Purchased from: Axe Music - Calgary
Features — 8
The S/N Prefix indicates this is a 2013 production model. I purchased this new (still in the carton) from Axe's Warehouse. A quick spec summary: Solid 1-piece mahogany body, & 1 piece mahogany set neck w/ long tenon. Rosewood Board, PRS Tuners, PUS and light weight compensated wrap tail piece with set screws for minor overall intonation adjustment. Body had beveled solid maple top with flame veneer & a belly cut, tapered cutaway and reduced heel for better access. The scale length is 24. 5 inches and the fingerboard radius is 10 inches. It also has a dual-action truss rod! It comes standard with a SE Gigbag, cheap guitar cord and the 2 tools required for truss rod and tailpiece.
Sound — 8
Every cavity has shield paint and the cavity covers have a shield on them as well for noise reduction. The 2 Humbucking PUs are hotter than PAFs but still articulate so it's easy to pick out single notes even when distorted. The Bridge PU has some bite and the Neck PU is thicker without being muddy. The chords blend well like a real Les Paul so it suits my style perfectly. The controls are laid out different than a Gibson which may take some getting used to.
I'm a blues/rock guy so again this guitar is made for guys like me, no shredding but bends, vibrato and some fast leads. One thing I noticed when auditioning the guitar through a Fender Deluxe Reverb re-issue is I was easily able to get singing feedback on single notes simply by applying a little finger vibrato to the notes to sustain them more. The guitar itself also has plenty of natural sustain. Considering I'm used to playing some high end Gibson's this guitar showed itself well.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action was setup OK but the nut slots were too small for the strings. The guitar comes strung with 9-42's and when I cut the strings they stayed in the nut slots like they were being pinched. The nut slot heights were fine but there's too much nut material left on the top of the nut, it'll need to be sanded down. I use 10-46's so after my cleaning, I widened the nut slots and installed D'Addario 10-46s. The fingerboard had some white and grey stuff in the pores and the surface looked too shiny. I used steel wool (after taping the PUs up to prevent the steel wool dust from sticking) and followed up with lemon oil. Looks great now.
The finish and fit are top notch. The frets level and smooth. The wiring inside is well done as well, but the shielding paint could be a little neater. It also looks like mounting holes for screws (PU rings, cavity covers) are not pre-drilled. This is very minor in my opinion. Overall the quality of workmanship is excellent. Especially for this price point. The neck is wide/fat according to PRS but it's nowhere near a real '50s neck or RI neck. More closely sized to my R0V2 which is in between a 59 & 60 neck and very close to my old Elitists necks. Anyone calling these baseball bat necks has no idea really! Still it's comfortable.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The finish is not polyurethane but some thinner and more easily damaged acrylic. Not an issue for me, I like nitro and lacquers much more than heavy plastic poly type finishes. Feels a little nice but still not as nice as nitro. The tuners are anything special but seem to be fine enough in turning ratio for ease of tuning. The tailpiece is very light weight, not sure if it's aluminum with a nickel plating or some other light material? I always use Schaller strap locks and this guitar was no exception, I bought a set when I picked the guitar up and installed them during clean up & set up.
Overall Impression — 9
Well I'm a regular Les Paul guy, I have 3 Gibson Custom Shop re-issues, an R0 V2 50th Ann, a 2010 R7 and 2012 R8. All I can say while this guitar will never replace my RIs it is a fine guitar and will get regular playing. I think at this price point it's a no brainer. It'll also be my guitar to take on business trips so I don't have to do without or risk my much more expensive Les Pauls. This guitar only comes with a gigbag so I'll need to invest ina TSA locked ATA case so I can safely check it in at airports.
I set a budget for this guitar at $600 which it came in under with tax new. I tried MIM Strats, Squires and other PRS SEs but the similarity to an LP just made the decision for me. I wanted a simple guitar that was similar enough to my LPs and this guitar meets that requirement easily. I'll enjoy playing while away from home.