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PRS S2 35th Anniversary Custom review

The S2 is one of a trio of guitars to celebrate 35 years of PRS. At half the price of the Core Custom, is it the deal of the year?

  • £1799
  • €1950
  • $1649
PRS S2 35th Anniversary Custom review
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

This competitively priced take on one of PRS's most-prized builds is one of the most versatile electrics on the market, offering a tour-de-force of vintage-modern tone and superlative playing experience.

Pros

  • Stunning single-coil tones and warm, rich humbuckers? Have both!
  • It's quite possibly unbeatable at this price.
  • The vibrato remains one of the most stable on the market.
  • Exceptional neck profile and great fun to play.

Cons

  • Colour options a little limited.
  • No left-handers!

The 24-fret PRS Custom is the electric guitar that defines the brand, a supremely versatile instrument whether it is a Core US model or a more affordable instrument from the PRS SE series.

To mark the 35th anniversary of Paul Reed Smith Guitars, there are three special edition Custom 24s; one in the SE series, this US-built S2 model, and then the tricked-out instrument from the über-deluxe Core series.

Throughout the years there has been a steady evolution of the Custom 24, yet there's still not mistaking PRS's original electric. To some, its double-cut body shape and vibrato, and maple-topped mahogany body and set neck, establishes it as a kind of iconoclastic hybrid of the Strat and Les Paul. 

Others just see it as something different, a paradigm shift in guitar design. Either way, it's a modern classic, and the S2 Custom 24, made in the USA but offering plenty change from two grand, is a mightily attractive proposition.

This price sees the 35th Anniversary S2 Custom 24 sits squarely in the category marked out by Fender's American Ultra, Original and Professional series, and Gibson's US production Les Paul Standards.

All too often, split humbuckers sound too weedy to be anything more than a last resort, but not here.

Besides the truss-rod cover, there's not a lot between the regular S2 Custom 24 and this anniversary model, but the pickups configuration is quite different.

On the regular S2 Custom 24 the pickups are split simultaneously via the tone control's pull-switch, which allied to the three-way pickup selector switch gives you six tones; the 35th Anniversary S2 Custom 24 has an extra two mini-toggle switches for each pickup so you can split the 85/15 ‘S’ humbuckers individually, offering eight different tones.

The 35th Anniversary S2 Custom 24 is like the SE Paul's Guitar in that it offers the true single-coil of each humbucker. The pickup selector is a three-way toggle as opposed to the blade-style lever on the standard run S2 Custom 24. 

How does the S2 Custom compare with the Core series Custom 24? Well, there's a more pronounced carve on the top of the Core models. The S2 Custom 24 has a flatter top with the carve sloping from around an inch from the body's edge. It is a quicker procedure, and one of the reasons why PRS can offer the S2 Custom at half the price of a Core model. 

The body depth is around 5mm thinner than the Core model, the maple top less figured and the body has none of that deluxe natural binding, but otherwise, there's plenty of the Core model DNA in the S2 model.

Image 1 of 3

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The 85/15 ‘S’ open-coiled humbuckers are predominantly vintage-voiced but pack a little more heat. DCR measurements – if you are into that sort of thing – read (full/split) 7.89/3.93kohms on the neck pickup and 8.42/4.29k at the bridge. 

Allied to the switching options, you've got eight standard sounds to play with before bringing your tone control into play. 

Image 2 of 3

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The 35th Anniversary S2 Custom 24 has the commemorative logo on the truss rod cover, but the same PRS-designed low mass locking tuners.

Image 3 of 3

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Each pickups has a mini-toggle switch to split the humbucker into true single-coil mode.

Under the hood you'll find a traditional PRS circuit. There are 500k pots wired with a .033 microfarads tone capacitor, and an additional 820kohms resistor on the volume control that 'tunes' the circuit. The coil-splits are Double Pole Double Throw switches that isolates and voices the slug coil, giving you the true single-coil tone. 

Elsewhere, the S2 vibrato is the familiar two-piece cast design that you would find on the SE and bolt-on CE models. 

Performance and verdict

Given that this is an anniversary model it is only fitting that the Pattern Regular neck should feel so familiar. 

According to PRS, this is a similar neck profile to those made in the late 80s at PRS’s old Virginia Avenue plant, and it is the narrowest PRS profile at the – measuring a little over 42mm, with a depth of 21mm at the 1st fret tapering out to 23mm at the 12th. There is a slight 'V' to the profile, and it's pretty darn comfortable.

Also consider

(Image credit: Future)

PRS SE Custom 24
An easy to recommend guitar that brings PRS class without a hefty pricetag.

PRS SE Paul's Guitar
The SE is excellent: the closest yet to a Core model at 20 per cent of the price.

Acoustically, it is good and resonant, and a quick noodle up to the top-end of the fretboard and back bodes well for when it is plugged in. When you do plug it in, well, it sounds on the money as far as a PRS should sound. There's not a whole lot of difference between the tones here and those of the CE models. 

The true single-coil mode recalls the classic PRS Fender/Gibson hybrid chat we alluded to at the top of the review, as it presents a super-clear and articulate voice to the S2 Custom 24 that could only be described as Fender-esque. 

All too often, split humbuckers sound too weedy to be anything more than a last resort, but not here. These are really upfront, without over-egging the treble. When you factor in the humbuckers, the three-way toggle, and the expansive sweep of the tone control, the S2 Custom 24 is options galore. 

The S2 Custom 24 is ideal for the gigging guitarist, or the player who needs a guitar that can cover most styles. While it is not an entry level instrument, the price puts that "PRS original" tone into reach. And with its a great neck profile, super-stable vibrato, locking tuners and sweet finish, the S2 Custom 24 feels very much the pro-quality instrument from a company whose 35 years have been well spent pushing at the boundaries of guitar design.

MusicRadar verdict: This competitively priced take on one of PRS's most-prized builds is one of the most versatile electrics on the market, offering a tour-de-force of vintage-modern tone and superlative playing experience. 

Hands-on demos

PRS

Andertons

The Music Zoo

Peach Guitars

Specifications

  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Mahogany with chamfered edge figured maple top
  • NECK: Mahogany, Pattern Regular profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Friction reducing/42.16mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, bird inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
  • FRETS: 24, medium
  • HARDWARE: PRS patented vibrato (cast), PRS designed low mass locking tuners – nickel-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: PRS 58/15 ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers (bridge); 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume and tone, 2 mini-toggle coil split switches
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.37/7.4
  • OPTIONS: Colour only
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The standard S2 Custom 24 (£1,699) with same colour options but different electronics. The Core Custom 24 starts at £3,459; the 35th Anniversary version is £3,799 
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No. The only PRS lefty is the SE Custom 24 (£825)
  • FINISHES: Dark Cherry Sunburst, (as reviewed), McCarty Sunburst, Elephant Grey, Faded Blue Smokeburst, Scarlet Red, Burnt Amber Burst, Whale Blue – all gloss nitro-over-cellulose
  • CONTACT: PRS Guitars