PRS SE Silver Sky: What is it?
There are no shortage of opinions when it comes to the PRS Silver Sky but it is funny how those who have played it all tend to arrive at the same conclusion. Yes, the Silver Sky is anathema for purists of a certain stripe – a very online purist – and yet it is quite possibly the ultimate connoisseur’s electric guitar, particularly for those whose tastes have been honed on the sounds of early ‘60s Fender Stratocasters.
It has proved such a successful platform for those vintage Strat sounds that the original USA built John Mayer signature guitar is now a brand staple, a strong seller available in an array of eye-catching solid colours and the occasional polychromatic limited edition finish to send collectors wild at the checkouts. The announcement of an SE model has been a long time coming but, finally, PRS has added it to its Indonesian-built lineup, offering it for less than 1000 bucks and the choice of Dragon Fruit, Ever Green, Moon White and Stone Blue colours.
The Silver Sky idiom translates well to the SE. This Moon White is an alluring custard shade, in keeping with the vintage Fender vibe, and not out of step with the preppy soft-colour palette of the John Mayer wardrobe (hey, these things matter. But there are some crucial differences that see the SE Silver Sky put a spin on a classic recipe.
Whereas the original US Silver Sky has a solid alder body, the SE model uses poplar. The neck radius has flattened ever so slightly, from the vintage 7.25” of the USA model to 8.5” on the SE, and rosewood is our only option. That said, with the small birds inlay complementing the dark, it looks mighty inviting.
The double-cutaway bolt-on design is an obvious reference point for where the inspiration came from but this being PRS there are some inventive touches on an updated silhouette, such as the contouring on the lower horn conspiring with a slightly rounded heel to free up the upper registers.
There’s a synthetic bone nut, another point of difference from the USA model, but like the its American kin this is meticulously cut, and an invitation to bend the strings or lean heavily on that vintage 2-point vibrato.
The pickups are a trio of Indonesian-made single-coils and controlled by the same wiring configuration as the USA model. As such, we have a five-way pickup selector switch, a master volume knob, plus two tone controls, with the middle tone pot affecting the neck pickup only, the bottom tone pot taking care of the middle and bridge pickups.
PRS SE Silver Sky: Performance and verdict
There is a noticeably golden hue to the SE Silver Sky’s maple neck. It’s not quite 40-a-day on the nicotine scale of vintage guitar colour but is nonetheless easy on the eye, not to mention thematically appropriate when the guitar is spec’d up to reference and modernise a ‘60s classic.
It has a satin feel and a 635JM neck profile that translates as a rounded C in the hand that manages to feel substantial without overfed. We mentioned earlier that the original Silver Sky was for connoisseurs and that is still the case with the SE. The finish is tip-top, the fretwork exceptional, with everything coming together to welcome the player.
The price also plays a part in this. People might have felt free to be mean to the USA Silver Sky online but once you’ve parted with over two grand to have one in your hands you want to treat it right. The SE Silver Sky, however, performs a neat trick in presenting as a top-tier, pro-quality instrument – and one you’d want to show off – while also setting you free to play it as you wish.
• Fender Vintera 60s Modified Stratocaster
As your gateway to the world of vintage (and modified vintage) Fender, these guitars are hugely valid, whatever they’re now called. They remain go-to choices for players on a budget and we’d suggest there’s enough refinement and a build quality that’ll surprise many sniffier punters.
• 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.
There are surely going to be some proud owners of the USA model who are looking at these as the one they take gigging at the weekend, or to rehearsal, keeping the premium model safe at home in the case. Well, they can do that if they choose, because the tones presented by the SE model stand up. They land in all the right places, with the bridge pickup going easy on the ice pick, its tone pot nicely rounding off some of the top end for a warmer voicing that pairs nicely with a gourmet fuzz or overdrive pedal going into a tube amp. It is none-too-narrow a sound, too.
It’s a Strat-esque voice, of course, so as you journey across the give positions on the blade-style pickup selector there are some very familiar sounds that pop out, in-between sounds that give those Hendrix-style triads a musical elasticity, not to mention nirvana for funk players when parked in the middle pickup.
As shipped, the SE Silver Sky’s vibrato is set up as to prohibit any upward movement. It’s effectively blocked. It has four springs, too, so be sure to eat your spinach when readying yourself for a night of whammy bar manipulation. Of course, you can set up the vibrato so there is some upward movement, too.
The PRS SE line has got us used to high standards of build, fit, finish and design, but there’s a case to be made that the Silver Sky raises the bar once more. In making a credible, affordable version, PRS has gone some way to ensure that its John Mayer signature model is not only the most talked about electric guitar of all time, but one of the most played, too. And that’s the idea. You don’t need to be a John Mayer fan either. Assuming you have no bird allergies and can handle the quiet radicalism of the headstock, those tones and feel could be anyone’s idea of a good time.
MusicRadar verdict: The exemplary build and a voice that offers an immersive trip through classic Strat-inspired guitar tones makes the SE Silver Sky a seductive and affordable version of one of the 21st century's most successful guitar designs.
PRS SE Silver Sky: The web says
“There is nothing cut-price here and the quality of build, feel and sound blurs – perhaps even erases – the whole country of origin consideration. It’s not where but how that’s important.
“Yes, it’s a Fender Stratocaster with the wrong shape and name to the headstock, which makes awarding a 5/5 – which is what it undoubtedly deserves – difficult. It’s frustrating, too, that there’s not a maple fingerboard option available, and probably won’t be for a considerable length of time, let alone an HSS variation.”
“The poplar body delivers similar voicings that I’d expect to hear from an alder-bodied Strat with a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard, and the archetypal glassy shimmer, snap and quack are all part of these pickups’ sonic arsenal.
“There’s also more girth underpinning much of it than many traditional S-types deliver, however, with good meatiness behind each pickup position when you dig in, and an impressive avoidance of ice-pick highs.”
“While Leo Fender’s original design resulted in an often ungovernable bridge pickup, the SE Silver Sky has a dedicated tone control that allows us to back off the glassier highs – if there had been any, of course. In this position, the pickup is closer to a low-output P-90 in response than we’d usually expect. There’s a pleasing roundness to the front of the note but articulation is maintained throughout. It’s not an easy balance to pull off.”
“Just for fun, I tuned the Silver Sky to open G and open D for some old-school fingerpicking with slide. It was a blast to really dig into the strings and snap the notes – listening to them sustain and fade with buttery, lingering beauty, holding high notes that sang with sustain from a Tone Bender clone, and adding shiver from the tremolo arm’s sway. And while I don’t typically spend a lot of time on the highest frets, the slanted cutaway in the treble horn makes it easier to play radical, over-the-pickups slide.”
PRS SE Silver Sky: Hands-on demos
60 Cycle Hum
PRS SE Silver Sky: Specifications
- ORIGIN: Indonesia
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple, 635JM profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone/41.8mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, small bird inlays, 216mm (8.5”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- HARDWARE: PRS-designed 2-point steel vibrato, PRS-designed vintage-style tuners – nickel-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: Three PRS 635JM ‘S’ single-coils, 5-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume, tone 1 (neck & middle), tone 2 (bridge)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.21/7.1
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Moon White (as reviewed), Ever Green, Stone Blue, Dragon Fruit – polyurethane gloss body; polyurethane tinted satin neck
- CONTACT: PRS Guitars