Sometimes we get a little technical at Sam Ash. We’re not always sure who, if anyone, will find this stuff helpful, but we write it anyway, hopefully satisfying someone’s intellectual curiosity.

In this most recent piece, I went in-depth into different guitar bridges.

Click the pic below to check it out.

For my most recent piece on the Sam Ash blog, I wrote about a bunch of “uniquely inspiring” guitar solos. It’s a mix of very popular, and lesser known, but equally awesome, guitar solos, with explanation of why they’re so cool.

You can definitely guess some of the more popular tracks in the article, but some will probably surprise you.

Click below to check it out.

Noteworthy Guitars Series

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

The last post I wrote like this, I was pretty set on a PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow. The reasoning behind that stands. I still think it’s an awesome guitar for an awesome value and I fully intended to purchase it. A part of me still thinks I will. But when I got close to pulling the trigger, what actually wound up happening took me to a slightly different PRS.

I can get very good prices on certain retail music items, thanks to my job. So an American made PRS S2 for me essentially becomes the market price of an SE. When confronted with that realization, it made sense for me to get an S2. However, PRS has a huge backlog of orders and only a few of each guitar currently stocked. That meant my choices were very limited. The few Custom 22 Semi-Hollows had some very odd “custom” colors (seemingly they’re “custom” when someone gets a little too experimental with the finish) and I just couldn’t stomach them.

But, I quite liked one of the Custom 24’s they had left in Whale Blue Smokewrap Burst.

I thought it through. I wanted an S2, but I didn’t want to wait 8-10 months. I also thought that with the amount of great guitars in production nowadays that have 24 frets, it might be wise for me to get comfortable with the extra two. I had played enough PRS guitars, prior to actually owning one, to understand how they operate and know that I appreciate how they’re made. I plugged them into the same model of Blackstar I currently use. I’ve alternated between 22’s and 24’s, semi-hollow and solid. Even though I was looking at a different model, I knew this wasn’t a huge stretch.

The bottom line: I was still getting a really great performing guitar from a top brand at an unbeatable price. So I bought it. And I am really pleased.

Comparing My Fender American Fat Strat with My PRS Custom 24

The biggest differences between the PRS Custom 24 and my previous go-to Fender American Fat Strat Texas Special HSS (2000-2003) is in the neck shape, sustain, and pickup output. These are obviously significant aspects of a guitar which do indeed affect my playing. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, but they are suited to different styles and feels.

First off, the Custom 24 has a mahogany set-neck, while the Strat has a bolt-on maple. There really are differences in the sustain you get from the set-neck, especially a mahogany neck into a mahogany body. It seems to create a continued note that just sits around for a while until you lift your finger up. The Strat doesn’t quite hold out as long without using your finger to create vibrato.

It also seems the PRS has stronger resonance overall and that it’s transferred through the 85/15 “S” humbucker pickups. Having dual humbuckers is, on its face, different from an HSS configuration, but these in particular have a more powerful output. The volume and clarity is way more than I got from the Strat, even with the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucker at the bridge. You feel those bass tones and there’s an enhanced clarity with higher outputs and volumes.

But to be fair, you definitely do not get the same “character” from the Custom 24. Strats do have a little something special in their thinner, more recognizable jangle, specifically from the neck single-coil. The old bluesy and classic rock tones that Strats achieve, along with their sonic versatility, is kind of unique unto it. Even when I coil-tap the PRS, it’s just a lighter sound; it doesn’t amend the tonal character to sound like a Strat.

Those are the differences in tone. But the difference in feel is also significant. The neck of the PRS Custom 24 is Pattern Regular. I’m not sure where that falls technically in comparison to my Strat’s neck (I’m guessing it’s a “C” shape, but I’ve had the guitar since 2002 and at that age I wasn’t checking specs), but the PRS clearly has a thicker, rounder neck which forces my hand to move differently. Truthfully, it has the effect of slowing me down just enough to where I play more accurately and less wildly. In some scenarios that’s very helpful, but there are certainly times where I want to flail and smash indiscriminately, and I’ll pick the Strat back up.

The rosewood fretboard of the Custom 24 also has a different feel and causes my fingers to react differently. It’s a smoother, easier feeling to slide across the rosewood. While it seems a similar radius, I can’t confirm the exact specs. Maple also causes my fingers to “stick,” almost. It’s cool in certain ways—like allowing me to do fast runs and stop and bend real hard. But, the overall continuity of my playing is benefitted by rosewood. I do prefer the look of maple though.

The remainder of the differences are less relevant. The headstocks are of course different, with PRS using a 3 x 3 configuration for the tuners (which are locking), and the Strat having 6 on top. PRS uses large strap-buttons which are large enough that they hold the strap and you could probably get away without locks (not recommended) whereas on the Strat you NEED locks. And of course, like many PRS models, the Custom 24 showcases birds-in-flight inlays, as opposed to the standard Fender dots.

I am really happy with the PRS Custom 24. And some 17 years later, I am still really happy with my Strat too. The differences highlighted are just that—differences. In some circumstances I’ll use one, in others, I’ll use the other. And that’s the great thing about being a guitar player—the variety of choices and opportunities you have to play different instruments differently.

 

 

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.

 

Noteworthy Guitars Series

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

The Fender American Performer Series launches today, just in time for the holiday season. While most Fender models don’t deviate too much from the norm that they’ve established over the last sixty-something years, this series does indeed add some interesting elements to their classic designs.

All of the American Performer Series models have a new pickup—The Yosemite. Having not yet heard it, I’ll spare you the verbose manufacturer’s explanation of what it sounds like. You’ll just have to play and see. The Yosemites are backed by the already established Greasebucket Tone Circuit, an innovation from Fender that lets you lower your treble tone without the addition of bass, so you don’t muddy the waters too much.

The American Performer Series guitars also sport ClassicGear tuners, which are vintage style tuners with an upgraded 18:1 gear ratio. They’re a little smaller and it’s kind of a personal preference whether you’re into that look or not, but they are made to more accurately tune the instrument, so there’s a plus regardless.

Aside from those generalities across the American Performer Series guitars, here’s the real cool stuff that Fender added to some of their most famous models:

American Performer Stratocaster

Fender added a push/pull tone circuit to the classic Strat model. With three single-coil pickups and a five-way selector switch, you’d normally have five voicing options. But now, with the push/pull tone pot, you can engage the neck pickup in positions 1 & 2. This adds a Bridge/Neck combination and a Bridge/Middle/Neck combination, for a total of 7 voicings.

American Performer Stratocaster HSS

The humbucker at the bridge has always given the Strat a beefier tone for the rock players who want to crank it up a bit. But now, the HSS Strat gives you the option to return to single-coil tone at the bridge with their new DoubleTap Humbucker. Not quite coil-tapping, nor exactly coil-splitting, this patent-pending technology from Fender wires one of the coils extra hot, then engages that single-coil by itself when the push/pull tone pot is activated. The new technique from Fender claims to maintain complete volume, which is commonly diminished with other methods of going from humbucker to single-coil. With one overwound coil, both the humbucker and single-coil voicing likely have a real cool sound.

American Performer Telecaster Hum

While the standard Tele in the Series doesn’t have any wild electronic innovations, the Tele Hum also sports the DoubleTap technology cited above in the humbucker neck pickup. So again, you can basically have a Telecaster with a humbucker OR a single-coil at the neck, in the same exact guitar. Makes you wonder why anyone would go for the Tele or Strat without a DoubleTap…

So there you have it—a new Fender line, with much of the same foundation that makes Fender the iconic brand that it is, but with some pretty cool additions that show they’re willing to innovate a little bit more. I’m told that a few Fender models in the past have had coil-tapping and even a push/pull knob that adds the bridge pickup to amount to 7 voicings, however the Double Tap technology is all-new and the neck pickup has not yet been added by a push/pull tone pot.

If you’re a Fender fan that likes a little modern innovation, you’ll want to check out these American Performer Series models.