I have resisted playing them for a number of years but now I am looking at them as a way to have access to the lower notes that are getting more and more common while still having the basic E-E tuning that I live by for most of what I play.
Although.. I am not totally sold on going this route. I am the kind of person that when someone says, "Play a D chord.", I say "Which one?" looking at an easy 10+ chords and that is just with the triads and inversions. The greatest value I see in this for me is where, on the rare occassion I play in unison, it would be nice to actually play in perfect unison meaning that the octave is identical as well as the letter note(s).
All the same...
Any tips for what to look for? Stay away from?
I tend to like EMG pickups so I am looking at the Ibanez, LTD and Schecter models that are equipped with them and they keep below a grand (USD).
From all accounts I've read, the new Ibanez RG8 is a great introductory 8-string. My 2228 has become my main player - I don't touch the 8th string too often, but it's nice to have it there for things like chordal basslines, tapping, and runs that would otherwise require awkward position shifts.
From my perspective, I'd stay away from any scale lengths below 27" if you're planning on running an extra low string. Even with 27", I find the low F# to be uncomfortably loose, so I would not be comfortable using Schecter's 26.5" neck.