6 Popular Extended Range Guitars, Reviewed

6 Popular Extended Range Guitars

Are you looking for an extended range guitar?

Maybe you want a 7 string so you can go lower without changing tunings, or maybe you just want a 6 string guitar factory setup for super low tunings?

Let’s face it – some guitars just aren’t built for low tunings.

So, today, we’re looking at guitars purpose built for going low. You’ll find some 6 string guitars setup for lower tunings right out of the factory (and with the scale length or increased string gauge to match), and some 7 string guitars.

All of these guitars have fixed bridges so drop tuning can be done without any hassle.

Most of these guitars will excel at modern metal, but they can do a lot more. And one P90 loaded semi-hollow baritone that’s capable of some interesting flavours.

And while I haven’t included 8 strings on this list, there are 8 string versions of the Schecter and Ibanez 7 string guitars.

Let’s get started:

1. Schecter Hellraiser C-7

Schecter Hellraiser C-7
Credit: Tone Island

Schecter is a brand that is synonymous with metal. And they’ve embraced extended range guitars in a big way. Particularly when it comes to 7 and 8 strings.

What I love most is the variations they have within each range. And where most brands neglect lefties. Schecter haven’t.

My review of the “Schecter Hellraiser C-7 7 String” (pictured above):

Schecter Hellraiser C-7 Headstock
Credit: Tone Island

When I first got this guitar, the setup out of the box was great. Whether that’s an indicator of Schecter or that’s down to the retailer is difficult to say.

Either way, the important stuff such as the fret work etc was great. And I expected it to be because this model was made in same factory as PRS SE, and a bunch of others.

What stood out to me immediately was how resonant this guitar is. That’s likely a combination of the set-neck, and the TonePro’s bridge.

Schecter consider the neck of this guitar to be a thin ‘c’ neck. Thicker than some other 7 string necks I’ve played, but still quite comfortable.

In terms of features, we’ve locking tuners, a Graph Tech nut, and a set of EMG 707TW pickups.

There’s no killswitch unfortunately, but the battery for the pickups does unclip fairly easily which is already good.

Personally, I do prefer passive pickups, but this is a nice set of EMG’s. One of the nicer sets I’ve played. They’ve offer plenty of gain and do a great job at avoiding unwanted noise when you do crank the gain.

Overall, this is a well built guitar that looks great – especially with the abalone shell inlays, and binding.

Number of strings: 7

Factory tuning: E Standard, with a B on the 7th string.

Alternatives in this range:

Like I alluded to earlier, Schecter go big on variations in most of their ranges and don’t neglect lefties like most brands. You can even get a leftie 9 string.

The C-7 comes in several colours. Other than the black cherry pictured, you can find it in white and black.

If we step back and look at the Hellraiser series as a whole, the variations available are crazy.

You’ve got 6, 7, 8, and 9 string variations. There’s singlecut versions, different bridge configurations (including Floyd Rose). And even the option of Sustainiac pickups. And there’s usually a left-handed version of each configuration. Nice!

2. PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature
Credit: Tone Island

The South Korean made PRS SE line offer a great balance of quality and price.

While most of the range isn’t geared towards metal, or downtuned guitars, the Mark Holcomb signature is perfect for that (and more).

My review of the “PRS SE Mark Holcomb Ltd Edition” (pictured above):

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature Headstock
Credit: Tone Island

Out of the box, the setup on this guitar was great. From what I can tell, PRS will usually set these up in the UK before sending them out to retailers.

The neck is thicker than I’m used to, but everything else on this guitar was spot on.

As one of the three guitarists in Periphery, Mark is known for brutal high gain tones. And this guitar comes fully loaded with his Alpha & Omega, signature set of Seymour Duncans.

These are some of the best high gain pickups I’ve tried (although that’s subjective). And they’re capable of some really nice cleans too.

This particular guitar is one of the limited editions from 2018 and as such the entire finish was satin. In the regular version, there’s a slightly different finish in gloss, but the neck (according to the PRS website), is satin – I dig that finish for playability.

It would have been great to have locking tuners on this, but considering it came loaded with a $249 set of pickups, and a gig bag, that’s pretty damn good.

Number of strings: 6

Factory tuning: D standard

Alternatives in this range:

Since this is a signature model, you likely won’t find much in the way of alternatives, aside from limited runs with slightly different finishes.

3. Ibanez RG Premium 7 String

Ibanez RG Premium 7 String
Credit: Tone Island

Ibanez are best known for their RG series of guitars. Introduced in 1987, this guitar took inspiration from Steve Vai’s signature JEM series.

And since this range of guitars is so popular, it has more configurations than any other guitar they produce.

While my first serious Ibanez was an SA series, the RG has since become one of favourites from their line up.

My review of the “Ibanez RG1027PBF-CBB 7 String” (pictured above):

Ibanez RG Premium 7 String Headstock
Credit: Tone Island

When I first got this guitar, there were a few issues. The setup was poor and there was a washer around one of the tuners that wouldn’t tighten – it just rattled. And there was a green tinge to the fretboard wood.

The setup issue was fixable but the issue with the green tinge on the fretboard, and rattle were a deal breaker so I got the guitar exchanged to save any messing around.

I wouldn’t judge this guitar too harshly based on the setup issue though. The guitar was made in Indonesia and it’s highly likely there was some neck movement on it’s way into the UK – it’s a significant climate difference.

This is why I wish more retailers would QC guitars and do setups before dispatch. But, the reality is that most don’t, and they just offer to setup guitars if anyone has an issue.

So, what about the replacement? That was great. The setup and fretwork was on point.

It’s worth noting that due to the natural “burl” of the wood, the top of each of these guitars will look drastically different. That was clear when comparing the two versions of the same guitar.

The neck on this guitar is seriously cool. It’s an 11 piece neck which includes Panga Panga Maple, Walnut and Purpleheart. And it’s got a nice feel to it.

The body is basswood so it’s pretty light. Like the FR series I reviewed above, this RG has some nice features too. Including a Tight-End bridge, stainless steel frets and Gotoh locking tuners. This seems to be common with mid to hear range RG’s.

There’s also luminescent side-dots so you’ll be able to tell where you are on the fretboard even if you’re playing on a stage with no lighting.

What about pickups? This RG comes with DiMarzio PAF 7’s. They’re not super high output like the ones you’ll find in the Schecter and Ltd, but they’re extremely flexible.

And since there’s a 5 way selector switch, you get a lot of potential tones. 2nd position offers a coil split, and position 4 is the neck pickup connected in parallel.

So, overall, despite the issues with the first guitar, the replacement guitar was great. Although, I’ll probably end up swapping out the pickups at some point, in favour of some Bareknuckle’s.

Number of strings: 7

Factory tuning: E Standard, with a B on the 7th string.

Alternatives in this range:

The premium line of RG guitars seems to be the closest you can get to the Japanese-made Prestige models in terms of quality. In that range there aren’t many options. There’s this, and a few 6 strings with Floyd Roses.

But, looking outside their premium line of RG’s, you’ll find a lot of options. Including 8 strings and a 9 string. So, in terms of price, you’ll find RG’s anywhere from the GIO models at around $200 to the J Custom models at around $3K and above.

There’s also the RGA and RGD lines that are worth looking at. These ranges tend to be exclusively focused on metal players with varying designs and pickup configurations – some of them come with Fishman Fluence, or Bare Knuckle’s.

Some models will come in different tunings. For example, some of the RGD Iron Label’s are tuned down a full step.

4. Ibanez FR Prestige

Ibanez FR Prestige
Credit: Tone Island

The FR series is one of the smallest, and possibly most overlooked range of guitars that Ibanez offer.

They share a lot of similarities with the RG series, but they rock a T-style body shape instead. In terms of playability, you’ll feel right at home if you’re used to playing an RG.

My review of the “Ibanez Prestige FR6UCS” (pictured above):

Ibanez FR Prestige Headstock
Credit: Tone Island

A lot of people say in order to experience a “real” Ibanez, you need to play a Prestige model. They’re built in Japan and to an extremely high standard.

This is an incredible guitar. The playability is excellent and the fretwork is spot on too.

In terms of features, we’ve got a Tight-End bridge, Graph Tech nut and Gotoh locking tuners to keep tuning rock solid. And stainless steel frets.

And then there’s the Bare Knuckle Aftermath pickups. These are scatter-wound by hand in the UK and they sound incredible. Great for high gains, but capable of some awesome clean tones too.

There is a 5 piece Maple and Walnut “Wizard HP” neck with an Ebony fretboard.

The body wood is African Mahogany and it’s heavier in comparison to most RG’s I’ve played. Although, some would say that adds to the tone.

Number of strings: 6

Factory tuning: D Standard

Alternatives in this range:

Aside from the flagship Japanese-made FR6UCS, Ibanez offer several Indonesian-made models.

There’s a 6 string Iron Label version that comes loaded with EMG’s, and a matching 7-string version. These start at around $800 and have a great spec.

And for 2019, they added a 6-string with D’Marzio Edge Fusion pickups to the range. This comes in “Black Mirage Graduation”. It’s a quilted top (likely a veneer or print) that fades from black to white. There’s also a matching headstock.

5. PRS SE 277 Baritone Semi Hollow

PRS SE 277 Baritone Semi Hollow
Credit: Tone Island

If modern metal is your thing, this might not be for you. But if other genres are, this could be perfect for you.

This guitar shares a lot of similarities with the regular PRS SE line of guitars, aside from a few differences such as the baritone scale length, P90 pickups, and the fact it comes factory setup in B standard.

My review of the “PRS SE 277 Baritone Semi Hollow” (pictured above):

PRS SE 277 Baritone Semi Hollow Headstock
Credit: Tone Island

Like the Mark Holcomb signature, this guitar came setup well out of the gate. Fret work was excellent too.

I’ve played a bunch of other PRS SE’s over the years, and I’ve been impressed with each one I’ve played.

The back of the body is made of Mahogany and the the top is beveled maple with a flamed maple veneer.

Since this is a baritone guitar, you’ll find a longer scale length than most guitars. And it comes setup with 14-68 gauge strings.

Since this is setup for B standard, it’s crazy low. That means it needs a longer scale length and higher gauge strings to maintain string tension. After all, we don’t want those strings to be flapping around and sound like garbage do we?

The only downside is that it takes a lot more finger strength to play. It makes my steel-string acoustic feel easy to play by comparison.

But, the end result is a great looking guitar that is capable of some truly unique tones.

Number of strings: 6

Factory tuning: B standard

Alternatives in this range:

Aside from the semi-hollow version with P90 pickups, there’s also a solid body version with regular humbucker pickups.

It’s also worth noting that the grey version pictured was discontinued. The current version is available in vintage sunburst.

6. ESP Ltd SC-607B Stephen Carpenter Signature

ESP Ltd SC-607B Stephen Carpenter Signature
Credit: Tone Island

ESP typically offer guitars geared towards metal players. And they have several brands.

Their line of Ltd guitars are their more affordable line. Depending on where the guitar sits in the range, it’ll be built in either Indonesia or South Korea. This model in particular (at least when I originally bought it) was being made in South Korea.

My review of the “ESP Ltd SC-607B” (pictured above):

Out of the box, I noticed a few minor finishing flaws on this guitar. Towards the bottom of the fretboard there looked to be scratches.

After cleaning up the fretboard with some lemon oil, it was near impossible to see those scratches. So, ultimately, not a major issue – especially since the retailer knocked me a bit of money off.

This model has a similar bridge to the Schecter C-7 I reviewed above. The fretwork was great and it came with some solid features like locking tuners.

The stand-out feature of this guitar was the Stephen Carpenter signature Fishman Fluence pickups. I can see why a lot of artists are using these pickups – even blues guys like Greg Koch.

… They sound incredible.

And a push-pull knob switches you to a second voicing. I particularly loved the unrelenting savagery of the second voicing.

You may see some of these guitars listed as a baritone guitar. This is talking about the scale length, not that the tuning is different. Scale length is 27” for improved string tension.

The only real issue I have with this model is the pickup layout. The second pickup is in the middle position which I found to get in the way a bit – I found myself scraping the pickup with my pick. But, it is a signature guitar, after all!

Overall, a solid guitar with modern features and capable of brutal tones.

Just to be clear, the model I’m reviewing here was built in South Korea. Some of their range has shifted production to Indonesia, so I can’t say for sure what the quality would be like from that factory. Quality can varies from factory to factory.

Number of strings: 7

Factory tuning: E Standard, with a B on the 7th string.

Alternatives in this range:

ESP offer a number of variations on Stephen Carpenter’s signature guitar. The majority of them are imports under their Ltd brand which hover around the $1000-1200 range. Including 6, 7 and 8 string models with varying pick up configurations.

The majority come with the Stephen Carpenter signature Fishman Fluence pickups. There’s also high end ESP versions available.

Over the years there have been a number of different versions of this guitar. The black gloss version pictured was discontinued. And there a bunch of older models that come up for sale pre-owned every so often – these have a mix of pickup configurations including EMG’s.

Wrapping it up (and a few frequently asked questions)

Are there other great extended range guitars out there? You bet! But out of the guitars I’ve personally tried, these are some of my favourites.

Here are a few things to remember when choosing your next extended range guitar, especially if you don’t have the option to try before you buy:

  • Number of strings – Going for a 7 or even 8 string guitar means you can get those low notes without dropping the tuning of the rest of your strings. But for each extra string you add, the fretboard becomes wider and puts more pressure on your wrist.
  • String gauge – When you buy extended range guitars, they’ll typically come setup with higher gauge strings than a regular guitar. For example, my PRS semi-hollow came setup with 9-42 strings, but my baritone came setup with 14-68 gauge strings (damn!).
  • Scale length – Scale length is the length between the nut and the bridge saddle. The longer, the more string tension you’ll have – this means longer scale lengths will allow you to tune lower without increasing string gauges. Baritone and 7/8 string guitars will generally have a longer scale length. And, most importantly, increased string tension means you need more finger strength to play. It’s a similar feeling to jumping up string gauges. So, a baritone scale length with 14-68 gauge strings takes a heck of a lot more effort to play – it’s like playing an acoustic with heavy gauge strings.
  • Tuning – If you want to switch to a lower tuning, do you really need a new guitar? No. Your local guitar tech will be able to setup your guitar for lower tunings. My local guitar tech typically recommends going up a string gauge for every half step you tune down, but that can vary slightly depending on scale length. If you get a guitar factory setup for lower tunings, you won’t have to worry about that sort of stuff.
  • Build quality – The build quality of all of these guitars is excellent, but some brands do more affordable versions – this is where the quality tends to go down. When you jump up in the range, quality control tends to be better, and so is the build quality, and the quality of the components.
  • Pickups – These can always be changed by a local guitar tech, but if you end up switching them out, you’ll add extra cost. Some brands will offer different pickup configurations, especially the likes of Ibanez, Ltd, and Schecter.
  • Guitar amp – Need a suitable amp for blisteringly high gain tones? Check out this post for reviews of popular options.

And if you’re unsure before purchasing a guitar, whether it be the exact tuning or which gauge strings it comes setup with, ask the retailer and they’ll be able to tell you.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck on your musical journey.