S2 Custom 22 Semi-Hollow review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Features: 8
  • Sound: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.8 Good
  • Users' score: 7.3 (4 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: S2 Custom 22 Semi-Hollow

Purchased from: NStuff Music

Features — 8
The S2 Custom 22 Semi-Hollow is a blend of contemporary PRS style and vintage semi-hollow tone. My guitar was made in 2014. Mahogany neck and back, flame maple top with F-hole, a rosewood fretboard with hefty frets, PRS designed humbuckers and tremolo, 3-way blade switch with single volume and tone controls, and locking tuners complete this model. I have the Dark Cherry Sunburst finish, which gives the wood a lot of character - I've found that the burst finishes on the S2's are usually the most attractive. The semi-hollow chamber extends throughout most of the upper bout, and continues behind the center block as far as I can see - the "semi-hollow" description is no joke. The finish is very thin, I accidentally chipped a very small piece off and noticed that it's about the thickness of one or two sheets of paper. I like the thin finish, because I feel it doesn't choke the resonance out of the guitar.

Some of the hardware on this model is custom made for the S2 line (tuners, pickups), some is shared with the top-of-the-line core models (nut, control knobs), and some is shared with the SE line (tremolo bridge, pots, switch). The result is a very functional guitar. The Phase II style tuners are fantastic, with all metal parts, smooth adjustment, and solid locking requiring no excess winding around the post. The SE bridge is also a fine unit, with a substantial block and decent quality material throughout, and a flawless design. Though it's a cast bridge rather than a milled unit like the premium PRS guitars, the tremolo still functions very well with proper adjustment, and contributes to a strong acoustic resonance. Electronics I would rate as fair - the volume pot has been slightly scratchy sounding, though the action is smooth, and the tone pot has considerably less resistance to turning than the volume. I would prefer the tone pot to have more resistance, to keep it in the intended position more reliably, but it's probably more of a mental thing as I've not had a problem with it going out of the desired range.

The control layout on this guitar is a bummer to me. The 3-way blade is positioned right where the trem bar will be in the way of on the fly pickup switching if it's left hanging or flipped down out of the way. I'm sure PRS had their reasons for going to the blade, but I'm still a big fan of the toggle switch rather than the blade because of where it was positioned. Not a deal breaker, but I wish the toggle was an option.

Protecting my purchase is a PRS embroidered gig bag, actually another piece shared with the SE line, just with slightly different appearance - and you won't hear me complaining about it. These gig bags are very protective of the guitar, have comfortable shoulder straps, and a multi-compartment storage pocket. Actually more functional than a hard case, if you find yourself hustling a lot of gear in and out of rehearsals and gigs.

In summary, there are a couple things that could be improved on this guitar, mostly the pots and control layout, and others that save on cost yet are very well made and functional (tuners, trem, case).

Sound — 8
The first time my bandmates heard this guitar, they all commented on how strong and full it sounded, even clean. I play it mostly through a PRS SE 30 amp, which has a Bassman-esque clean tone, and can also do vintage plexi crunch to more modern Marshall overdrive tones, and I can cover a lot of ground with this combination. Acoustically, the Custom 22 Semi-Hollow has a very full yet slightly loose bass response and mellower highs compared to a full solid body. Plugged in, this translates to a slightly more relaxed, mellow tone. The S2 #7 pickups can range between low and medium output, depending on how they're adjusted. I did find that adjusting the overall height and polepiece screws was very helpful for fine-tuning my sound. The bridge pickup is a perfect blend of bite and presence without being piercing. The neck has a slighly darker tone, with less bite on the higher strings. Both pickups have a strong mid character. The combination of woods, construction, and pickups results in humbucker tones that are a crossroads between the signature PRS sound, with singing violin-like notes, and the woody, slightly subdued tones of a larger body semi-hollow. Coil splitting via the push/pull tone knob does provide single coil sounds, but keep in mind this isn't a Fender style guitar - it has totally different woods and construction. Single coil tones have a bit more twang and jangle, but not the full spank and tightness of a strat or tele.

Pop, rock, blues, classic rock, and probably even some jazz would be easily handled by this guitar. For the tighter bass response and sharper highs preferred by shred, metal, and hard rock players, I would recommend looking to a solid body guitar instead. My only request would be for the neck pickup to have a little more sparkle, but flipping the bright switch of my amp puts it right back in the sweet spot.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
My guitar arrived set up nicely, but still requiring some tweaking. The action was fair, the neck needed a little more relief, but due to shipping I expected that. A couple tweaks of the truss rod over a few weeks as the guitar acclimated and I've not needed to touch it since (9 months). With proper adjustment there is hardly any fret buzz. The pickups were poorly adjusted at first, once I got them dialed in the tone became much clearer notes were better defined. Intonation, trem and saddle setup were spot on. The nut was cut very specifically for 10-46 gauge strings, which IMO is too tight - I don't know why PRS insists on cutting its nuts with such a tight fit for standard strings, because they constantly seem to bind strings and cause tuning problems on trem-equipped guitars. I widened the nut slots very slightly with very fine grit sandpaper, and also used some lubricant, and the guitar stays in tune very well now aside from totally dive-bombing the trem. Overall, I felt there were some things that could've been improved on the setup, but the necessary tweaks were minor and at least didn't require me to pay someone for work on a new guitar!

The finish is very good, no flaws or problem areas, just a little bit of polishing compound remaining in the f-hole area. The top is well matched and has a very nice figure, although not all S2 models have great looking tops. The scarf joint and heel splice are almost undetectable. Frets are very well trimmed and polished. This axe looks like a million bucks and is a joy to play now that the setup is tweaked to my liking.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I've gigged this guitar several times now, and not had any problems. The stock strap buttons are the standard PRS variety, which are very large and grab on to straps well. Despite being thin, I think the finish is very resilient and won't wear through. The neck joint is very strong, and the guitar holds its intonation even if pressure is applied down near the headstock, which is something PRS excels at. My only concern is the pots, I am hoping a little cleaner will keep the volume pot from being grainy sounding.

Overall Impression — 8
In my 15 years of playing, this is definitely the best quality guitar I've owned - my others are PRS SE's, a Mira X, and MIM Strat. Compared to my guitars from the SE line, this guitar has more unplugged resonance, better pickups, and better overall build, which is really saying something because the SE guitars are very nice too. Also definitely a better quality instrument than some other American brands in this price range. It's not a guitar I would grab for every single gig I play, because it's made for certain styles, but when I do grab it I'm never let down. Overall, a great guitar, and I won't hesitate to get another S2 series axe in the future, they're a fantastic value!

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