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This article was originally published in issue #35
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For some it's going to be the ultimate PRS semi: the new P245 semi-hollow. Tom Quayle considers what could be one of the very the best PRS guitars yet.
Paul Reed Smith has always been something of an individual when it comes to the scale length of his guitars, originally opting for a 25” scale length as opposed to the 25.5” chosen by Fender and 24 ¾” used by Gibson. This led to people referring to ‘the PRS Scale Length’ in both a positive and negative light, with some growing to love the unusual scale and others perhaps not so much. With the single cut 245 series however, PRS has released its first guitar featuring a 24.5” scale length, much closer to the traditional Les Paul feel and design. The 245 is available at a range of price points and with various aesthetic appointments but sitting at the top of the range is the US made P245 with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high end PRS guitar. Our review model sported a semi-hollow construction, although the model is also available in a solid body design.
The new for 2015 P245 semi hollow features the usual high end PRS appointments and is constructed with a semi hollow mahogany body, carved flame maple top, mahogany neck, bound rosewood fretboard and a headstock with a rosewood veneer. Ishould add that our sample came with the most expensive '10 top' option, a scheme which PRS offers, enabling you to specify the highest grade figured wood for your guitar's top. As you'd expect, it looked stunning.
The P245 SH is designed to be far more versatile than its dual PRS 58/15 humbucker set-up would suggest, thanks to the inclusion of LR Baggs piezo saddles in the bridge and a Push/Pull coil tap for single coil tones in all three pickup positions. The 58/15 pickups were designed by Paul himself to provide a vintage style sound but with exceptional clarity, even in the neck position with the tone rolled off. The guitar features two output jacks, offering a separate out for the piezo saddles or a mix out containing both the magnetic and piezo signals, with a mix control on the guitar to select between the mag/piezo pickups. The PRS Stoptail bridge is a superb design with excellent control over intonation and string height and the Phase III locking tuners offer quick string changes and solid tuning stability.
The P245 is a supremely comfortable guitar, with the PRS Pattern neck offering a very friendly profile that matches well with the shorter scale length. Chords and lead work are consequently a breeze in all positions, especially for those with smaller hands or those who struggle with a full 25.5” scale guitar. The contoured body is very comfortable too and, since the semi-hollow design cuts down the mass of the instrument, it never feels overly heavy or cumbersome in a seated or standing position.
As you’d expect from a high end PRS, the construction of our sample was perfect in every respect, with flawless finishing and exceptional detail in the inlaid headstock signature, bird inlays and binding. For a guitar in this rice range you expect the best in workmanship and design and the P245 Semi-hollow doesn’t disappoint, fully justifying its price tag. The included deluxe hard case is a lovely addition that adds to the feel of quality and exclusivity and PRS offer a fantastic range of finishes and 'artist pack' additions to suit all requirements and budgets.
Played acoustically, the P245 is impressively loud with a very detailed and rich tone and bags of sustain. Chords sound full and single notes pop out with an authority and definition that is very pleasing even before plugging the guitar in. Plugged into our studio amp we tested the piezo saddle mounted pickups first and found a realistic and eminently usable tone that could be used to mimic an acoustic, or combined with the magnetic pickups for an amazing amount of clarity from clean or overdriven tones. Clarity is the name of the game with this guitar as the 58/15 pickups offer bags of it with clean or filthy tones, meaning that every note of a chord is heard and things never become muddy when using the neck pickup for creamy leads. Don’t get the wrong impression though, these pickups can scream with the best of them, but the extra clarity on offer actually makes you play better as you can really hear everything you play in more detail. Engaging the coil split in each position offers decent single coil tones that give the guitar a much more versatile palette than a stock 3-way humbucking guitar.
There is nothing to really criticise about the PRS P245 Semi-Hollow guitar. It ticks all of the boxes that you would expect from a PRS and the shorter scale length should really please a lot of guitar player out there, especially those with smaller hands or who have always felt more comfortable with the 'easier' shorter scale. It's a handsome guitar too and while the price is pretty steep, it justifies this wholeheartedly with superb tone, playability and versatility. If you are looking for a single cut guitar that is a step above the competition and you have a healthy budget then the P245 should be at the top of your list to check out.
We struggled with a rating for this guitar. There is no getting away from the fact that it's expensive. Then again, have you looked at the prices being asked for some of the top end 'custom' models from the two major US makers of late? Judged by those standards the P245 SH starts to look like a bargain. That's why, after a lot of deliberation, we decided to award it four and a half stars. It's a fabulous guitar at a comparatively great price.