SE Santana review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (108 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: SE Santana
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Price paid: $ 500

Sound — 9
The sound is top notch and very similar to a Gibson SG but a little tinnier and more focused. I suppose it can improve with some Seymour Duncans, but I find these pups pretty hot and responsive, and very quiet. I think it could do with a little more high end and actually considering getting one of the maple top versions for that very reason. Other than that it's just awesome.

Overall Impression — 9
This is my second PRS SE and I bought it years after owning another Santana model in college. I got that one about a month after having to hock my Les Paul to pay rent, which was weird cause I almost broke down and cried at the time. Then I got one of these as what I considered a serious sacrifice. But after a week I realized this was actually better sounding than my Les Paul, no matter how sceptical you may be about that. I found the tones really similar but more balanced than the LP, which had really screamy and noisy burst bucker pups in it. No, it doesn't have that irreplaceable chunky LP low end, hence my comparison to an SG instead. But that model I had in college had a serious problem with intonation as it was the stoptail version and I cannot use strings lighter than 11. I got rid of it because of that and was turned off from PRS for the longest time after that. The version I have right now has the tremolo, which I blocked. But I still prefer the tremolo as obviously it is fully intonatable you can get lower action than with the stoptail piece, even the fully intonatable one they sell. My overall impression is that once you go PRS you don't go back. And after you accept that it's all a matter of which one you can afford, cause damn are they expensive. So one day I'll bite the Bullet and get an American made McCarty. But until then, this is my favorite axe.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I bought this particular one second hand and it had a few scuff marks on it already, so I could tell it had been around. I have gigged several times with it and it's my go-to rehearsal guitar also. So in short, it can take wear and tear as well as any guitar I've had. It's not a good idea to gig with out a backup no matter what guitar you own. The finish is a little delicate. I dropped my slide on it one day from about two inches away and it left a mark. But that would probably happen with any guitar that doesn't have one of the plastic encasement finishes like on most Fenders. The thinner the finish the more resonant the guitar is anyway.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
It's a waste of time commenting the factory set up. There's a reason why setting up a guitar is a topic in the first place, because you have to tweek it to your preferences regardless of the instrument you own. I do my own setups and found this to be as good as I've had. The action is really really low, favored by the fact that I blocked off my tremolo. It buzzes a little but not enough to come through the amp so who cares. The intonation is easy to set and perfect with 11s, unlike a previous PRS I had with a stoptail. I don't recommend that bridge by the way. As for the craftsmanship, this is as good as I've seen anywhere really. I've played a plethora of guitars of all types and this has no flaws, it is way better than even $3000+ Gibsons and Luthier classicals I've played. Now, Asian makers like Ibanez also manage to pull off flawless craftsmanship so that isn't that uncommon these days either. However those all seem a little plastic and too noticeable that they are mass produced. More machines than instruments if that makes any sense. PRS, on the other hand, manages to pull off flawless craftsmanship while still presenting a guitar that looks like it was handcrafted. The stain lets you see the wood grain, so you know it's not plywood they gave you. The frets are all leveled. Sure this is a so-called student model, but whoever made it you can tell was concerned that a real musician would be playing it. Bravo is all I have to say.

Features — 9
Don't know what year it was made but it's discontinued. Made in Korea. 22 medium jumbo frets, wide-fat neck, mahogany body and set neck. Beautiful stained red finish. Tremolo version. 2 open-coil humbuckers more on the hot side, but not as much as a metal guitar. Master tone and vol controls and 3-way switch. Very simple set up. PRS tuners, which are crappy. Comes with a great quality gig bag. I give this a 9 only because of the crappy tuners. The rest is really good quality.

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