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This article was originally published in issue #38
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PRS guitars are a real dream guitar for many players but the price points of their high end instruments puts them well beyond the means of all but the most affluent musicians. The S2 series, though, represents an affordable way to get hold of a real, US-made PRS guitar but without the incredibly expensive artist pack options such as AAAA figured maple tops and crazy inlays. S2s maintain the same level of design and attention to detail as the more expensive models and can be considered professional instruments in all senses but are often half or even a third of the price of their more expensive counterparts thanks to Korean made hardware and less visual flair.
PRS recently sent us the S2 Singlecut Semi-Hollow model to check out, a sister guitar to the S2 Singlecut, featuring a traditional mahogany body and flame maple top matched with a 22 fret mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard. There are a range of different finishes available with our example sporting a lovely Dark Cherry Sunburst that offsets the maple grain impressively.
Hardware is all of the S2 variety with custom parts made for this range of instruments, namely a PRS Stoptail bridge, PRS S2 locking tuners and a pair of great sounding PRS S2 #7 humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions. These are controlled via a 3-way switch with individual volume and tone controls and push/pull pots for split single coil sounds. The neck is of the Pattern Regular variety with a 25” scale length for that classic ‘in-between’ feeling of comfort that PRS guitars have become renowned for.
The S2 range feels every bit as well made and high end in the hands as the full fat PRS guitars, with a build quality and weight that oozes quality. There are some obvious differences between the two ranges such as the use of three piece necks instead of one piece and a flat top with bevelled edges as opposed to the more complex archtop style carve of the higher end models. Other elements such as the exceptional fretwork and quality of the finish are right up there with the more expensive originals, making the S2 version seem like something of a bargain in comparison. The Pattern Regular neck is a C-shape design that is thin enough for comfort without feeling too skinny for those used to a traditional neck profile. Intonation is very good indeed and the guitar is resonant across its range with a great acoustic snap to the unplugged tone.
Plugged in, the #7 pickups have a lovely throaty quality that works well in combination with the extra ‘air’ around the tone that the Semi-Hollow construction allows for. These are pickups that can confidently cope with classic Rock tones, lower gain Blues sounds and fat clean Jazz tones. There is a slightly more acoustic quality to overdriven tones, adding a clarity that may be too much for Rock players looking for a more traditional single cut sound but, as a by-product, even complex overdriven chords sound clear and exhibit superb note separation on this guitar. Split humbucker sounds have more girth than normal single coils as the second coil isn’t completely bypassed on the #7 pickups and as a result you get the clarity of a single coil but with more midrange and bass than you might expect. Having said this, you also get a lot of versatility since each pickup can be split independently, thanks to individual push/pull coil splits on the two tone controls.
The S2 is definitely closer to the high end US PRS guitars that many guitar players aspire to own than the Korean made SE range. It's not that the SEs are bad - in fact they are very good indeed - it's just that these are even better. Both from a tonal and feel perspective this S2 Single cut Semi-Hollow is a professional instrument through and through.
There are a lot of rival single cut guitars on the market competing for your attention that boast much nicer tops and more impressive looking appointments but the S2 is a real work horse guitar that has quality where it matters and saves money where it doesn’t. If you’re after a PRS for the incredible figured woods and inlays then this S2 may not be for you and you may have to save up for some time to achieve your dream guitar, but for those looking for a quality playing and sounding instrument at the right price, the S2 Singlecut Semi-Hollow is more than worth a look.