PRS Guitar pedals? That’s right, the famous luthier has finally delved into pedals. But how do they compare in this oversaturated market?
PRS Guitar Pedals: This Was Coming, Sooner Or Later…
Paul Reed Smith is an incredibly interesting dude. He has always had an interesting perspective on how to build guitars, and became famous for making consistent, quality instruments. Everyone thought he was nuts in the beginning, but now PRS is the number 3 guitar manufacturer, after Gibson and Fender.
But like I said, Paul is an interesting guy, and while guitar innovation is definitely on his radar, he has so many other interests. One of those interests is outboard recording gear, and he has spent years tearing down pedals and gear. He has tons of vintage compressors, and pedals that he has studied.
In a recent interview with Steve Vai, he even expressed an interest in X-ray technology. Some of the things that go on in the PRS Factory in Maryland is also next-level. Watch a video tour of the factory, and you will be surprised at how much work goes into the guitars. Paul obviously likes to innovate. So when the PRS Guitar Pedals were announced, it didn’t surprise me at all.
The thing about PRS, is that the company has a little bit to offer everyone. I think this is by design, at this point. Think about it, PRS guitar pedals were the logical next step for the company. PRS started with guitars, then affordable guitars, and then moved on to amps. I have even asked myself why there were no PRS guitar pedals before!
This was not an easy task though, because the pedal business is very oversaturated. The pedal business is essentially sink or swim these days, and while leaders like BOSS never have any problems, smaller companies struggle to break into the game. But PRS is no small company, is it?
Paul Reed Smith is in a unique position, unlike Fender and Gibson, he is still alive and in control of his company. He also plays guitar avidly, and records in his studio. He has a perspective that no CEO could ever have at the other companies. He has first hand experience, on a daily basis.
Now, I don’t agree with Paul on everything, especially the tone wood debate. But I do know that he is detail-oriented, and his focus is always on precision. PRS worked with some great pedal designers as well as most of the company’s roster of artists. This was a huge collaboration, and you can tell a lot of love went into the project.
Well we got to play with them, and I have a lot to say about each one, so let’s dive in!
PRS Guitar Pedals: Wind Through The Trees
Paul said that the name “Wind Through The Trees” came from the idea that flange sounds a lot like a storm rushing through trees. I can hear that, for sure. But the problem that I have always had with most flanger pedals over the years has been the amount of control most pedals offer.
Some people like EVH used flange really well, and those single knob designs work for a lot of people. Usually I am not too picky about effects, but flange has always been my Achilles heel. For that reason, I cannot recall a single recording where I have used a flanger. But that might change!
There is a LOT going on with this pedal, so I am going to try on go over everything, but it is definitely a little overwhelming at first. Like a synthesizer, you have two independent LFO controls. Both are completely separate from one another, and each has three controls. Now it would be cool if you just could switch between the two, but it is way cooler than that.
You can dial in both LFO channels, and blend them with the bottom knob. Beside each set of controls, you a visual, pulsating LED light that shows how each LFO is moving your signal. You can dial them in to be similar, but the chorus effect that you get when they are slightly off? This is super cool, and I have never found a pedal quite like this.
On the other side of the pedal you have a knob to dial in a little more high end into your signal if things get muddy. You also have a “regen” control that helps reign in the signal from the two LFOs. The “dry/wet” knob is pretty self explanatory. There is just so much to tweak here, it is hard to compare to another pedal.
From subtle chorus, to all out high gain swooshes, this thing does it all. Yes, you can use it like EVH by doing momentary switches on and off, but there is so much more! Paul said in his presentation that he wanted it to sound like two Leslie cabinets “fighting each other”. I would say that he accomplished his goal.
The PRS Wind Through the Trees dual analog flanger pedal is best described as two flangers fighting each other, resulting in a sound reminiscent of the wind whipping through the trees. With manual, depth and rate controls per flanger, as well as global regeneration and added highs, Wind Through the Trees offers nearly endless tonal possibilities.
PRS Guitar Pedals: “Mary Cries”
This is another type of pedal that I have usually avoided. I mean, I play heavy music primarily, isn’t a compressor for Country guitarists? I have always associated them with spiky clean tones, that need to cut in a mix. That isn’t something that I would usually want to use. I use compressors all the time in the studio, for audio mastering, which is totally different.
But that’s the cool thing about Mary Cries, it works just like outboard optical compressor that you would use in the studio. It has a single knob that controls the compression amount, and you can see it working as you play via LED light. It will pulse as you play harder, but that is not what I would use this pedal for at all.
In the presentation video Paul mentioned that it can also be used as transparent boost pedal as well. The same way we would put an overdrive in front of an amp’s dirty channel. You can do this by turning down the compression, and just use the output volume knob as a booster. This sounds awesome, and it adds all kinds of gruff to your sound.
So you can use it either way, but I found that with the compression turned up just slightly, and then using it as a boost pedal gave me the best results. That is, for dirty tones. I still don’t think I am sold on the idea of using it the way it’s supposed to be used. Maybe other guitarists can get more out of it, but as a boost, it’s pretty awesome.
PRS Guitar Pedals: “Horsemeat”
I saved the best for for last, because this thing is amazing. What happened, was so many artists told Paul about the KLON Centaur, that when he found one overseas…he bought it. The result is exactly what you expect, Paul was blown away. But then the cracks in the new toy started to show, and there were things that could be changed.
I felt the same way when I finally got to try out a real KLON, and while it did sound amazing, it really only did one thing really well. It was also very dependent on what kind of guitar/pickups you used with it. So I understand the hype behind the KLON. I don’t understand the sometimes insane prices, but that’s the pedal market, right?
So PRS took the KLON, and tore it apart to figure out what was going on. Then the team rebuilt it into something new, and I can definitely say this is one of the best overdrives I have ever used. I tried it out two different ways; one was in front of the amp, not gain. The second was with some crunch from the amp. Both ways sounded GREAT.
If you use it on a clean amp, you get a limited amount of gain, but the tone you get is stellar. You get a full, throaty midrange. This can be controlled with the “voice’ knob, which controls the low-mids. Add a dash of reverb, and you have a killer tone for playing solos.
Blending it with the crunch channel of a 5150, you get that same full sound, just with more bite. It gives you a second EQ channel for your gain, or you can add more gain to the crunch for a solo tone. There is a LOT you can do with pedal. And it costs a fraction of the other options that I see on eBay all the time.
Does it sound just like a KLON? Well, I guess it can if you dial it in the right way. But it is so much more versatile in my opinion. This is by far my favorite out of all the new PRS guitar pedals. Being able to add that vital low midrange is such a cool feature. If you only try one of these, this should be the one.
PRS Guitar Pedals: Wrapping Up…
Like I said in the beginning, I don’t agree with everything that Paul has to say. But the attention to detail in these pedals is way beyond standard. Paul stated in his presentation that these are “professional audio equipment/device” and I totally agree with him. His latest embarkments with outboard studio gear has definitely taught him some big lessons about audio gear.
PRS is known for taking things to the next level with quality, in fact, that is the whole business model for the company. PRS guitar pedals should be no different from all of the other products that are produced. I expect the absolute best from anything PRS puts out. I can honestly say that I have never played a “bad PRS guitar, and I even toured with two USA models for a while.
I hope we see more pedals coming from PRS, since I think that the ones that we have so far only scratch the surface. I would love to see a Stereo Delay pedal for example, since I know it would have the tell-tale PRS “quirks” that make it something special. But for the current PRS guitar pedals lineup? Good Job!
- Harmonic midrange richness and overdrives without cutting out your highs
- More available headroom
- Robust EQ and wide range of gain