PRS makes its pedalboard debut with a trio of guitar effects pedals

PRS Guitars Effects Pedals
(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

PRS Guitars has launched its first series of guitar effects pedals, debuting with the Mary Cries optical compressor, the Wind Through The Trees dual flanger and the evocatively titled Horsemeat. Horsemeat!? Why, that’s a transparent overdrive pedal.

There had been some clues from PRS HQ that the brand synonymous with high-end electric guitars was going to branch out in this direction, with founder Paul Reed Smith recently offering a YouTube tour of his favourite stompboxes from the comfort of his home studio. That, says Smith, was where the project took off.

“This whole concept started in my home studio,” he said. “When recording, the musicians were looking for tones and textures that we couldn’t get straight from the guitar. When we couldn’t find what we were looking for, we started building devices with the help of some friends. That’s how the first pedal prototypes were born. Over time, we all got excited by them, so we decided to offer them to more players.”

And judging by what the boss man says, expect PRS to expand its pedal lineup in the months to come. “I think these first three designs are the start of something very cool,” added Smith.

I think these first three designs are the start of something very cool

Paul Reed Smith

As for the pedals themselves, the Horsemeat transparent overdrive is going to invite comparisons with the Klon Centaur. The faintly bestial nomenclature speaks to that influence, but also a circuit populated by germanium diodes.

The circuit, which has been designed from scratch, is designed to flatter your sound in all kinds of ways. Firstly, by not stepping all over it and colouring the tone – hence the ‘transparent’, but it also boosts low and high-frequencies, promising “throatiness” and “harmonic richness” and, well, as Paul Reed Smith says himself, the Horsemeat “sounds like a good amp”.

The Horsemeat has a five-knob enclosure that’s dominated by an over-sized Gain control at the top, under which we have controls for Level, Voice, Treble and Bass. The jacks are mounted on the top of the unit. 

PRS says it can be run as a clean boost, an overdrive, and for pushing the front in of your guitar amp for more grit and harmonic goodness.

The Mary Cries is an optical compressor pedal housed in a similar-sized enclosure to the Horsemeat, but with a simple two-knob layout, with a large Compression dial sitting underneath an Output Gain dial, both flanked by LEDs to let you know when it is at work compressing the transients in your signal. 

It was inspired by the classic Teletronix LA-2A compressors, and like all good compressors it might not be the effect to work gangbusters in demo videos, to get the blood racing, but then you place it in your signal chain and something magic happens; you typically sound better and it ends up being the one pedal that never gets turned off.

You can use the Mary Cries to add sustain to solos, smooth out your playing and sound, add more oomph to your signal without losing clarity, and if you set the compression at zero it can be used as a clean boost.

PRS artist David Knudson was a test pilot for the unit and is clearly a fan. 

“The new PRS Mary Cries does a phenomenal job of keeping all the notes and tones from all over my fretboard tight and balanced,” he said. “For anyone who utilizes compression for fingerpicking or all-over-the-neck-two-hand-tapping, this thing is my new favorite. I really appreciate the blue compression light coming on to show me when and how hard it’s working.” 

Finally, we have the Wind Through The Trees, and this really is something different, a dual flanger that PRS sais is best described as “two flangers fighting each other”. This should sound like the name of the pedal; there will be a lot of whooshing. 

If the Horsemeat and Mary Cries are your 9-5 pedals, building the fundamentals of electric guitar tone, the Wind Through The Trees is for those seeking out more experimental flavours of modulation, sweet spots betwixt jet engine psychedelia and enhanced harmonic resonance. 

It might sound like a Friday night pedal but PRS wants it to become a mainstay of your pedalboard.

“We believe the pedals we’ve created are highly usable, great-sounding pieces of professional gear,” said Smith. “A real magic pedal makes the board. We’re trying to make pedals that make the board and stay on it.”

The Wind Through The Trees has a slightly larger format than its siblings, but then there is a lot more to control. Besides the footswitch to engage the effect, there is a mix knob for the two LFOs. There are two sets of Manual, Depth and Rate knobs, one for each LFO. Master controls include Regen and Added Highs, and a Wet/Dry knob.

All three of the pedals are true bypass, are built with through-hole soldering, and are powered by 9V battery or 9V DC pedalboard power supply

The Mary Cries optical compressor is priced £/$219. The Horsemeat transparent overdrive is priced £269/$249. The Wind Through The Trees Dual Flanger is priced £369/$349.

See PRS Guitars for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.