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.
Atten-shun! TG has always loved a guitar in uniform, so when we heard about an SE Standard finished in camo paint we had to get it back to our barracks.
It's not like PRS to be so frivolous with their colour schemes (the wildest they usually get is Vintage Sunburst), and perhaps this is evidence that the world's most serious luthier is finally lightening up.
As ever, the contours of the Standard's body and headstock look amazing (a halfway house between modern and vintage), and the fact that this particular model can move undetected around woodland areas is the icing on the cake.
It's fairly obvious that corners have to be cut to get the Standard down to £499. Aside from the country of origin (SEs are produced in Korea), it seems that the first things to get the chop are the luxurious maple top and 'bird' fret inlays you will find on most premium US models.
It's not all bad news, though. What you lose in maple you gain in mahogany (the Standard's body is a solid slab thereof) and these butch dot inlays are more suited to the military theme than some flouncy mother-of-pearl seagull.
The Standard's neck is also made of mahogany, which has been set deep into the body to minimise the risk of damage (the angle of the headstock is also less extreme than the 'standard' Gibson 17 degree).
The fingerboard is another dark wood (rosewood) and should further complement what we suspect will be a fairly warm tone when we actually play the guitar.
Whether you choose the tremolo or hardtail version (we decided to be adventurous and plump for the waggle stick), the Standard retains much of the same hardware as the more expensive US models.
You've got black PRS tuners, which held pitch admirably, and a decent tremolo bridge that wobbled when we asked it to and didn't when we were palm-muting our riffs.
It's hard to see what could go wrong with a basic format, and we'd echo that sentiment when it comes to the overall build quality.
Attention to detail is a PRS calling card, and this has filtered down to their Korean models on the evidence of the Standard.
Can we groundlings seriously expect the same level of comfort as Carlos Santana? Well, yes and no. You should be able to tell from looking that the SE Standard is a fairly accommodating guitar in the comfort stakes, which it proves when you strap it on.
With a classic hourglass body, manageable weight and the same 'divot' on the lower cutaway that gives you extra purchase when you're noodling at the top end, as the original PRS Custom this hardly represents the same labour of love as the average BC Rich. It's also interesting to note the slightly unusual scale length PRS have settled on.
At 25-inches on the nose, the Standard sits halfway between the Les Paul (24-inch) and the Fender Strat (25.5-inch), translating into a memorable playing experience that offers easy bends and a good sense of power.
Our fingers and shoulders approved of the Standard, but our palm wasn't so sure. As PRS are keen to point out, this guitar has a 'fat wide' neck carve.
While this offers welcome chunkiness, we did occasionally find ourselves stretching to nail riffs that normally roll off our fingertips. It won't be an issue for most guitarists, but it's worth attempting more than powerchords when trying the Standard at your local music shop.
When you build a guitar exclusively from mahogany, it makes sense to seal the deal with a pair of humbuckers (to complement the warm tone of the wood).
In the case of the Standard, we've got PRS items at the neck and bridge positions, which we feel are the perfect choice. There's a good jangle to the tone, backed up with great sustain and an awesome sense of power when you crank the amp.
On reflection, perhaps that camo paint job is more apt than we thought. This guitar is an (eardrum) killing machine.