PRS SE Hollowbody II
Why would I buy a PRS Hollowbody when I already have a PRS McCarty Hollowbody II - My God-Given Guitar?
Especially in light of the fact that the McCarty is American-made and is a superior guitar? Better tuners and better hardware in general. The SE is manufactured in China, and the "SE" stands for "Student Edition" or "Special Edition" or "Santana Edition" - all kinds of arguing and bloviating in PRS groups and boards about that.
Even though I say the McCarty is the better guitar, if you read my PRS McCarty story you'll know that I highly modified it. Among other things I swapped out the pickups and added a second volume control.
So what's the deal? Well, the initial hook was price-point. The SE Hollowbody is in the neighborhood of $1200-$1300 new. This one was slightly used but was in like-new condition for $835.
The second thing stems from an incident a little over a year ago. I'm not going to go into the why and how of it, but the short story is I accidently left my PRS McCarty in a club. It was there for two days before I could get back to it. I was dealing with the possibility of it being gone when I got there. It has been my main guitar since I first got it in 2003. It would be a major pain to lose it and I was staring that possibility right in the face.
The logical replacement for it would be the guitar that the McCarty replaced, an Ibanez Artist - which has the original pickups from the McCarty in it; the ones I didn't like. The Ibanez pickups were swapped with the McCarty's. Plus the Ibanez was heavy, that was one of the main reasons I modified the McCarty so much; it's the lightest guitar I've ever played and I wanted to be able to use it because my back is so screwed up from hunching over a guitar for over 50 years. All of this was a rather depressing thought - having to go back to a guitar that I didn't like the sound of that was heavy and sure to mess up my back more than it already is. It was the worst of everything.
It was a HUGE relief to find the McCarty still there, right where I'd left it.
So having a spare for the McCarty was another one of my motivations.
The SE Hollowbody was at a local guitar shop. I called the guy and asked if the pickups were the same as what was in the McCarty? If so, that was a deal-killer for me. He didn't know the answer to that so I told him,
"I'll come in tomorrow. I'll be able to tell right away if that's the case."
BTW: for those locals who might want to know, the guitar was at Paul's Guitar Shop in Blue Springs, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. I didn't know anything about the place; I don't keep up anymore with what store is opening or closing, when and where, because I moved all my teaching to my home studio due to the Covid shutdown in 2020, and here I will stay. I no longer have to keep an eye out for available studio space.
Paul's Guitar Shop is a one-man operation and is a really nice little shop. A surprising amount of pro-level gear there as well as the usual entry-level stuff. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, I come in, ask for a solid state amp to play it through (see: Tube or Solid State?) and sit down to play the guitar.
I immediately ascertained that the pickups are not the same ones that come with the McCarty. So far, so good. The neck felt GOOD! It's wider and thicker than the McCarty. I played the guitar for about 5 minutes, took it up to the counter and said,
"I'll take it!"
"Well" said Paul, "That was easy!"
It came with a nice hard-shell case and Paul threw in a set of strings and a string winder and I went home with the guitar.
If you keep up with me you'll know I'm not interested in the technical details of a guitar. What wood, how many wire wraps around the pickup magnets, what kind of tuners, scale length blah blah blah. I like what I like and don't really care about the minutiae. But I know a lot of guys are really into it, so here you go:
Body Construction: Hollowbody
Top Wood: Maple
Veneer: Flame Maple
Middle Wood: Mahogany
Back Wood: Maple
Top Carve: Bevel
Body Binding: Cream
Number of Frets: 22
Scale Length: 25"
Neck Wood: Mahogany
Truss Rod: PRS Double-Acting
Neck Shape: Wide Fat
Neck Depth at the 1/2 Fret: 7/8"
Neck Width at the Nut: 1 11/16"
Neck Width at the Body: 2 1/4"
Fretboard Wood: Ebony
Fretboard Radius: 10"
Fretboard Inlay: Birds
Headstock Logo: Signature "SE"
Neck/Body Assembly Type: Set
Bridge: PRS Adjustable Stoptail
Tuners: PRS Designed Tuners
Hardware Type: Nickel
Truss Rod Cover: "Hollowbody"
Treble Pickup: 58/15 "S"
Bass Pickup: 58/15 "S"
Controls: Volume and Tone Control w/ 3-Way Toggle Pickup Switch
Strings: PRS Classic 10-46
Tuning: Standard (6 String): E, A, D, G, B, E
Case: Hardshell Case
I said the pickups were not the same as what was in my McCarty. That may not be true. After playing the SE on several gigs I began to question my ears. I noticed the same irritating frequency that caused me to swap out the pickups on the McCarty when I played the SE through my Roland JC120, which is the amp I was using back in 2003 when I first started using the McCarty. I still use it on at least a gig a week. However, when played through my Henriksen Bud SIX the SE sounds fine. Weird.
I looked it up and from what I can find they may be the same but with this variable:
The pickups on the ES: 58/15 "S"
Pickups on the McCarty: 58/15 LT “S”
Can anybody tell me what "LT" means? 'Cause that is the only difference I've been able to find.
But the main thing I want to talk about is the neck - "Neck Shape: Wide Fat."
I've got a bunch of different guitars with all kinds of different necks: Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, Charvel, G&L - all different. I've learned that I like what I get used to and I can get used to almost anything. Onstage, I've gone from switching out a '73 Telecaster to an '80's-era Charvel/Jackson Model 4 from one song to the next. That's a huge difference in terms of the way the necks feel; the biggest difference I've experienced. And yet I can make the adjustment with no problem because I've put in the time on both instruments to get used to them.
This neck felt good to me from the moment I started playing it. I'd say it's closest to my early '70's Gibson ES175, though thicker and wider. The point is, I didn't need any time to get used to it. I started gigging with it right away. I like the feel of it better than the McCarty.
If you've read my blog on the McCarty, you may remember me complaining about the master volume. I prefer separate volume controls for each pickup. So much so I had a second volume knob installed.
I'm not going to do that with this one. I've determined to leave it alone and figure out how to get what I want out of it without modification. It's going to involve variating the tone knob more than I'm used to.
The body of this guitar is a little bigger than the McCarty; it weighs just a hair more but it's still very light-weight and I like the aesthetics size-wise better:
I can foresee the possibility of changing out the tuners. The ones on the McCarty are better. So far, the SE has stayed in tune ok on the gig but...yeah...we'll see.
String-wise, the SE came with a set of 10's which is what the website recommends. I think I'm going to swap out the 10 for an 11 but keep the rest of the set the same. The high E string just needs a little more beef to it.
As I said, I started gigging with it right away. So far, with the exception of the high E string not having the same level of punch as the others, I really like this guitar. It's still "new" and I may write a "Part 2" on it later after more use, but as of now it's a keeper!
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