PRS SE Series Guitars: The Ultimate Noob’s Guide [2023]

PRS SE Series Guitars The Ultimate Noob’s Guide [2023]
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If you’re just getting au fait with guitar brands and you want to more about PRS SE series guitars, ELECTRIKJAM’s got your back. Here’s everything you need to know… 

In the sprawling realm of guitar innovation, PRS guitars have surged ahead, challenging legacy giants like Fender and Gibson. 

Its trump card? The SE series. 

While these models are more budget-friendly than the Core series, they are in no way short on quality, design, and sound. 

Dive in as we unravel the allure of the SE range and its value proposition for guitar aficionados.

And stick around until the end because we’re going to be going through all the latest models and detailing which is best for anyone who’s looking to upgrade from a cheap, beginner guitar

History of PRS Guitars

Paul Reed Smith

Before delving into the intricacies of the SE series, we must first journey through the rich tapestry of PRS Guitars’ history.

Nestled in the heart of Maryland, USA, PRS Guitars was birthed from the vision and passion of Paul Reed Smith in 1985. It wasn’t merely the inception of a company; it was the beginning of a legacy.

In the early days, Smith, with a blend of dedication and artistry, began crafting custom guitars primarily for local musicians in Maryland.

These weren’t just any guitars; they were masterpieces, each echoing Smith’s meticulous attention to detail. Word of his impeccable craftsmanship spread like wildfire, turning heads not only locally but also in neighboring states.

By the dawn of the 1990s, PRS Guitars had already marked its first significant milestone with the release of its Custom 24 model, which became a sensation in the music industry.

This model’s success paved the way for the company to experiment and diversify its offerings, catering to both the high-end market and the everyday musician.

By the mid-90s, PRS was selling over 10,000 guitars annually, a number that would double by the end of the decade. This exponential growth was not just limited to the US market.

By the early 2000s, PRS Guitars had established a solid global footprint, with dealerships in Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Today, PRS Guitars stands tall with a plethora of product lines, each tailored to distinct market segments.

From the premium Private Stock series to the more affordable SE series, PRS as a brand is locked into a near-constant upwards pitch.

Introduction of the SE Series

PRS SE 245

The SE was introduced in the early 2000s. The SE series was created to offer a more affordable option for guitarists who wanted the PRS experience without the price tag of the American-made models.

The idea was to produce a line of guitars that maintained the essence of PRS’s design and sound quality while making it accessible to a broader audience.

But in order to do this it had to come up with a way of making them cheaper to build without losing any of that PRS quality.

What Does SE Stand For on PRS Guitars? 

‘SE’ in PRS guitars translates to ‘Student Edition’. Originally crafted for budding guitar enthusiasts and those progressing to intermediate levels, the SE lineup aimed to strike a balance between cost and quality. 

But don’t be fooled by the ‘Student’ tag. Several of today’s top music icons swear by the SE models, attesting to their expansive range and dynamism.

I am not what you’d consider a “top music icon” but my PRS SE Standard 24 has been my daily driver for the better part of two years now, and I have no intention of switching it out any time soon. 

It’s pivotal to underscore that while the SE models have their differences from the PRS Core versions, they aren’t just cheap knockoffs. 

Their competitive pricing stems from increased production in facilities outside PRS’s primary Maryland, US hub. 

Yet, they encapsulate many traits characteristic of PRS’s elite range, notably the quality of the neck, the overall finish, and the bloody stunning tones you get from the pickups.

Where Are PRS SE Guitars Made?

where are PRS guitars made

PRS SE guitars are manufactured in Indonesia, specifically at the PT Cort factory. This decision was not made lightly. PRS spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that the factory met their stringent quality standards.

The collaboration between PRS and the PT Cort factory has resulted in guitars that offer an excellent balance between quality and price. Cort makes many OEM guitars, but PRS has its own factory subdivision, with PRS-specific workers.

Every PRS SE guitar undergoes a rigorous quality control process. Once the guitars are crafted in Indonesia, they are shipped to the PRS headquarters in Maryland.

Here, they undergo further inspections and setups to ensure they align with PRS’s quality expectations. This final inspection is done to every guitar.

This dual-layer quality control process ensures that every PRS SE guitar maintains the brand’s reputation for excellence.


PRS SE Guitars Features

  • Timber Choices: Both the SE series and their high-end kin predominantly utilize Mahogany and Flamed Maple tops. This forms the foundation for the body and neck of the SE guitars, and it looks as good as it sounds. 
  • Sound Profile: The SE PRS guitar’s sonic output can stand toe-to-toe with its American counterparts. Their tonal persona is unmistakably PRS – rich, lively, and harmonious.
  • Design Nuances: You can’t broach PRS guitars without acknowledging their signature flying bird inlays, a testament to the brand’s penchant for precision.
  • Pickup Power: While top-tier PRS guitars may have a slight advantage, the SE models are close contenders. They deliver impressive tonal attributes that even a discerning ear would appreciate.

PRS SE Pickups: What’re Your Options?

PRS SE 277

When it comes to the type of pickups used inside PRS SE guitars, there’s quite a lot of different options and configurations.

Here’s everything you need to know about PRS’ legacy SE models (we’ll cover the new 2024 models at the end):

  • SE Standard & Custom: Pickups: PRS-designed SE 85/15 pickups. These are inspired by the 85/15 pickups Paul Reed Smith designed for PRS’s 30th Anniversary and aim to capture a full tonal range while retaining clarity.
  • SE Paul’s Guitar: Pickups: TCi (Tuned Capacitance and Inductance) pickups. Paul Reed Smith worked with John Mayer on these for the Silver Sky model, and they have since found a home in the SE Paul’s Guitar.
  • SE Hollowbody Standard & Custom: Pickups: 58/15 “S” pickups. Designed to capture a vintage vibe but with the added clarity that modern players often seek.
  • SE 277: Pickups: SE 85/15 pickups, but with modifications suited for the baritone tuning of this model.
  • SE Santana: Pickups: PRS-designed SE Santana humbuckers. These aim to capture Carlos Santana’s signature smooth and articulate tone.
  • SE Mark Tremonti & Tremonti Standard: Pickups: Tremonti “S” pickups. These are designed in collaboration with Mark Tremonti to meet the demands of his heavy playing style.
  • SE Zach Myers: Pickups: 245 “S” pickups. They aim to give a vintage tone that’s well-suited for the semi-hollow design of this model.
  • SE Kingfisher & Kestrel Basses: Pickups: PRS-designed SE bass pickups, optimized for clarity and punch to suit diverse playing styles.
  • Signature SE Models: These often have unique pickups tailored to the artist’s preference. For instance, the SE Mark Holcomb model features his signature Seymour Duncan Alpha & Omega pickups.
  • SE Silver Sky: Pickups: 635JM “S” pickups, based on John Mayer’s Silver Sky model with PRS. They are designed to provide a clear tone with a musical high end.

Why PRS’ SE Brand Matters

Why John Mayer Ditched Fender For PRS

Paul Reed Smith’s legendary PRS Custom 24 set a gold standard in guitar craftsmanship and acoustics. The SE collection, albeit with its nuances, stands as a torchbearer to this heritage. The PRS Custom SE 24, in particular, has clinched praise for delivering unparalleled value in its price bracket.

This is the model I own and I can tell you, it is utterly, utterly badass. It plays better than my Gibson Les Paul and it sounds better too, whether I’m cranking the fuzz or kicking back with some delay and reverb. 

With a slew of Signature SE models co-engineered with music stalwarts, including John Mayer, who ditched Fender to move to PRS, the SE lineup runs literal rings around Fender’s Squier brand of cost-effective Fender guitars in every area that counts. 

Where brands like Squier are marketed as entry-level, cheap guitars, PRS’ SE lineup is kind of a mid-range offering that sits above them in price (and quality) but still keeps things well below the cost of a proper Fender / Gibson / PRS / Charvel model. 

Bottom line? If you’re an intermediate or even advanced player, I think you’ll find plenty to like inside PRS’ SE lineup of guitars. Its new 2024 models are devastatingly good-looking too, picking up where the now-iconic OG SE models left off. 

What’s The Best PRS SE Guitar For Me? 

new PRS SE models 2024

PRS’ SE lineup is pretty extensive these days, so finding the right model for your own specific needs will depend on what you want from a guitar. 

You’ll find left-handed models, semi-hollow models and everything else in between inside PRS’ SE range of guitars and because of their insanely versatile pickups, you can get any kind of tone out of them you like.

Price will always be a big motivating factor, as will things like whether or not you want a floating trem. Again, the range aims to cater to all types of players, and there really is something from everyone. 

But for most people, the PRS SE Standard 24 is going to be all you ever need from a guitar. It’s well priced, it can play any style of music from jazz to doom metal and it plays wonderfully well, way better than my Gibson Les Paul Standard and as good as my Fender Telecaster (and its about $400 cheaper).

PRS SE 2024 Lineup [TL;DR]

  • Custom (e.g., SE Custom 24, SE Custom 24 “Lefty”, SE Custom 24-08)
  • McCarty (e.g., SE McCarty 594, SE McCarty 594 Singlecut)
  • CE (e.g., SE CE 24)
  • Standard (e.g., SE Standard 24-08, SE Hollowbody Standard)
  • Hollowbody (e.g., SE Hollowbody II Piezo)
  • Specialty models (e.g., SE Swamp Ash Special)
  • Extended Range guitars (e.g., SE 277, SE Mark Holcomb SVN)
  • Signature models (e.g., SE Mark Tremonti, SE Santana, SE Silver Sky Maple)

Check out the full lineup here – prices start from around $799.99


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6 responses to “PRS SE Series Guitars: The Ultimate Noob’s Guide [2023]”

  1. Bob Alexander Avatar
    Bob Alexander

    Paul Reed Smith SE Guitars have been my favorites for 15 years. Currently have Silver Sky, PRS Korina One, Santana

    1. Richard Avatar

      That’s a solid collection! I have the Standard SE but I do really, really like the look of the Silver Sky.

    2. Christoper Horton Avatar

      The silver Sky is amazing, Bob! That’s a lot of guitar for the price.

    3. Christoper Horton Avatar

      Those Korina models were amazing! I wish they still made them. However the newest ones with the matte finish are definitely cool. I cannot believe they are 500 bucks!

  2. David Pinson Avatar
    David Pinson

    Just a minor correction for your article. The SE models are now manufactured in Indonesia at the Cort factory

    1. Christoper Horton Avatar

      They are manufactured in the PT Cort facility now, David. Thank you!

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