There are only three ways to get a genuine Paul Reed Smith guitar into your life. The first is to save all your money and have an extremely dull life.
The second is to be a hispanic guitar legend (like Carlos Santana) or a metal virtuoso (like Mark Tremonti) and talk Paul into building you a signature model.
The third is to investigate the SE range. By a process of elimination, that is precisely what we're doing today.
When PRS introduced the SE series a few years back, it was the biggest act of class warfare since the storming of the Bastille (ask your history teacher).
By some loophole in the laws of economics, skint teenagers suddenly had access to the same kind of singing tone and glorious looks as the people paying three grand for a PRS Custom. It just didn't make sense.
The quality of these instruments was such that we stopped thinking of them as entry-level models and started doing strange things like wiping them down with a duster after we had finished playing.
It's now possible to get all kinds of variations on the SE theme (from singlecuts to soapbars), but for this review we're going back to basics with a couple of new twists on the trusty Standard.
TG has mixed feelings about signature models. When they're done well (ie, when there's something unique about the hardware or pickups that gets you closer to your hero's tone) then we're in favour.
In TG's experience, however, many of these axes turn out to be little more than an existing model given a lick of paint and an inflated price tag. And, hey, we don't like to see the kids being ripped off.
It's safe to assume that Good Charlotte's Billy Martin hasn't spent too many hours sweating over the bandsaw in the PRS Custom Shop to come up with his signature SE Standard.
TG was hoping for something – anything – that might actually have an impact on our playing and lend authenticity to our renditions of Girls And Boys.
As it turns out, the one thing Billy has contributed to this model is the green bat that stretches from the 11th to the 13th fret of the rosewood fingerboard (and we'd imagine it took him all of five minutes to draw this on a Little Chef napkin).
Apart from that, the Billy Martin SE is exactly the same as the SE Standard. Same woods, same hardware, same pickups. The price tag is identical, too, weighing in at £499.
Did we say this model is exactly the same? That isn't strictly true. Closer analysis of the Billy Martin SE reveals it has revised volume/ tone controls, which look cooler than the Standard's items and offer the tangible advantage that you can use them to 'violin' your volume (not exactly a trademark Good Charlotte technique, though).
The other difference ain't so good. While the Standard offers you the choice between a hardtail or tremolo (both cost £499), the Billy Martin SE is only available in a fixed bridge format. Whether a green bat is worth more than a whammy bar is a decision only you can make.
OK, so the signature element of the Billy Martin SE might be lacking. That doesn't stop it being a fantastic guitar in its own right.
TG was blown away by the performance of the Standard, and that impression was consolidated when we picked up this guitar. We still think the neck isn't the fastest in the world, but it's perfect for classic riffing. We didn't have any issues with the build quality and the fixed bridge is convenient, too.
The Billy Martin SE also served as a reminder of how good PRS humbuckers are. The tone is tight, punchy and full, and between the three settings and the tone control you have access to all the basic rock tones.
It all adds up to a guitar that initially disappointed us through its lack of trimmings, then clawed its way back into our affections through its sheer quality. And at £499, you won't need a lifestyle of the rich and the famous to bag one.