Premier Guitar

PRS Ted McCarty DC 245 Limited Run Electric Guitar Review

March 26, 2010

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Clean - Neck pickup coil-tapped, Fender Twin reissue
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Dirty - bridge, '73 Marshall Super Bass into a Bogner 4x12, using an Ultimate Attenuator.
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Clean - neck pickup, rhythm and lead. Rhythm on Marshall rig, Lead on Fender.
Among the throngs of genius innovators and experts that have shaped the guitar gear landscape, Ted McCarty is certainly among the most prolific. Players who are unfamiliar with McCarty’s legacy have probably often wondered just why his name graces the headstocks of so many high-end PRS guitars, or why they see his name mentioned in gear magazines. For those who aren’t in the know, Ted McCarty is directly responsible for the tuning stability of your favorite archtop with a tune-o-matic bridge, and (with Seth Lover) for the silent, smooth sound wielded from those humbuckers in your much loved instrument. These innovations are only a handful of achievements by McCarty during his tenure as President of Gibson Guitar during their golden age (1950-1966), during which he also oversaw the development of the Flying V, Explorer, ES-335, SG, Firebird, Moderne, and the iconic Les Paul.

Interestingly, like his contemporary Leo Fender, McCarty wasn’t a guitar player. He gathered as much feedback from guitarists as he could, which he used as a basis for his designs. Decades later, the legend met up with a young Paul Reed Smith, and mentored the budding guitar maker, advising him on design and construction. To honor the collaborative relationship between the two luthiers, PRS has released a limited run of DC (double cut) and SC (single cut) 245 McCarty models, complete with exclusive accoutrements.

Un-Limited Appeal
There are a few slight differences between those and the Limited Run series. The DC and SC 245 Limited Run models sport a 24 ½” scale length, as opposed to the PRS standard 25” one. Normally, a shorter scale length gives a spongier feel to the strings, while providing a softer, bouncier tone. Even a minute difference such as a ½” difference in length can affect feel and tone drastically, as the DC 245 Limited demonstrates. The headstock is also different—the shape borrowed from the Santana line—and it caps off a neck featuring the original PRS bird inlays in Mother of Pearl, another tribute to the days when Paul was working with McCarty years ago.

Possibly the most unique feature of the guitar are its pickups, a combo of 1957/2008 humbuckers, topped with brushed nickel covers. This special set of pickups is currently found on this McCarty line, the Al Di Meola signature, some 25th Anniversary models, and Private Stock models. They’re the result of PRS’ acquisition of original pickup wire from an original machine used to wind some of the best examples of humbuckers from the 1950s, and cannot be purchased separately from the instruments. The designation comes from the year that the humbucker was first introduced (1957), and the year that the new “old-style” pickups came into being (2008). Paul Reed Smith himself is extremely proud of the fruits of this labor, claiming that they’re throwing in a free guitar and case with purchase.

First Impressions
Upon opening the case, an absolutely stunning guitar caught my eyes, finished in Smokeburst. The fit and finish was at a level of quality that I expected from the instrument, perhaps even exceeding it. Personally, I’m not a fan of heavy flame or quilt tops; while I enjoy a nice flame, I prefer it to be a little understated and modest. The flame top, combined with the Smokeburst finish, was a true amalgamation of class and underrated sophistication, especially with the low reflection qualities exhibited by the brush nickel covers on the pickups. The instrument weighed in at a little over 8 lbs., which was right in my comfort zone for ease of play. The resonant qualities of the guitar unplugged were phenomenal, with its projection easily being heard from the other end of the room.



Plugging In
Eager to try out the exclusive electronics, I setup a rig consisting of a 20th Anniversary Bogner 2x12 cabinet and an original 1970 Orange Overdrive 80 head. Vintage Orange amps are commonly associated with Sabbath-esque grind, yet I’ve found that this one is capable of so much more, ranging from cutting cleans to a fuzzed-out drive, similar to that which made T-Rex’s Marc Bolan’s guitar tone famous (think “Baby Boomerang”).

With a light overdrive dialed in and a generous use of fast, jazzy chord work, the DC 245 rang, sang and snarled. Dialing up the drive for more biting tones helped me understand just why these pickups are restricted to only a handful of guitars: they’re utterly fantastic. The midrange response from the pickups is very soft, but each frequency is audible and discernable, making them rather difficult to muddy up. Combined with tight, blooming lows and a very unique, singing high end, the whole package is just extraordinary. I try to refrain from making huge blanket statements when writing a review, but I have to give credit where credit is due: these are some of the best humbuckers I’ve encountered on the market today.

The volume balance between the two was even, and bold tones could be coaxed while both pickups were active, but I longed, only slightly, for a little more bite from the neck pickup. While the pickup is unquestionably no slouch, I’m still searching for the tone that I got from the neck position from an old 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom that I used to have. Even though it wasn’t a PAF, it was still rather low output (around 7.8k) and had a massive, piano-like quality to it.

While the 1957/2008 combo is obviously a winner in pretty much every sense of the word, the combination of the exceptional build quality and components of the guitar are truly what make it outstanding. The playability, smooth action, comfortable neck, perfect weight, just everything about this guitar was beyond reproach.

The Final Mojo
Before I conclude with this writeup, I’d like to point out that for years, I haven’t really been a PRS player. Sure, since the moment that I laid eyes on one years ago I was entranced by how beautiful they are, and some of the tones that I’ve heard from them have been otherworldly. Yet after sitting down with them several times over the years, I just kept going back to my old Les Paul or a Tele, which are much more familiar to me. Guitarists are a finicky bunch, and I’m indeed one of them. After playing this McCarty, however, I don’t know if I can go back. I completely clicked with this guitar. The unique, yet vintage tones of the pickups, spot on intonation and playability, and fantastic looks to boot just made it impossible to resist. It is, in my opinion, an extraordinary tribute from one visionary to another.
Buy if...
you want exceptionally warm, vintage tones with a unique voicing.
Skip if...
more modern tones are desired.
Rating...


MSRP $ - PRS - prsguitars.com