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PRS SE Custom 24 and SE Custom 24-08 review

Two new 2021 SE takes on a PRS classic, with one taking the concept further with extra sounds from clever switching

  • £825+
  • €899+
  • $829+
PRS SE Custom 24 and PRS Custom 24-08
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

Exceptionally well designed and built, offering genuine luxury for the money and a wide range of sounds, the SE Custom 24 and SE Custom 24-08 are testimony to the strength of PRS's SE brand in 2021. Long may it continue.

Pros

  • Build quality is tip-top.
  • Incredible value.
  • Both very versatile but the SE Custom 24-08's switching options are incredible.

Cons

  • Nothing, but wear shades if you go for these finishes.

What is it?

On one hand, the raw numerical force of economics could explain why two decades into Paul Reed Smith's SE line the Indonesian-built models are outselling their illustrious counterparts in the USA Core series.

Take the Custom 24. The USA model is the dictionary definition of an aspirational electric guitar, from its build and playability, right on through to its tone. Coming in at around £3,349 street, however, it is likely to remain an aspiration for many. The SE Custom 24 offers change from a grand, making it attainable to a wider demographic. 

On the other hand, the arithmetic does not tell the whole story. What it misses is the merits of the SE models. It would not do to simply offer a cheap imitation of the original design; quality, craft, tone and a genuine sense of luxury are still crucial when the instrument bears the initials PRS. 

All of these variables factor in the resounding success of the SE line – people love them because they, too, are aspirational. One look at the SE Custom 24 and its marginally more tricked-out sibling, the Custom 24-08, will tell you that these are in their own right grown-up instruments for the serious amateur and working pro alike.  

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PRS SE Custom 24 and PRS Custom 24-08

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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PRS SE Custom 24 and PRS Custom 24-08

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Custom 24 and 24-08 share similar builds, with a “shallow violin carve” on the figured maple over solid maple top, mahogany bodies, and glued-in maple necks carved into PRS's Wide Thin profile. 

These are PRS guitars through and through. You've got the 25" scale length, the rosewood fingerboard with bird inlays, a PRS vibrato that is the same as you would find on the US-built S2 line (though not on the USA Core models, which are machined as opposed to these moulded units), and while made by Cor-Tek in Indonesia the detail in that figured top and the quality control is typically unerring. 

These finishes are bright. The Bonnie Pink of the Custom 24 is positively radiant and contrasts nicely with the natural clear lacquer used on the back, sides, and neck. It's the same story with the Eriza Verde finish on the Custom 24-08. 

Bright green, bright pink? Well, there are other options available, with the Custom 24-08 available in Vintage Sunburst and the Custom 24 offered in a choice of Black Gold Burst, Faded Blue Burst and Charcoal Burst.

PRS SE Custom 24 and PRS Custom 24-08

PRS Custom 24-08 (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Besides the finish options, the big difference between our two review models can be found in their pickup and switching options. The Custom 24 is kitted out with a pair of PRS 85/15 ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers, which are Indonesian made but very much inspired by the pickups found on USA models. These are controlled by a three-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and tone, with a pull-switch function that splits both humbuckers into single-coil mode.

The Custom 24-08 is a little more tricksy. You'll have noted the two mini-toggle switches. These offer independent coil-splitting functions for each humbucker and join a master volume, tone and three-way toggle pickup selector that's mounted south of the tone control. Also, PRS has used its TCI ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers here in the neck and bridge positions.

This veritable feast of switching options – well, eight in total – is where the Custom 24-08 gets its name from. But how do the guitars compare? After all, the Custom 24, with its coil-split function, is no slouch in offering six fundamental sounds. 

Performance and verdict

Feel-wise, there is little here to differentiate the two. The 24-08 is marginally heavier but there's no much in it. The Wide Thin neck profile is very familiar by now – measuring just 20mm at the 1st fret and 22.5mm at the 12th, it's nobody's idea of a club. 

Would these benefit from the Wide Fat profile as found on the SE 245? It's all a matter of preference, and besides, Wide Thin makes a little more sense if you look at the Custom 24 and its variants as offering a high-performance, speed-friendly ride.

Indeed, everything about the ride on these is comfortable. The fretwork is without fault, no sharp edges anywhere, and the fingerboard edges are gently rolled – it's the guitar equivalent of returning to your five-star hotel room to find the turndown service has left a chocolate on your pillow and fresh ice in the box.

Also consider...

PRS S2 35th Anniversary Custom

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

PRS S2 35th Anniversary Custom
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.

PRS SE Paul’s Guitar
Aside from the effortless playability, intonation, tuning stability and old-world resonance (all foundations of the PRS empire), the single-coil voices from these new TCI pickups raise the bar, while the humbucking side seems to pack musical heat, clarity and considerable versatility in equal measure.

With so much shared DNA, it's no surprise that there's a little overlap in terms of tones. Park yourself at the bridge or the neck humbucker and you'll find the voicing vintage hot. It's not going to alienate anyone who is looking for a guitar to play the blues, but if you dial in some more gain on the amp, they'll reciprocate with a hearty crunch.

That said, the Custom 24 has a little more pep in the high-end. It's a little more urgent, with the 24-08's TCI 'buckers a little more diplomatic. Where it asserts itself a bit more is with the coil-splits. These TCI pickups – TCI as in "Tuned Capacitance Inductance" – have always split well. 

We were most impressed when we encountered them on the SE Paul's Guitar, and where the Custom 24 does a good job of replicating a Strat-ish spank (after all, that's what most folks reach to the coil-split for), the 24-08's single-coil tones are a little more delicate.

Of course, the tone and volume controls come into their own when searching for a single-coil sound that works for you. Taking some tone off can help sweeten them a little, which is handy if you are going straight into your amplifier and finding the attack and presence a little strong. That said, sometimes that treble-forwardness is just what the doctor ordered.

PRS SE Custom 24 and PRS Custom 24-08

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

These are inherently versatile designs that will cover a wide range of styles. The vintage-hot voice of their pickups is a great place to start, but once you factor in those switching options these both reveal themselves as Swiss Army Knife six-strings. 

All things considered, if you need the splits as a fundamental aspect of your sound, go for the 24-08. The switching is clever, well-executed, and the extra two sounds might make all the difference. But if you are simply looking for a do-it-all blues-to-rock guitar, with a pinch-hitting single-coil voicing for special occasions, then the Custom 24 is more than fit for purpose.

MusicRadar verdict: Exceptionally well designed and built, offering genuine luxury for the money and a wide range of sounds, the SE Custom 24 and SE Custom 24-08 are testimony to the strength of PRS's SE brand in 2021. Long may it continue.

The web says

"The thing is, with essentially the same hardware and pickups these SEs march hard on the tails of the S2, none of which feature the ‘tuned’ TCI circuitry of our 24-08 or its expansive switching. In short, the SE line has the wind behind it. Great design, beautiful execution and sounds that just continue to evolve: a serious amount of guitar for the money."
Guitarist

Hands-on demos

PRS

Guitarist

Peach Guitars

Specifications

PRS SE Custom 24

PRS SE Custom 24  (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: $829 / £825 (inc gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: Indonesia
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Mahogany back with maple top (w/figured veneer facing) and shallow violin carve
  • NECK: Maple, Wide Thin profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Friction reducing/43.2mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, ‘old-school’ bird inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
  • FRETS: 24, medium
  • HARDWARE: PRS patented vibrato (cast), PRS designed non-locking tuners – nickel-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: PRS 85/15 ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers (open coil, double black bobbins); 3-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and tone (w/ pull switch to simultaneously coil-split both humbuckers)
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 7.6/3.45
  • OPTIONS: Colour only
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Other SE include the Custom 22 and the Custom 22 Semi-Hollow (both £825), and the Custom 24 Floyd (£899). The USA Core Custom 24 starts at £3,599 and the S2 version costs £1,779
  • LEFT-HANDERS: Yes, in Charcoal Burst and Faded Blue Burst at £845
  • FINISHES: Bonnie Pink (as reviewed), Black Gold Burst, Faded Blue Burst, Charcoal Burst

PRS SE Custom 24-08

PRS SE Custom 24-08 (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: $/£899 (inc gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: Indonesia
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: Mahogany back with maple top (w/figured veneer facing) and shallow violin carve
  • NECK: Maple, Wide Thin profile, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Friction reducing/ 42.8mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, ‘old-school’ bird inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
  • FRETS: 24, medium
  • HARDWARE: PRS patented vibrato (cast), PRS designed non-locking tuners – nickel-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: PRS TCI ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers (open coiled zebra bobbins); 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume and tone, 2x mini-toggle coil-split switches
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 8/3.6
  • OPTIONS: Colour only
  • RANGE OPTIONS: See Custom 24. The SE Paul’s Guitar uses the same mini-toggle switches and TCI ‘S’ pickups as the 24-08 and costs £899. The USA Core 24-08 starts at £3,799
  • LEFT-HANDERS: See SE Custom
  • FINISHES: Eriza Verde (as reviewed), Vintage Sunburst
  • CONTACT: PRS