Review: Schecter USA Hellwin 100 Guitar Amp
The following content is related to the October 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.
For several decades, Schecter has built, nurtured and sustained its reputation as a maker of great electric guitars and basses, but recently the company entered an entirely new chapter with the introduction of its first line of amps.
However, Schecter is not entirely new to the amp business, as it has enlisted the formidable talents of a particular Mr. James Brown—not the deceased godfather of soul, but rather the amp tweaker of sound, known for designing several of the most popular amps of the last two decades, including the 5150 and JSX. Currently, Schecter offers three USA models—the Hellraiser 100 head and 2x12 combo and the top-of-the-line Hellwin 100 head—with less-expensive imported Stage Series models of these amps expected to ship later this year.
The Schecter Hellwin USA 100 head is the product of a collaboration between Brown and Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates. Their main goal was to combine the sounds of several of Gates’ favorite amps in a single head with a versatile three-channel design, an impressive assortment of truly professional features and even a few new innovations.
The Schecter Hellwin USA 100 is a 100-watt amp head driven by four EL34 tubes in the output section and four 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, with the tubes, heavy-duty transformers and other components kept cool by a noise-free fan that runs as soon as the power is switched on. While the front panel boasts an abundance of knobs (20, to be exact), the controls are logically arranged in separate sections for Clean, Lead I, Lead II and Master, with the built-in noise gate and focus controls occupying their own separate space as well.
Controls for the Clean, Lead I and Lead II sections are identical and fully independent, consisting of treble, middle, bass, volume and gain knobs. The Clean channel also features a voicing switch that toggles between U.K. and U.S.A. settings, with an LED that illuminates red for U.K. or green for U.S.A. The Master section provides controls for master, presence and boost, a switch for engaging the boost function, a MIDI learn switch and an effect loop on/off switch. The noise gate is adjusted with a single knob, and the focus switch offers four modes (Tight, Normal, VII, and VIII) that alter the input frequency, attack response and preamp EQ frequencies to match six-, seven- and eight-string guitars plugged into the amp. The Hellwin USA 100 also offers a normal 1/4-inch guitar input and a unique active input designed to deliver optimal tonal response with active pickups.
The amp’s rear panel offers similarly sophisticated features with a straightforward, logical layout. An impedance selector switch provides a choice of four-, eight- or 16-ohm output and is located next to a pair of 1/4-inch speaker output jacks. There’s also an XLR direct output with a ground-lift switch and a DI cabinet select switch that emulates either a straight-front 4x12 cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers or a slant-front 4x12 cab with the same speakers. The mono effect loop features 1/4-inch send and return jacks along with individual send and return level controls. A five-switch footswitch controller plugs into the amp’s 1/4-inch footswitch jack with a standard stereo cable, allowing guitarists to engage the Clean, Lead I, and Lead II channels as well as the boost function and effect loop.
Even if you’re familiar with Mr. Brown’s previous creations, prepare to be pleasantly surprised yet again when you plug into the Hellwin USA 100. While the controls and layout are deceptively simple, a wide variety of outstanding tones can be coaxed from the amp with a few tweaks. The Clean channel provides fat midrange punch with the U.S.A. voicing, and if you select U.K. voicing and crank up the gain, it barks out aggressive overdrive crunch. Both of the Lead channels have more than ample gain, but thanks to their sweetly tuned EQ sections, the sound never gets buzzy or fuzzy. Lead I has the bite and grit of a modded JCM800, while Lead II provides an ample extra helping of gain, sustain and midrange, which makes it ideal for big, fat bold solos. The noise gate only operates with the two Lead channels, keeping both channels entirely noise free while preserving natural decay.
List Price $3,699
Manufacturer Schecter Guitar Research, schecterguitars.com
Three individually voice channels provide their own independent treble, middle, bass, volume and gain controls, along with a voice switch for the Clean channel.
The Clean channel’s voice switch offers a selection of U.K. (scooped-mid) or U.S.A. (mid-enhanced) settings.
A built-in noise gate is controlled with a single knob, allowing the Lead I and Lead II channels to deliver noise-free performance with natural decay.
The focus switch allows users to optimize the attack and preamp EQ for six-, seven- or eight-string guitars.
The Bottom Line
Schecter’s amp line makes a hell of a debut with the Hellwin USA 100 and its versatile selection of tones, professional features and useful new innovations, which make it stand out and above in today’s very crowded amp-head market.
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