It's over a decade since Gibson legally objected to PRS's Singlecut design and initiated proceedings that wouldn't be fully resolved, in PRS's favour, until late in 2005 (the company began producing Singlecuts again in early 2006).
But far from being the champion that the outcome would suggest, the Singlecut has struggled to hold its own against PRS's original Custom, still PRS's best-selling USA model. Currently, of some 22 USA core production models, only six are actually based on the Singlecut's outline.
"At this price you're going to want to hear and feel a difference. And you do, in spades."
Our Stripped 58 doesn't even make the standard range. It was introduced at the 2011 PRS Experience as a less expensive option to 2010's SC 58, and just 50 will be available in the UK.
Stripped as in stripped-down, the 58 may be touted as a less cosmetically posh version of the SC 58 but it still retains all the classic PRS hallmarks: from the showy outline bird inlays to the relatively subtle but still beautiful figured carved maple top. In fact the differences between this and the full-blown production SC 58 seem slight.
Yes, the figuring on the SC 58 'Artist Grade' maple is more dramatic, its fingerboard edges are bound, the headstock is faced with rosewood, plus you have hardware plating and special order finish options. But the Stripped 58 is what-you-see-is-what-you-get: no options, no headstock facing or fingerboard binding, and 2011 bird inlays (ivory-coloured outlines with a bronze-coloured centre) not the mother-of-pearl and paua heart birds of the SC 58.
Both models share the same 24.5-inch scale length, V12 finish, open-backed Phase III tuners, 57/08 humbuckers with the new PRS surrounds, latest specification lampshade knobs on the 'flipped' control layout (which puts the bridge pickup volume closest to the bridge) and for the first time, a PRS-designed two-piece bridge and tailpiece (also featured on the JA-15).
It's Smith's version of the classic tune-o-matic/stud tailpiece, machined from solid aluminium, with large brass saddles, brass posts and thumbwheels on the bridge and brass anchor posts on the tailpiece, which features five open slots for speedy re-stringing. Both pieces, though height adjustable, sit low on the body.
Strap on the Stripped 58 and we know we're in the big leagues. Our heavily-gigged Singlecut sits abandoned as it listens to a decade of tonal tweakery at work.
The Stripped 58 sounds so much more vintage, characterful - it's really quite a shock. The 57/08 'buckers are noticeably lower in output than on the SE Bernie Marsden we tested at the same time.
On the same clean setting we used for the SE, the 58's bridge pickup sounds a little weedy but somehow not only very vintage but very musical with it: way more Peter Green than Slash. There's more thrum to the neck pickup, thick and velveteen and a great electric jazz voice.
Switching to the crunch tones, the lower output makes things cleaner but you almost don't miss it: as though the inherent sustain, resonance and ambience of the 58 is compensating. Lower gain equals bigger sound? Yes, you get the picture.
At this price you're going to want to hear and feel a difference. And you do, in spades. With subtle amp tweaks and altering the volumes and tones there are few classic single-cut tones you can't nail.
Then there's the playability - notes pick up with the lightest of touch, if you dig in it doesn't mush out, just gives you more power. Effortless.
The Stripped 58 might well be the single-cut you've always dreamed of - an investment for sure but one of those life-time keepers that due to its small numbers could be potentially collectible too.