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Experience PRS 2011

Premier Guitar journeys to the iconic guitar company’s fifth-annual extravaganza in Stevensville, Maryland, to bring you news, photos, and video of the brand-new amps and guitars,as well as the weekend’s lineup of killer activities.

Experience PRS 2011 activities included factory tours, artist and product-designer clinics, recording demos, Q&A sessions with founder/owner Paul Smith, concerts, and new product unveilings and demos.

For five years now, September has been a spot to mark on the calendar for hardcore fans of PRS guitars, basses, and amps. That’s when the faithful with the means to make the pilgrimage trek to the 10-Top Mecca that is the company’s headquarters in Stevensville, Maryland. Known as Experience PRS, the three-day open house/extravaganza regularly hosts a couple of thousand visitors—this year it was approximately 2,800—some traveling from as far away as Japan and Australia. The event’s attendees include everyone from dealers to international distributers, recording artists, everyday guitar nuts, and members of the media. And what they get is practically an all-access experience with the products, people, and facilities from one of the three biggest guitar companies in the world. This year’s Experience PRS activities included factory tours, artist and product-designer clinics, recording demos, Q&A sessions with founder/owner Paul Smith, concerts, and new-product unveilings and demos.

Perhaps the most exciting development this year was that PRS expanded the stable of its very popular (and accessibly priced) SE line to include amps. The all-tube SE 20, SE 30, and SE 50 models were designed by Doug Sewell, the same mastermind behind the company’s higher-end handwired amps. The amps all have two channels with independent EQ sections, an effects loop, reverb, and custom-wound transformers. Their wattages correspond to their model names, and all are available as a head or a 1x12 combo. The SE 20 features a 6V6 power section, the SE 30 is driven by 5881s, and the SE 50 features a pair of EL34s. In addition, the SE line now includes SE Angelus Standard and SE Angelus Custom acoustics. Both feature a solid spruce top, laminated sides, and iconic PRS bird inlays, with the Standard having a solid mahogany back, and the Custom having a solid rosewood back.

Other products announced were the Stripped ’58—a vintage-inspired single-cutaway with 57/08 pickups in a traditional, no-frills package—and the Swamp Ash Studio—a 22-fret model with a bridge 57/08 humbucker and two 57/08 Narrowfield pickups. At press time, both models were slated to be built only until October 14, 2011.

Among the new activities at Experience PRS this year was the “Why, Not How?” discussion between Paul Smith and his close friend and esteemed guitar author Tom Wheeler about their collective 21 rules of tone that are now implemented on all PRS models. (Smith said the full list is currently in a safe and will likely be burned when he dies.) Also, the company invited guests into its finish department, where 12 guitars were displayed to illustrate each step of the PRS V12 finishing process. Other new wrinkles to the PRS fest were the open guitar jams that put brave fans onstage with a backing band that included bassist Gary Grainger, drummer Greg Grainger, and guitarist Mike Ault.

In typical Experience PRS fashion, endorsees such as David Grissom, Al Di Meola, Ricky Skaggs, Tony McManus, Davy Knowles, Cody Kilby, Bernie Marsden, JD Bradshaw, and more were all over the company’s campus, chatting and performing throughout the weekend. The gala closed with PRS SE Signature artists Fredrik Åkesson and Mike Åkerfeldt from multifaceted Swedish prog-metal band Opeth performing a 90-minute set.

For more video and photo highlights from Experience PRS 2011, visit