SE Santana review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (109 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Santana

Price paid: $ 500

Purchased from: second hand

Sound — 9
The sound is 90% of the guitar experience for me and that's why I love this guitar. To give you an idea, it sounds very much like a Gibson SG but more focused and tinnier. But I've compared it to a USA-made SG and I prefer this "cheap" import cause it rocks just as hard and is just as sweet, or mean, but less noisy. However, although it is similar to a Gibson, I'd say its sound is unique and has its own distinctive character. Superb for blues and hard rock, can handle metal but not ideal for it, and pretty much any other style except for jazz that requires a hollowbody. Excellent sustain, very well balanced tone in all the ranges. The tone and vol controls can provide a variety of tonal variations with just a slight twist, which I cannot say for most guitars in this price range. They call this a student model, but the sound to me is worthy of a pro. I hve yet to find a better sounding solidbody for even double the price. I give it a 9 just cause 10 is perfection and does that even really exist?

Overall Impression — 9
One can always find shortcomings, and I think I mentioned all of them. But bottom line this baby smokes, and not just measured as a student import, but compared to pro-level Gibsons and Fenders, which I have also owned. I can't say it's better than a Gibson or Fender because PRS has it's own character. But I'd say this is equal. Things I really love are how easy it is to use. It plays slicker than either a Gibson or Fender according to me. It has this nice balanced tone that is overflowing with personality but at the same time manages to stay cleaner than the others. And other tiny details too, such as its light weight and how it hangs perfectly on the strap. It's clearly the product of years of thought and research on the part of Mr. Paul Reed Smith to create a true workhorse players' guitar. If it were stolen I think I'd have to take therapy to overcome it, cause they don't make em any more! Plus the other SE models today don't have the exact specs I like. I think I'd have to bite the Bullet and fork over a few grande for a USA-made McCarty...and one day I might.

Reliability & Durability — 9
It's a rock. I've gigged with it and play it daily. It was bought second hand so it's been rocking for years and doesn't show any signs of crapping out. The only problem with gigging is the tuners are crappy so one has to tune between songs a lot. But the tuners can be replaced.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I don't comment on factory setups because that's irrelevant. Any decent musician tweeks the setup to his taste anyway. I've set it up with 10 and 11 gauge strings and have settled on 11s, which makes it feel like 10s on a Strat more or less. Action low enough for speed is easy attainable and I can't really note any construction flaws or blemishes at all. If not for the "made in Korea" stamp on the back, I doubt a pro musician would finger this as a so-called student import. It's as good or better than USA Gibsons and Fenders I've had. Superb craftsmanship. The only negative I can state is that I had to push the low e string saddle to the end of its range to intonate, but still got there, so no worries. I still would have rather had just a bit more range for...just in case.

Features — 8
Don't know the year, but it was made in Korea. 22 frets, 25" scale, medium frets, rosewood frtbrd, mahogany body and neck. Glossy finish, tremolo bridge. Non-locking tuners. It's a very simple setup. Came with a nice gigbag. I give it an 8 only because the tuners kinda suck, I'd rather have two tones and two volumes like a Gibson, and cause I was forced to buy a tremolo and block it (I don't whammy)cause the 11 gauge strings I use are too thick to intonate properly on the PRS stoptail bridge.

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