SE Dave Navarro review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.8 (27 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Dave Navarro

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.

YouTube preview picture

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.

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    PRS plays beautiful. It's too bad 'budget' isn't in their vocabulary.
    I got this guitar brand new for $500. I happened to catch a sale going on, but even the $675-700 it usually sells for is a decent price. If you want a cheap guitar, buy an epiphone special made of plywood. If you want a real instrument and can't afford the 2k+ you'll spend on an American made guitar, it's tough to beat the SE line.
    Its funny you say that. My first guitar was an epiphone special. My second was a PRS Se Torero (which I got about 300 bucks off). It's still the smoothest guitar I've ever played as of now. And now I'm one of those arrogantly ignorant PRS fanboys
    My first guitar was also an epiphone special haha. And smooth is the perfect word to describe the way a PRS plays. I'm officially a fanboy too. I've taken some crap about it on various forums haha. But to be honest, it's only been from people who haven't played a PRS. SE or otherwise. PRS makes some seriously legit stuff.
    I just got the 2012 model a few weeks ago and LOVE IT!! I was actually not aware they made a Navarro SE model before 2012. I thought they only made the actual custom 24 version. Seeing your review and video kinda makes me feel like the older version was better. Wish I would have known it was around before I picked up the newer one. But still love it and am not complaining
    What a beautiful guitar. I would love it, if it was for anyone but Navarro.
    go listen to three days then criticize him.
    My Last Words
    Ever heard of the phenomenon of taste and opinion? I know, it's hard to find on the web nowadays..
    Navarro is one of my favorite guitarist.... but I never got the fascination with 3 days. I like the song, but it is no where near his best work. Had A Dad, Ocean Size, Standin in the shower... thinkin, Stop, No One Is Leavin, even Mountain song was better.
    Also, he did some work with RHCP, and I don't think anyone hates their guitar work.
    except most rhcp fans disowned that album
    I'm a huge peppers fan and that's my favourite album.
    My favorite is still Blood Sugar. That album is their magnum opus in my opinion. I have followed the rhcp from day one, and while Mothers Milk showed them maturing a little musically, Blood Sugar was such a huge leap for them musically and I still am amazed to listen to it and see how they matured with that added element of John. I remember seeing how people jumped on the chili pepper bandwagon in high school when Under The Bridge came out. I use to get made fun of for wearing chili pepper shirts to school, and then those same people started listening to them after Under The Bridge came out. Got to love fads huh. Anyway, Amazing Album!
    Not only do fans disown it, the band does too! On tour they refuse to play tunes off of it.
    They don't play anything from OHM because it was a dark era. It was a tough moment for them. That album is GREAT.
    Correction. I have heard them play Warped, Aeroplane, and My Friends live without Navarro, and not that long ago actually. I see it as just another Chili Peppers album, because lets be honest, flea is the driving force of that band. That album had some great tunes. Warped, Aeroplane, Walk a bout, and transcending are some of my faves from it. If I am being honest I do not like their new guitarist, or their latest album, for that matter.
    I've seen a few of these from time to time that are used, usually for a pretty good deal too (ebay, craigslist). That always kind of scared me off, but I might check one out after reading this review. I'd like to nab a PRS... I'll at least try one out.
    To be honest, One of the most comfortable necks I've ever played. I'd totally get it if It wasn't a signature model and if PRS bodys weren't so small.
    I don't really understand why people get so hung up on the whole signature model thing. Maybe if it was ugly as hell or something, but it's gorgeous. Why pass up a quality instrument that looks good and plays well just because of a name on the headstock?
    Well, mostly people feel you can get the exact same instrument if you just buy the guitar the signature model was based on and put new pickups in that guitar. Also the name on the headstock generally means it's hideously overpriced.
    Neither of those things are the case with this guitar, but oh well. To each his own I guess.
    For me, it's just the name. I only buy guitars that I'd use live and I cant imagine using a guitar for MY band with someone else's name on it. Maybe I'm picky, but it's honestly an identity and individuality thing.
    Prs are overall the decent guitars IMO. They have stepped it up a lot these last few years with all their SE models but really? Dave Navarro? Now I've lost all respect for them this is all about money plain and simple. Then again I wouldn't pay a cent over 400 unless it has EMGs which this does not. Since I'm a fan I cant count them out just say I no longer respect their decisions.
    HAHA, except for Navarro has had a PRS signature since the early 2000's, I do believe