Two great new guitars from PRS: an SE Custom with a special UK-only spec, and a maple-topped version of the light, bright-sounding Mira. Review by Martyn Casserly
When most people think of PRS guitars they probably envisage exotic woods, delicate carving, elegant styling and a price to match.
But you don’t muscle your way to the very top of the guitar food chain without knowing what the people want, and here we have a couple of relatively inexpensive models that could well whet the appetite of the more humble-heeled player. A PRS for the rest of us? That sounds like a fine idea.
The SE range encompasses single-cuts, semi-hollows, signature models and classic single-pickup rockers for very reasonable prices.
The SE Custom is a twin humbucker-loaded double cutaway that features a mahogany body with a maple top and a curly maple veneer.
The top is flat, which helps keep the cost down and gives the SE an identity of its own. This particular example comes finished in mean and moody ‘gray black’.
This makes this SE rather like an affordable version of the Paul Allender SE – and as far as we know, it’s exclusive to this country. The neck is mahogany and comes in the standard 25" scale length, with a wide-fat shape that fills the hand nicely.
The rosewood fingerboard carries moon inlays and leads to the familiar headstock with three-a-side PRS branded tuners.
At the other end we have a bespoke vibrato bridge (there’s also an option of a stoptail bridge) with a push-in whammy bar. In use the unit is solid and responsive, with only heavy-handed use causing tuning problems.
The electronics consist of two zebra PRS humbuckers controlled via master volume and tone knobs and a three-way switch.
Construction is of a very highstandard, as we’ve come to expect from PRS, and out of the rather cool gigbag the Custom played fast and easy, with a decent acoustic tone suggesting good things.
Played clean the bridge pickup is warm and deep with a crisp edge when hit hard. Jazzy pop tones are easy to achieve and general rhythm work is clear and controlled with good note separation.
The middle setting adds a bit of honk and encourages a bit of riffage and some drone note indie-style rhythm – especially when you start to load up the gain.
The bridge is a tad bright, but easily tamed with the tone control. With overdrive cooking the Custom emerges as a rock beast with admirable sustain, plenty of grunt and no end of beef.
Arpeggios can get a little muddy on the middle and lower strings, but for chords it’s great. The Custom particularly shines when using distortion and drop-D tuning, or playing chord octaves. It’s a modern rocker, with more besides.
There's no doubting the quality of the SE Custom. It looks cool, sounds great, plays better than a good number of US-made guitars, and the special UK-only 24-fret spec is a winner. At this price you cannot go wrong: yes, you could choose to upgrade the tuners to some quality locking items, but it would make a great working guitar just as it is. The maple top, it seems, is more than just eye candy: it adds a tightness and focus that allows the guitar to breathe, and that's where the magic lies.