The PRS SE Custom 24 is an eye catching guitar by anyone’s standards, it looks just like its much more expensive US made cousins after all. In fact, the SE designation is one of the few tells that this is one of their more budget friendly models. Unlike Gibson, who use completely different brand dedicated to their lower end models, PRS sells their Asian made guitars as the “PRS SE line”, with SE standing for Student Edition.
Keeping the iconic PRS headstock, inlay design, and name on this guitar only raises expectations, which is why we’ve covered it in detail in this KillerGuitarRigs Review, to see if it lives up to the high standards set by the US made models.
Is this one of the best sub $1000 guitars on the market? Read on as we find out.
Who Is This For?
The PRS SE Custom 24 is aimed squarely at intermediate and above players. The price tag, while not astronomical, is unattainable for many beginners. However, those looking to upgrade from starter guitars, or those looking to get a quality instrument that works on stage or in the studio will find that their needs are more than met by this Paul Reed Smith SE model.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The guitar we received for testing was finished in a gorgeous Quilt Charcoal. The book matching was absolutely perfect, and the little peeks of mahogany from the treble side horn contour complimented the look well. It had a maple cap, maple neck, and a mahogany body. It was visually stunning, and whenever it caught the light, we just couldn’t help but stare.
The neck profile was what PRS call “Pattern Wide Thin”. It had a 1.6875” nut width, and a pretty shallow depth, which we’d liken to a slim D shape. Of course, it was buttery smooth, and as fast as anything else at this price point. Scale length was 25”, and it was equipped with 24 medium jumbo frets (hence the 24 in the model name).
The fret finish was absolutely superb – there were no rough or sharp edges, and the crowns were beautifully polished, which kept the tone as smooth as you’d expect from a PRS. It’s built with a rosewood fretboard, too, which looked great and felt fantastic under the fingers.
The pickups were both PRS wound humbuckers (85/15 S model), and they even featured push and pull coil splitting. We’ll cover more about how they sounded in the next section.
Tuning stability was rock solid. This guitar was equipped with PRS designed sealed gear tuners, which not only looked great, but they had smooth action with no jumps, and they held pitch brilliantly. Disappointingly, the SE Custom 24 ships with a plastic nut – we’d definitely expect more from a guitar of this caliber, but it’s an easy upgrade for most people.
At the bridge end there’s a PRS designed tremolo system which was perfect for adding texture, and while it didn’t offer Floyd Rose divebomb performance, it did work well and didn’t cause much of any tuning issues.
We were also pleased to see that it came with a nice backpack style gig bag, too!
It didn’t take us long to figure out that there really isn’t much that the PRS SE Custom 24 can’t do. PRS really are famous for their ergonomics, and that heritage shows in this guitar, it was truly one of the most comfortable instruments we’ve ever tested.
Going along with the theme of comfort, playability was also excellent. We found no issues with intonation, action, or anything else that would require setup out of the box. While most pros would want their guitar set up to their exact preferences before gigging, the average player would have no issues with this PRS.
As we alluded to earlier, the neck is lightning fast. It really is a dream guitar for expressive players, and it lends itself well to fast runs, big bends and extended vibratos.
The matched humbuckers performed brilliantly throughout the test. The neck position was warm and rich, bass heavy without being muddy, and the neck was bright, and with some gain it got very aggressive, very quickly. Clean tones were easy to find, and when we wanted to dirty up the sound, we had no issues in doing so.
No matter the genre you enjoy playing, this PRS is geared to handle it – we played some country licks, some metal riffs, and everything in between, and lo and behold, everything sounded fantastic.
Given that it has a 3 way selector, like a Les Paul, it would have been nice if the Custom 24 was made with separate tone and control knobs for each pickup. We didn’t feel like there was a lack of tonal variety, but having the option of more when we were in the middle position would definitely have been welcome.
The real party piece for the Custom 24 was the coil split pickups. Not only did we get the fat tones that come with a humbucker, but with a simple pull on the tone knob, we were able to split the coils and play it as a single coil guitar with the signature, chimey, clear tones that guitars like Stratocasters are known for. This adds significantly to the versatility of this instrument, and further increases the appeal for working musicians.
Other Guitars to Consider
The PRS SE Custom 24 is undoubtedly a very fine guitar. It looks great and sounds even better, but it might not be what you’re looking for. In the event that you’d like to consider some other models instead, take a look at these great alternative options:
The Gibson SG Standard is one of the benchmarks when it comes to double cut electric guitars. It had superior ergonomics before ergonomics was even a thing people had heard of, and the searing rock tones from its dual humbucker setup have attracted players for decades. It’s a little more expensive than the PRS, but you’re getting a US made guitar, with great tones and incredible playability.
The Fender Player Lead III is another solid option for those who want an alternative to the PRS. This Fender model is, once again, a double cut model, with twin humbuckers, but, like the Custom 24, it also features coil splitting, something the Gibson SG doesn’t come with. The Lead III is a hardtail, so you won’t have the tremolo arm as you would on the Paul Reed Smith, but if this isn’t a dealbreaker for you, you could get some similar tones from a comfortable guitar that costs over $200 less.
Final Thoughts on the PRS SE Custom 24
It was very hard to pick faults with the PRS SE Custom 24 – overall it’s a lot of guitar for the money.
It’s tonally diverse, it’s comfortable, and looks incredible. Whether you’re looking for a nice guitar for gigging that isn’t going to keep you awake at night worrying, or you’re looking for a handsome wall hanger that gets play time in your home studio, this PRS will definitely fit the bill.
We’ve played US made Paul Reed Smiths, and this SE model felt and sounded extremely close, and put simply, even die hard PRS fans wouldn’t be disappointed with this guitar.