SE Custom 24 review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (98 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Custom 24
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Price paid: $ 650

Purchased from: Guitar Center

Sound — 8
I play this amp through an Egnater Tweaker head, modded out Valve Jr. Head, and a variety of pedals, mostly Visual Sound Jekyll And Hyde and EH Holy Grail. My style is rooted in modern and classic rock, blues, and alternative. I own an SE Custom 22 hardtail, which I love, and mainly bought this guitar because I wanted a trem and extended fret access for instrumental stuff (Vai, etc). The SE 24 is notably brighter than the 22 fret model, probably because of the maple neck, and the closer proximity of the pickups to each other due to the longer fretboard. If you're used to a warmer sound, this guitar can be a little harsh at first, but increasing the bass on your amp produces a very full, punchy, and defined tone. I really grew to like the sound because it has a great bass presence without being muddy. It definitely has the hot, agressive blues/rock tone that PRS artists like Davy Knowles are known for. The clean tones from this thing really surprised me, they have a lot of sparkle that you wouldn't get out of other humbucker guitars. Sounds fantastic with a Fender style clean tone w/reverb. The neck pickup is much less muddy than on 22 fret guitars, I assume because it's relatively closer to the bridge. The middle position is especially nice, it's very reminiscent of an in-between Strat tone. The Bridge has the classic mid emphasis, great for overdrive. With a higher gain setting, this guitar puts out great rhythm and lead tones in all positions, with lots of definition and punch. In addition to being bright, the pickups are also fairly hot, so they overdrive an amp easily. Lacking the fancy switching of the USA PRS models, the overall range of tones is more limited, but they all sound fantastic and fit well in many situations. The one thing that it does seem to lack is a warm blues tone, on my 22 I can get a warm, 335-ish sound from the neck pickup, but this axe is just a little too bright to pull that off. Obviously the pickups don't sound quite as good as the USA models either, but they're by no means bad and I think you'd have to drop some serious coin to improve them.

Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I think this guitar is a real winner. Most importantly, it sounds and plays great. It's not perfect, but I can be pretty particular about my gear and there's nothing about it that bothers me much. I could go for a better nut that makes tuning easier, and it would be great to see some coil tap options on the SE line, but I won't lose sleep over it. It might not be the perfect guitar for everyone, and that's OK - the Schecters and high end Epiphones are probably in the same category. But for me, I know it's everything I need, and it's a quality instrument with a good company standing behind it, that's why I stick with PRS. As they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Reliability & Durability — 10
This axe hasn't seen as much action as my other guitars, but going off my experience with my SE 22, which has seen several gigs, this thing should stand up to plenty. The construction seems very similar, and I've never had a reliability problem with either PRS.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action on this guitar really surprised me. I bought my 22 used, and the setup was less than ideal to say the least. I half expected a long "break in" period on this guitar, but was pleased to find it almost perfect. It came stock with 9's, and the action is unbelievably smooth, no dead spots or buzzy frets. The nut is set up at a good height (which was a real problem on my 22). I haven't had to touch the truss rod once, and the trem was in perfect balance also. I did need to adjust the saddles for intonation, but that's a small thing, and for string height, but that was totally my own preference. Finding a setup this good at this price point is almost unheard of these days. I've since found out that all SE models are sent to the Maryland PRS shop and personally QC checked and set up by a PRS employee, so I guess it's not as surprising knowing that. All the other hardware is great, the knobs are smooth and have a good taper (signs of good pots) and the Switch is solid. The tuners are very nice as well, don't listen to anyone that says you need locking tuners on this guitar, simply not true. I put them on my 22 and it didn't make a lick of difference. This guitar will give you tuning problems in some cases, but the nut is the culprit, not tuners. It's set up for 9's, so if you go bigger, the string slots aren't wide enough and the strings stick, which causes intonation problems with bends and trem use. I've found that using some graphite lube, filing the nut for your string size, and WORKING THE TREM WHILE TUNING really settles the intonation in well. It's probably not the ideal, but it's really easy to work around the intonation issues if you know what you're doing. The finish is also quite nice, glossy but doesn't look too thick. The birds are unfortunately just a plain, white material, rather than abalone, etc., but they still look nice, definitely an upgrade from the Dot style. On the neck, there are no rough fret ends, the tangs seem to be recessed into the fretboard slightly. I did notice a little bit of finish inconsistency down the seam where the fretboard meets the neck, but they're like tiny surface drip marks, in all honesty I'm surprised I noticed it in the first place. Overall, nearly flawless in this category.

Features — 9
I have the 25th Anniversary in Vintage yellow, with a stunner quilt top if I do say so myself. The SE Custom 24 follows the traditional SE Custom format, with 2 humbuckers, 3 way switch, 1 vol, 1 tone, non-locking tuners, PRS trem, mahogany body with a maple cap and figured veneer. However, this SE model has a maple neck, rather than mahogany. The neck is a wide-thin carve, which, though obviously thinner, I find very similar in feel to the wide-fat. Also, in comparison to many SE models, the heel on the neck joint is considerably shorter, which provides better access to the upper frets. All 2010 and on SE's feature the old-school birds, which I think is a very classy touch. It's also worth noting that all SE Custom 24 models, as far as I know, are identical in every way except for the finish and aesthetics. Part of me wishes there was a coil tap option on this guitar, but the pickups and electronics are of such good quality that the tones you can get via the simple layout sound great and fit well in almost any mix. Also, these guitars come with a very nice PRS gigbag.

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