I’ve taken a brief look at the PRS guitar range in the post about my CE 24, but here’s a closer look at the various models.
The PRS model range is divided into four ranges:
- SE are the entry-level models built in Indonesia, including hardware and pickups built there. Non-locking tuners. The top has a simpler beveled shape with a flat center.
- S2 are the most affordable US-made models, but with the hardware and pickups from the SEs. Mostly ocking tuners. Body with flat center and beveled edges. The bird inlays are off-white plastic.
- The bolt-on range is in the USA. The Silver Sky is probably the most popular model, but the CE (essentially a bolt-on neck Custom 24) has been available for many years. Pickups are US-made, hardware is the same as on the S2, and the birds are also white plastic. On maple-top models, the top is solid two-piece maple (no veneer) and has a shallow violin carve.
- The core range are the full-featured US models. The difference between core Custom 24 and a CE 24 is in (except for bolt-on vs. set neck) a machined instead of molded vibrato, different tuners, and true Abalone bird inlays. Rear cavity covers are recessed, and the violin carve is a bit deeper. These also come with a case instead of a gig bag.
You can go further up in price by choosing a 10 Top (more nicely figured) or Private Stock.
Many PRS models are available in multiple ranges, but with the differences described above. The standard scale length is 25″, the standard fretboard radius 10″. Wide thin/pattern thin, a modern C, is currently the most common neck shape.
- Custom 24/22 (SE, S2, core): The original PRS model. Double cutaway, set neck, mahogany body, maple top, dual 85/15 humbuckers, vibrato. 24 or 22 frets. Single volume and tone control. Also available with more pickup switching options (-08), as hollow body, and with Floyd Rose.
- CE 24 (bolt-on). Essentially the bolt-on version of the Custom 24. Also available as hollow body and with Floyd Rose, and currently as limited-edition hardtail.
- McCarty (SE, S2, core): More traditional Les Paul inspired version. Dual 58/15 humbuckers, bigger neck, dual volume and tone controls. Available with double or single cutaway, as hollow body, and with two scale lengths (25″ and 24.594″). Mostly Tune-O-Matic/stoptail bridge, but the core 25″ model has a wraparound bridge.
- Standard (SE, S2). Various models without maple top, some with pickguard. SE/S2 Standard is essentially a Custom without the maple top. SE Mira has a wraparound bridge, SE Starla has a single cutaway and TOM/stoptail bridge. S2 Vela has a neck single coil, bridge humbucker and a fixed bridge that is somewhat similar to a Telecaster bridge.
- DGT (SE, core): Dave Grissom Trem, based upon the McCarty but with vibrato and dual volume/single tone controls.
- Mark Holcomb (SE): Double cutaway, fixed bridge, 25.5″ scale length and 20″ fretboard radius.
- Mark Tremonti (SE, core): Single cutaway, vibrato.
- Paul’s Guitar (SE, core): Fat neck, wraparound bridge, multiple pickup switching options.
- Santana (SE, core): Different body shape, fat neck.
- Silver Sky (SE, bolt-on): Strat style with three single coils.
- Zach Myers (SE): Single cutaway, hollowbody, 24.594″ scale length, wraparound bridge.
- Fiore (bolt-on): Superstrat style with HSS pickup configuration
- Special Semi-Hollow (core): Hollowbody, three humbuckers, Custom 22-08 control layout.
- Studio (core): Essentially a Custom 22, but with three humbuckers.
- Modern Eagle (core): HSH model, several pickup switching options.
- 509 (core): Five single coils arranged as HSH, 25.25″ scale length, several pickup switching options.
It’s quite amazing how many variations are possible based upon essentially two body shapes and base models, but then, Fender and Gibson are not much different in this regard. PRS has decided to stay away from the bottom end of the market, as the SEs are priced at approx. €1,000. Probably a smart choice as this allows them to build entry-level guitars to a much higher quality standard than a €300 Chinese-made guitar.
If you’re in the market for a PRS, you should first decide upon a budget. Then the question is whether you want a more vintage style (McCarty) or modern (Custom-derived) model – unless you want a Strat, then the Silver Sky has you covered. From there it’s a question of neck, pickup, and bridge preference that should guide you into the right direction.