Posts about PRS

The new PRS wing tuners

I’m a huge fan of Paul Reed Smith — the man and the instruments. Paul is smart and well-spoken. The way he talks about his guitars reminds me of the way Steve Jobs spoke about Apple products.

So when Paul speaks, I listen. Like Apple, PRS typically makes incremental improvements to their products, rather than the static lineups or complete refreshes other brands often do. This year, the big” change are new Wing” tuners (PRS claims they look like wings, which, okay). Instead of aluminum, they’re made out of plastic. The shape is different too.

What interests me is that Paul says this opens up up the guitar and makes the midrange sound more vowel-like. You have to take him at his word for it, because how would one measure that? And if it were true, is that actually more desirable? Every time I’m mixing a sound, I get rid of some of the more obnoxious 800hz midrange. If the vowel sound lives in that 800hz range (and again, there’s no way to really know if that’s what Paul means), then I don’t want it.

So I’m not convinced this is an upgrade. This sort of seems like cost saving measure sold as an upgrade (getting iPhone 5C vibes, which was also an interesting sales pitch). But I’m also not convinced it would sound better or worse than before, so much as different.

But it’s interesting to read all the hoopla surrounding NAMM 2024, and compare Paul’s announcement here. It’s very low key by comparison.

For me, PRS makes some of the nicest guitars money can buy right now. My Silver Sky SE is an incredibly inspiring instrument, and my Custom 24 Piezo is insanely versatile and feels like it was built for my hands. The violin carve also sits well on my body. I don’t mind the plastic tuners at first blush, but I’ll admit that I’m suddenly encouraged to buy 2023 models of anything I’m interested in.

The PRS SE Silver Sky is Reverb’s best-selling electric guitar for the second year running. It’s amazing that any one guitar would sell more than Fender’s best-selling guitars. I have an SE Silver Sky, and while it’s certainly not as nice as any of my more costly guitars, I’m inspired every time I pick it up.

Mark Tremonti’s MT 100

After years of rumours, PRS finally unveiled the MT 100, the 100 watt version of Mark Tremonti’s signature amp. I’ve heard some of the rumours and have been excited to see it get unveiled. Mark is one of the best working guitar players in rock music.

The MT 100 is a three-channel beast: a clean channel, an overdrive channel, and a lead channel. Mark gives a great breakdown of the amp in a 16-minute Youtube video that’s well worth your time, if you’re into this sort of thing.

This a very versatile, well-considered amp. The clean channel goes from pristine cleans with no breakup, to a nice edge-of-breakup sound. The overdrive channel picks up from there and goes from the edge-of-breakup channel to a supercharged Plexi. Mark is a huge amp nerd and compares the overdrive channel to a Dumble he owns, which probably isn’t the best comparison, since every Dumble is unique and only a few hundred were ever made. But I definitely hear the Plexi sound in this channel. Mark’s demo demonstrates how touch-sensitive this channel is. I’m a huge fan.

The lead channel is a different beast. I would describe the clean and overdrive channels as mid-rich, but the lead channel is extremely scooped, even with the Middle knob in roughly the same position. There’s a good chance the sound was EQ’d to death after the video was recorded, so the jury is still out until more people get their hands on this thing, but it sounds like the channels are voiced very differently. I can’t say I’m surprised by this, considering how scooped Mark likes to be1, but to me it makes the amp a little less versatile than it could be otherwise. I can easily take away mids if I don’t want them, but I can’t add them in after the fact. 

Fluff’s fantastic demo did a good job of highlighting that it might be other way around: the MT 100’s overdrive channel might be too honky. I’d like to play one of these when they start showing up in stores and see for myself.

Generally though, I love the versatility of the MT 100. I think this is a great studio amp in particular. I also love the price. In Canada, it retails for $2500. Its biggest competition might be something like the Mesa Boogie Mark VII, which retails for $4800 — nearly twice the price. Even Marshall’s JVM210H is $3200 now. Tube amps have never been cheap, but their prices recently have hovered somewhere between eye-watering and impossible. PRS isn’t known for being inexpensive, but the MT 100 packs a lot of value into a small package.

  1. Years ago, there was a rumour that Mark turned the bass up to 10 (out of 10) on his Dual Rectifier and set the mids to 0. I have a lot of experience with the Dual Rectifier, and those settings can’t be right. That would be one of the most terrible guitar sounds every recorded. ↩︎

The new PRS NF53 and Miles Kennedy signature guitars

Yesterday, PRS introduced two long-rumoured Telecaster-style guitars: the NF53 and the Miles Kennedy model.

The NF53, to my ears, is the better sounding instrument. The Nearfield pickups sound very much like the single coils they’re voiced after. PRS has said the guitar is based on a vintage 1953 instrument in Paul’s collection (read: Telecaster). There’s a clarity in this guitar’s sound that is pure and intoxicating. I’d love to trial one.

From other videos (see the Peach Guitars one below), this thing really starts to roar once it gets a bit of gain. It’s the classic Tele sound.

The Miles Kennedy model is extremely interesting. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think it sounds great for Miles’ needs in Alter Bridge, where he’s competing with Tremonti’s very beefy rhythm tone. The features are cool: a 5‑position pickup selector with split and humbucking sounds, as well as a push/​pull tone knob that PRS says cuts the high frequencies in half in pickup positions 2 – 5 for high-gain rhythm sounds.

To me, the MK model sounds a little closer to a Les Paul. Out of the gate, I’m not sure I’d want one, but it seems like their pitch is that this is a guitar that cuts in a mix in a band situation. So does a normal Telecaster, but clearly they’re pushing the MK towards those of us who would otherwise gravitate to a more traditional dual humbucker body. I’d love to try one.

That NF53, though… oh boy. 

As usual, Peach Guitars has put together a terrific demo of both instruments:

The elephant in the room is the price: in Canada, it’s $3900 for each instrument. That’s more than I paid for my Ultra Luxe Telecaster, which was laughably expensive.