Hands-On Review:Schecter Aces High
Guitar World - Schecter Aviation series electric guitars
By Eric Kirkland
Guitar designers occasionally turn to graphic illustrations when they want to adorn their instruments with images of the typical guitarist's interests and obsessions. Unfortunately, the result is usually a guitar decorated with pictures of skulls or hot chicks. Choosing ethos over ego, the patriotic staff at Schecter Guitar Research (SGR) has created three limited-edition instruments that honor the men and women, past and present, that have served in each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Dubbed Flying Tiger, Bomber Girl and Midway, each guitar features a design inspired by one of the U.S.A.'s most successful and celebrated World War II aircraft. Together, they form Schecter's Aviation Series, consisting of well-made and great-sounding affordable guitars.
Take a quick tour of the Schecter Aviation guitar hangar and you'll notice that these well-appointed flyers have many features in common. Each has a mahogany body, a bolt-on maple neck, a rosewood fretboard with mother-of-pearl Stars-and-Bars inlays, 22 jumbo frets and an angled heel. The guitars also share a Ushaped neck carve, which is of medium thickness and has a rounded feel. The weathered chrome hardware beautifully replicates the look of dulled and battered aviation grade aluminum, and Duncan Designed pickups serve as each instrument's main armament. In addition, the guitars' body and headstock graphics were custom designed by SGR president Michael Ciravolo and SGR graphic designer Bryan Wickmann. Their goal was to portray the unique characteristics of each aircraft, down to the rusty rivets.
The Flying Tiger's graphic is based on the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. In 1942, American volunteer pilots relied upon the adaptable and extremely sturdy fighter to defend the Chinese people from Japanese aggressors. The Chinese nicknamed the planes "the Flying Tigers" for the ferocious faces painted on each aircraft's nose. The Schecter PT body's features a graphic of a Flying Tiger's armor plating, with camo color, era-accurate maintenance instructions and a depiction of holes in the armor plating from the deadly 20mm cannons of a Japanese Zero. The elongated headstock is painted with the same vicious smile that earned the plane its famous moniker. Controls for the covered 'bucker and the Tele-style single-coil include a three-way toggle with master volume and tone knobs.
Employing the Flying Tiger's bridge humbucker with my modified Marshall produced a sound to match the Warhawk's looks: defiant and muscular, with a mean spirit. Rolling the tone down about one third of the way harnessed the Tiger's raw energy and tuned the sustain so that held notes whined and soared. This allowed me to dig into the meat of the coils and control the Tiger's bite with my right hand. The neck pickup looks like a Tele-style single-coil, but it sounded clearer, had a stronger output and was well suited to any beefy clean or hollow high-gain lead tone.
The Bomber Girl has graphics based on the Boeing B-17, which flew innumerable missions over Europe. The plane's 13 .50-caliber machine guns, 6,000-pound bomb load and ability to withstand incredible damage earned it the name Flying Fortress. As on the actual planes, the Schecter Bomber Girl prominently displays a curvaceous blonde good-luck charm and a bomb symbol for each mission flown. The reverse headstock is turned up like the mighty bomber's graceful tail. The pickups—a vintage-looking bridge 'bucker and Tele-type single- coil—blend into the graphic, and a standard three-way switch and master volume and tone knobs provide the flight control.
The Bomber Girl features the same pickups as the Flying Tiger, but the heavier body and shorter headstock give it a thicker tone. I dialed a little more treble and presence into the Marshall and the Bomber Girl unleashed a powerful payload of low-end heavy rock tones. Employing the neck pickup, I performed rapid-fire runs and doublestops that thudded and cracked like the B-17's .50- caliber machine guns. For clean sounds, the Bomber Girl's stout nature mated well with the often-bright modern Fender amps.
The fight for control of the Midway islands in June 1942 tipped the balance of naval power in America's favor and precluded an almost certain attack on the U.S. West Coast. Made famous by Col. Gregory Boyington's Black Sheep Marine squadron, the carrier-based Vought F4U Corsair was the plane that led the U.S. to victory in the Pacific. The Schecter Midway utilizes the Schecter Tempest body shape and features a TonePros locking bridge and kidney bean Grover tuners. The split, flared headstock mimics the bent-wing configuration of this fighter and features the plane's fearsome scowling graphic. Likewise, the guitar's three-tone paint scheme echoes the trio of colors used on the plane to make it hard to spot from above and below. The slotted pickup covers are yet another keen detail, replicating the engines' wing-rooted air intakes. The sound of air streaming into these grilles prompted the Japanese to nickname the plane "Whistling Death." Other features include a maple neck, individual volume knobs and a master tone with a push/pull coil tap.
Played through a Mesa Rectifier and Marshall half-stack, the Midway's low notes rumbled like the Corsair's immensely powerful 18-cylinder Pratt-Whitney Wasp motor. I was rewarded for digging in hard with excellent attack dynamics and thin, screaming highs. The neck-position 'bucker sounded creamy and soft, but opened up considerably when I switched to single-coil mode. In fact, the Midway's best definition came from using the tapped pickups in unison.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're a history buff, military supporter or guitar player looking for great sounds and reliable quality, the Aviation Series guitars are fitting tributes to those who fought and fight for our freedom. They're also terrific tone machines, and a heck of a lot of fun to play.
LIST PRICE: Each model, $699.00
MANUFACTURER: Schecter Guitar
Research, 1840 Valpreda St.,
Burbank, CA 91504; (818) 846-2700;