PRS SE Hollowbody Standard Review
The modern classic excels in its more accessibly priced guise.
Recorded through various settings on a Fractal Axe-FX III amp modeler, direct to Pro Tools.
0:00 – DC30 preset, set to edge of breakup, bridge pickup.
0:16 – both pickups
0:31 – neck pickup
0:50 – Deluxe Reverb preset, set to clean; neck pickup
1:08 – both pickups
1:16 – bridge pickup
1:29 – Cranked Plexi preset; bridge pickup
1:48 – neck pickup
Impressive quality. Superb playability. Inspiringly versatile. Great value.
A coil-split switch would be nice.
PRS SE Hollowbody Standard
Among major guitar brands that build affordable lines overseas, PRS has always stood out for its reliably high-quality SE Series. Over the years, the SE range has expanded from cornerstone solidbody designs to include signature editions and, now, the new SE Hollowbody Standard.
The SE Hollowbody Standard and its cousin the Hollowbody II are built in China at a facility run by PRS partner Core-Tek Musical Instruments. As with so many PRS SE guitars, the SE Hollowbody Standard offers few visible clues about its down-market price positioning or overseas origins. Instead, the essential elegance of Paul Reed Smith's design, the thoughtfully executed PRS-created hardware and electronics, and the playability all shine, making the SE Hollowbody Standard a lot of guitar for the money.
No Hollow Promise
Before the first PRS Hollowbody model hit the streets in 1998, PRS fans were probably challenged to imagine how the hollowbody format would work with the Maryland company's signature silhouette. These days, it's a modern classic of sorts, and a familiar part of the PRS family.
The SE Hollowbody Standard has a deep body that pushes 2 ½" thick at the peak of the top arch. The back and top are 5-ply mahogany (the SE Hollowbody II has a flame-maple top), and the guitar is entirely hollow, save for the maple block that connects the back and top and serves to anchor the bridge. The set neck is also mahogany, with a bound ebony fretboard. The result is a marvelously light guitar of around 6.5 pounds.
The guitar is built around familiar PRS specs. Scale length is 25" and the neck has a wide-fat profile and a 1 11/16" width at the nut. Classic bird inlays visually tie the guitar to upmarket models and complement the white binding on the body's top and back, fretboard, and headstock, which are, in turn, a nice contrast to the McCarty tobacco burst finish. The pickups are a pair of PRS 58/15 “S" humbuckers, which are designed to emulate vintage PAFs and are wired through a 3-way toggle switch, master volume, and master tone. (There's no coil splitting on this model.) Hardware includes PRS's adjustable stoptail bridge and non-locking die-cast tuners (aftermarket SE locking tuners are also available). Unplugged, the guitar sings with impressive volume, resonance, and balance. Playability, too, feels great in every way—from the impressively well-dressed frets to the easy-to-love neck shape.
Tested through a 50-watt Friedman Small Box head and 2x12 cab, as well as a Fractal Axe-Fx III into studio monitors, the SE Hollowbody Standard delivered very upscale performance for its mid-scale price, and totally impressed me from the first strum.
The fine-playing setup made it easy to dive into any style with confidence. But what was most striking was that working through a wide range of playing approaches never left me thinking, “If I tweak this, adjust that, or replace the other thing, this guitar will be just right." It's that versatile and complete right out of the case, and for many players will be close to perfect as is.
I dig the 58/15 “S" humbuckers (which read 7.74k ohms in the neck and 8.46k ohms in the bridge). Each delivered appealing richness, sweetness, and girth while maintaining outstanding articulation—even with distortion in the mix. Pickup swaps are common in guitars in this price range, but it's hard to imagine a pickup switch that would represent a huge improvement on the PRS units.
Through a clean amp, the guitar is clear, warm, and deep, with a touch of edgy bite that helps it cut in each pickup position. Clean settings also reveal how dynamic the guitar is—sensitive to picking attack and volume attenuation adjustments alike. Hit the distortion or overdrive and the SE Hollowbody sings and wails confidently, with the same lively response you hear in clean settings and the capability to conjure the hovering, controllable feedback that well-designed hollowbodies do so well. Better still, there's nary a hint of howl if you remain sensible about your guitar-to-amp distances.
PRS's proven ability to bring top quality design to functional reality at a fair price is embodied in the SE Hollowbody Standard. It's super playable and feels like a truly professional instrument. Although high-end, U.S.-made PRS models are occasionally critiqued (often by those who haven't played them) as “too precise" or “too clean," I found this very precisely, cleanly made SE full of personality and completely inspiring. And on more than one occasion, it left me wondering why I would ever spend more on a gigging guitar.
Watch the First Look: