The new PRS SE Mark Holcomb guitars are very much like the ones that came before them. There have been a few changes, but the core idea has remained the same. So how good are they?
NEW PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature: It Was Update Time!
In case you have been living under a rock in the Metal world, Mark Holcomb is the guitarist for Periphery. They have a new album coming out in March (exclusive review is coming soon!) and with the new album, Mark has released his new PRS Signature models. Periphery is most known for bringing “Djent” to the mainstream.
However, they certainly don’t like the term (Not that ANY of us do!). In fact the new album proudly proclaims “Djent Is Not A Genre”. All of the various Periphery albums usually have a pun or funny statement, and this one is no different. However, it is impossible to deny the effect the band has had on Modern Metal. So many bands buy 7 string guitars and down tune now. To the point of blatant copycat bands, making Metal more… homogenized.
While Periphery certainly made their mark with that particular sound, they have mostly moved away from it with newer music. Like most trailblazers, they had to change up the style a little to throw off the copycats. I would classify the band as “Progressive Metal” these days, and they have all but abandoned the old sound. Leaving the copycat bands in the dust.
The new PRS SE Mark Holcomb takes most of its cues from the original models, with some subtle differences. Mainly the Seymour Duncan Pickups that the guitar comes loaded with, and a brand new color. Like the original, these come in both a six and seven string models, with slightly different specs between the two.
The PRS Mark Holcomb has been around for 5 years now, and it certainly says a lot when you see him playing both the expensive USA models, as well as the SE models on stage with Periphery. I have even seen Mark do a few clinics with his SE models, and like most PRS artists, he seems like a proud father when he shows these guitars off. John Mayer is the same way with his Silver Sky SE.
So let’s dive in and check these beasts out! I was very impressed with the original models, and the PRS SE Mark Holcomb is just about the only way you are getting a 7 string from PRS. Sure, you can go with the custom shop, and there was another 7 string at one point. But as far as production models go, this is the best that PRS has to offer. Let’s check them out!
PRS SE Mark Holcomb Six And SVN: Features And Specs
We got to try out both of these models, and while we technically could do a separate review for both, it seems a little silly. The only difference between the two is the scale length, and the amount of strings. Otherwise, both models share the exact same features. We can talk about both, but my focus is on the 7 string model.
Not much has changed with the new PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature guitars. I mean, the original was pretty much perfect as it was. The main difference is going to be the pickups, but the construction remains the same. It uses familiar elements and features from the original:
- Mahogany Body
- Quilted Maple Top
- Maple Neck
- Ebony Fretboard
- “Wide Thin” Neck profile (Satin Finish)
- 25.5 or 26.5 Scale
- 20” Radius
- 24 Frets
- Seymour Duncan Scarlet Neck, and Scourge Bridge Pickup Set
- Volume And Tone Knob With Push/Pull Coil Split
- PRS Plate Style Bridge (String Thru)
- 3 Way Blade Switch
- Ivory Bound Fretboard
So, not a whole lot has changed with the 2023 PRS SE Mark Holcomb guitars. The construction is mostly the same with both models, and this is a good thing! The original models sold really well, and they received some glowing reviews. It it works, why change it? This is a common thread with most PRS artists, as they rarely change models.
The new PT Cort Factory that has been manufacturing the newer PRS SE guitars is making some huge waves in the industry. The sheer quality of these instruments is catching up quickly with other import companies, like World Music in Korea. But like we usually say, it doesn’t matter how well a guitar is made if it doesn’t feel great to play. So let’s dive in!
PRS SE Mark Holcomb Guitars: Out Of The Box…
If you are unfamiliar with our review process, we always check out new guitars right “out of the box”. With guitars like the PRS SE Mark Holcomb models, this is a store sample model since these are not for sale yet (They are ready for preorder!). But even with sample models, we still give the guitar the “right out of the box” treatment.
Well, “Out Of The Box” is not exactly fair when we are talking about PRS SE, since they come with a SOLID gig bag. Personally, I think every guitar over $1000 should come with a quality gig bag, and this is one of my main gripes with other companies. Not only does it ship better, and is more protected getting to the customer, but it is also great to have a case with a higher quality guitar. Hey Schecter, I am talking to you!
These are really nice gig bags and both of the PRS SE Mark Holcomb models come with one. The front pocket has room for pens and pencils, as well as a spot for your picks. I know its just a gig bag but it feels more like a quality product when you take it out of the box. And if you plan on gigging, gig bags are great choices over a hard case.
The Six String Model right out of the box looked great, and the quilted finish is really stunning in person. The back is just plain black, and this contrast is something I really love. The neck is a matte finish, and I wish more PRS SE models had this feature. Most players prefer a satin finish on the neck, and I rarely meet anyone that disagrees in the guitar community. More satin necks please!
The Ebony fretboard was a little dry, but that is expected this time of year. I have always liked the plain white birds over the pearl/abalone birds on PRS. The neck feels almost identical to the original, with the “Wide Thin” profile. This is somewhere in between a C shape and a U shape when it comes to necks. The flat radius makes it very easy to shred.
The Neck is definitely something unique, and it needed a slight turn on the truss rod to get the neck “dead straight”. But once the neck is straight, the action can be brought down super low. The PRS SE Mark Holcomb comes mostly setup, but the action can definitely get lower. We measured it right at 2mm, on the low E string. This is pretty standard for PRS, and this allows the guitar to be playable right out of the box for most guitarists.
The six string had a problem, though. The nut seems to still be the same plastic material that the older models came with. This was a weak point with the PRS SE Mark Holcomb models, and everyone that bought an original model replaced the nut immediately. This nut seems like a better material, maybe? But the high E, and B string slots were cut entirely too deep. This causes some serious buzz on the lower frets, especially frets 1-5, meaning this guitar needs a new nut.
So I am not sure what the nut material is made of, but I know most of the newer SE guitars have the “Carbon Brass” style nuts. It is not listed anywhere if this nut is the proprietary PRS material. So even if this is a better material, the slots were a little too deep right from the factory. Our main focus was going to be the SVN model, anyway.
Other than the nut, the entire construction is really great. The binding looks really well done, and it even serves a great purpose! The binding on the PRS SE Mark Holcomb models kind of hides any fret sprout that you may get this time of year. That being said, there were no high frets, or any sharp ends on this guitar.
Moving on to the PRS SE Mark Holcomb SVN model! This was my main focus, since PRS is not exactly known for making 7 string guitars. The neck is a totally unique experience for 7 string guitars. Right out of the gig bag, the top is stunning. This one has a little bit more blue in it than the 6 string version. I know these are just a veneer, but PRS really picks some great tops, even for the SE Line.
Again, the back is black and I love the contrast between the colorful top on the stark black backside. Again, we have a matte black neck, with the same “Wide Thin” profile. But the profile makes a bigger difference on the SVN model, to me. Since this is a 26.5 scale, with an extra string, the neck profile works a lot better on the SVN than on the six string. It is just about identical to the original PRS SE Mark Holcomb series SVN guitars.
The first thing I really gave any attention to was the nut, and it was cut perfectly on this guitar. Once we had it tuned up, it stayed that way and there was almost zero fret buzz. This one had a perfectly straight neck right out of the box, and the low B string was sitting right at 1.80mm. I would do absolutely nothing to this guitar as far as the setup goes. It was even intonated well, and plays perfectly.
That being said, both PRS SE Mark Holcomb models are super easy to set up if needed. The plate bridge is a very typical design and it is easy to get your action set (Like a Strat). The dual action truss rod is also easy to use on these guitars and a little turn goes a long way. There were no high frets, and no fret sprout up and down the neck. The SVN was absolutely perfect right out of the box.
Both guitars were perfect when it comes to the fit and finish, minus the nut problem on the 6 string. But they are both missing some key features at this price point. Personally, I would put a TUSQ nut on both of these, and add locking tuners. Which makes me wonder what PRS is thinking when it comes to these guitars. These are over $1000, and they don’t have locking tuners?
Almost every import company offers some kind of upgraded features when it comes to guitars in this price range. The PRS tuners are not awful or anything, and the nut on the SVN is cut perfectly. I understand we get some sweet pickups with this guitar, but where are the other upgrades? I know PRS likes to do everything “in house” but where are the features?
Everything is proprietary, and that is fine. You can do that if you want as a company, but some features are kind of expected at this price point. I think the PRS SE guitars are an amazing value for the quality you get when it comes to construction. But why can’t Cort make PRS locking tuners? These are minor gripes, but the entire 2023 SE lineup shares this problem. On to the good, rant over!
PRS SE Mark Holcomb: Review, Playing, And Sound
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb plays like a much more expensive instrument, which is why I am okay with overlooking some of my gripes. I spent most of my time with the SVN version, since it is exactly my style! I adore 7 string guitars with a baritone scale and they have become my weapon of choice. It seems like 26.5 is just about perfect for most 7 string guitars when it comes to string tension. Schecter is famous for using this recipe, and it just works!
The ultra-flat radius makes playing chords and solos very easy, and the string spacing is perfect on the Holcomb. It certainly does not feel like a 6 string guitar, but it is one of the most comfortable 7 string guitars I have ever played, on par with the Schecter KM7 MKIII. The neck is in between ESP and an Ibanez, which means there is a little bit of wood on the back, that fills out your hand. You have full access to the upper frets.
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb was tuned to standard when we got it, or at least it was close. I tuned it to Drop A, and it has great tension at this scale for drop tuning. I think Mark and Periphery go lower than that, and with a .65 as the bottom string you can go a little lower without getting floppy. Seriously, this guitar is a joy to play and I tried it out on several amps.
If you wonder what it is like to get used to a 26.5 scale length, it really isn’t that hard. When I first started using 26.5 and above, it took me a few days to really get used to playing comfortably. It does take some adjustments in your technique. You wouldn’t think the one inch divided across the fretboard would make that much of a difference, but it does. Especially if you want to use skinny strings and still tune low.
The guitar is light, and balanced well. This is a fantastic 7 string for anyone that wants to “try out” one. This would be a perfect transition from a 6 string to a 7 string. The construction is top notch, and the finish is beautiful. The neck is fast and slim, and only takes a little while to get used to, and you’ll wonder why all 7 strings are not a 26.5 scale!
But The Pickups Are The Star Of The Show:
The new Seymour Duncan Scourge And Scarlet pickups are totally different from the older set, the Alpha/Omega. I really expected the pickups to be really high output again, and made for chugging. The Alpha/Omega set lacked a LOT of bass response, and really pushed the mids in almost a harsh way. This new set is completely different, in all the right ways.
The Scourge in the bridge position is what you expect to find in this guitar. It does have some serious output, but it also sounds very smooth. The articulation is next level, and I have to wonder just how much further we can push clarity in passive pups? Even tuned down, every single note rings out without any harshness. We will get to split tones a little later, but it does that really well also.
The Scarlet in the neck position is also a pretty big surprise, as it has more of a hot PAF sound. This sounds great for solos, especially if you dial back the tone knob just a tad. This pickup also sounds really great clean with a little bit of reverb. Even the low A didn’t sound muddy, which is a treat when it comes to neck pickups on a 7 string.
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb really excels with this pickup set, where I think the older Alpha/Omega set held it back. These new pickups are voiced for a more general application, and a wider variety of players. You could even play some Drop A Jazz with the neck pickup!
What about the coil split you ask? Well I am glad you asked, since this is definitely a more impactful, more useful feature compared to the previous PRS SE Mark Holcomb models. The Alpha/Omega set always sounded too thin to me. I peeped the video of Mark talking about this guitar during the release the other day, and he explained how he used the coil tap when playing live:
Mark likes to set the pickup position in the middle with the coil split turned on for his clean tone, and it provides a beautiful, glassy tone. I added some reverb and delay with the BOSS Katana on the clean channel and it sounds incredible. It almost sounds like a Stratocaster, with the high end seriously tamed. Of course, it also works for that “scratchy” djent tone that we all know with the bridge pickup under some high gain.
I recorded you all some samples that I managed to get with STL Tones, and it sounds pretty great! I put the link below, and I think it sounds pretty awesome. I really just wanted to chug with this guitar, but the clean tones really are fantastic. Again, this is the SVN model, as we had to skip the 6 string. The Demo includes:
- Clean with effects/coil split
- Coil split with high gain
- All out chug (With STL Double Stereo Pedal)
PRS SE Mark Holcomb Six And SVN: Final Thoughts…
So the new PRS SE Mark Holcomb guitars make a few improvements over the older models, mostly with the pickups. I think the original Alpha/Omega Set were made specifically for Mark and that was the problem. Let me try and explain what I mean by that, because I think I have a point. I think a lot of us found those pickups off-putting because they were designed for Mark, to work in a 3 guitar band.
The pickups had to have a certain EQ to be able to stand out with 2 other guitarists in the mix. Not to mention, Periphery uses some backing tracks live as well. So I think the original signature pickups were tailored to that sound. Alone, they push the high-mids way too hard, but in his band context they probably fit in perfectly.
I really like PRS SE, and I think that the brand has come a long way from just a decade ago. In fact, some of these newer guitars are getting a little too close if you ask me, to the S2 lineup. But I do have some gripes with all of the hardware being proprietary to PRS. I want to see the upgrades that other guitars in this price range feature.
That being said, if you want to throw in a few extra bucks for a TUSQ nut, and locking tuners? You have a totally gig-worthy guitar with the PRS SE Mark Holcomb models. The pickups are more “all around” now, and can cater to many genres. It is still one of the best playing 7 strings on the market, and you can change a lot of things about a guitar. However “overall feel” is not a simple modification. So I wouldn’t mind doing a few upgrades to make this guitar ready for anything.
I think we will continue to see some really amazing guitars coming from the PRS Cort Factory. Sure, other brands work with Cort all the time, but PRS has its OWN factory with them. This makes a huge difference when the workers are working on just one brand. I looked over these guitars with a magnifying glass, and there are no imperfections in the finish. Just the nut issue, which I would change immediately anyway.
The PRS SE line gets closer and closer to the Core Line every year, and definitely closer to the S2 Line. I think PRS has finally realized that the SE line is extremely popular. Now the Core Lineup will always be there, along with the Wood Library and Private Stock for those that can afford it. But we will eventually see the S2 Line Phase out? I mean, the new SE models are VERY close.
The new PRS SE Mark Holcomb really makes me look at the S2 Lineup a lot differently. The gap is definitely closing between the SE and S2 models. I suppose “Made In USA” means something to some guitarists. But honestly? I think the Holcomb outplays my old S2 Custom 24 by a long shot. Something for PRS to think about this coming year!
The first batch of PRS SE Mark Holcomb models are set to ship by the end of January 2023. So if you want one before Summer, I would definitely go ahead a pre-order one! These will probably go pretty fast!