Price paid: $ 664
Sound — 9
This is a really great sounding rock axe. It sounds more or less like an SG but a little tinnier and more focused, but with less sustain and fatness. Having said that, although it is in the same ballpark as a Gibson sound-wise, it has its own character that is all PRS. The pickups aren't the hottest but have great character, clean up very well if you back off the volume, but get really nice overdriven or distorted tone. This is a very versatile axe you can play pretty much anything on, but it really excells at fullblown rock with high gain. Perhaps for modern metal the Bridge pup might be too muddy, but for classic 70s and 80s metal it is perfect. Not to mention softer rock styles. The neck pup with tone rolled back gives you instant Santana for example. Many have said you should replace the pups on an SE, but I don't agree. I was about to myself, as I wasn't totally content with my tone using a Fender 100W amp and Boss overdrive/distortion pedal combined with the amp's dirty channel. The sound was too muddy for hardrock. But I got a Boss 7-band EQ instead and that hit the spot. With boosted bass and treble it cleaned up all the mud and allowed the guitar to cut directly through the mix. And since I already get more than enough gain and I don't need a hotter pickup, I can't see exactly what a new pup would do for me.
Overall Impression — 9
I play mostly blues, jazz and a wide range of rock. This guitar covers all those styles and if I could only have one guitar, this would be a fine choice. I've been playing +15 years and have another four guitars, one electric hollowbody among them which is my backup for everything but hard rock and metal. I'm considering getting another SE as a backup for all styles. This is a total keeper. If you're considering a Gibson Studio model, don't. Go for an SE instead, they are much better. I do have one big complaint though, one that has made me consider switching to Gibson. I can't see why PRS doesn't make a decent stoptail Bridge for the gauge of strings I use. The Standard stoptail is only intonatable for 9s and 10s. You can buy a tonepros fully intonatable one, but that rides too high for action as low as I like it. Therefore a player like me is forced to use a trem version even though he does not use the whammy. I blocked off the trem and it works as well as a blocked off Strat would, perfect actually. But I'm sure I could get more sustain and a woodier tone if this used a fully intonatable stoptail. For all his vision, Paul Reed Smith really overlooked this gaping detail that many guitarists complain about. It's still a great guitar though.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've had this for years now and it has acquired a few dings along the way, but is solid as a rock just the same. The only issue I had was with tuning because the strings were bindign at the nut. I fixed that with sandpaper and a little graphite and now it doesn't have any problems. I trust this live as much as any other guitar I've had.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I set up my guitars myself so I don't comment on factory setups. Once I slapped on 11s, it got the tone I crave with low action and a slight buzz but nothing that comes through the amp. I blocked off the trem, now it is flush with the body. This is supposedly unorthodox but I still get perfect intonation and action. However, the nut slots aren't cut wide enough for 11s so you might have to sand them open a tad. Standard stuff really. As for the finish, absolutely perfect. Can't find a blemish on the entire guitar.
Features — 10
Made in Korea, don't know what year. 22 mid-jumbo frets on a rosewood frtbrd. Mahogany neck and body. 25" scale, two humbuckers and a master tone and volume. Mine had the tremolo version, which I blocked off like one would on a strat, because it does not hold tuning at all if you use the trem. Came with a nice soft gig bag.