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This article was originally published in issue #29
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A return for PRS to the Bassment with one of two new offerings in the SE line for bass guitarists. Back in issue 25 we featured the absolutely superb Gary Grainger model four-string and also interviewed Rhonda Smith, who uses the model. A fabulous player and a fabulous bass - though far from cheap, as you'd expect from such a prestigious maker.
Cut to In June 2014, however, and PRS announced that its highly successful and much respected SE product line was being extended to offer two new basses - the Kingfisher and the Kestrel. The Kingfisher is geared toward a more modern vibe, with a pair of humbucker pickups and unlike the Kestrel model here, no pickguard, - which keeps lines clean and the playing deck clear. The Kestrel could be considered the slightly more vintage styled of the two, a quality reinforced by the wonderful rich metallic red our sample came in However, should you fancy it, the Kestrel also comes in solid black or a three colour sunburst.
So, straight off: did I like this bass? Yes I did! The alder body mates well with the 5-ply maple and walnut construction neck-through to make for an acoustically rich and full bass tone. The rosewood fretboard has 22 frets perfectly installed and who can miss those instantly recognisable bird inlays that used to be the reserve of the premium PRS models, but which now can be enjoyed with the SE bass models too? Incidentally, both the Kestrel and the Kingfisher models feature the same 34” scale though the Kingfisher gets 24 frets for some extra 'up the dusty end' action.
Hardware comes courtesy of Hipshot. The tuners and bridge unit are premium parts, something I am very pleased to see on what is suggested a more budget offering. Not only that - the bridge is actually superb. It's high mass, it means business and it also offers “through body stringing”, with the advantages that affords.
Plugged in you find that the PRS-designed single coil pickups have just the right amount of 'vintage' going on, producing a tone that I'd describe as rounded, with a tasty slap when both pickups are maxed. There is also a single tone control to mate up with the two volume controls - familiar 'Jazz bass' territory. The passive control rounds-off the top end smoothly as you walk yourself right in to the lo-fi zone. Indeed, walking around any style of music, the PRS Kestrel seems to fit in just nicely. If image is your thing, I think these SE models will be comfortable in any genre.
The whole instrument feels good. It is well planned out and comfortable to play. In all honesty, for the price tag, I don't have much to say that is in any way negative. It is competing against a massive market of four string Jazz types and there's plenty that are fighting the prices down, but I'd put this one aside for my short list, simply for taking a different path in looks and styling. And if you follow that advice, you'll be glad you did because this is a fine bass. This is a lot nicer to play than most of its rivals.
The SE line has achieved great success in bringing the PRS brand to the more budget conscious