Last week saw PRS Guitars open the doors of its Maryland factory to a select group of industry figures and a handful of lucky Guitarist reader offer winners. Guitarist's intrepid editor Mick Taylor and gear reviews guru Dave Burrluck were there, digital SLRs and notebooks in hand, to witness the launch of some seriously desirable new products.
Mick talks us through his first impressions of PRS's autumn collection…
PRS's flagship electric – the Modern Eagle (£4995 approx, above right) – reappears in its mark II guise equipped with 1957/2008 humbuckers utilising the wire from the machine that made the pickup wire for the original Gibson PAF pickups. The verdict? "Our previous fave PRS pickups were the 245s, now we're not so sure!"
Al DiMeola Prism (£3395 approx)
"The finish is clearly love it or hate it – albeit an impressive feat of hand-rubbed finishing skills – but more interesting are the Al Di Humbuckers that have a easily discernible harmonic sweet spot that's lovely for sustaining leads."
PRS Amps (£TBC)
"Paul Reed Smith has enlisted to help of amp builder Doug Sewell who has come up with four designs based on classic amp tones. Hand-wired with point-to-point construction, we're deep into boutique territory here.
"One thing's for sure: David Grissom and Johnny Hiland's tones through these amplifiers were absolutely top-drawer at the Experience. I had the pleasure of cranking up the Dallas: a Fender-flavoured 50-watter that breaks up very musically indeed. The tone is all there, but the deal breaker is likely to be price. Rumoured figures were verging on painful, albeit totally unsubstantiated."
Starla (£1549 approx)
"I played the Starla through a prototype PRS/Sewell Dallas amp, and presumably thanks to its thin mahogany body and vintage-voiced pickups, it sounds rich, open and a little twangier than you'd expect from a PRS. Very cool indeed, and the first ever PRS with a Bigsby."
Chesapeake Severn (Private Stock only custom order, from £6995)
"A totally new brand, headed up by Joe Knaggs who is head of R&D and Private Stock at PRS. It might look like a Strat, but that's where the similarity ends: a set neck, three-layered body and a totally new vibrato design. Private stock only as yet, the one you're looking at is the second one ever made."
PRS Acoustics (from £6995)
"We were treated to a performance at Paul Reed Smith's house featuring bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs. Brit acoustic ace Tony McManus stole the show for us, playing a PRS acoustic. Simply mic'd, Tony's exceptional playing demonstrated that the guitar is all there harmonically – very much an example of a modern super-acoustic."
Chesapeake acoustic (from £6995)
"Again a product of Joe Knaggs and the new Chesapeake brand. Where the PRS acoustic has a vintage-modern voice and design, the Chesapeake acoustic is very much vintage-vintage. Exquisite luthiery as you'd expect, but Private Stock pricing levels: ouch!"
Read more in issue 309 of Guitarist, on sale 27 October, and look out for exclusive first reviews in coming issues.