Price paid: $ 500
Purchased from: Sweetwater
Sound — 9
My musical tastes and playing style aren't set in stone from one day to the next, but heavy alternative/prog type stuff (Coheed, Porcupine Tree, Circa Survive, etc.) is sort of my bread and butter, if you will. I also venture into metal territory on occasion, as well as more ambient/instrumental stuff, and the typical classic rock/blues from time to time. That being said, this guitar is capable of handling all the styles I play incredibly well. I play through a Blackstar HT-40 with an Eminence Wizard speaker along with some pretty standard effects (tube screamer as a boost, various modulation types, delay, etc) and that amp/effects combination along with this guitar makes for an incredibly versatile rig. The maple top, neck and ebony fretboard make for a fairly bright guitar overall which keeps clean tones chime and clear, but the mahogany in the body provides enough tonal balance to keep anything from bluesy breakup tones up through all out high gain from getting too harsh or thin. The stock wiring setup also makes for very usable volume and tone controls. The volume pot uses a capacitor wired across the in/out terminals to simultaneously retain high frequencies and gradually roll off low end allowing for thinner, almost tele-esque tones in the bridge and passable single coil type tones from the neck pickup. The generally bright nature of the guitar gives plenty of room for the the incredibly wide, even sweep of the tone knob to darken things up to varying degrees. This is the first humbucker guitar I've played with a legitimately usable tone control and I'm amazed with the variation of tones I can get using it combined with the volume pot. After a few months I replaced the stock pickups with a Bare Knuckle Rebel Yell in the bridge, and a DiMarzio Humbucker From Hell in the neck, but the stock set are good enough that I'm perfectly happy having them in my backup guitar. I also removed the capacitor on the volume pot (as I have a Strat for when I want single coil tones), and replaced the stock tone cap with an Orange Drop. The guitar sounded great with the stock electronics, but the upgrades I've made make it a serious tone machine. The "SE" in PRS's SE line stands for student edition, but this guitar doesn't sound like it was made for a student. Tonally this guitar competes with guitars I've tried that cost 3-4 times more.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for about 3 1/2 years, and this is a significant step up from the budget guitars I played before I made this purchase. I reached the point in my playing where the poor quality and playability of cheap budget guitars was beginning to hinder my progress, and getting this guitar not only allowed me to continue to improve, but also inspired me to play even more. The playability and overall feel of this guitar makes it a joy to play. And when you have an instrument that not only allows for, but actually inspires, your creativity and desire to improve as a player and is a tool that helps connect with the music rather than an obstacle that must be struggled with. If this guitar were lost or stolen I would absolutely buy it or another PRS again, and I plan on doing so regardless. I'm thoroughly impressed with the PRS SE line, and look forward to someday getting my hands on a US made PRS.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar was perfectly giggable straight out of the box, and I have no doubt it would hold up to regular gigging with ease. A backup would be preferable in a gigging situation especially with the tremolo, but more in case of string breakage than reliability issues. And even as far as string breakage goes I've only broken 2 strings in the 10 months I've owned the guitar, with it seeing about 2ish hours of play time per day. The gold finish on the bridge is beginning to wear from palm muting but that's to be expected with gold hardware. The hardware is all solid, but I replaced the strap buttons with Dunlop Strap Locks just to be safe. This is guitar is super reliable, and incredibly consistent. The neck is remarkably stable, and it stays in tune really well. It's my workhorse. If SE guitars are good enough for Opeth to gig with, they're good enough for anyone.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar came from the factory set up with 9 gauge strings, and was set up really well. The neck was straight, action and intonation required only minor adjustments, and the tremolo was smooth and stayed in tune much better than I expected. The nut slots were a hair tight, but that was a simple enough fix. There was a fair amount of string buzz, but that was more due to my heavy handed picking on light strings than the setup. I mix and match strings from a couple different GHS sets to get a set consisting of gauges .010, .012, .016, .028, .038, .050 and after restringing with my preferred string gauges and adjusting action, intonation, nut slot width, and trem spring tension accordingly, this guitar plays like a dream with zero fret buzz. The frets were excellent with no high/low/dead spots, and the fret ends were filed and rounded incredibly comfortably. This guitar practically plays itself. There is one slight finish flaw in the lower cutaway in the form of a small drip that formed before the finish had cured, and I'll knock a point off for that but to be honest I didn't even notice it until I had the guitar for a couple of months. I'll have to take another point off for the minor intonation, action, and nut slot adjustments needed by the factory setup, but overall the guitar looks, feels, and plays very well.
Features — 8
Note: this is a review of the 2011 model, not the new 2012 model with arched top and coil tap. This guitar was made in 2011 in Korea. It is based on Dave Navarro's Maryland made guitar, which is based on the Custom 24. It consists of a typical double cutaway PRS shaped solid mahogany back with a flat maple top, a 3 piece maple neck (Wide Thin profile) and a 24 fret ebony fretboard with bird inlays. The finish is called Jet White (just a simple gloss white). It has a PRS tremolo bridge, non-locking PRS SE tuners, master volume, master tone, and 3 way toggle. Bridge pickup is an SE HFS Humbucker, and the neck is a SE Vintage Bass humbucker (the SE versions of popular US made PRS pickups). It came with a short cable, truss wrench, and allen key for adjusting the bridge saddles, all of which was packed in a PRS SE gig bag. I've been very impressed with the gig bag. Plenty of storage space, padded shoulder straps, and much better padding than I would have expected in a soft gig bag. The guitar has a relatively simple feature set, but that's generally how I like things. A second volume pot would be nice, but that's only a minor complaint. The only other thing that I would prefer is a set of locking tuners. I don't have any real complaints about the current tuners, but locking tuners would be preferable with the tremolo. I do have to knock a couple of points off for those small issues, but overall I'm very happy with the feature set.