Pros: Great looks, playability and sound. Should hold its value.
Cons: Cost. It's what you expect for quality of this kind.
Gibson and PRS have been at war for years, initially in the marketplace. But the ground campaign got really bloody in 2000 when Gibson sued PRS for trademark infringement, alleging that the PRS Single Cut guitars infringed on Gibson's trademarked shape of its Les Paul guitars.
Now, anyone with half a brain can figure out that the Les Paul is an extremely valuable asset. You can take a Gibson Les Paul, do nothing more than replace the name with "Ibanez", and the value of that guitar drops precipitously. So you can understand why Gibson got mad.
Gibson initially won in federal trial court (in Tennessee--sparkospunky, are you listening?). PRS, not surprisingly, appealed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and--even more surprisingly, because appeals don't often work--won. (See http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/05a0387p-06.pdf if you're really curious). Gibson has to leave the playground mad with a deflated basketball and PRS is champ of the neighborhood.
What's this got to do with guitars per se? Because, after playing the PRS Single Cut, you immediately know what fearsome competition it presents to the Les Paul line. This is a fabulous guitar. No wonder Gibson freaked out.
When you're looking at a guitar like this, regardless of who won the lawsuit, you're thinking "How does this shape up against an LP?" Short story: The Single Cut looks and talks a whole lot like a Les Paul, but it isn't the same guitar, not by a long shot. The quilted-maple scarlet top on a mahagony body that I played (through a Mesa Lone Star combo, a great amp by the way) is gorgeous, easily rivalling if not blowing away the traditional Gibson flametop in physical beauty.
The rosewood fretboard is deeply stained black with twenty-two medium frets and dot inlays (abalone bird inlays were optional when the guitar was being manufactured--it's been discontinued for 2007 but easily available on ebay) with ten-inch fretboard radius. The mahagony neck is twenty-five inches and is wide and fat, ideal for a big guy like me but maybe not so great for littler fellers. It reminded me a lot of the LP Custom Black Beauty I own and is not quite as fast as some other LP's I've played with thinner necks, or the Jimmy Page LP that I recently reviewed. The rear of the guitar is slighlty chamfered on the back which makes it a way better practice instrument than the LP. But at over nine pounds, this guitar is heavy and presents your typical LP challenge to the gigging guitarist.
The action is about 1/16th" across the fretboard. No buzzing or intonation problems, and at this price (three grand plus on eBay, more for the "Artist" versions) there had better not be. Tuners are vintage style and it is equipped with a PRS stoptail.
As for electronics, you get PRS #7 alnico humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions. These are controlled using a three-way switch at the top of the guitar and two volume and tone controls.
All told, the Single-Cut provides the features that one would expect from a premium-priced guitar. The question then, is: is this axe worth maybe three grand? The answer is a resounding yes. The two humbuckers provides a wide palette of tones that are ideal for most varieties of rock, hard rock, and you can push it into metal if you want to. (Country players and jazzers probably want to look elsewhere.) The bridge pickup gives soaring leads, overdriven grunge, warm sloppy blooze, and points in between. The neck pickup is not only terrific for rhythm but can give well-articulated, darker lead tones as well. Through a monster-tone machine like the Lone Star (did I say what a great amp that is), the clarity on the clean Channel One is amazing and the pick attack out of this world. The sustain is superb.
The PRS Single-Cut gives the Gibson LP's a real run for their money. Frankly, Gibson hasn't done much with the Les Paul design in recent years, largely trading off various reissues that I admit I like a lot. (The exceptions are the new GT model and this very brand new weird recording guitar that I haven't had a chance to play yet.) Paul Reed Smith, on the other hand, is pushing the design envelope. It manufactures guitars that sound and look great and are neither retreads nor Gibson rip-offs. This guitar may look like a Gibson from a distance, but up close and personal this is a cut of a different color.
This great guitar is highly recommended to serious professional and amateur guitarists who play rock and hard rock are willing to cough up serious money for a first-rate guitar. Neophytes, country players (stick to your Strats and Teles) and jazzers (find a nice 175 or 335) should stay away. I think this guitar will hold most of its value for resale in the short run and, over time, should prove to be at least a decent investment. In that regard, at least, Gibsons have PRS beat. For the moment, anyway.
Carved or quilted maple top with thick mahogany back
Option: 10 top flame
Option: 10 top quilt
25" scale length mahogany 22-fret neck with rosewood fretboard and dot inlays
Neck carve - wide fat
Option: Abalone bird inlays
Vintage style tuners
Option: Gold hardware
PRS #7 Bass and PRS #7 Treble pickups with covers
3-way toggle pickup selector on upper bout
Volume and tone control for each pickup
Artist Package: artist grade wood, Paua bird inlays, rosewood headstock overlay with inlaid Paua signature, gold hardware, leather hardshell case
Schechter Diamond C+1
PRS Single Cut
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