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This article was originally published in issue #14
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Dave Navarro is only the third PRS artist to have both a US-made signature model as well as a Korean-made SE version on the market at the same time. With the Dave Navarro US signature model being a best seller, can the SE live up to its bigger brother's reputation and rock just as hard? Tom Quayle finds out…
I both look forward to and dread reviewing PRS's SE range of guitars. I love it because they're all such great instruments at a great price, but I dread it because they could quite easily make me very poor indeed - I could see me buying their whole range! The latest SE model to come into the studio for review is the Dave Navarro signature model and is only their third artist to have both a US made and Korean SE model to his name. The Dave Navarro model is instantly recognisable in its opaque 'jet-white' finish with gold hardware and the SE version is immediately as visually striking but subtly different from its more expensive counterpart.
The SE Dave Navarro features a bevelled maple top on a mahogany body with a 24-fret, wide thin, maple neck and rosewood fretboard. The top isn't carved to the same degree as on the US model but still features a pleasing bevelled curve to it and is more attractive than a standard flat-topped guitar. Other expected appointments include gold tuners, PRS designed tremolo and solid bird inlays. A dual humbucker design is maintained with SE HFS and SE Vintage Bass pickups in the bridge and neck positions respectively. A three-way switch and volume/tone controls with a push/pull coil tap complete the bill of fare.
As we've come to expect with the SE series, build quality is second to none with superb construction, fretwork, set-up and finishing. The neck joint is flawless and the opaque white finish beautifully done. Playability is great straight out of the included SE gig bag, with a low action and a string tension that invites aggressive Rock bends thanks to the 25" scale length and modern fret size. Tuning seems to be very stable and the PRS tremolo system is set-up for floating operation, allowing an upward travel of about a minor 3rd to full dive bombs, returning to pitch accurately and quickly. I'm not sure how PRS are achieving this level so consistently with their SE range but they really do feel like guitars that should cost twice the price!
In use, the Navarro SE is a very comfortable and easy to play guitar thanks to the Wide Thin neck profile and friendly scale length. The neck, although painted, is fast and smooth with enough width for interactive and responsive rhythm sessions but thin enough for prolonged and comfortable shredding. The mahogany body and maple top are nicely resonant with a solid acoustic tone that has bags of sustain and a woody character with just the right amount of spank. This impression is followed through once plugged in, where a fantastic Rock tone is forthcoming on higher gain sounds, with a tightness and sustain that brings a smile to the face and made me feel far more 'Rock' than I actually am! Both bridge and neck pickups sound detailed and responsive meaning that they're not likely to require upgrades any time soon. Clean sounds are jangly and a suitable level of spank can be obtained using the middle or neck positions with a jazzier tone possible by rolling of the tone control a touch. The addition of the coil tap makes this a very versatile guitar indeed with highly convincing single coil tones on offer in all three positions.
For once, I feel that we have a signature model here that will appeal to more than just fans of the artist. This is a great looking and sounding guitar with very distinctive but cool looks that will appeal to many. Of course, the Dave Navarro fans will need one but it could be argued that everyone else should check this guitar out too. For those in need of a great rock guitar that can do more than just shred and need it at a sensible price point, the Dave Navarro PRS SE could really fit the bill. As usual, great stuff from PRS's Korean wing.