PRS Custom 24 Violet Smokeburst

My favourite guitar up to now is my PRS Custom 22, which I bought in April 2014. It feel great, looks gorgeous and sounds good too.  However, there’s a problem with it, which is that I keep it tuned to Eb standard because I want to play it for certain songs (notably Blackbird, by Alter Bridge).  So for a long time I’ve wanted to get a second PRS, because they are supremely good guitars and often stunningly beautiful, and so that I could have one to keep in E Standard!

Naturally, as I already have a Custom 22, a big question would be which model to get for my second PRS.  A Custom 24 was the obvious choice, being the classic, original PRS model and still the one that they are best known for, but I was also tempted by some others, particularly the P245 Semi-Hollow or a Hollowbody II, for the variety of their capabilities.  I tend to shy away from the single cut PRS models, such as the Tremonti (lovely as it is) and including the new McCarty 594 (ditto), because they feel too much like Les Paul copies, in my opinion, and if I get a PRS, I want a real PRS design rather than one that looks like a compromise (OK I know that the original PRS design, with its 25″ scale length, was a compromise between a Les Paul and a Strat!).

Moreover, one of my favourite aspects of the CU22 is its Pattern Thin neck, which is just the right shape, and virtually disappears in my hand when I play it.  The 594, for example, which I have seen lauded all around, is lovely but it has a significantly chunkier neck which isn’t quite so comfortable.  Several of the other PRS models aren’t available with the Pattern Thin neck, such as the Hollowbody II.

In the end, then, everything pointed towards a Custom 24 as the most logical answer to complement my Custom 22.  It has several features which distinguish it from my 22 – two extra frets, meaning a different position for the neck pickup; different looks (we’ll come onto that subject in a minute); and also different pickups – my 22 has 57/08 pickups, and the 24 has the new 85/15 pickups, which sound really good.

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So how did this actually happen?  I had a bit of a road trip on the day I bought it, coming over to England for my guitar building course with Crimson Guitars.  I was heading to my mother’s house to spend the weekend with her before heading down to Crimson HQ near Dorchester, and on the way I stopped off at a couple of guitar shops.  The first stop was to Anderton’s in Guildford, where (once I’d managed to find somewhere to park) I part-exchanged my largely unused Line 6 HD500X for a new Digitech Obscura delay pedals and some other small items (strings etc.).  I looked at their PRSs and they have some nice ones in stock, but I was also headed for the Mecca of PRS goodness which is World Guitars – which just happens to be located about 10 minutes’ drive from my mum’s house.

Now, World Guitars has an unparalleled selection of high-end PRSs, in the UK certainly if not in the world.  They pick out the finest of the guitars that come over to England, and they are also high in the pecking order when it comes to acquiring special models such as the Dragon or the recent Periscope guitars.  At the time of my road trip, they had a particularly good selection of special guitars (i.e. those above the standard or 10-top Customs, including the Wood Library, Private Stock and Collection guitars).

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Another of my ambitions, by the way, was to get a really nice quilted maple top, because…well, do I really need to explain that one?  I hadn’t fully realised this, but I was told that quilted tops are getting harder to source, and nowadays none of the regular Customs have quilt tops, even the 10-tops, and so you have to set your sights higher – and pay a bit more – if you want a quilt top.  So when I looked at all of the PRSs in the shop, my choice came down to two guitars: one of the World Guitars 8th Anniversary special run (eight guitars with stunning one-piece tops, all coloured violet and chosen personally by Paul Reed Smith), or a Wood Library Custom 24 with a really classy violet smokeburst top.

The two guitars on the final shortlist
The two guitars on the final shortlist

Both of these are beautiful guitars with stunning quilt tops.  The anniversary model is, if anything, perhaps a little bit over-ostentatious, beautiful as it is, but it has a lovely, natural wooden back.  The smokeburst was a bit classier but has a black back, which isn’t as attractive although it goes with the overall design.  The prices were similar, although the smokeburst was a bit less expensive. So I had to plug them in to make a decision.  The anniversary has the Vintage Bass and HFS pickups, and the smokeburst has the new 85/15s.  Otherwise, they are both basically Custom 24s, with 24 frets, 25″ scale, and a Pattern Thin neck, so they are virtually identical except for the finish and the pickups.

The backs of the two guitars, both with beautiful flamed maple necks
The backs of the two guitars, both with beautiful flamed maple necks

When playing them through the Matchless amp in the testing room, I found that the new 85/15 pickups seemed to produce slightly more distinctive tones, particularly on the mixed settings (positions 2 and 4 on the selector).  There was a nice hint of a twang in a couple of positions that I didn’t hear from the other guitar.  That more or less made my decision; much as I’d have liked to buy one of the anniversary guitars, which are also a tacit tribute to the former WG owner Jeff Pumfrett, who sadly passed away too young about a year ago, I preferred the pickups, the looks and the price of the smokeburst.

So here we are.  I hadn’t really anticipated buying my second PRS right now, but I’d had a small windfall, and the current weakness of the pound against the Euro (in which I am paid) also made it a good time for me.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll never regret buying this beauty! 🙂