The Schecter Nick Johnston PT model just dropped, and we got out hands on one! Do we have more competition for Fender this year? We got to check out the new NJ PT, and it was surprising!
Schecter Nick Johnston PT: Finally Released!
Schecter is knocking it out of the park this year. The new Rob Scallon lineup is pretty amazing, and we already got to test those. Not to mention Kenny Hickey from Type O Negative got a new signature model this year as well, and that flew under most people’s radar! The Nick Johnston PT has been hyped for months, and it is finally here!
I don’t think it is a secret at all when it comes to how we feel about Schecter Guitars. They don’t pay us to love them, we just think they have some of the best cost to value ratio when it comes to guitars. Schecter offers tons of budget models for beginners, but the main focus is the “workhorse” guitar. This means the guitar shows up almost perfect, with all the upgrades, and you just tweak the setup a little. Schecter makes guitars ready for the stage at half the price of the big names.
The original Nick Johnston Signature took all of the elements of an HSS Strat and turned it on its head. It is the #1 Fender alternative to me, and it shows in the specs and function. After the review, I immediately bought that guitar, which is something insanely rare. I get to play a lot of different guitars every week, and very rarely do they make such an impression that I actually buy one myself.
Well the new Schecter Nick Johnston PT model just dropped right before Summer NAMM, and last week I got to play one! I think my bank account may be in trouble yet again, because I have been looking for a Telecaster. But Schecter is honestly outpacing Fender by a mile when it comes to the “cost versus value” ratio. You get so much more for your money, and I think this will reflect when we get to the features.
Nick Johnston is an Canadian composer, that just happens to be an excellent shredder. His music has been described as ethereal, and other-worldly. To me, he often makes compositions that sound like something I have heard before, but it isn’t. If that sounds confusing, it may be because Nick’s music sounds like something familiar, like you have heard it before, while still remaining very unique. It can be heavy at times, but this is where he differs from most solo guitarists.
His music is not your standard “metal shred” that you would associate with a “guitar instrumentals”. Yes, he did a song with Polyphia, but he is not your typical soloist. He prefers classic guitar sounds, and Nick was with Fender for a little while for this very reason. But Schecter built his “perfect guitar” when they built the Strat-Style NJ Traditional models. It was only natural that a Tele-inspired model was to follow, and it did. But the USA Custom Shop version was out of most guitarist’s reach at $3000.
The Schecter PT has been around since the 80’s. It was originally commissioned for Pete Townshend of The Who. Since then, it has been a constant in the Schecter lineup, but this time we see some totally new features hidden under the classic design. The Schecter Nick Johnston PT is its own beast, and the import model again rivals the USA models it was inspired by.
So let’s dive in, and go over the features and specs, as well as the design!
Schecter Nick Johnston Pt Review: Features And Specs
The 2022 Nick Johnston PT follows in the steps of his other affordable model. Schecter took the custom shop features and specs, and made them overseas. The Nick Johnston PT is obviously in direct competition with the Fender Player Series Telecaster, but it is much more affordable. Schecter never skimps on the specs:
- Roasted Hard Rock Maple Neck
- Roasted Maple/Ebony Board
- Brass Ring Inlays
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- 14” Radius
- Spoke Wheel Truss Rod Adjustment
- Locking Tuners
- TUSQ Nut
- 3 Way Switch
- Alder Body (4 Colors, Currently)
- Schecter NJ ’78 Neck Pickup
- Schecter NJ Single Coil Bridge Pickup
- Volume/Tone (Push Pull For Coil Split)
- Fixed 6 Saddle Bridge
- Comes in Left Handed Versions
The new Schecter Nick Johnston PT is made in Indonesia, but don’t let that scare you! The Indo Schecter models have all been very good, and the electronics lead us to believe that they are made at the Cort factory. I opened mine up, and the classic Cort pots and capacitors can be found in my original model. I was going to upgrade them, but these are full sized pots that work great. I imagine the Nick Johnston PT is made in the same factory.
Schecter Nick Johnston PT: Testing
Like most guitars that I get a “first look” at, the Nick Johnston PT was at the affiliate store for me to play. The store usually gives me a couple of hours after unboxing the store sample to check it out. As usual, I used two amps I am super familiar with: The BOSS Katana 100, and The Blackstar HT40.
I feel like both of these amps would be something that a person that buys a Nick Johnston PT would own since this is a budget guitar. These two amps also give me a solid state modeler, and a real tube amp to test the tones. I always like to try both, because some guitars sound better with one or the other. usually the tube amp wins, but the Katana is no slouch.
First Impressions: Out of the box, the Nick Johnston PT was set up pretty well. It was definitely playable, and it was even close to being in tune! My affiliate representative and myself lowered the action a little and tightened the truss rod. After 15 minutes of adjustment we had low action, and perfect intonation. Schecter guitars usually come set up from the factory, and the Nick Johnston PT was no different.
I always check the neck pocket on a bolt on guitar, and the Nick Johnston PT has a recessed bolt on pocket. The neck pocket is tight, and they way it is designed seems to limit the chances of finish cracks. Anyone that has owned a Fender knows that neck pocket cracks can be common. They don’t affect playability/stability at all, but I have always found them to be… unsightly.
The Nick Johnston PT is a little on the heavy side, and the sample model weighed in at 8lbs. This is pretty common for Telecaster style guitars, and I even pulled a Fender off the wall to check. The difference was the Fender was half a pound lighter. Locking tuners add to the weight of the Schecter, and the company is known to use heavier woods.
Overall, the build quality is pretty outstanding for a guitar in this price range. I didn’t find any fret sprout, and all of the fret ends were perfect. The chrome hardware is exactly what you would expect from any Schecter at this price point. I didn’t see any flaws in the finish either. I like that Schecter went with the knurled style knobs instead of the plastic ones, since I replaced the plastic ones on my NJ Traditional immediately.
The Neck: If you are familiar with the original Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional, then the neck on this guitar is going to feel REALLY familiar. This is the exact same neck as the Strat-style NJ, and I mean it is exactly the same. If you have never had the pleasure of playing one, it is a totally different take on a vintage design. That’s the thing about these guitars…they may look “traditional” but they are more like a hybrid.
The Nick Johnston PT has the same “Thin C” neck that the other NJ has, and it is as far from a Fender neck as you can get. The neck is thin, and it is one of my favorite necks to play. In the original NJ review, I talked about Fender, and how they would never make a 14” radius neck with jumbo frets. This is what makes the Schecter Nick Johnston PT and the original so special.
The neck is obviously designed like a “shredder” guitar, and compared to a Fender it is night and day. This is one of my favorite necks that Schecter makes, with the Hellraiser being my absolute favorite. Yes, you can definitely shred on it, but the Nick Johnston PT also is perfect for big barre chords. Complex chords are a breeze to play, without cramping up your hand. The jumbo frets makes playing solos easier, and you can do some huge bends.
Pickups and Other Features: Speaking of bends, the Nick Johnston PT is a fixed bridge, unlike its predecessor. I enjoy the floating bridge on my NJ Traditional, but a lot of people prefer a fixed bridge for a myriad of reasons. The good thing, is this is no 3-barrel vintage Telecaster bridge. This has six individual saddles for more accurate intonation (In my opinion). They also sit low, like Hipshot bridges, so you’re not going to cut your hand on the adjustment screws.
The Schecter ’78 Neck Humbucker is the same one that is in the bridge position on the HSS NJ models. The NJ Single Coil is also the same. These are reproductions of Nick’s custom shop set, and they sounded great in my personal guitar. The neck humbucker is designed to be split by pulling the tone knob. Just like the original model, just this time it is the neck instead of the bridge position.
The Schecter branded locking tuners get the job done, and I have had no problem with mine over the last 7 months. Just like the original NJ models, we have Nick’s signature branded into the back of the headstock, and this is the only place that you see his name on the entire guitar. The TUSQ nut is an upgrade that EVERY guitar should come with, as it will solve 90% of your tuning issues.
If I have one gripe, it is the string retainer. I replaced the cheap one on my NJ model with a TUSQ retainer, and I feel like that makes a huge difference when bending the strings. I know the Nick Johnston PT doesn’t have a trem, but big bends will still have an effect. This is a small thing, and a $10 fix if you want to do it yourself.
So, How Does It Sound?
Schecter Nick Johnston PT: Testing The Sounds!
The Nick Johnston PT scratches an itch that I didn’t even know that I had. I have never been a big fan of Telecaster style guitars with a humbucker in the neck. I know that this is the “Keith Richards” setup, but I just never played many guitars with this pickup configuration. So this is almost uncharted territory for me, but it turns out that this is a highly versatile setup.
The Neck Humbucker is the same ’78 that I have in my guitar, just this time it is in the neck position. The neck humbucker can be split to sound like a single coil, and this gives you a ton of tonal options. The humbucker has a lot of mid-boost dialed into it, and this makes for a perfect lead tone. I turned down the tone knob a little, and it is perfectly warm and smooth, as you would expect from a neck humbucker. With the tone all the way back up, chords sound huge.
That being said, the bass response that you usually get with a neck humbucker is a little lacking on the Nick Johnston PT. But I don’t see this as a bad thing. It is warm without having any of the annoying bass boom that you usually have to dial out on the amp. Through the Katana, the “crunch” setting is where this pickup really shines. The mid frequencies really pierce through when you are playing rhythm.
When you coil split the neck humbucker, you have a totally new tone. Again, this lacks the bass that you usually have with a traditional Telecaster neck pickup. But it retains the mids and is still really warm sounding. If you are wondering if you can do the middle position “acoustic” sound that most Tele guitars can do…yes, it does that really well.
Clean tones on the neck humbucker are amazing. It has a bit of chime to it, and chords ring out with tons of sustain. With the coil split, you almost get that neck single coil sound. The coil split is more noticeable with some gain added, but clean it still sounds great. When playing arpeggiated chord lines, it almost sings. I prefer it in full humbucker mode, though.
The Single Coil in the bridge is not as sharp as you would imagine. This is a hot Alnico III pickup, and while it does cut like a Tele should, it doesn’t have anywhere near the brittleness of a Fender. Now this can be a good thing if you play Rock music. You can switch to the bridge to get a “Paradise City” tone with a little overdrive.
If you are a Country player, and think that you can get some chicken picking out of the Nick Johnston PT, you can. But it is nowhere near as sharp or defined. I like this, because you can play some dirty rhythm without it having the “ice pick” sound that Tele guitars sometimes have. The bridge position just has a little more “oomph” and it is balanced well with the neck humbucker.
Both pickups respond really well to volume control, and of course this is more noticeable on a tube amp. You can dial the volume down to almost clean from a full overdrive tone without losing too much actual volume. Likewise, the tone knob works great for dialing back both pickups to get that “creamy” tone with a little fuzz or OD. Both are pretty high quality pots and lend a ton of flexibility to the Nick Johnston PT.
Now, I often call my HSS Nick Johnston a “poor man’s Suhr” because it does have those super-Strat qualities. It can do some rather acceptable Metal tones with the ’78 bridge humbucker. The Nick Johnston PT is a totally different animal, and while you can pull some heavy tones out of it…I wouldn’t say this is for heavier music at all.
The Nick Johnston PT excels when it comes to beautiful clean tones, and tasty overdriven sounds. On the “Brown” setting of the Katana it was just too noisy, and the neck humbucker was too dark to really chug. So while the original Nick Johnston signature could pull off some high gain acrobatics, I wouldn’t say this guitar is for that.
I watched Nick Johnston play his PT live from the Schecter Studio, to see how he utilizes it. He seems to alternate his lead playing between the bridge AND the neck pickup. I think this is why the bridge single coil is so “rounded off”. He switches to the neck for higher gain sounds, and fast legato lines. He uses the bridge for more pronounced “shred” style licks, and pinch harmonics. Sometimes he switches in the middle of a phrase to make the sound “bloom”. Its a cool trick, and rather effective.
Schecter Nick Johnston PT: The Final Verdict
Like Matt Heafy, I really appreciate when an artist actually plays the guitars that they helped to design. So often, the cheaper import models have their names on the guitars, yet the artists doesn’t play them in real life. Nick actually plays his models, both Custom Shop and Imports. I have seen two of his guitar clinics, and he often favored the import model over his Custom. Nick also records with them! I think this is a testament to the quality of Schecter.
The new Schecter Nick Johnston PT fills a few gaps that the original model left. There are reasons why some people prefer a Strat over a Tele, and one of those reasons is the bridge. But the Nick Johnston PT also fills in the gaps for people that need that neck humbucker for their sound. This is no normal Telecaster style guitar, though.
The fact that the bridge single coil is not the traditional sound that you would expect might throw some people off. The same goes for the midrange focused humbucker. This guitar fills a certain niche. I suppose if you have both Nick Johnston models, you have pretty much every pickup combo available! This can be really useful in the studio.
But the pickups not sounding like a regular Tele is exactly what Schecter was going for. I think this guitar is only a “Telecaster” when it comes to the body style. The tones that you get out of it are much different than what you would expect from a Fender. I actually like the more useful bridge single coil, since I almost never use it with a Fender. The bridge is usually much too brittle, and has too much high end. That isn’t a problem with the NJ PT!
I said in the beginning this is like a “hybrid” and I stand by that theory. It may have all the looks of a classic style guitar, but everything is modern when you look a little closer. The neck is a dream to play, and the pickups make every position a usable option. So if you have always loved Telecaster style guitars, but never got along with the sound of them…the Nick Johnston PT might be PERFECT for you.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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