Review: PRS Studio

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The PRS Studio -model, which was introduced last year, bundles all the improvements of the last few years in one single instrument. The Studio sports a long list of new – or improved – features, such as the Narrowfield-humbuckers.

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In Gibson-speak ”studio” usually means a less expensive, slightly scaled-down model. In the PRS Studio’s case the word ”studio” denotes a guitar that is meant to be very versatile.

The PRS Studio (current price in Finland around 3,000 €) is a set-neck electric guitar, with the company’s traditional 25-inch (63,5 cm) scale. A great-looking flame maple top comes as standard on the Studio. PRS offer several different colour finishes, as well as a choice between a wraparound bridge or a PRS vibrato.

Both the neck and the back of the body are crafted from top-quality mahogany. The Studio is offered with two new neck profiles: The fuller version is called Pattern Neck, while its slimmer counterpart is designated as Pattern Thin.

The new PRS Phase III locking tuners feature brass string posts and bushings with a much tighter fit.

I assumed that the reason for the open casings was weight reduction, but I was wrong. In one of PRS’ You Tube videos Mr Smith states that the main reason for this design change were the cool looks.

The company’s new bird inlays are standard on the Studio-model – cream coloured outlines filled with walnut.

The fretwork on our test sample was truly exemplary.

Here’s a good look at PRS’ customary neck joint – its big heel is good for sustain.

Over the past decades the PRS body shape has become a classic design in itself.

A breath-taking view for most guitar connoisseurs – the famous ”fake” binding, which is achieved by leaving the rim of the maple top unstained.

In the last years PRS has given its pickups a thorough overhaul, which has spawned a few new models: The Studio comes equipped with the new PRS 57/08 -humbucker in the bridge position. Many PRS-fans claim that this is the company’s best-ever vintage-type humbucker. The 57/08’s metal cover is brushed aluminium, and bridge versions have their model number deliberately engraved upside-down.

The brand new Narrowfield-humbuckers are very special beasts, indeed, with a sound of their own. The Narrowfield has a full-size humbucker’s output level and warm basic character, but thanks to its much narrower magnetic window the higher-mids and treble range both sound fresher and more transparent.

A push-pull-switch inside the tone control lets you split the bridge pickup.

PRS’ vintage-style vibrato is a fine improvement on Leo Fender’s original Stratocaster-bridge.

The vibrato block is milled from solid brass.

This is what the review sample’s control cavity looks like – not the cleanest PRS I’ve ever seen. Luckily the sawdust doesn’t seem to hamper the guitar’s functionality.

A classy hard case rounds out this package.

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According to Paul Reed Smith himself, the Studio’s new Pattern neck profile is actually a return to the very beginning of PRS Guitars, when PRS was a tiny little workshop. The Pattern Neck isn’t miles away from the famous Wide-Fat-profile, but it is clearly rounder with much less shoulders to it.

The Studio’s ergonomics and playability can be summed up in one word – fantastic. The guitar is feather-light, and its slender body with the long upper horn balances perfectly on a strap – despite the neck joining the body at the 20th fret.

The PRS vibrato comes set up with four springs and works buttery and precisely with perfect return-to-pitch.

Acoustically the Studio performs like a true PRS – there’s a good dose of Gibson-ish set-neck character, mixed with a drier and and tighter attack. The warm, well-rounded, but fresh character is carried evenly across the whole fretboard.

The Narrowfield-pickups are a very interisting new breed. They don’t pretend to be sound like Strat-sized ’buckers, but give you plenty of humbucker warmth, coupled with more presence and a nice top end sheen. The Narrowfields work well in combinations, where you’d normally expect a couple of Fender-style singlecoils. In my opinion this is the first time I’ve heard a guitar, where a third humbucker makes tonal sense.

The moderately-powered PRS 57/08 -humbucker is the perfect partner for the Narrowfields, because it, too, has a fresh and dynamic tone. Splitting the 57/08 even gives you quite credible Fender-sound approximations.

The soundbites all start with the neck pickup on its own, flicking through all the switch positions with the bridge humbucker split. The final two repeats are the middle-plus-bridge and bridge-alone selections with the full humbucker in use:

PRS Studio – clean

PRS Studio – crunch

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Three thousand Euros is quite a lot of money for one guitars. True, but I feel the PRS Studio is really worth each Cent – it is a guitar crafted to the highest standards from top-quality materials. The result is one of the best guitars coming from a large-volume manufacturer. Outstanding playability, coupled with the fantastic tone of the new pickups put this PRS in a league of its own.

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PRS Guitars Studio

Current price in Finland: approx. 3,000 €

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

A big thank you to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the review sample!

Pros:

• sheer quality

• workmanship

• playability

• smooth vibrato

• sound

• versatility

Cons:

• sawdust in the control cavity

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