PAUL REED SMITH (PRS) GUITARS
1. 1989 PRS Studio - Electric Blue, (front), (front2), (back), (back2), (headstock), (trem), (fretboard), (heel), (docs), (pickup settings), (case). At 25 years you don't think of most Gibsons as being "vintage" but in the PRS world, where 1989 was just the 5th year of manufacture - and it was built at the old Annapolis factory - it's definitely vintage. Just like the Studio I had a year ago, this is one for the collectors - one of the cleanest vintage PRS's I've had, with no buckle/button scratches, no pick scratches, and clean hardware. If you look closely you'll see some normal "finish suck" which is normal on these thin Nitro finishes as they age, but you' won't find an old PRS without this. If you're not familiar with the Studio, it was only offered from '88 to '91 and the main feature is the HSS pickup configuration with a Hot Vintage Treble in the bridge and a pair of PRS single coils (click here for details). These were offered with either a tone control or the more desirable Sweet Switch, as found on this one. The early Studios (and Standards) from this era are the closest thing to the original 1985 "PRS Guitar", distinguished by its all-mahogany construction - rather than the maple cap model that followed the PRS Guitar, as well as a 24-fret neck, Sweet Switch, and non-routed tremolo. To my ears there is a warmth and singing quality to the mahogany bodies that you can't find on a maple top. Like all PRS during this era it's truly a hand-made guitar, built 6 years before they brought CNC machines into the shop. Other features include Brazilian rosewood fretboard with 24 fret mahogany neck, short heel neck joint, 1-piece Mil-Com bridge, small logo, Standard neck profile, and the early version PRS locking tuners. We hadn't conditioned the fretboard when these pics were shot and it looks much darker now. Players and collectors alike are seeking out old-factory models and these pre-CNC models have risen steadily over the past 5 years. I would easily rate this guitar a 9.5 condition, which is extremely rare for a guitar that's 25 years old. For what it's worth, I think Electric Blue was a custom color in '89, with a whopping $50 upcharge. At $2799 it's a very affordable investment piece and still within the range of working guitarists looking for a stage guitar that's universally accepted to be better than any new one. Original PRS case and trem arm are included, as well as some original factory documents (re-stringing, bridge adjustment, and pickup settings).
2. 1992 PRS Custom 24 - Goldtop, (front), (back), (headstock), (case). A few months ago I was down to just a few PRS's and was desperately looking for a dozen or so to fill my shelf. I've had good luck getting some nice ones in, including the harder-to-find Annapolis models. These old-factory models were actually hand made, easily identifiable with the original small logo and short neck heel. A lot of people incorrectly refer to Annapolis models as "pre-factory", the reason for which I haven't a clue.Regardless, these guitars are widely thought to be superior to guitars built at the new Stephenville factory opened in '96, where PRS eliminated most of the hand-crafting in favor of CNC machines. Features of this guitar includes maple cap over one-piece mahogany body, moon inlays, one-piece Mil-Com tremolo, Phase I locking tuners, and "Regular" (aka Standard) neck profile which is 1/16" more narrow than a wide thin/fat, and the same depth as the wide fat (1 21/32" nut, 27/32" depth). Pickups have been changed to a Lindy Fralin 7.5/8.5 pair (link), plus McCarty switching (push/pull tone with 3-way switch). Many players find the standard 3-way much more intuitive and it also gives you 6-tones instead of 5. Original rotary switch and tone pot are in the case should you ever want to change it back. The Custom 24, especially with the tremolo bridge, has a looser feel than a Custom 22, plus a "longer" neck, i.e. with the bridge and bridge pickup are set further forward in the body which means it has the same 25" scale as the Custom 22, but the neck extends slightly further from the body. It's not as much a Les Paul feel, but a PRS feel. At 21 years old this guitar has seen some use and has some cosmetic flaws (shown here) including a few "milky" finish spots on the headstock and back edge of the body, plus a small piece of clear coat missing from short side of the headstock tip. There are no serious issues such as cracks and there's no finish checking; frets need no attention. Whenever you play one of these older PRS's you can almost sense the meticulous human attention to detail as you're holding a guitar that will likely never be hand-crafted again. Prices on Annapolis-era Customs continue to rise but they're still a good value, especially when they're cheaper than a comparable new one. A better guitar, for less money. Playability is excellent and these Fralins have a more traditional 'Burst tone than Dragons or Vintage Bass/HFS. Nicely priced for an Annapolis model at $1999.
3. 1993 PRS Custom 22 - Whale Blue 10 Top and Birds, (front), (side), (back), (MOP inlays), (headstock), (pickups/cavity), (case). I'm always on the lookout for older PRS's and always excited to find another one. Specifically, old-factory models when they were actually hand made, easily identifiable with the original small logo and mother of pearl inlays along with more substantial differences. A lot of people incorrectly refer to these as "pre-factory" which would indicate that Paul built over 30,000 guitars in his garage, ignoring the Annapolis factory which was used '85 to '95.These guitars are widely thought to be superior to guitars built at the new Stephenville factory opened in '96, where PRS eliminated most of the hand-crafting in favor of CNC machines and went to cheaper fretboard inlays and tuners. As shown in the bridge pickup cavity, this one is finished in Whale Blue, but as is typical of all old PRS finishes, it has faded somewhat. Features of this guitar include Dragon Bass and Treble pickups with white paper stickers, 5-way rotary selector, master volume, master tone, wide-fat neck taper, mahogany neck, Indian rosewood fretboard with genuine mother of pearl bird inlays, mahogany body with a "10" maple cap (indicated by "10" impressed in back of headstock). The Custom 22, especially with the fixed bridge, has a stiffer feel than a Custom 24. The 22 has a "shorter" neck, i.e. with the bridge and bridge pickup are set further back in the body which means it has the same 25" scale as the Custom 24, but the neck doesn't extend as far from the body. It's very much a Les Paul feel, but with much easier playability in the upper range, not to mention a wider selection of tones. Although 20 years old this one's in lovely shape and judging by the near-perfect frets, it hasn't seen a lot of playing time. Whenever you play one of these older PRS's you can almost sense the meticulous human attention to detail as you're holding a guitar that will likely never be hand-crafted again. Prices on Annapolis-era Customs continue to rise but they're still a good value, especially when you can get a nice one cheaper than a new one. A new CU22 with "10" and the cheaper "open" birds lists for $4590 and sells at discount for $3050-$3400, this lovely old factory model is just $2299(HOLD-Joe B 11/15). These have proven to be excellent investment pieces for the collector - but for the player, it's cheaper than a new one AND a better guitar.
4. 2003 PRS Custom 22 with 10-top and Birds, (front), (back), (headstock), (case). As I mentioned last week, I'm been on the lookout for PRS's and I'm happy to say that this is the first of four PRS's inbound (Custom 24, Custom Soapbar, and Hollowbody II to follow). If this one looks familiar, it's identical to an '01 Whale Blue Custom 22 I sold 2 weeks ago, other than this one being a stoptail. Like the last one, a lovely guitar with a Whale Blue "10" top and colorful (pic) Pau Shell bird inlays.Features of this great CU22 include wide-thin neck profile, PRS Phase II locking tuners; PRS stoptail bridge; Dragon II Treble and Bass pickups with nickel covers; 5-way rotary selector with a combination of humbucker and single coil tones; and a perfectly bookmatched flamed maple top over mahogany body. PRS are perhaps most noted for their superb playability and this one's no exception with low action from the nut to the top fret. Overall nice condition with no buckle scratches and just a few impressions in the clear coat. Worst flaw are two small impressions in the clear coat (shown here) behind the bridge. Nice sustain and a typically great sounding PRS. I mentioned last week the proliferation of PRS in country music - it's wide variety of single and humbucker tones make it well suited for just about anything - so you country pickers might want to give one a try. Recent list on an a Custom with these options was $5689, discounted to $3894, which makes a used one an excellent value at $1750.
5. 2008 PRS SE Singlecut, (front), (side), (headstock), (back), (gigbag). With the exception of the Baker (above), for years I've touted PRS and Brian Moore as the best Korean imports and this SC is a prime example. Fit and finish are impeccable, excellent pickups and electronics, quality hardware. Most of all, I'm impressed with the fact that they have great necks that set up as well or better than other company's USA models. The PRS Singlecut SE, re-released after the foolishness with Gibson was settled, is a perfect example. This guitar is extremely impressive in terms of looks, tone, and feel. It's a joy to play, with low action, super easy and smooth bends, and quality tone with excellent sustain and 3 distinct tones on the pickup selector. With a lot of guitars, most LP's come to mind, I never use the middle position as it seems to lack character. Not the case with the Singlecut> SE; it has a great mix if fatness and punch. Features of this guitar include a perfectly bookmatched and heavily flamed maple veneer over a maple cap and a mahogany back. Other brands use a solid mahogany body with the maple veneer which doesn't provide the classic maple/mahogany tone. Only with a maple slab do you get the combination of mahogany's warmth, resonance and fat bottom end - with maple's high end snap. Note that the top on this one is clearly one of the better ones - I've seen some of these with tops that weren't nearly as consistent. It also features a wonderfully simple compensated wraparound stop tailpiece with large studs that does a great job of transferring the energy from strings to body, plus is well intonated. The PRS-designed humbuckers sound excellent and touches like the moon fretboard inlays, headstock shape, and natural maple top binding make this look like it's USA brother but at around 1/4 the cost. New Singlecuts, now called the SC245, sell for $649, but this one is barely touched, 9.9 condition, and an excellent value on a guitar that's good enough to gig with at $449(HOLD-Allen B 7/28). Includes the PRS gigbag, excellent protection and the best on the market in my opinion.
PRS NECK CARVE (width at nut, depth at nut)
· Regular - 1 21/32", 27/32"
· Wide Fat - 1 11/16", 27/32"
· Wide Thin - 1 11/16", 25/32"
· Santana - 1 21/32"
· Custom 22/12 - 1 47/64">
· Wide Fat neck only available on 22 fret models
· Wide Thin neck has a thinner profile front to back than Wide Fat, 22 and 24 fret models
· Regular neck is 1/32 narrower and not quite as thick front to back as Wide Fat neck. Only available on the Custom and Standard 24.
PRS Radius: 10" on all guitars and basses except 11 1/2"" on the Santana II and Custom 22/12
5-Way Rotary Settings:
Position 10: Humbucking treble (bridge) pickup alone
Position 9: Outside coils of both pickups in parallel for what PRS calls a "deep and clear"" sound
Position 8: Series single coils - PRS describes this as a "warm version of the classic in-between the bridge and middle pickups"
Position 7: Parallel single coils - Here PRS describes the sound as a "crisp version of the in-between the treble and middle pickups"
Position 6: Humbucking bass (neck) pickup alone