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The challenge—especially for the gigging musician—is lugging around more than one guitar to get the job done. As many gigging guitarists can attest, Paul Reed Smith is no stranger to the quest for versatility, and PRS guitars are known for being some of the most sonically versatile instruments built in the past few decades. Smith’s newest model, the Studio, is specifically targeted to players who need to cover a lot of musical ground without sacrificing the satisfying tones the company is known for.
Astute gearheads might notice that this new Studio model looks very similar to the rare Studio model PRS offered in the late ’80s. Both share the same triple-pickup layout, but the new Studio model has some additional tricks up its sleeve.
First and foremost, the new Studio sports a pickup configuration of PRS’ fantastic 57/08 bridge humbucker, along with a pair of the company’s new Narrowfield 57/08 pickups. The Narrowfield design came about as result of PRS wanting to create a hum-cancelling pickup that combined aspects of a P-90, mini-humbucker, full-size humbucker, and single-coil. Though they have smaller front-to-back dimensions, Narrowfields are, in fact, humbucking pickups that use the same coil wire as their full-size 57/08 cousins.
The 5-way pickup selector switches between bridge humbucker, middle and bridge, middle, middle and neck, and neck pickups. No surprises here. However, hidden inside the Studio’s Tone control is a coil-tap switch for the bridge 57/08, and this expands the possibilities to seven switchable settings.
While I was inspecting the control cavity, I was treated to one of the best-looking wiring harness jobs I’ve ever come across. I expected to see perfectly soldered joints on a PRS, but I was very impressed by the tight, neatly wrapped wiring and perfectly aligned potentiometers.
A Non-Stick Situation
The Studio comes with PRS’ new V12 finish—a clear, thin finish that’s both durable and resonant. PRS claims that they’ve been able to reduce the thickness of the finish to half that of a human hair. While I obviously wasn’t able to verify that claim, I will say that the Studio was extremely resonant when I played it unplugged. The finish feels like glass, with none of the friction or stickiness you commonly associate with polyurethane or nitrocellulose, particularly in humid conditions.
Visually, the V12’s glass-like quality sets off the maple top, showcasing all of the deep, brown hues that are reminiscent of fine Cuban tobacco. The finish was extended over the guitar’s mahogany neck, which—while feeling smooth and even to the touch—fought back to playing with a very, very slight resistance. It wasn’t really an issue, but I kept wondering just how much more comfortable the neck would feel with a natural sealer.
The Studio’s neck carve should please anyone—especially vintage PRS aficionados. Dubbed the Pattern Thin, the profile is a return to a late-’70s and early-’80s shape that Smith made for Carlos Santana and Heart’s Howard Leese. The Pattern Thin profile still retains the wider nature of PRS necks, but feels like it has a little more gut running down the middle. The guitar’s deep-shaded rosewood fretboard is adorned with classic PRS bird inlays.
With its minimalistic aluminum wrap-around tailpiece, the Studio is breathtaking to look at and its build quality is utterly flawless from head to toe.