We've covered the ups and downs of PRS's Singlecut many times in Guitarist since its launch in 2000. In 2006 PRS launched the Satin range that included the most affordable maple-topped Singlecut and Singlecut Trem yet.
But due to a huge back order, the company had shipped only a handful of the Singlecut Trem Satins to the UK by December 2006; and the first Singlecut Satin – reviewed here – eventually arrived in January 2007.
However, at this year's January NAMM show the Singlecut range was re-organised. The original-spec Singlecut and the Singlecut Satin were dropped, replaced by the High Gloss SC 250, effectively a non-signature Tremonti, the modern player's Singlecut, and the shorter-scale SC 245, the vintage player's Singlecut. A satin version of the SC 250 will be available in 2007, but not a satin SC 245.
Of course, for those of us that play a bit of both vintage and modern styles the original Singlecut was perfect and the more affordable Singlecut Satin was on many players' must-try lists for 2006.
PRS will be honouring any orders for the Singlecut Satin (which we believe is in the region of 2,500, around 100 will be available in early 2007 in the UK), which makes it even more appealing: this is a limited edition in all but name. Introductions over, let's see what this now-unique guitar has to offer.
The Singlecut Satin is identical to the High Gloss Singlecut in terms of construction. It uses the thickest body PRS offers (approx 58mm) with a larger ratio of mahogany to maple than any other maple-topped PRS.
Weight has always been an issue, especially with earlier Singlecuts, but this sample is noticeably lighter – just under 8lbs. PRS's Joe Knaggs confirmed that all the thick-body Singlecuts (new and old) being made from early 2007, including the Singlecut Satin, now feature eight resonance-enhancing and weight-reducing 'sound chambers' which we understand are long slots cut into the mahogany, before the maple top is added, parallel to the strings and around three-quarters of a inch wide.
As we noted in our previous Satin series review (issue 284), these guitars somehow feel a little more delicate in the hand. The wide-fat neck profile doesn't feel such a handful and the lighter weight undoubtedly improves the feel.
Finish options are smaller on the Satin series – just four colour options on the all-mahogany models and eight on these maple-topped guitars – and the satin nitro-cellulose finish not only looks duller but is slightly undulating and textured in feel.
Less durable than the High Gloss finish, it should show signs of wear more quickly, as well as burnishing to a lovely satin sheen the more you play it. In fact that, for many, holds big appeal here.
All the Satin series feature bird inlays as standard – usually an up-charge option – and aside from the Artist Pack and 10-top upgrades the only other option is gold hardware.
Our review guitar includes the Artist Pack – Artist grade maple top, paua shell birds, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and headstock overlay, inlaid paua shell signature, gold hardware and leather hardshell case – but that adds a whopping £1,195 to the price, making this guitar a long way the wrong side of three grand.
While many would agree a Brazilian rosewood 'board is the best you can get, the other parts of the Artist Pack are purely cosmetic.
As with the original Singlecut, you get PRS 7 covered humbuckers here and four controls – a volume and tone for each pickup.
The pots are placed differently from the Gibson standard and with the bridge pickup volume closest to the bridge it feels faster and more logical to use. It'll feel strange if you're coming from a two-control PRS, or a Gibson, although Les Paul players will enjoy the shoulder-mounted toggle; aside from getting machine-gun effects you can also blend the two pickups – an essential feature for old-school LP fans.
The construction is up to PRS's exemplary fashion. The fretwork is very tidy, the set-up is spot on and, typically it's gig-ready to go. Only the tuners feel a little unresponsive – this writer would prefer the Phase II locking tuners.
The Singlecut certainly has a different flavour to a modern Gibson Les Paul. To our ears there's a little more life and vibrancy to the tone – less 'opaque', if you like.
With this lightweight version the sound is even more woody, organic and closer to the vibe of a late fifties 'Burst. The 7s kick out a wide range of sounds too. The bridge pickup produces a biting attack or, with less gain, an evocative old-school snappy tone.
The neck pickup is very well balanced with the bridge pickup, producing wonderfully smooth, almost hollowed, vocal tones.
The Singlecut – by design – with it's shorter, stiffer neck really does give you expanded low end compared with a double-cut PRS. It's a massive, brutal sound, yet never unrefined.
The Singlecut is one of the most dynamic guitars we've ever used and this sound-chambered version goes up a gear from earlier models.
It handles subtle blues or detuned modern rock in equal measure – an important consideration if you require a varied palette. There's a little more delicacy in terms of tone too, a little more high-end sparkle and life which certainly aids lower volume rhythmic styles.
It would appear that PRS believes the original Singlecut to be a 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none' – hence the two new 2007 models which split the guitar into 'vintage' and 'modern' formats.
But in its original incarnation the Singlecut covers an awful lot of ground, especially if you like the 25-inch scale but play older, more classic styles.
This Satin version with its lighter weight, thinner, easily aged finish and more delicate feel might well be the ultimate Singlecut for the discerning tonesmith.