PRS SE Torero
Diversification. It's a marketing buzzword much-loved by boardroom executives with ponytails, and roughly translates as 'something for everybody'.
With Mark Tremonti and Mikael Åkerfeldt on its books, PRS has never been shy of a bit of metal, so the new SE Torero isn't exactly a Bowie-esque makeover. But make no mistake: the world's most sophisticated luthier has never thrown the horns quite so overtly before, ditching vast swathes of its signature spec to create a beast that plays faster, harder and hairier.
Paul Reed Smith himself is calling this axe a "shredder's dream" - is it time to give him a wake-up call?
Thank God: the Torero is still recognisably a PRS, echoing the svelte contours of the textbook Custom and fusing maple top to mahogany body. It's a blip, though, because things soon start to get weird.
Gone is the standard neck joint, replaced by a maple thru with 25½-inch scale (most PRSs are 25-inch) and the double-octave of a Custom 24. The firm's Strat-but-better vibrato is ditched for a genuine Floyd, while the in-house pickup policy is relaxed to let active EMG 81/85s into the party.
All these curveballs could give PRS lovers the jitters, but picking up the Torero dispels (most) of them. The body is as familiar as it looks. The wide neck carve doesn't encourage you to wring out weeping phrases, Santana style, but it's a killer platform for machine-gun bursts of notes played very, very fast (even if the lack of inlays is disorientating).
The thru heel works wonders for access. And let's not get misty-eyed about the missing vibrato; 'proper' metal necessitates a Floyd Rose; we can't believe it's taken PRS so long to deliver one.
Ah, tone - the great divide. If you're considering the Torero, be clear on your requirements. At lower distortion, these EMGs don't have the balance or vintage richness we've heard from 'own brand' items on other SEs, while their tendency to distort can be frustrating if you want to do the 'chiming verse' thing.
But this is an axe that polarises its audience. It's a simple equation: mahogany, plus thru neck, plus high output humbuckers, equals the most jaw-breaking, sustain-packed, brick-wall tone that Smith has ever put his name to.
The Torero demands two things: a healthy wallet and an open mind. If you've coveted a PRS since puberty, you'll probably want a 'normal' one. Similarly, if you're a metaller with £899, your knee-jerk reaction might be a Razorback or a Randy Rhoads.
But stick with it. Once you start playing, you realise this axe actually does have all PRS's calling cards - it's exceptionally well made and gorgeous to play - and turns in an unholy racket that must be giving sleepless nights to lots of MDs in the metal sector.
PRS has always rocked. Now it slays. ...
The feel and sound are bang-on for metal.
It's a big departure, and a pricey one.
Your knee jerk reaction might be to look elsewhere, but open-minded players will find this axe has a lot to offer metal guitarists.
Gray Black, Black Cherry
Solid mahogany with bound maple top/veneer
No. of Frets
EMG 85 (neck) and 81 (bridge). Controls: 1x volume, 1x tone, 3-way pickup selector