover Rotomatic tuners with an 18:1 gear ratio for smoother tuning and a higher degree of backlash elimination. The only inlay on the fretboard face of the Satin Black version is a ‘Hell’s Gate Skull’ which looks pretty bitchen’, and definitely positions this as a metal guitar. Personally I think it’d do fine without it, as on the Crimson Red Burst model which has offset dots instead, but it’s not a deal breaker. The set neck is carved into Schecter’s Ultra Access shape, which mimics a neck-thru instrument, and the profile is the Ultra Thin spec, which is 19mm at the first fret and 20mm at the 12th.

schecter_0The ‘FR-S’ in the model designation refers to the Floyd Rose tremolo bridge (a Floyd Rose 1000 Series, although a version is also available with a TonePros TOM bridge with through-body stringing) and the Sustainiac driver, an ingenious device which provides infinite sustain and the option of various overtones as well. The Floyd is floating with a back rout, and perfectly set up right out of the box. The bridge pickup is a Seymour Duncan Full Shred, a model which was originally developed with Buddy Blaze and Vivian Campbell for the Kramer Nightswan. Electronics include a master volume, a master tone and a three-way pickup selector toggle switch, as well as on/off and three-way mode switches for the Sustainiac. These modes are Normal – infinite sustain of the original note; Mix Mode, where some frets will yield fundamental notes while others will quickly transition to harmonics; and Harmonic Mode, where sustained notes will morph into a high fifth or seventh harmonic vibration. Let’s stress that this is a physical, rather than artificially generated harmonic, and you can hear it happening even if you turn your amp off. The Sustainer driver actually manipulates the vibration of the string itself to bring about the sustain or harmonic overtone.

The Full Shred is a fat-sounding pickup with rich overtones in the midrange, great for transitioning from thick chording to expressive solo work. Harmonics jump right off the fretboard, and there are some really nice shifting transients when you apply techniques like bending and slides. It’s great for progressive rock or more aggressive metal styles.

When the Sustainiac is used as a pickup instead of a driver, it’s a bit muffled and not necessarily a good match for the Full Shred – it could use a little more clarity and definition – but it becomes a superstar when it’s used in sustain mode (where it keeps itself busy vibrating the string while the bridge pickup handles the sound). The sustain function is addictive whether you leave it in normal mode or explore the various harmonic options, and it makes the guitar feel literally alive – you can feel the whole damn thing vibrating differently with each note you play, and it opens up a world of expressive possibilities whether you’re using a clean or dirty tone, and whether you’re playing single notes or chords. If everyone spent three hours a day playing a guitar with a Sustainiac, there’d be no more wars or sadness. It’s that much fun.

The evil skull inlay might put a few prospective buyers off, but don’t let yourself be one of them – you can always go for the Crimson Red version if you like the specs but not the skull. This is an addictively playable guitar that gears itself toward helping you to play your best, express your innermost feelings and perhaps sear off a few faces. It’d be a crushing axe even without the Sustainiac (and you can indeed buy it with a Seymour Duncan Jazz hum bucker in the neck position instead), but the Sustainiac really kicks it up a notch.

LINK: Schecter