Swamp Ash Special review by Paul Reed Smith

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.1 (17 votes)
Paul Reed Smith: Swamp Ash Special

Price paid: £ 1650

Purchased from: The Oxford Guitar Gallery

Sound — 10
I use this guitar with a Vox AD30VT. Let me start by saying that this guitar is one of the most versatile I have ever played! There are a massive variety of sounds available, in total 6 different settings and then incredibly responsive tone controls which respond to every tap. The coil tapped sounds make a great Stratocaster like Hendrix tone, and if you roll back the tone knob can do a passable attempt at a tele! The rail is great for cleans and top of the neck chords, I often use it when I am singing as well as playing. The humbuckers have a flare of their own, but I find I can get a Vintage tone from the bridge, a lead tone from the neck and everything in between from both!

Overall Impression — 10
This guitar matches any and every style, possibly excluding some hardcore metal. I have been playing 5 years, and this is my only expensive guitar. I chose this over a Les Paul and a Strat and also tried a G & L Comanche, which I almost bought over this. I have no regrets. If it were stolen I would hunt down the thief and crucify him on the guitar case, then grab it and take it home! It truly is the 'gem' of my collection and I would be lost without it!

Reliability & Durability — 8
The guitar is extremely tough and durable, the only thing in my rig I would gig with absolutely no back up. The finish is tough as anything, and the guitar has one or two small chips in it but does not seem to chip easily. The hardware is solid. I must say, the stock strap buttons were poor, I replaced them with a set of Dunlop Locking Strap Buttons and they work much better, as do Schaller ones. I would definitely recommend a set of straplocks to anyone buying this guitar!

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I got this guitar second hand, so I cannot comment on the factory setup, however, the guitar is perfect! Everything from the nut to the bridge is good and correct! The neck felt a little sticky at first, but after a few weeks of playing it has smoothed out and now feels great! There were some stains on the hardware when I bought it, but they wiped off easily, and although some sweat marks do appear when I gig, they are easy to remove!

Features — 9
This guitar was made in 2005 in the USA. It has what PRS call a 'wide fat' neck, which feels pretty chunky, 22 frets and a 25" scale length as typical of PRS. The body is made of 2 pieces of swamp Ash, no top, and the neck and fingerboard are both maple. The body has a Poly finish, while the neck is finished in Nitrocellulose. I has a fixed tremolo bridge, passive humbuckers made by PRS with a rail in the middle made by Seymour Duncan, PRS 14:1 Phase II low mass locking tuners, A volume control, 3 way toggle and tone control complete with a coil tap. It came with a hardcase which is very durable and tough and a fairly self explanatory manual.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm a player collector owner of a dozen PRS guitars. My most favorite is the older Swamp Ash Specials with maple fretboard. I love the Strat-like settings for crisp, yet thumping, rhythms and you can't beat the bridge humbucker for searing leads or the neck humbucker for jazz/blues leads. I prefer the middle single coil or the split hum buckets to the newer "Narrowfield" pickups. While perhaps quieter, the Narrowfields still fail to grab the biting edge of single coils which I crave.
    SuperFlyinMonke wrote: I played this through a DSL and it could handle so many different playing styles. I actually liked it more than the G&L legacy, albeit, two very different guitars. PRS is unrivalled when it comes to production quality. I might just get one. I wouldn't call it fragile in the least. You could definitely beat someone to death with it and then play a solo using one of their teeth as a pick as the pool swelled around your feet, all the while staying in perfect tune.
    I bought mine instead of a G&L Comanche which they had in the store....