SE Marty Friedman review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Features: 7
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 6 (10 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Marty Friedman

Price paid: ¥ 69000

Purchased from: IKEBE Music Store

Features — 7
First of all, the specs: mahogany body with beveled maple top (but black, so you won't be able to see what's your guitar is made of), 22 frets rosewood fretboard, 2 humbuckers, a 3-way switch and 4 pots (volume + tone for each pickup). And star inlays. The pots are located more to the rear of the guitar compared to a normal PRS SE, because Marty Friedman doesn't want them to get in the way of his right hand, but the downside is that if you're using a triangle-type guitar stand, there are chances that the stand will rub against the bridge pickup tone, so you'll have to check it every time you pick up your guitar again.

Let's talk about the neck: I knew I wanted this guitar because I love Marty very much, but the first time touched it in the store (yeah, just touched. It took me 3 or 4 months before I actually bought it), I was super disappointed that the neck hasn't a satin finish, but a celluloid one. Now I can tell you: I love a satin finish better, but the celluloid does NOT stick and does NOT prevent you from playing fast.

The first time I played it, what struck me was the frets: I have never played with frets so low, it's like they're not there! This is very cool for chords and slides (jumbo frets destroy your fingers when you slide a lot), but on the other hand, I find I have to be much more precise with my solo playing in general to get every notes to sound, especially with legato playing. The other point that nearly made me NOT buy this guitar is the heel: it starts at the 13th fret and your thumb gets stuck (against the body) at the 16th fret. This is SO not optimized to reach the last frets when there are so many heel designs available in 2015, it's like the guys at PRS weren't even trying. Probably the BIG flaw of this guitar.

Since Marty is smaller than me, I thought that if he can play with a guitar like that, I could too, but nope: I have to rely on tapping to perform the last part of the "Tornado of Souls" solo, there is no way I could play it like Marty does. The bridge is fixed but adjustable in height, and doesn't get in the way of the right hand, nor hurts it, nor anything, I like it. The gear are also very reliable.

The biggest surprise once I bought it, though, is the gigbag: hands down the BEST gigbag I've ever had, it looks super classy and even has a hook to hang it somewhere. Very very pleasant surprise. Also, not a surprise because I knew it when I bought the guitar, but there was a campaign at the time: buy a PRS SE and get 2 kg of Japanese rice. Fortunately, the rice is delivered at your place some weeks later, you don't need to go back home with 3 kg of guitar + 2 kg of rice!

Sound — 9
As for the pickups, I knew from the start that I would replace them with Bareknuckle Steve Stevens pickups (burnt chrome finish, because it looks fantastic on a black guitar!), but since I waited to get the guitar to measure the string spacing and order them, I had the time to play with the original PRS pickups, too. They're very good and I could still play with them without feeling they lack something (of course, the Bareknuckle sound better).

I mainly use it to play music in standard tuning (using the Pacifica 212VQM for everything 1/2 tone down), which includes Megadeth albums until "Youthanasia," their first album tuned down a 1/2 tone. I play with Ampkit on a Macbook Pro and the guitar can play anything, thanks to the various settings available (3 positions for pickups + all the combinations of tones and volumes). The guitar is super silent and the low frets helps with the chords (your hand doesn't get tired, because you use almost no pressure with chords, whereas you have to use a bit more when soloing).

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I always have my guitars restrung in .10-.46, so I asked the shop to do it, and since it was my first guitar with that kind of bridge, I watched the guy do it (I was amazed at how he took the entire bridge off and got rid of all the strings at once). Looking at the nut, I was VERY dubious about the strings change, because the nut gutter on the low E string was EXACTLY the size of the standard .42 E string, so I thought there was no way the .46 E string would fit. As I thought, the .46 E string ended up sticking out. I didn't care much because I knew I would give the guitar to the ESP Custom Shop for the change of pickups and that I could tell them to refile the nut (they did), but what if I just wanted to change the gauge of my strings at home? Of all the guitars I've ever had, the PRS SE is the only one with a nut that doesn't allow a gauge change, so be careful: play .009-.42 or you will have to refile the nut. The action and intonation were properly adjusted by the shop where I bought the guitar, then by the ESP Custom Shop, so there never was any problem.

Reliability & Durability — 9
This is my first guitar with a Les Paul design, and the strap once went off (rear strap button), so I bought a Dunlop strap lock and never had problems ever after, but I guess the shape of the guitar was the reason the strap went off. I don't play live at the moment, but the guitar is very reliable at home, and doesn't get in your way when playing seated (balance issues, or anything). I didn't know what to expect from the standard PRS gears, but they're very good, the guitar always stays in tune (OK, it's a fixed bridge, but I use a lot of bends in my playing...). Marty said he always uses his PRS "just to be sure," so I guess I could play live with it and it wouldn't let me down. I've been playing countless hours of Megadeth material with it and never had any problem. The finish is also withstanding my sweat, which says a lot when you know how much we sweat during the Japanese summer.

Overall Impression — 8
I've been playing this guitar for around 1 year now. Overall, I love it, especially when playing rhythm: it sounds great, stays in tune, it's reliable, and feels great to play. The only letdown is the heel, which has no impact if you only play rhythm, but becomes a huge hindrance if you want to play past the 17th fret. You can always find a way around it, but when playing standing it's really difficult to reach the higher frets, and it's such a flawed design in 2015, it's borderline unforgivable. The reason I wrote this review is that there wasn't any real review of that guitar when I wanted to buy it, and you can't always keep your cool when you've got the guitar on your lap in the shop, and ponder the pros and cons. I'm glad to have it and don't intend to resell it, but honestly, I doubt I would buy it again.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Nicd try but i think the review shouldve been done by someone who has played a lrs paul style guitar. The issues with getting to the last couple frets and the strap coming off. I was more interested in the pickups used on the model but said very little about the manufacturer type and you changed the pickups immediately. I dont care about your guitar that you modded im more interested in the model available if i ever come across one. Sounds like the guitar is a p.o.s. according to your review.
    Not a p.o.s, especially since the quality of the materials is high. As I said, the original pickups (PRS) are very good, better than those you can find on an Ibanez Sabre, for instance. If you can find one in a shop, please try it, you'll make your opinion about the pickups really fast, I think. Not everybody wants to be Guthrie Govan, and people who want to usually don't go for a Les Paul-shaped guitar. Great guitar for rhythm playing, that's for sure, and for solo if you got long fingers or are used to play on a LP.
    Where can you buy all these Japanese instruments outside Japan?
    Well, I don't think the PRS SE Marty Friedman is limited to Japan. Is it ?
    I don't know, but I can't find them in any European internet store. EDIT: Aaaaaand found it on Thomann. Too bad is around 900 €.
    i do like your choice of replacement pickups though. Any les paul with bare knuckles is a perfect sound.
    ¥ 69000 equals to about US$ 10900..... I'm pretty sure you meant to type ¥ 6900?