PRS Guitars: One Man’s Journey to Owning One

I remember when I first came across PRS Guitars. I was just a teenager skimming through the latest Musician’s Friend catalogue that came in the mail. It was pretty commonplace for me to look through that catalogue and just day dream about one day owning a high end guitar like a Gibson Les Paul or an American made Fender Strat, or you know, just any guitar that I wouldn’t have to save up my lunch money for years to get. To be honest I can’t remember where the PRS section was in the catalogue but I remember thinking at first, “wow! These are really good looking guitars and I never really heard of them before, so they’re probably like a cheaper alternative to like a Gibson Les Paul or something like that” and then I looked at the price and then reality set in, they’re not a more affordable version of any other guitar, they are they’re own thing and they clearly are trying to set themselves apart from other guitar brands.

I remember seeing the pictures around the advertised guitars of artists who endorsed these guitars, Mark Tremonti the guitarist for Creed and Alter Bridge, Carlos Santana (who is an absolute legend) and then I saw a picture of Mikael Akerfeldt the singer and guitarist of the progressive-metal band Opeth. Now of course I have a reverence for Santana, heck my dad would play his music in the car for us all the time. But for an angsty teenager who loved metal, Mikael Akerfeldt was my guy and to this day, I still love that band! That’s what really sparked my interest in PRS guitars. I thought “wow, Opeth has the coolest sounding guitar riffs and if these guitars are good enough for them… and Santana! Welp, these guitars would be more than enough for me… just not right now, because those guitars cost a small fortune”. A sophomore in high school with no job had no chance of attaining one of these beauties.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I’m now an adult married man and my wife says to me “you’ve been a good boy, you can get yourself a guitar”. Now, full transparency, the first thing I looked at getting was a Fender Jazzmaster. However, it must have been by divine intervention that I was not able to order one, literally every time there was a small shipment of some, they would sellout again and again and again. Until finally I gave up. I thought “ok, now I can afford to get a really nice high end guitar, what do I want instead of a jazz master? What is another guitar I was salivating for as a teen?” So I looked at Gibson, what could I afford? A Les Paul? Not likely, the affordable Les Pauls are really stripped down, no frills, just barebones. How about an SG? Nah, same thing, plus I heard the headstock was quite heavy and made it uncomfortable to play. Ok, well I remember really admiring PRS as a teen, let’s see what they have.

Now, I was more or less familiar with PRS more affordable SE series, much like Gibson’s affordable series, the SE’s are barebones. So I went on to see PRS’s Core series, now these are their high end series of guitars. Now these guitars are beautiful, all the bells and whistles, gold hardware and mother of pearl inlays. Alas, even after all these years I still couldn’t afford those guitars. However, I also saw that PRS now has a mid range model, they call the S2 series. Now these got my attention. They were not only in my price range of about $1,500 but they were beautiful, made in America and had exactly what I wanted in a guitar. I opted for the PRS S2 Custom 24 in Elephant Grey, it had a floating bridge with locking tuners and a pull pot that allowed you to split the coils at the neck position. Without hesitation I put in my credit card info and put in my order!

Fast forward a week and I get a notification that my guitar is in and it’s time to pick it up from my local Guitar Center. You better believe that that was the longest drive home because I just wanted to unbox my guitar and see it in all its glory. When I finally got home I saw that my guitar came with a very good quality gig (which is always a plus). But the real magic was in the guitar, when I removed my new guitar from its plastic bag I was taken a back at my new guitar, the finish, the bird inlays, it was beautiful! But as much as it was beautiful it was also perplexing, “how do these locking tuners work and how the heck am I supposed to insert the tremolo arm into the bridge?” I had experience with a Floyd Rose but this floating bridge was different. I literally had to google how my new guitar worked. So I didn’t exactly know that Paul Reed Smith (the person who started this brand) was also an innovator, so he went on to design his own unique to PRS floating bridge.

Ok, so you didn’t come here looking for a life story, you probably just want to know if these guitars are even worth it, right? So here are my final thoughts and experience with my first PRS guitar. One, I absolutely love the neck profile, it has a wide neck and it is super comfortable for a big guy like me who has big hands. I love the floating bridge, even if it doesn’t have the wide range of a Floyd Rose bridge. I like that my guitar has a pull pot but I don’t love how the pickups sound when the coils are split. Typically a single coil bridge might sound thinner than a Humbucker but it has a distinct tonal difference that rounds out your leads. However, when my Humbucker was split is just sounded… weak. It not only sounded thinner, but it sounded unpleasant, sort of like it is not even worth activating the coil tap. And lastly, the locking tuners do a poor job of keeping my guitar in tune. I will say though overall, this PRS is an awesome guitar and worth the price! Nothing beats the beautiful rich tone of a PRS and as far as aesthetics go, you won’t find a nicer finish on any other guitar of this price range. So should you get a PRS? Absolutely! Just keep all these things in mind, and maybe go in in-person to check it out before buying it, unlike me who simply ordered it online without playing first.