My first experience of a Paul Reed Smith guitar was in church in the late 1990’s. The guitarist, Mo Sullivan, had a goldtop double cut, it could have had 22 or 24 frets, I’ll never know, but it looked cool. The curves on that guitar were like something I’d never seen before, it was an exquisite piece of art as far as I was concerend.
Mo was in a band called ‘Kosher’, he wrote some very cool riffs and was someone my friends and I looked up to, he taught us a thing or two on the guitar that I still use now. Mo owned a guitar shop on Broadway in Cardiff and he could get his hands on anything he wanted and often brought a different guitar each Sunday, the PRS was the one that stood out.
I made a nuisance of myself at his shop fairly often, I couldn’t have been much older than 17 years of age and all I was interested in was guitars and pedals. I remember trading my dad’s beloved acoustic with him for a Line 6 Modulation Modeller (MM4), which I ended up regretting — sorry, dad! My aim for one trip to his shop was to try a PRS, so I made my way there and plucked up the courage to ask Mo if I could try one of the shops most expensive guitars. Again, my memory deceives me, but it was a Custom of some kind, all I really remember about it was that it sustained for a very long time as I struck a chord or a single note. For me, this was the holy grail of guitars and from that moment on, all I ever wanted was a PRS.
Nu-Metal is no longer cool!
Shortly after, the Nu-Metal boom happened in the early 2000’s and PRS hit the big time. Guitarists like Wes Borland and the guys from P.O.D. used PRS. One of my all time guitar heroes, Mark Tremonti was famous for using them, as was Santana — they still do.
I remember solid silver finished PRS guitars in music videos on MTV were quite commonplace. My first electric guitar was silver so I fell in love with those PRS’. But I could never afford such an expensive piece of gear.
Much like Nu-Metal, these days, a new and shiny PRS’ isn’t as commonplace on stage and certainly not in music videos. It’s not really a “cool” guitar to have. We’ve reverted, as a generation, back to the old standards and the reliced faces of vintage Strat’s, Tele’s and Les Paul’s.
My first PRS
Fast forward to 2016 and I wanted a guitar with easier access to the upper frets. I had a Strat and a Les Paul and they were great, but I wanted something easier to solo on. Someone on a forum reminded me about PRS, so I started looking around. I ended up buying a blue Custom 24 from Andertons.
The moment I opened the case, I realised it wasn’t quite the finish I’d had in my head. It’s funny how lighting on store photo’s can be deceiving. And somewhat superficially, I soon realised that a blue flametop wouldn’t be that cool on stage either (though it wasn’t likely that I’d be running the risk of stage time any time soon!)!
That said, it played like a dream and sounded good. But it wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I ended up changing the 85/15 pickups quite quickly. I tried hard to make it a metal machine, tight and massive sounding with gain. It never quite got there and the new pickups caused it to sound quite shrill with the springs in the trem…which was superb, by the way.
In March 2018, I sold it and didn’t look back. Until now.
What did I miss?
2018 has been a good year. I’ve finally found my ideal amp and home recording solution in the Kemper. Out of the proceeds from the PRS, I got the 80’s metal machine I had always dreamt of. I also had my dream Strat and got my dream Les Paul, what more could I want?
Though, no matter how much I tried with other guitars, I could never get the rich harmonics that I had become accustomed to over the last 2 years with the PRS. There’s something that happens between the 5th and 7th fret on the A, D and G strings that is simply magical. Almost like a scream when you do pinch harmonics. I’ve tried and tried to replicate this on all my guitars and none get close. Interestingly, I tried all the guitars in the PRS lineup too and none of them can do it as well as the Custom 24.
The much maligned Custom 24 neck pickup tone is something I really like, it has a very violin -like nature and I’ve missed the sound of that too. The neck profile and feel of the PRS was something I missed also— those are just 3 examples of the things I missed about the guitar.
Since 2016, the Custom 24 had become my “go to” guitar, my “workhorse”, and all the other cliché’s. When you spend 2 years with a guitar and then one day, you can’t pick it up any more, you realise that you’ve lost a good friend and that some of the things you took for granted and barely noticed before are now unachievable with it’s replacements.
As much as I deeply love my other guitars, none of them could replace my PRS.
Trying the PRS lineup
In search of this elusive harmonic content that I felt I was missing, as I said earlier, in October, I tried out the entire PRS lineup in a quest to find these things I missed. I didn’t know if I wanted a Custom 22, Custom 24, Tremonti or a 594, so I tried them all.
They were all lovely. The Tremonti was probably the closest to what I think is my ideal guitar. The 22 was better than I expected and the 594 was lovely too, but it was way too close to my Gibson — which rendered it a pointless purchase.
But none came close to the feel and sound of the Custom 24, for my particular needs. Being very particular with colours, finishes and tops, I decided to search for the perfect one.
I have always been a huge fan of PRS colours, they do vintage and they do contemporary…with such a modern, forward thinking guitar, with modern appointments, I tend to go for modern looks. I didn’t want another blue one, I wanted something that looked more like a rock guitar, almost black..so I went for a colour I’d always wanted, Charcoal Purpleburst.
I found one at Wildwire Guitars in North Yorkshire, a place miles away from home that I couldn’t really pop into on a lunch time! Leon was superb with me and offered amazing customer service, for which I’m very grateful.
I’ve never been so exited for a guitar delivery! I’ve taken deliveries in the past and often felt guilty that NGD days have never really been the sensation or climax I was expecting them to be…almost felt like a spoilt child who didn’t appreciate things. In truth, I love all my guitars and won’t let them go. But this delivery felt different, I was genuinely excited to see it and play it. I’ve missed my PRS!
The consistency amongst PRS guitars is second to none. I can almost guarantee that if I took a punt on a mail order Custom 24, it’d be in the ball park (sound and feel wise) of the one I tried in the shop yesterday. So I had no worries about buying one I hadn’t personally played first.
The colour and flame top is simply spectacular. Probably the best looking guitar I own. My tastes have wildly changed over the last year or so, I’ve bought reliced guitars, something I never saw myself doing, but I get it now and I love them very much. But there’s something about owning a brand new, unadulterated and great looking guitar like this.
PRS’ attention to detail is spectacular, the finish is impeccable and unrivalled, in my opinion. I’ve no problem with Gibson’s finishing quirks, like bleed on the binding or inferior neck joint finishing — it’s part of the character and vintage accuracy that accompanies an instrument like that, but the PRS suffers no such inadequacies, it’s simply perfection.
It plays like I remember, the Pattern Thin neck profile is very nice and the most comfortable of the PRS range, to my tastes. That’s probably why I also liked the Tremonti so much, as it too had a Pattern Thin profile. The Custom 24, in contrast, is thinner, lighter and much more ergonomically friendly, to my tastes. Probably the most comfortable guitar I own.
I was both curous and anxious about the Katalox fretboard. I’d never heard of it. But in truth it sounds great, possibly a little snappier, and looks incredible. It’s dark and has a beautiful figuring around the 11th fret.
It resonates like that very first PRS I played nearly 20 years ago and it sounds great too. Much like my tastes in guitars have changed, so has my appreciation of good tone, I am now fully bought into the tone that the original 85/15 pickups provide. They’re great for rock, blues and everything else I throw at it. And they can get nice and clean too, unlike the pickups I replaced them with before. And they’re not shrill either. PRS know what they’re doing, I’ll trust them this time!
The only thing I regretted last time was not trying to kill the somewhat reverberated sound of the springs in the trem. They ring out and are resonant, much like the rest of the guitar. So I’ll put something in the back cavity to deaden the noise they make, which in turn will make it a tighter, more percussive sounding guitar.
“Sterile” and “soul less” are not terms I’d use to describe this guitar. If you believe in internet wisdom, you’ll never go near a PRS Custom 24…hey, you may even never try a PRS after reading a few forum posts claiming that they’re lifeless guitars. However, if, like me, you’re a bit of a rebel and you like good guitars that play and sound as amazing as they look. And you like guitars that can be relied on, that stay in tune and won’t cause you a moments trouble…then you’ll do yourself a massive favour and you’ll try a PRS Custom 24, or any other guitar in the PRS lineup, the next time you have an opportunity to do so.
- Top Wood: Carved Figured Maple
- Back Wood: Mahogany
- Number of Frets: 24
- Scale Length: 25"
- Neck Wood: Mahogany
- Fretboard Wood: Katalox
- Fretboard Inlays: Birds
- Neck Shape: Pattern Thin
- Bridge: PRS Patented Tremolo, Gen III
- Tuners: PRS Phase III Locking Tuners
- Hardware Type: Nickel
- Treble Pickup: 85/15 Treble
- Bass Pickup: 85/15 Bass
- Controls: Volume and Tone Control with 5-Way Blade Switch