Shergold Modulator, Schecter
At the time of going to press (another way of saying the pubs are open), Shergolds were no longer being made. Their Mastermind, Jack Golder, had stepped out of the guitar manufacturing business partly to devote his labour force and timber skills to other forms of woodworking and also because the six string market was having a tough time.
But they may yet return and of course you can still find the occasional Shergold knocking around in the secondhand classifieds. Jack and his Romford factory had some good ideas such as the Modulator series. The secret was a removable control panel held in by a single un-loseable screw.
When that was slackened the module and attached electronics could be removed and another with different circuitry or controls popped into place, linking with two multi-way connectors inside the body.
For example, you could slot in an active eq or buy an uncompleted module and build the electronics to your own spec. But apart from those innovations the guitars were fine instruments — not always glamorous or seductive, but practical and steadfast.
If Shergolds excelled in one direction it was along the neck. These one-piece creations had a push/pull truss rod arrangement that guaranteed to keep them straight and warp free for a lifetime. They were slim (ish), gently rounded at the rear, speedy over the fretboard (usually maple) and kitted out with fat, gleaming, well fixed frets that were gifts to mad string benders.
Jack used a zero fret — an additional fret next to the plastic nut to give open strings the same tonality as fretted ones. Some builders apply brass nuts in a similar manner, but not everyone likes that solution.
It was the Shergold's pickups that let them down. They were never powerfully endowed with character and for British instruments, the Shergolds often sounded rather prim and Japanese.
Also the camber and alignment of the pole pieces would cause the guitar to lose sustain and volume if the strings were bent too far across the neck.
The lightweight obechi bodies didn't reinforce sustain and were vetoed as too "flyaway" by some players. But that came in useful for the models which earned Shergold their highest exposure — double necks.
There were six strings and 12 strings, six strings and basses, 12 strings and basses, even an eight string and a four string bass on the same body. Genesis member Mike Rutherford laboured hardest to make them famous.
Later Shergold swapped to maple and mahogany, or American Ash if it was specifically requested. The Masquerador series saw an updated bridge which had the strings passing through a block of perspex on their way to the individual saddles.
Cosmetically it was a blinder, but practically there seemed scant purpose and the extra twists and turns it brought to the strings served to increase the wear and so shorten their life.
Shergold basses were generally more popular than the six strings. The rock solid neck, cool sounding pickups and light body were better suited to the purpose, though the long 34in scale length could send the headstock drooping to the floor.
They always had Schaller machines and a beautiful finish. It would be a shame to see Shergolds disappear for all time and perhaps if (when) they return they'll be in a better position to use their real strengths. £274
The guitar business currently has two schools of purchase — the under £250 slot for beginners and semi-pros, and the over £500 area for professionals or wealthier fanatics. It's the £250 to £500 interval that's having the most trouble with sales.
Schecter fall into the second profile, and this six string is what Doug Chandler calls a serving suggestion, demonstrating the sort of sound and feel you can get from an instrument compiled from Schecter parts. Doug's HQ in Richmond puts together custom guitars from their prospective owners designs, and this goodie, based on a certain American Stradivarius of guitars, or Strad for short, was one of a set of three.
It's kitted out in dazzling Denim Blue Metallic with a flat top and cream binding. The choice of a poplar body reflects the American trend towards lighter woods. The rock maple neck carries a surprisingly thick Indian rosewood fretboard with fairly thin Schecter frets. Two larger sizes are available.
The chrome-plated brass vibrato block keeps the strings in tune for normal "wangs", but does let matters wander when you get too criminal with the arm.
Doug has broken with the Schecter pattern for the machines which are Sperzels — hand-made, but still reasonably priced — and the pickups which are EMGs. Now these are different. The cream mounting rings surround an all black plastic facia completely covering the high output Alnico magnets. Also concealed is the battery-powered preamp fixed beneath the coils which has the dual purpose of electronically hum cancelling them, so screened cable is not needed for the connections.
They're phenomenally powerful with a raw, full blooded sound that's not as sheering at the treble end as you might expect. Like many high powered pickups they can blur at top wack, losing string distinction, but are capable of transients of up to three volts.
Between nut and octave the string tone was occasionally unbalanced but above the octave it evens out for a sweet sustain, halfway between silky humbucker and Metallic single coil in quality.
Despite the Strad shape, the neck has more of a Gibson radius, better suited to high string bending, though the Schecter range of parts would allow other choices.
The guitar's flat top shouldn't deceive you. The back is generously scarfed to hug the body and it fits like a glove, though what you'd be doing wearing a glove around your waist is anyone's guess.
The controls were stiff, but should loosen in time and this Schecter was proof that a good guitar is more than the sum of its parts. Different components react together to give a unique sound and the Chandler engineers can give advice to guide your instrument in any direction you want. £821