Monday, May 19, 2008

The Guitar Next Door: 1991 PRS Custom 24

Paul Reed Smith (PRS) has become one of the top guitar makers (what better measure of success than to be sued by Gibson) and is known for its exacting attention to detail. The Custom 24 that Paul Reed Smith showed at his first NAMM show in 1985 still represents the core of their line and is one of the few recognized classic designs done outside of the 1950s. This unique and very red 1991 Custom 24 is today’s Guitar Next Door.

PRS moved to their new automated factory in 1994, so the pre-factory guitars are valued more by collectors even though the quality of the factory guitars sets the bar for how to do automation without compromising quality. This guitar was custom ordered completely in red, even around the top edges where PRS guitars normally have a contrasting stripe. It has the bird inlay option, locking tuners, PRS tremolo bridge, a 5-way rotary selector, and a sweet switch (filter in place of standard tone control). It also features the PRS hallmark carved and figured maple top with the flame option.

I plugged the guitar into my DSL 401 Marshall and wow; these pickups are hot; “native” at your local Thai restaurant hot. The switching positions weren't doing much for me either so I was disappointed that something so beautiful sounded so bad. Figuring it was just me I persevered and was glad I did.

Step one was to look up the switch positions so I could correlate them to the more traditional pickup switch options I’m used to. The switching options according to PRS are:

Position 10: Treble pickup
Position 9: Outside coils- deep and clear - parallel
Position 8: Series single coils – Warm version of the "in between the treble and middle pickups"
Position 7: Parallel single coils – Crisp version of the "in between the treble and middle pickups"
Position 6: Bass pickup

Then I started tweaking switch position, guitar volume, and amp settings and turned out some great sounds. This thing rocks! It still retains its own identity even though you can give it a Strat or Les Paul character. The “sweet” switch is sort of a kludge way of doing a tone control if you ask me and not surprised they did away with this option after 1991. I just moved it back and forth until it sounded ok but didn’t focus on it much.

Action, fit, and finish (the flame is a work of art) are all perfect as expected. I've never played a guitar where the neck meets the body at the 22nd fret. The neck keeps going long after I expect it to run out. It takes some getting used to but opens up a lot of possibilities. The tremolo is silky smooth with great tuning stability.

This guitar has its own sound. While you can replicate a Strat or Les Paul character with it why would you want to? Since your goal as a guitarist is to create your own sound a PRS may just be the ticket!

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