PRS S2 Series: first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies

9th Jul 2013 | 15:59

PRS S2 Series: first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies
PRS S2 Series: exclusive first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies
Starla, Mira, Custom: cool and affordable

Once the preserve of guitarists with very deep pockets, American guitar maker PRS has launched three new S2 solidbody guitars that bring the price of admission for their US-built guitars down to around £1,000.

Built in the same factory as their core-line instruments, PRS claims these S2 models have been purpose-designed to be cheaper to manufacture without sacrificing tone or build quality. In an exclusive ‘first play’ test we get our hands on the new S2 Custom, Starla and Mira to report our first impressions. Look out for a full report in issue 371 of Guitarist, on sale 26 July.

In the following video, we join Whitesnake legend Bernie Marsden, Ace - guitarist with Skunk Anansie - and Jamiroquai's Rob Harris for a hands-on demonstration of all three models. Watch these top players put these attainably priced American-built guitars through their paces for the first time in this video, filmed by PRS at their British headquarters near Cambridge, then click onwards for mini-reviews and specifications for each instrument.

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PRS S2 Series: first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies
PRS Custom S2
£1,375 (inc. gigbag)

Specifications

TYPE: Double-cutaway, solidbody electric
BODY: One-piece mahogany with ‘asymmetric bevelled’ figured maple top
NECK: Mahogany, ‘pattern regular’ profile, glued-in
SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25-inch)
FRETS: 24
HARDWARE: PRS S2 vibrato, S2 locking tuners (w/brass posts)
ELECTRICS: PRS Custom S2 Treble (bridge) and Bass (neck) humbuckers, 3-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and master tone with pull/push coil-split

Features

The S2 Custom is an all-mahogany guitar with a figured maple top but that top is not carved with a violin-like contour, unlike core-line Custom models. Instead the top has an asymmetric bevelled edge: think SG as opposed to as Les Paul Standard. The all-gloss finish doesn’t have quite the crisp mirror-like reflection of the core line but it doesn’t let the side down. Its SE vibrato is a close cousin to the vibrato found on the core line guitars. The S2 Custom’s pickups are based on long-running PRS designs, the HFS and Vintage Bass.

Sounds

The S2 Custom’s ceramic-loaded bridge humbucker seems to centre on a rockier, classic metal tone. The slightly lower-output neck ‘bucker gets us into more classic rock/blues territory: adding gain drops us into that Gary Moore-like vocal voice with ease. Splitting the ‘buckers voices adds clarity, percussion and a volume drop that cleans up your amp tone nicely.

First impression

The most affordable USA Custom yet looks like a lot of guitar for the money. It might lack some bling but sounds and playability are great.

PRS S2 Series: first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies
PRS Mira S2
£1,095 (inc. gigbag)

Specifications

TYPE: Double-cutaway, solidbody electric
BODY: Asymmetric bevelled thin mahogany
NECK: Mahogany, ‘pattern regular’ profile, glued-in
FRETS: 22, medium
HARDWARE: PRS S2 Stoptail, S2 locking tuners (w/brass posts)
ELECTRICS: PRS Mira S2 Treble (bridge) and Bass (neck) humbuckers, 3-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and master tone with pull/push coil-split

Features

The S2 Mira has been redrawn, in terms of its outline shape bringing it a little more inline with the PRS Santana outline. It’s a full half-kilo lighter than either of the other S2’s on review it also has the thinnest body depth. The Mira’s pickups are modelled on the 245 buckers, PRS’s most PAF-alike offering before the 57/08 surfaced in 2008. The control layout here is identical to the Custom and Starla. It’s the only hard-tail guitar of our trio.

Sounds

The Mira’s generous acoustic resonance translates to a more garage-band vibe. There’s less width, it’s more midrange focussed but in a good way, there’s a lot more Les Paul Special/SG here.

First impression

A no-brainer rock ’n’ roll guitar. The Mira was always a fave; here it’s nearly half the price of the original. Very tempting.

In pictures: PRS Starla S2 unboxed

PRS S2 Series: first hands-on review of new-for-2013 solidbodies
PRS Starla S2
£1,095 (inc. gigbag)

Specifications

TYPE: Single-cutaway, solidbody electric
BODY: Asymmetric bevelled thin mahogany
NECK: Mahogany, glued-in
FRETS: 22
HARDWARE: Tune-o-matic-style bridge, Bigsby B50 vibrato, S2 locking tuners (w/brass posts)
ELECTRICS: PRS Starla S2 Treble (bridge) and Bass (neck) humbuckers, 3-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and tone with pull/push coil-split

Features

The Starla is the only single-cut in our trio – and the neck joins the body at the 16th fret. Of our trio it’s the most unaltered compared to the previous USA model. Its pickups are modelled on the USA Starla humbuckers - a completely different design for PRS, aiming at a more Gretsch/Rickenbacker-like tonality, a tune-o-matic bridge and licensed Bigsby vibrato. The S2 tuners are Koreran-made versions of the USA Phase II tuners.

Sounds

The Starla has a rounder-nosed Gretsch-y, Rickie-like voice: it begs for lashings of reverb and a dab of Brylcreem - and could bethe most un-PRS-sounding PRS we’ve ever played.

First impression

Few players won’t enjoy its evocative, classic voice – could this be the guitar to turn the vintage-obsessed doubters on to PRS?

Chris Robertson from Black Stone Cherry on the new S2 Starla

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