Other Guitars

NGD: Cold snap in hell.


Proteus, Proteus, Proteus! Now all you need is that $10,000.00 Fender Custom Shop Forest Fire Juniper '57 Champ Guitar Amplifier (which unbelievably, is still for sale) and you're good to go.


So glad I called that Burned Cab Champ to the attention of all .


Andy, good question.

I have assuredly not had a long-term itch for a PRS. For the most part, while always acknowledging their quality and workmanship, I've consistently denigrated the gutiars as soulless, character-free instruments (in the clinical sense of the word), at their best when serving as a control surface for high-gain amplification.

I've found their clean tones undistinguished and flat, while recognizing that such a neutral signal (I wouldn't even have called it "tone") can be ideal for a range of applications starting from moderate overdrive up through full saturated shred. Response is even across the neck, neither lows nor highs are over-emphasized, and while the essential impression is neither Gibson-24.75-buckery nor Fender-25.5-singlecoiled, it does capture elements of both which can be pushed in either direction with gain, pedals, and EQ, to which it responds predictably. It's a blank slate, an empty palette. Physically, I've known PRSeses are consummately comfortable, amenable to either shredder-low or blues-squeezy higher action.

It happens that none of those qualities - virtuous though they may be for players who need them - have been what I'm looking for in the past 30 years.

I've also found it entertaining to mock PRS's over-dyed super-dramatic intensely chromatic, show-car slick finishes, which go a bit beyond my comfort zone for flamboyance and flash. (Though many of the brands which have taken cues from that practice go much further, with hideously ludicrous self-parodic results which make even the most vivid PRS jobs look restrained and tasteful.)

The combination of all that - and the premium prices charged from the beginning, along with Dragons and Private Reserve offerings - have contributed to the lawyer-dentist-guitar meme. The rest of the industry has followed suit, of course, with all manner of custom shops, making PRS look prescient for recognizing a very first-world demographic, and flattering the wallet of the buyer as much as his musicianship. Like or loathe the guitars, the prices establish a perceived value, making the brand an aspirational target of envy and longing among those with slimmer wallets.

And I think most guitar players, PRS fans or not, are subject to that slowly-layered conditioning, spinning the same kind of magical aura around PRS as halos the most iconic and prestigious models of brands with deeper heritage. It's enabled PRS to create and maintain such a heritage in half the time of the other biggies; many critics and mockers may be choking down at least a faint aftertaste of sour grape.

None of that has anything to do with the merit of the instruments. I think PRS deserves credit for leading by example in raising not only the overall quality of electric guitars, but the expectations of buyers for build, fit, and finish. 35 years later, it's hard to capture the impact the brand had, but when I saw a booth full of the guitars at NAMM in 1985, the apparent contrast in build and quality control with pretty much every other brand at the show was dramatic. Do guitars need to be made that well, with that level of attention to every detail of design and execution?

Well, probably not. By comparison, perfectly serviceable and great-sounding Gibsons and Fenders of the era looked downright utilitarian. But once PRS went there, and found the market acceptance that came to them immediately, it had to kick everyone else in the pants. Also, full credit to Mr Smith and associates for establishing a visual and functional identity from the beginning, and sticking to it while continually refining the recipe.

But, as I say, none of that made me want one. Or, rather, I wanted one desperately when I first saw them hanging in the booth. I continued to want one till I actually played one myself, through my stuff, and that was it: no more desire for a PRS. Regardless the quality, aesthetic impact, and covet-it price, the guitars just weren't built for what I do.

At the time, I wasn't able to analyze why the guitars didn't work for me - that the combination of middling scale length, 24-fret neck, and hardware choices optimized the guitar for a crunchrock-n-shred role for which I had no purpose.

But since I played a 335 at the time, it eventually dawned on me that maybe a PRS in semi build would be more charming. And because the guitars have always been superficially fun to look at - especially in the brand's print catalogs and online - I would occasionally look in on the brand down through the years to see what they're doing. I was aware of their first semi, and Ted McCarty's involvement, and I nodded approval: that's more like it.

Then around 2004 I came across a nicely made maple-over-hogany Korean-built Raven-branded klone of the f-hole PRS, in a nicely figured (but not cartoonish) amber, being remaindered out at fire sale prices after the bloody family tragedy which befell the Raven importers. The price was righter than right. I know it's not a PRS, but the spec and materials were dead-on, and sonically it seemed a logical extension of what I knew of PRS, giving me some confidence that it's a reasonable tonal facsimile.

I do find it more interesting tonally - maybe the contribution of the semi construction - but not much. Still a largely midrange focus, largely without the low bloom or harmonic comlexity that gets me going. By that time I was able to deduce that the scale length gave it a tone which to my ear was neither here nor there.

It's a nice guitar, I still have it, and I've come to have more appreciation for that tone, which is sometimes enough of a contrast to my other guitars to tickle my ear for awhile. (Though I'm still surprised at how little variety in girth there is between, say, the neck pickup and both pups together, or the middle position and the bridge. And then I remember its 24 frets, which push the neck pup to a position where there's something Stratty about both its tone and the middle position blend tone. Not necessarily a bad thing.)

As a consequence of that experience, and my rapid descent into the Gretsch rabbit hole and other wider domains of builds and pickup specs, nothing in PRS-land has even interested me or seemed remotely compelling enough to justify the cost. Humbuckers on a slab, a sandwich, or a semi? How many times have I been there?

I was also more cynical than I should have been about the SE line; so much for the high-end mystique, I thought. Now i can get a Korean/Chinese/now Indonesian PRS knockoff with PRS on the headstock! Whoopee! I suppose if I'd long lusted for a PRS and was put off only by price, I'd have been as enthused about SEs as we can be about Squiers, or Electromatics, or Streamliners - all of which we've all learned to respect.

So for that constellation of reasons, I hadn't paid PRS much attention for a decade or so (other than following the Gibson lawsuit adventure, and chuckling at the PRStrat, which seemed to me a classic loss of the plan).

So. How did this happen? I've reconstructed the trail of bread crumbs through my gear-besotted mushbrain.

I've been exploring less common (at least to me) builds for years: full hollow but enclosed, posts vs trestles, semi, chambered; combinations of body depth and scale length; bridge and tailpiece combinations and how they work with the various builds; less common wood combinations. Based on my ear-o-phonic comparisons of builds I already have, I'm always wondering how some slightly different combination would sound, and while cruising what's available in the current Wide World of Guitar Wonder, keep a casual and fluctuating inventory in my head of what I might be interested to hear.

It's also been a year of baritone and extended range adventures, with the scale-length specificity that naturally leads to.

These two parallel lanes of inquiry intersected when I came across the Hagstrom Viking baritone: a semi f-hole build (which I didn't have in baritone voice), good scale length. Love it. So far it might be my Ultimate Baritone. (Not that we ever stop looking.)

I like it so much I decided to sample more Hagstrom semis, the Super Viking and the Alvar. (Bread crumbs coming.) Once I had those in hand, I felt duty-bound to compare them to my other semis.

So, new strings on 8 or 9 guitars, and lots of play-testing, during which I re-familiarized myself with their comparative voices, how similar and how differing. Ultimately, could I justify keeping them all? (Sidetrack: one of the Hagstroms has gone back.)

But (finally the breadcrumbs lead to a door) among that bunch was the Raven PRS-alike, which did stand out tonally from the others. That put PRS back on my radar.

At the same time, I was starting to wonder if the Ideal Tone I've been looking for (and prove to myself over and over I already have, when I play one Gretsch or another) resides in a hollower guitar than these semis. But maybe not as completely hollow as the Casino and Ibanez AFS75TD I've had for years. And maybe smaller-bodied than my 6122-62, 6122-59, white-Gent-with-Dynas - and with meatier pickups than my Tenny.

Conversations here on the GDP suggested Eastman and D'Angelico as possible sources for this spec that was coalescing in my mind: 14-15" body, thinline, hollower than a semi, not 25.5" scale. Both had candidates, but were too expensive for this tangent and/or were disqualified by some feature that didn't appeal. To be thorough, and with the Raven out of its case and staring at me, I ambled over to the PRS website, determined to make sense of the line. Once I grokked that Custom means maple top and Standard means mahogany, some of the apparent duplication was cleared up.

And there in the SE department was the Hollowbody Standard: all-mahogany (my other semis are all maple or maple-over), 14", nice depth, completely hollow but for a right-sized block under the bridge. The 10" radius (in a world of 12 - 15) was a nice bonus; ditto the 1-11/16" nut and the allure of a somewhat chunkier neck. AND, crucially, 22 frets instead of 24.

That exact spec, this exact body, is not available in the American-made so-called Core line: another bonus, as I generally approve of guitars that are unique to a premium brand's down-market brand (like the Casino, WildKat, CVT, 5622 triple-pupper, Streamliner P90, etc). It suggests that someone has put time and thought into a fresh spec, and that the brand might be prototyping ideas they aren't yet willing to invest in for their topshelf line - or offering a spec they know is unusual, might be an experiment for many buyers, and would be prohibitive if premium-priced.

And I liked the colors.

Lots of attractors - not particularly to the PRSness of the guitar, but to its spec, which would be both unique in my pile and another data point in my Endless Expanding Quest. I was ambivalent-to-skeptical about the wrap-over stoptail screwed into a bridge block, as other revelations lately have suggested the combination of a floating bridge with wide base and either a trapeze or Bigsby provide harmonic and resonant characteristics which contribute to my Gretsch affinity. (And might be at least as important as distinctions between chambered "solid," thin hollow, and semi builds.)

But I don't have many guitars with wrap-overs, and certainly no semis - and much as I like the Great Gretsch Sound, there are times when I appreciate the focus and harmonic clarity of a stud-mounted bridge. So I was willing to give it a chance.

I read reviews - universally positive, and in ways that were meaningful to my tonequest. I took in a few play demos, and liked what I heard. After reading all the copy on the website (which is a bit more specific and less breathless than most, rather than suggesting that everything is perfect for anything) and doing some research on Core and SE differences, the apparent care with which PRS manages offshore production, their forthrightness about who does what, and how - and taking a virtual tour of the factory - I not only gained respect for the SE line, but began to see the PRSness of the guitar as a positive virtue.

In keeping with one of the guiding principles of my advancing years - ie, no one gets younger, we don't have forever, if not now when, and if I can afford it, why not? - I looked for a deal, found one, and pulled the lever. (You thought I was going to say "trigger," didn't you?)

Nother words...I wasn't looking to scratch a PRS itch, it's just that they had a guitar whose spec piqued my interest and seemed to slot interestingly into my menagerie, and I trusted the company and their process.

I'm neither sorry nor exultantly proud that I bought a PRS, but so far I'm glad to have this guitar. Long term, who knows. Maybe mahogany hollowbodiness won't prove all that distinctive.

Time will tell.

(Actually, I MIGHT be writing a book.)


A real page turner.


Hep not hip right?

Needs more cowbell, whatever that means. Just my impression, hope this helps.


Whoever heard of a hepster.

And don't get me started on cowbell metallurgy, builds, and bracing.


Thank you for that, Herr Prot. I figured it was something like that.


Very interesting piece, and i like the reasoning that brought you to it.... What's your favorite amp with it so far?


Tim, congrats on your new PRS. Sometimes it's fun to test some new waters! And since PRS isn't really known for the quality of the pickups... I say throw some of my favorite humbucker sized Dynas in that thing!


A few months back, I posted about getting a Custom 22 in trade and trying to sell it, That went bad, not many bites other than low-baller tire kickers. Fortunately I had the sense to try new pickups in it. And now, it it one of the best sounding guitars I have ever played. And that isn't hyperbole. It's just that the stock pickups blew dog. The were high gain, overly mid focused, distortion makers. I also hated the wing tuners, so off they went and replaced with the same exact tuner other than the locking mechanism. I hope you like you PRS at least half as much as I love mine!


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