PRS 305 Electric Guitar Review

The triple single-coil, alder-bodied, new model from PRS

Download Example 1
Middle Pickup
Download Example 2
Neck Pickup
Download Example 3
Bridge Pickup
Download Example 4
Bridge and Middle Pickups
Download Example 5
Neck and Middle Pickups
Download Example 6
Togging through each of the 5 pickup settings, starting with the Neck Pickup
Clips recorded with Paul Reed Smith 305, Paul Reed Smith 30 amp, Paul Reed Smith 1 X 12 cabinet, Shure SM57 Microphone, Avid Pro Tools
For many players, PRS has always represented an ideal convergence of the design concepts that made the Les Paul and Stratocaster great. And the new PRS 305—with its three single-coils, alder body, 5-way switch, 25.5" scale, and tremolo—flirts more overtly with the Stratocaster design than most of the 6-strings currently coming out of the company’s Stevensville, Maryland, factory. But it’s a guitar that remains unmistakably PRS in terms of aesthetics, quality, and execution. And combining so many distinctly Fender-esque design elements with a set neck gives it a resonance and tonal signature all its own.

Familiar Curves
You can spot a PRS at a hundred paces, and the 305 is no exception. The carved alder body makes a beautiful canvas for the elegant tri-color sunburst, which fades from a deep chocolate brown to orange-ish hues and then to amber. The rock-maple neck and fretboard (a rosewood fretboard is optional) runs a standard Fender 25.5" scale length and features 22 frets of DGT fret wire, and signature PRS bird inlays. The guitar’s top-quality hardware, which is available in nickel and gold, includes PRS 14:1 Phase II low-mass locking tuners and a tremolo bridge. The electronics, meanwhile, are configured in a manner that would be familiar to any Strat user: three 305 single-coils and a 5-way blade switch toggle between bridge, bridge-middle, middle, middle-neck, and neck selections. The only other controls are a Volume and a Tone knob.

Immediately Apparent Quality
When I initially picked up and played the 305, the guitar felt very solid and comfortable— no surprise there. Before I even plugged in the 305, its impressive, ringing resonance was plain to the ear, and single notes happily sustained without the assistance of an amp.

The neck’s slick satin finish felt great and played fast, and the large frets were perfectly shaped at the edges. Getting up to the highest frets unimpeded was no problem, thanks to the rounded heel and substantial cutaway. Intonation and action were also perfect right out of the case. Strings run through the back of the guitar and then through the bridge—which isn’t too chunky and is set up perfectly for deep tremolo bends or mellow vibrato textures. There’s also the usual thoughtful PRS touches, like the ridged no-slip nut and tuners that are designed for easy string installation and exceptional tuning stability.

Spectral Sound
In a fitting start to my evaluation of the 305, I plugged it into a PRS 30 amp set to a clean tone. Toggling through the five pickup configurations quickly revealed the 305’s potential stylistic versatility. The 305 neck pickup has smooth warmth that is good for jazz, and combining the neck pickup with the middle pickup results in a clear, bold sound perfect for funk, while switching on the middle pickup alone adds more midrange edginess. The 305 bridge pickup is rich, bright, and sparkly, and whether combined with the middle pickup or on its own, it has a kick, snap, and twang that’s perfect for playing your favorite country licks or snarling rock.

When I threw a little amp overdrive into the mix, the 305 became even more fiery and alive—and it sustained with superb clarity. Using the different pickup positions, I was able to get a fat, throaty blues tone, a biting Hendrix-like overdrive, or a bright, singing lead tone with the flick of a switch. The 305 pickups have a wider dynamic range than your average singlecoils, so you have the punch and detail of single-coils but with a fatter, warmer tone. Chugging power chords were muscular without being muddy, and even the notes in a more complex chord like an A13 rang out distinctly.

The super-effective Tone knob gives the 305 a wealth of tones to the mix, too. Whether I set the amp for clean or dirty settings, I felt any pickup setting had several distinct voices that I could access by moving the tone knob through its range. And it was easy to transform aggressive fuzz to more subdued distortion, or move from biting lead work to warm jazzy moves, with a quick adjustment.

I used the 305 for a number of recording sessions, including some music for television commercials and some music cues for reality television, which demanded fast moves between completely different musical styles. In every case, the 305 had a voice to fit the bill—whether it was blues, rock, spy/surf music, R&B, or country it performed flawlessly. Producers and engineers never have patience for a guitar that always goes out of tune, so thankfully tuning and intonation were never a problem. Nor did the 305 have any problem moving between various amplification or processor configurations—it sounded bold, clear, and cutting through tube amps and simulator plug-ins such as Digidesign Eleven Rack, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, and Line 6 Pod Farm. Indeed, the 305 was the very model of versatility, consistency, and reliability—enabling my work in the sessions to go smoothly, quickly, and without performance issues.

The Verdict

With the 305’s alder body, single-coil pickups, and 5-way pickup selector, comparisons to a Strat are inevitable. Nevertheless, there are some substantial differences. The 305 has a wider frequency response, and although the 305 single coils aren’t completely noiseless, they are quieter than your average single-coil. The 305 also resonates with more sustain that a Strat, thanks to the set neck design. And components like the Phase II locking tuners and solid, stable bridge ensure that the guitar stays in tune better than the average vintage instrument. The 305 is an exquisite instrument of superb workmanship and playability. It may or may not replace your vintage single-coil guitar, but it’s a nice option if you want a guitar that takes the single-coil concept to the next level.

Buy if...
you want a versatile, reliable single-coil guitar with modern enhancements.
Skip if...
you’re after classic single-coil tones.

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