It has been quite a few years since Schecter starting making their E1 guitars. This beast came out over the last year, and seemed to fly under the radar completely. In fact, I couldn’t find hardly any reviews for it. So let’s change that. Today we take a look at the Schecter E1 Koa.
Schecter E1 Koa: A Special Addition to The Lineup
First off, let me say that this is going to be a pretty thorough review. Because I wanted this guitar and as per the usual, tried to find reviews. I was baffled when I couldn’t find much.
Schecter has been making some seriously Metal-focused guitars for over 20 years with their Diamond Series, and other off-shoot names (Apocalypse/Reapers/ Sun Valley). They make all kinds of guitars, but Metal is their forte. There is a clear price tier with these models, with some going into $1200-$1300 territory and starting around $800.
The E1 Koa we are looking at today is in the upper echelon of the Diamond Series. That means this isn’t exactly a budget guitar.
But these more expensive instruments mean more premium features right out of the box. Schecter already demonstrated in our “Best of” list that they have the market cornered when it comes to quality. Only their sister company, ESP has a chance at competing in my opinion when it comes to “bang for your buck”.
These more expensive Diamond Series guitars are meant to bridge the gap between a standard model and their custom shop offerings. This is also where most of their “Artist” models reside, like Synyster Gates, Robert Smith, and Keith Merrow.
The E1 series is clearly Schecter’s take on the famous Explorer style. Over the years, many brands have taken the “Z” shape and made it their own… with a few tweaks.
To me, the E1 series has always looked like a combination between the Gibson Explorer, and the Ibanez Iceman/Destroyer. Both guitars are angular and aggressive, with sharp corners and edges. Combine the two? You get the Schecter E1 Series.
Schecter has produced many E1 models over the past decade. The most popular models have probably been the Apocalypse model, or the E1 Custom. The recent SLS Elite series also comes in the E1 shape.
Oh, there’s an elephant in the room. Just noticed, sorry.
Look, I get it. The Explorer shape is not for everyone. It’s big and bulky and a little cumbersome. But James Hetfield still plays them right? Claudio Sanchez has used them for 20 years as well. There is something…sinister and mean about them. They just look Metal.
So, they may not be for everyone. But they are definitely for me.
Schecter E1 Koa: Specs and Features
Like most of Schecter’s upper-tier models, the E1 Koa comes loaded with premium features right out of the box. It also comes set up from the factory. Every Schecter I have owned came so well set up, I could have taken it out of the box and immediately to a stage!
I have always loved this about the more expensive Schecter models, as I am not a person that tinkers too much. I like to have features already installed professionally, that I know I can count on from day one. I spent too many years customizing guitars, and never really being happy with the end result.
I own 3 other Schecter Models in this price range, and all of them are top notch in quality. But what makes the Schecter E1 Koa so special?
The Schecter E1 Koa features:
- Mahogany Body
- 2 Piece Koa Top
- 3 Piece Mahogany Neck
- Ultra Access Neck Heel
- C Shape Neck
- Ernie Ball Compensated Nut
- Block Inlays
- Push/Pull Coil Tap
- USA Custom Shop San Andreas Pickups
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
- Satin Finish and Hardware
- Locking Tuners
- 24.75 Scale Length
- 22 Frets
- Rubber Grip Speed Knobs
- Jumbo Frets
I feel like Schecter put every single upgrade possible, into this guitar. There was a marked increase in quality and components after 2018 with their production model guitars. To me, this gives American Companies and other peers a real run for their money. Literally.
This model is made in South Korea, at the World Music Instrument factory. This is the same factory that makes ESP, Chapman, PRS se, and some high-end Epiphone models. They use high quality materials, and their construction rivals Japanese companies and even some American companies, if you ask me.
Lets take a look at the features in more detail.
Standout Features of The Schecter E1 Koa
Mahogany Body: While the two piece top is a beautiful book-matched piece of Koa, the actual body is Mahogany. I was under the impression that the whole guitar was Koa, but it is only the top cap. Mahogany is a tried and true “tone wood” if you believe in that sort of thing.
I was very surprised at how resonant the body is. The acoustic sound is very loud and prominent. Not only is it full and resonant, you can feel the vibrations against your body. This is something you usually only find in more expensive models, like PRS.
While I do not really believe in the tone wood argument, I do believe that certain pieces of wood are more resonant. With production guitars, sometimes you just get lucky. Other times, you get a good guitar that just doesn’t have the same qualities.
But this guitar is solid, and heavy. More on that later…
Maybe it’s so resonant because this is no lightweight piece of wood. It’s also a big piece of wood, it may be two pieces but I cannot find any seams. Tough call, to be honest. Maybe I just got a magic one!
The Mahogany body also has a belly cut contour on the back, which is something you rarely see on an Explorer style guitar. All of Schecter’s more extreme shapes have a belly cut, and this makes the guitar a joy to play standing up.
C Shaped Neck: This will be the deciding factor for many players for just how much they like this guitar. It could really swing either way, because this is definitely a “love it or hate it” kind of neck.
The carve on this neck reminds me a lot of my Gibson 50’s Les Paul. Which is also a divisive feature on that particular guitar. Some people love it, and I happen to be that type of person.
The neck shape is thick. This is not like their SLS series, or anything like an Ibanez Wizard neck. So being truthful, this is not a thin shredder neck. This has some serious girth to it, and I can see where this would be a deal-breaker for some guitarists.
My favorite guitar I ever had for playing live, was a Les Paul 50’s. I prefer the thicker neck shape, as I have pretty big hands. For me, it’s more comfortable, especially for riffing.
Also, where the neck meets the body is far into the upper frets, which allows easy access all the way up. The neck’s heel joint is nonexistent. So even though this is a thicker neck, the access all the way to the top frets is incredible.
Ernie Ball Compensated Nut: I have this on two of my Schecter guitars now, and it is by far the best nut I have ever had on any guitar. Hands down!
Tuning stability is mostly reliant on the nut. Many guitars used to come with cheap plastic nuts that would either be just okay, or would be awful. No in-between. So I always replaced the nut the same week I bought a new guitar. Especially when the guitar was going to be used for shows.
The compensated nut not only allows the string to move freely through the slots, but it helps to make your intonation even more solid. This stabilizes even the G string, which is usually the string that we have the most problems with considering tuning and intonation.
The compensated nut is just one more thing that you will not have to “fix” later on down the road. Schecter guitars come ‘set up” from the factory, but even if you get one that needs a few tweaks with intonation, it will be a “set it and forget it” situation.
San Andreas Custom Shop Pickups: When I saw the pictures of this guitar, I thought these were the legendary Anderson Super Rock pickups that originally came with Schecters years ago.
The Super Rock pups came in several of their Pete Townsend models in the early to mid 2000’s. They look almost identical, with large exposed bobbins. So it’s kind of a bummer that these are “in house” pickups. However, looking at the stats and design, these are based on the famous Super Rock.
From the official Schecterguitars.com website:
“San Andreas pickups are HOT. While the mids and highs are powerful and cutting, the mid-low and low ends are perfectly pushed and driven. Giving you a well-balanced pickup that will shake the very ground you stand on!
Structured to have the capability of cutting through even the densest of mixes, 4 conductor wire doubles your options if you wire up to a push-pull pot giving you ultimate control over an unruly and aggressive pickup.“
These are so hot, that I had to back them off a little bit when I first got the guitar. They were almost as hot as my Fishman Set, so I adjusted them. But even when I screwed them down into the body a little further, they remained extremely clear.
Checking with the multi-meter, the neck comes in just above 11k ohms. That’s pretty hot, and puts these in the same category as say…Dimarzio. The bridge pickup is naturally a little higher, at about 15k ohms.
The pickups have a neat engraved baseplate when you remove them from the body. Above the ornate baseplate is a triple-fold ceramic magnet. Metal pickups are almost always ceramic based, for the “bite” that the magnet provides.
The mid and treble response is out of this world when under high gain or crunch sounds. The bridge pickup has an aggressive tone, while the neck pickup is still hot, yet subdued. Dial back the tone on the neck pickup and you get that “creamy” smooth lead tone, usually reserved for Les Pauls.
There is only one master tone, and one master volume knob. That’s perfect for my style, but some people like to dial in each pickup individually.
I ran the Schecter E1 Koa through a Mesa Dual Rectifier, and a Bogner Ubershall. The bridge pickup chugs of course, but the definition with both amps is fantastic. Even under high gain, complicated chords rang out every note. It’s like playing in 4K definition.
Through the Mesa, the pickups responded well to mids and bass, which is what the Mesa does best. Palm mutes push air through the speakers, and it sounds great. The Bogner is a more mid-range focused amplifier, but the San Andreas still held bass response and remained clear.
These are not “stock pickups” in any sense of the term. These are premium pickups that happen to be made by Schecter. I checked their Custom Shop website, and these are pretty expensive pickups if you buy them separately.
Coil Tapping: Like many Schecter models with passive pickups, the Schecter E1 Koa comes with a push/pull knob that splits the humbuckers. For me, sometimes coil-splitting works…sometimes it doesn’t.
These really work, especially since I adjusted the pickup height. The neck pickup can get almost a great single coil tone. It’s close…really close. If you dial down the tone knob a bit, it sounds pretty close to a Telecaster neck pickup.
This bodes well when you are recording guitar tracks. Layering guitars is usually a pain since it is best to use multiple guitars to cover more sonic territory. I have to admit, it is nice to be able to access a good single coil tone while recording without going back and forth between guitars.
I’m sorry Telecaster, I may not need you anymore.
This makes the neck pickup’s clean tone to die for, especially through a Fender style clean amp. The pickups also respond well to reverb effects, and delay when using a bright, gain-free tone. You wouldn’t expect an extreme guitar like this to sound pretty!
These kinds of tones is exactly what I would use my Tele for. Most Metal guitarists will tell you; in the studio, a Stratocaster or Tele is essential for nailing the clean parts.
The bridge pickup is a little less easy to tame in single coil mode, especially when you apply gain. Running the bridge on clean, it’s just a little too brittle for me. BUT, it works great for overdubs when recording.
The bridge pickup has almost zero hum even when the coil is split and under gain. This adds a different dynamic for your sound when recording. So even if the bridge pup is not so great on it’s own, it works great for tracking purposes.
Or you could play some Country Music on it?
Just kidding, please don’t play Country on this marvelous beast.
So that’s a ton of nice stuff to say about the E1 Koa, but I have a few little quibbles with the guitar. Nothing major, but let’s talk about the possible cons.
Pros and Cons: The Schecter E1 Koa
The pros are going to heavily outweigh out the cons. So I think it will be easier to just mention the few cons that I found, and wrap it up with the pros.
Cons: There really aren’t many. But remember when I said this thing is a heavy piece of mahogany? Well…
This guitar weighs a lot. On the scale it reads 8.9Lbs. I think this has a lot to do with the body shape, as well as the choice of wood. This is why Gibson made so many Explorers with Korina/ Limba woods. It lightened the load on such a massive instrument.
I will say, while it is heavy, there is no neck dive when playing standing up. Extreme shapes are notorious for this. Luckily, the strap button is in the perfect place, on the back of the guitar. But I still recommend a thick strap for playing standing up.
The only other con I can mention is the neck, and this is subjective. I can see where people that are used to slimmer necks would be turned off by the thicker neck. Personally, I love it. If you are familiar with the Hellraiser series, this neck is slightly thicker than that.
The traditional scale length and only having 22 frets may be a problem also. This applies to the people that are more shredders than rhythm players. This guitar is definitely more akin to a riff machine, than a shred axe.
This is a personal preference that I like, but isn’t for everyone. The other E1 Models from the SLS Elite and Apocalypse series are 24 frets, and standard 25.5 scale length. So that is something to consider.
So for the pros? Everything else about this guitar is a pro. Schecter didn’t pay me to say that, I promise. It’s just a great guitar, all around.
Schecter E1 Koa: The Verdict
I cannot believe how overlooked this guitar is, even in the Schecter artist community. When I went to purchase this guitar, I looked everywhere for reviews, and came up with almost nothing.
So I took a bit of a chance when I bought this guitar. The specs and features sounded right up my alley. And while sometimes the specs only look good on paper, this Schecter really delivers in person.
I just wish there was more info out there on the Schecter E1 Koa. Hopefully this will review will help someone else out that wants to try this guitar. They make a C1 shape with a Koa top also, and it doesn’t have much info out there either.
I guess it is really perplexing to me, as I wanted an Explorer style guitar, but I didn’t want a Gibson. I have been down the Gibson Explorer road several times before, and while I have been impressed before…I was more often let down.
This is the main reason I started looking for other companies a few years ago, and found Schecter. I needed a less expensive alternative that had all of the features that would usually be considered ‘after-market”.
I’m using my Schcter E1 Koa to record my new album. It was a birthday present to myself.
So if the cons I mentioned are not something that makes this guitar a deal-breaker, I say check it out. There are plenty of these models out in the wild today, brand new and ready for a home. I honestly don’t know if it was a promotion issue, or what. But these didn’t sell very well, and that seems unfair for such a solid guitar.
In fact, my next guitar will be another E1. Probably the Custom version in Sunburst.
Let this be a warning to the bigger companies out there that are riding the “Legacy Wave”. Because thoughtful, well made models like this are a threat to that unstable wave. If they keep riding without change, that wave can crash.
Happy birthday to me.