PRS Fiore: What is it?
The PRS story is one of long passages of steady evolution – the upgrading of hardware, new pickups and build processes – punctuated by paradigm-shifting electric guitar designs. And whenever one of those grad innovations happens to be a bolt-on, well, buckle up; there’s always a commotion.
It was like that when the Silver Sky was released. A John Mayer signature guitar would always generate a little heat, but there was a reverse headstock on a decidedly Strat-inspired spec that further stirred the pot… These were things that, well, PRS just don’t do.
But the thing is, PRS has done some of those things before – just this year it revised the PRS Studio, which is similarly an HSS guitar with a signature twist – and the things it is doing that it has never done before is what would otherwise be called progress when undertaken by almost any other brand.
Its history with bolt-ons stretches back to the late 80s with the Classic Electric model, a relatively straightforward bolt-on with a familiar tonewood recipe – alder for the body, maple for the neck. And in 2021 it continues with another bolt-on, a signature model for Mark Lettieri that sees an all-new body shape make its debut.
The PRS Fiore is an S-style with an HSS pickup configuration and a Fender-esque 25.5” scale length. It has a swamp ash body, the grain of which is visible on the red Amaryllis model but not on the solid finishes of our Sugar Moon review guitar or the Black Iris model.
The 10” radius maple fingerboard is emblazoned with Birds inlay, the headstock is – for many – the correct way round, and it’s even got a floral graphic on the truss rod cover; floral being reference to Fiore, Italian for ‘flower’, and the name his daughter gave the guitar. Completing what is a Lettieri family joint effort, it should be noted that his mother designed the graphic.
There is a two-point steel tremolo, vintage-style tuners, but the big talking point has to be the pickups and the electronics. The HSS configuration presents us with a PRS guitar whose natural competitors might be found in the ranges of Suhr, Ernie Ball Music Man and Xotic guitars, where the high-end Superstrat is a core product.
The pickups have been wound to Lettieri’s specifications, with the bridge humbucker promising a reasonably hot output to make light work of high-gain lead guitar but with enough subtlety in them not to hold the interest when the amp is clean.
The single-coils are wound to complement this general-purpose lead pickup in as many ways as possible, with a five-way pickup selector, volume and a pair of tone controls with push-pull functionality giving us a plethora of core sounds before we have touched our volume or tone controls.
A little explanation of the control circuit will give you an idea of just how versatile the Fiore can be. The blade switch is quite straightforward: with both tone controls in the Down position, this selects the full humbucker in position 1, the humbucker and middle single-coil in position 2, the middle single-coil in position 3, both middle and neck single-coils in position 4, with position 5 selecting the neck single-coil.
The middle tone control serves the two single-coils. When in the Down position, the humbucker and single-coils are all wired in series, with your options coming via the pickup selector. In the Up position, things get interesting, and that selector switch has access to another couple of tones; in positions 1 and 5, both humbucker and neck single-coil are on; in positions 2 and 4, all three pickups are on. Position 3 remains the middle single-coil.
The bottom tone control, meanwhile, affects the humbucker alone, and pulling it into the Up position scoops out the mids and adds a little extra to the treble. If you can’t find a tone out of all that, well, maybe it’s the amp…
PRS Fiore: Performance and verdict
Yes, it’s a bolt-on with an S-style shape, but the Fiore is very different to the Silver Sky. And like the best Superstrats, it manages to split the difference between the radical and the classic, and find something for everyone.
The neck is a custom Fiore profile, measuring 42.37mm at the nut, and offering quite a full-shouldered affair that is not a million miles away from vintage Fender once you move up the neck. Compared to its kin, the Fiore is a little more stripped back, less ostentatious.
But that’s an illusion; the PRS maxim of total luxury, total practicality still applies. The rolled fingerboard edges and super-smooth maple of the neck make for an exceptionally tactile playing instrument.
A gentle sculpting on the heel helps you get up to the glory notes and that, again, is the mark of the Superstrat. Is such a term out of date in today’s world? Hardly, not when you’ve got the likes of Suhr and Ernie Ball Music Man providing high-end examples of the format, and brands such as Charvel challenging the boutique market with production line models that perform admirably for their price bracket.
The only difficulty is choosing which end of the pickups menu to start with. The humbucker is like the Scott's Porridge Oats Man of humbuckers – chiselled, plenty of meat on the bones and it has a nice smooth voice. It’s perfectly of a piece with the sounds available from the individual single-coils; it has just spent more time down the gym.
• Suhr Classic Pro
A seriously pro instrument for professionally minded players. The single-coil sounds alone are well worth further investigation.
• Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre
The Sabre shows a different side to Music Man, with a classic double-cutaway body the launching pad for an all-singing, all-dancing modern electric that's got heaps of tricks up its figured-maple sleeve.
• PRS John Mayer Silver Sky
Aside from being one of the most hyped and discussed new electric guitars this writer can remember, the Silver Sky remains a highly-tuned signature, a vintage-informed Strat-alike in pristine contemporary dress.
The single-coils have a familiar Fender-esque ring to them, and as you work your way through the switching options, a bounty of truly inspiring in-between sounds come rolling out. The humbucker’s parallel mode sacrifices a bit of output for a sweet brightness that plays very nicely with its single-coil counterparts, almost so well that you forget its primary purpose is to make a hotrod out of this S-style electric. And that it does.
An HSS solidbody is not a radical proposition in 2021. It’s a little different from PRS but the internal logic that guides its guitar design is writ large across the Fiore. From the smooth operation of the two-point vibrato to the quality of sounds and easy yet sophisticated feel, this is in a sense classic PRS.
MusicRadar verdict: An impeccable built do-it-all S-style that gets the most out of its HSS pickup configuration via a most-imaginative control circuit, Mark Lettieri’s signature Fiori sees PRS chalk up bolt-on triumph.
PRS Fiore: The web says
"For the PRS player, the Fiore comes across as a ‘beater’, a guitar to play out while those posher guitars stay safe at home, and could easily draw in other players who want to taste and feel the quality PRS proposition without the bling or price tag.
"Aside from the weight of our sample – which we’d wager is a one-off – it’s a faultless piece. Combine that with the very well-voiced pickups, a great neck shape and PRS’s tried-and-tested regular fingerboard radius and frets, and we’re left with nothing to criticise. Apart from the fact that it’s added yet another guitar to our wishlist!"
PRS Fiore: Hands-on demos
Trogly's Guitar Show
PRS Fiore: Specifications
- PRICE: $2,449/£2,599 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Swamp ash
- NECK: Maple, Fiore profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/42.37mm
- FINGERBOARD: Maple, outline bird inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- HARDWARE: PRS-designed 2-post steel block vibrato, PRS-designed vintage-style locking tuners – nickel-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: 2x PRS Fiore-S single coils (neck, middle), Fiore-H humbucker (bridge), 5-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume, tone 1 (neck & middle) w/ pull switch to add bridge/neck and all-three pickups to be voiced, tone 2 (bridge) w/ series/parallel pull switch
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.96/8.71
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Amaryllis, Black Iris, Sugar Moon (as reviewed) – gloss NOC body; tinted nitro-cellulose neck
- CONTACT: PRS Guitars