The PRS 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.
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Clean, bridge pickup tapped - Fender Twin Reverb Reissue
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Heavy, bridge pickup - Marshall JCM800 combo
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Neck pickup, light gain - Fender Twin Reverb Reissue
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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.
Sound Body, Sound Mind
When I reviewed PRS’ limited-run DC 245 McCarty in PG’s April 2010 issue, one of the guitar’s most sonically arresting features was its 57/08 humbuckers. In the Studio, the 57/08 rings just as beautifully and richly as it did in the DC 245. (The latter earned a Premier Gear award, which tells you a lot about these pickups.)
Playing through a Fender Twin Reverb, I was able to coax plenty of bite from the bridge pickup without it getting shrill. Pulling up the Tone knob to tap the bridge pickup’s coils, I was struck by how this didn’t cut the tone’s punch. The sound stayed solid with smooth highs, an attenuated midrange, and tight, percussive lows.
The 57/08 was designed with vintage tones in mind, but it’s capable of handling modern rock tones too. Back in full-humbucker mode running through a 1982 Marshall JCM800 combo, I was in total early-’90s heaven. The pickup’s thick midrange had me completely enthralled.
The Studio would be an excellent guitar with just the bridge pickup, but PRS’ much-touted Narrowfield pickups really solidify the instrument’s versatility across all genres. Through the Twin Reverb, both the neck and middle pickups exhibited an astonishingly immediate attack with plenty of cut, and a juicy, solid midrange. It was really quite remarkable. The Narrowfields’ midrange response isn’t as sensitive to picking dynamics as the 57/08 humbucker, in which the mids sound more or less aggressive depending on how hard you dig into the strings. That said, I could control the Narrowfields’ highs with my attack.
Because the Narrowfields are closer in size to a mini-humbucker than a single-coil, the middle pickup takes up more physical space than I’m accustomed to in a triple-pickup configuration. As such, I had to alter my picking technique a little to keep myself from banging the pick against the middle pickup. This is an issue that’s quite common among guitarists who first pick up, say, a Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, but before too long I was able to adapt my picking technique to suit the Studio’s pickup spacing.
PRS made their name by not only offering guitars with impeccable craftsmanship to the everyday player, but also by introducing newer ideas to an industry that so desperately needed them at the time. The Studio continues that tradition with a handful of improvements to a design that PRS established with the McCarty and Custom, and these tweaks really give the Studio a voice of its own.
The Narrowfield pickups offer a distinctive response and tone that some players might take time to get used to. Those accustomed to traditional single-coils might be taken aback by the Narrowfields’ power and timbre, while diehard P-90 lovers might be surprised at the amount of attack and robust tone these pickups kick out. Regardless, the Studio is another fantastic guitar from PRS, and one that’s a joy to play.
Watch the video review:
you’re looking for a solid workhorse guitar with single-coil snap and humbucker power.
you require neck-position humbucker tones.
Street $2678 - Paul Reed Smith Guitars - prsguitars.com