For those of you who are not familiar with the now 32-year-young Paul Reed Smith guitar company, hang on to your whammy bars…it’s about to get wild in here!
Right outta the gate, let me say that I am not dabbling in hyperbole when I say that this is my favorite guitar that I own. I’ll probably reach my 20th guitar this year and this Paul Reed Smith is, by far, the best of the bunch.
Let me also say I’m getting no kickbacks, no free gear and no quid pro quo of any kind from P.R.S. for saying that and for posting this article. I’m just tellin’ yuz like it is!
Alrighty then… time to slide into the sweetness. But to set the stage a bit, fade back in time a little bit with me now….
There’s trouble! Right here in TUNING City…!
It was another jammin’ weekend in the early 2000s.
I had my Jackson Dinky strat and was plowin’ through the set list once again and tryin’ to enjoy the moment.
Unfortunately, this was hard due to the fact that my Dinky kept going out of tune way too often, even to the point where by the end of a song it’d be noticeably whacked. Didn’t matter how tight I put the locking tuners.
After the gig, my sound man says,”Dude. You gotta get a new guitar.”
Now, as anyone who’s ever had serious G.A.S. for any instrument knows, those words are GOLDEN. Why?? Because it means, to anyone who doubts, that I’m not buying a new piece of gear because I simply want it; no… oh no! I NEED this axe!! The freakazoid sound man demanded it of me!! I must submit!!
Being more than happy to oblige, we both went to our local Guitar Center to see if there were any hot deals. We walked in, and within two minutes…
… I saw it. Hanging there… high on a wall…out of reach from the many average string-noodlers… it was lit from above, glowing, like some elusive grail for which I, the knight on a mission, had quested my whole life…it’s cherry wood grain washing over me like waves of enchantment: the Paul Reed Smith CE24!
Now, they had quite a few PRS guitars, but THIS one was a recent trade-in and was significantly lower in price than all the new ones. They took it down for me and I played it. I gazed at it. I fell in love.
Thirteen hundred dollars later I went home with one of the best investments of my life. This beautiful soaring bird has flown solidly and without breakdown for over 15 years now, with never a repair and hardly a need for maintenance (tho’ I still give it one occasionally).
Come with me; let me tell you aaaaaaaall about it….
Teaj Inspects th’ Specs
My own personal PRS axe is a “Black Cherry” 1991 “Classic Electric”, or CE, model.
The features list isn’t long, but let me tell you… every single millimeter of this axe is the total, undeniable BOMB!!! Here’s what it’s made of:
- Carved solid mahogany body
- Maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- HFS pickup at the bridge, Vintage Bass pickup at the neck.
- Medium frets
- The PRS Patented Tremolo system
- A Volume and Tone knob
- The PRS 5-position rotary pickup configuration knob
- Winged, locking PRS tuners
- 24 frets!
- 25″ Scale
In the promotional papers and manual that came with my CE24, Paul states, “Every inch of your PRS guitar is based on over ten years of testing, rethinking, and reinventing.”
He’s not kidding. His innovations have really influenced the guitar industry over the decades, and some of his unique engineering decisions that are on my guitar I can’t find anywhere anymore… even on the PRS current models!!
Truly, this is a guitar worth every penny in the piggy bank. And, yea… it might take a few! lol
Why it Rocks My World!
They say the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts, and the PRS CE guitar is no exception. Beyond question, this is the most versatile, high quality, ‘fall-in-love-all-over-again-when-I-play-you’ guitar I’ve ever owned. And I’ve owned quite a few.
I’ll start with my favorite feature: the PRS TUNERS. Talk about advanced technology! I wish every single guitar EVER had these tuners. They are brilliantly designed and make changing strings so easy it’s unbelievable. Here’s the dealio: there is no hole on the posts. Instead, there’s a groove next to the post that you slip the string into. Then, when you start winding the peg, it catches the groove, starts moving it clockwise around the peg, and the string is instantly held securely on the post.
If you start really whomping on the trem bar then (because it’s not a true locking system like the Floyd Rose) you’ll get some drift, but, again, not as much as you’d expect. I’ve played this in literally hundreds of gigs and never had an issue during performance with tuning. Rock, country, jazz, pop…it’s done it all, and kept me in lovely just intonation the whole time!
My next favorite thing has to be the PRS pickups and the 5-way Rotary Selection system. Lemme put it simply: I’ve not been able to get so many diverse, usable sounds out of one guitar ever. Each one of the five detente positions gives you a guitar sound that is, right out of the gate, just what’s needed for standard modern-day guitar expression. Here’s the breakdown:
The fifth position is the raunchiest. When I want to solo, I switch it there and immediately get so much beef and breadth and width – the sound is immense!! Spotlight find me NOW!!!
The fourth position is an excellent choice for double-stop chording or palm-muted arpeggiating.
The middle position is where I hang when I need standard chordal backing; the EQ there is just right – not too in your face but not scared to be noticed by the crowd.
Second position is my go-to rhythm sound for funky rides in the pocket with the band – we’re talkin’ chicken-picking, see-saw Wah ridin’, staccato R&B, wacka-wacka….ladies & gentleman, the funk starts here!
Finally, the first position, or “neck position” is a very clear, untainted sound that I use for all things clean but shimmery.
There. Can you believe you can get all that out of one guitar? Believe it! I was amazed. I still am. But I’m all smiles in wonder.
I also have to mention here the whammy. Now, I grew up with Eddie Van Halen as my hero, so the Floyd Rose and I go way back. And if I’m doing really outrageous whammy-driven music and solos, then, by all means, bring on my EVH Wolfie! But if not…I prefer this trem setup.
The coolest part of it is that it doesn’t flop around or let gravity drag it down so I have to reach for it – wherever I last leave it is where it stays, so it’s always within reach, such that I never even have to look.
This makes for excellent “closed-eyes-epic-guitar-solo” moments that look so good in the spotlight, and even better on the cover of your favorite music mag (‘Performing Songwriter’ – are you watching me now??!!). In fact, I solo with such ease on this instrument I don’t think any of my other guitars compare.
(And that’s saying a lot. I have 18 others to compare it to!)
The Family Tree expands…
Since 1997, when my axe was lovingly put together, PRS has come out with more and more high-end, drool-worthy guitars, and even introduced a lower-priced introductory line that has done well.
The CE actually saw its production terminated in 2008, but re-introduced again, with modifications, in 2016.
From what I can gather, the changes from the older models that were applied to the new ones are the following:
- The tremolo system is now 0ut-sourced in Korea
- The top is no longer hand-carved
- The neck heel is longer now than it used to be, improving ‘strength & tone’
- Real abalone for the inlays was discontinued in 1991
- Nickel tuning pegs now instead of black “grippy” ones like mine
- 85/15 pickups instead of the HFS & V.B.
- The 5-way switch is now a 3-Way Toggle with a Push/Pull Tone Control
- Screw-down locking tuners instead of the winged tuners on my CE24
- All bird inlays instead of the simple dots I have
As you can see, there’s significant changes, but all you have to do is talk to any owner of a current PRS CE model to hear how amazing still this guitar is. So usable. So efficient. So… ADDICTING!!!
But if you want an older model, like what I’ve got, there are three options: surf EBay, surf Reverb or surf CraigsList! These guitars were built to last, so don’t be afraid to try a “vintage” one out. Unless the owner was a complete imbecile, it should be in great shape.
Otherwise, a slough of the latest iteration of this classic instrument awaits your fingers for the shredding test!
The reputation of Paul Reed Smith’s company is one of superb craftsmanship, a pioneering technological drive that implements new, patented improvements with astounding frequency, and a penchant for beauty in the details as well as the overall look of any instrument with the PRS name on it.
That reputation over the decades since the 80s has only improved, and you can be sure that if you invest in one of his killer axes, you will be introducing into your hands a work of expertise and imagination unparalleled in the guitar world.
This…is the real deal. My Cherry PRS, serial #1 CE22187 shall never leave my Wall of Tone Royalty… it’s just that good, people.
Like the work of “Geppetto” who earned the magic to make his “Pinocchio” come alive by loving his craft, being fastidious about every detail, and producing works that made the world a better place, so Paul Reed Smith delivers the goods with a tone that’s “ALIVE!” through expert functionality and distinctive, innovative allure.
I should really turn off the PRS Instagram notifications. They’re constantly triggering outrageous G.A.S. attacks!!
And something tells me they will for many years to come. lol
Check out his guitars and see what I mean. You’ll probably have to ask a rep to get one for you, as PRS guitars are typically not left on the floor for just anyone to try. Shops do like to hang them high, out of reach, on a wall tho’, lit handsomely. They know it only stokes our enticement…and pays for their next Paul Reed Smith axe!