PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow

Noteworthy Guitars Series

This is the third installment in a series of blog posts highlighting some really cool guitars and gear I’ve come across.

PRS’s Custom line is a thing of beauty. The brand itself has been slowly and steadily climbing to a position damn-near the top of the guitar food chain for some time now and the Custom models are likely the biggest driving force behind that.

PRS began its journey in the 70’s when Paul Reed Smith made his first guitar. The company began to take-off in the late 80’s and early 90’s, making waves with their Custom line. These guitars did their best to combine the finest features of the Strat and Les Paul. It seems their best was good enough.

The Custom 22 Semi-Hollow is a guitar that moves a few steps away from the flagship Custom designs, mostly due to its semi-hollow nature. I’ve set my sights on this guitar because it’s a 22-fret, semi-hollow, SE model. Those three things fit right in with what I’m looking for. Here’s why:

First and foremost, the Custom 22 Semi-Hollow has a real comfortable body. It’s like a Strat in that respect, sporting nice contours and double cutaways. It then strays towards a Les Paul, thanks to its curvy, beveled top and dual humbuckers with three-way switching. But then again, it’s like neither of them because it’s semi-hollow and has coil-tapping. So yeah, this analysis is going nowhere…

If you have questions about whether or not wood type makes a major difference in electric guitar sound, that’s fair. But cut a large chunk of wood out of the body and you can be sure it changes the sound—and that’s kind of what I love about this axe.

I prefer the 22-fret model of the Custom series in general as the extra two frets on the Custom 24: a) effect the sound coming from the neck pickup by positioning it closer to the bridge; and b) throw me off a little since I’m not used to it. Since I probably won’t use those extra two frets that much anyhow, I’d opt for a Custom 22 over a Custom 24.

So with that in mind, I tried a few PRS’s. They’re honestly all great. But hearing the semi-hollow sound paired with these sweet humbuckers and their coil-tapped tones really nailed it for me.

As far as SE versus S2, there are some slight variations, but none of them seem like that big a deal and they don’t seem to justify the additional expense. The SE model has a Flame Maple veneer top, while the S2 has a straight-up Maple top. You can see the S2 is more significantly beveled there, but that’s kind of a minor detail in the scheme of things. More importantly, the pickups are the same. Both SE and S2 Series Custom 22 Semi-Hollows have 85/15 “S” humbuckers, and as far as PRS has them listed, they seem to be the same pickup. The bridge is the same, the tuners are the same, and the fretboard is the same, complete with signature birds-in-flight inlays.

The only other major difference I can identify is that one is American made and one is Korean made. So what? I’ve talked to numerous people who’ve played SE models and they seem to be on board that the difference is undetectable, negligible, or at least not commensurate with the price difference. The pickups still sound killer, the tone and playability is great, and it looks damn good, just not as flashy as the finishes you get with more expensive PRS guitars.

You can definitely get a more “done up” guitar if you push into the Core, Private Stock, or Wood Library Series, but again, I question how much of that is just a lot of pretty icing on the cake, when it’s all the same cake batter underneath. There’s nothing wrong with splurging for it if you got it, but for the financially discerning player, I think the SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow has a significant value that’s noteworthy. And I’m looking forward to taking one home and proving it.

 

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