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This article was originally published in issue #69
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Fat, singing tones.
Unique feature set.
Stock strings are a little too loose for the short scale length.
TCI “S” Treble and Bass Pickups
Nick Jennison reviews the PRS Santana SE Singlecut, a guitar that pays tribute to Santana’s one-off gold leaf Private Stock PRS. Modelled after the workhorse gold leaf guitar that Carlos plays on stage, the SE version of this special instrument began when Santana heard the 2018 Paul’s Guitar TCI pickups.
PRS’s hugely popular “SE” line of guitars are considered by many to be the benchmark against which all other “affordable” guitars are measured. Made in Korea (and later, Indonesia), the SE range made PRS’s quality accessible to students, hobbyists, touring bands and working professionals alike - and it all started with a Santana model.
Released in 2000, the original SE Santana was a flat slab of mahogany that shared the silhouette of its USA-made forebearers but lacked the contours, the maple top or the PRS name - a deliberate attempt to distance the “SE” guitars from the USA models. How times have changed!
New for 2019, the PRS SE Santana Singlecut Trem is inspired by Carlos Santana’s one-off, 24-carat gold leaf-covered Private Stock guitar (but without the eye-popping price tag!). It’s a 24-fret, 24.5” scale singlecut, which makes it rather unusual. In fact, it’s the only guitar in the entire PRS range (Private Stock notwithstanding) with this combination of features.
It’s also one of two SE guitar to feature the new TCI “S” pickups - the other being the SE Paul’s Guitar. Derived from the new “TCI” (which stands for “Tuned Capacitance and Inductance”) humbuckers found in the Core Paul’s Guitar and the new Modern Eagle V, these pickups offer true vintage single coil tones along with a humbucking voice that’s somewhat reminiscent of a great P90. The latter impressed Santana so much that he had them installed into his own guitar without the coil splits, and this is echoed in the SE Santana Singlecut Trem. They’re rich and fat sounding, with a hint of P90 “air” but none of the brashness - absolutely ideal for singing single note lines and thick jazzy cleans, but maybe a little smooth (pardon the pun) for spanky funk or aggressive metal rhythms.
As you’d expect from a PRS guitar, the playability is exemplary. The neck profile is meaty without being clubby, and the shorter scale length makes bending a breeze. If anything it’s a little *too* slippery with the 9s that come as standard - 10s or 11s would be more appropriate. The singlecut body is light and comfy, and offers great upper fret access. The single tone and volume are tucked well out of the way as they are on other Santana models - if you’re used to riding the volume with your pinky it can take some getting used to, but there’s no chance of knocking your settings with your picking hand. As you’d expect, the trem is smooth and reliable with great tuning stability - even without locking tuners.
The PRS SE Santana Singlecut Trem is a unique and very cool guitar. It might not be the most versatile PRS in the range, but if you’re looking for fat solo tones and superb playing comfort, it’s hard to beat.