SE Custom Semi-Hollow Body review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (39 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Custom Semi-Hollow Body

Price paid: £ 450

Purchased from:

Sound — 9
I play folk, blues, country and a little jazz. I'm not into heavy distortion or wailing sustain. The overall sound of the guitar is hard to categorise because it can range between quite jangly to very warm and, by rolling back the volume and using both pickups, the tone almost has the quality of an acoustic. To my ears, it is far more versatile than pretty well any other guitar that I have ever played. I use it with a Stagg 10w amp. I also use it with a DigiTech Looper Solo and either a Zoom 505ii multi-effects unit or a Zoom A2 1u multi-effects unit.

Overall Impression — 10
I play country blues, English pop and folk, folk-rock and 60's style guitar instrumentals. I've been playing for yonks but have often had to have long spells without a guitar. Only now in retirement do I have time and funds to buy and play really good instruments. This PRS is by far the best electric that I have. The SE Semi-Hollow looks fabulous, it plays beautifully and is in all respects a wonderful instrument. It's a credit to both PRS and the factory in Korea where it is built. It has to be another 10.

Reliability & Durability — 8
Difficult for me to comment on because I'm not in the habit of stomping on my guitars nor throwing them about, but the instrument is built very solidly so I can't foresee any problems unless you do a Hendrix or Pete Townshend with it. The strap buttons are perfectly placed for balance and are as solid as a rock. I have had a couple of occasions when the guitar slipped against a hard surface but it survived without a scratch, so the finish has to have a major thumbs-up. On those occasions, the tuning did shift slightly. I can't award 10 because I haven't tried to break it, but I'm happy to award an 8. Purely on the basis of its obvious strength.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
What to say - nothing much except that no matter how hard I looked, I could find no flaws. Although built under franchise rather than in the actual PRS factory, the standards of finish and setting-up are spot on. It's a shame that as a result of Carlos Santana asking PRS to design a guitar that would be affordable for those without funds running into the thousands, that the 'SE' tag has been associated with the notion of a 'Student Edition'. Far better to think of SE meaning 'Special Edition' because that's what these guitars are. In all fairness, I cannot award less than 10 for this category.

Features — 9
Built under franchise in Korea, the guitar has a wide neck with a low 'squashed D' profile. The body is 'canoe-routed' mahogany with a perfectly bookmatched flame maple top. (I have the 'natural' finish model and the 'zebra' striping is gorgeous). By 'canoe-routing, I mean that the solid body is routed out on the upper and lower bouts and also across the tail area. The wood of the set neck extends into this area (but not right to the tail) so that the two pickups can be mounted onto it. By peering inside the guitar, I could see that the end of this extended neck wood is rounded off and sanded smooth, even though it was never meant to be seen! The modern 'f' hole is reminiscent of the Rickenbacker style but its presence means that the guitar has a thin but pleasingly loud sound when played acoustically. Although similar in overall shape to a Strat, the horns and the cutaway and substantially different. Although the body itself is not contoured, it is extremely comfortable to hold and play. The tuners are mounted 3-a-side on the headstock and to my taste are geared slightly too low. (14:1 ??) That, however, is my only niggle. The stoptail bridge works perfectly but it does mean that when changing strings you have to be careful not to let the bridge adjusters move. (This is unlikely, but it's something to be careful about). Weight-wise, it weighs in at barely 6lbs which makes it a joy to hold for long periods of time.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I have only had the pleasure of trying out this guitar at Guitar Centre. Played beautifully! HAve longed for it ever since. Some day Baby someday!
    I have owned one of these in a dark green blue color for the last two months. I must admit I always wanted one but after I had played every guitar in the store I came back to this one. I feels so comfortable, well made and at home in my hands. I has a richer sound that any of my solid guitars. I also prefer that it is lighter by a couple of pounds than any strat or tele that I have ever found and its probably half the weight of most Les Pauls. It cost me just a little more than a Mexican Tele which was my 2nd choice but I am happy to pay the extra. One fault I have found it that the selector switch is not always reliable when selecting the neck pick-up. I will take it back soon when I can bare to part with it.
    Great guitar with amazing tone. This is probably one of the best I've ever played, especially for the price.
    This guitar was so in demand when I bought it, that I was 43rd in line on the waiting list to get one from my store.
    These guitars are good, and definitely better than anyGib or Fen for the money, but they are pale in comparison to any Reverend. Easy to mark a guitar with scores of 9 or 10 on here but in reality you need to go out and spend the time playing hundreds of guitars currently availiable in the shops before you're in a position to make these kinds of judgements. II thought this PRS was a strong 7/10 but way too overpriced and nothing special