The PRS SE Silver Sky is the most talked about guitar release right now. It seems like every YouTube video is about this guitar. I got to play one this week at a local dealer. Is it worth the hype?
The PRS SE Silver Sky: It Is Finally Here!
Let’s get something out of the way before we really dig into this guitar review. I am shamelessly a huge fan of John Mayer. To me, he is a conundrum. John is quite a mysterious person when it comes to his own music. There is no doubt that he is a wonderful addition to Dead And Company, and he fills the shoes of Jerry Garcia. Many guitarists would be scared to death to play with the Grateful Dead, but John took the gig and he does a fantastic job.
Where the mystery comes in, is in his own music. Lately, John has done a whole album of “Yacht Rock” and I honestly cannot tell if he is just trolling the entire world…or he is being completely serious. Because the idea of bringing back a music genre that should probably stay dead…is just very bizarre. But there are so many other albums that John has made over the years that really show off his guitar playing.
I dismissed John Mayer for years, until I heard his Blues Trio album. This was a live album that was flawless, and had some serious guitar shredding throughout the show. I was blown away, and I immediately searched for his albums. I found the “Continuum” album, and every song really spoke to me. It was the perfect fusion of blues and jazz, and this album showed that John was not just a pop star. He has some serious chops as a Berklee dropout.
But then, for whatever reason, there is no other album as good as “Continuum”. The other albums are mostly pop music, and while I don’t dislike the songs, I also know that he is capable of much more complex music. This is the mystery of John Mayer to me. If he can play guitar at such a high level, why does he stick to simple pop songs? It’s almost frustrating to think of what he could do if he was a dedicated blues guitarist. He has played with Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and countless other legends.
But whatever, John. Do what makes you happy. I can’t make you create good music, dude. You’re rich and you can do whatever you want with your music. But if you, dear reader, are the type of person that has always thought John Mayer was just a pop star, I assure you he is a great guitar player and you should check out some of his less popular songs like “Neon”.
The PRS SE Silver Sky is the more affordable version of the USA-made Silver Sky. John is known for his guitar tone just as much as he is known for his playing. John was with Fender for over a decade when he made the switch to PRS. People were a little surprised, since the Stratocaster is such an important part of John’s tone. The single coil pickups and his custom Two-Rock Amplifiers is the “sound” of John Mayer.
But Paul Reed Smith was up for the challenge when it came to designing a “Strat” for John. In fact, when the Silver Sky first came out, it was the subject of tons of controversy. It was called “an expensive Fender rip off” by initial reviewers. Then, people started to play the PRS Silver Sky models, and they realized just how wrong that first impression was. The Silver Sky was not just another Stratocaster copy, it was unique in a lot of ways.
So I had the chance to try out the promo model that my local shop received. Luckily, this shop is a PRS dealer, and they had the PRS SE Silver Sky, as well as the American counterpart. So I had the luxury of being able to compare the two and go back and forth between them. Is the hype warranted? Let’s dig into the PRS SE Silver Sky!
PRS SE Silver Sky: Features And Design
Spoiler Alert: The PRS SE Silver Sky is a really great guitar, and it exceeded all of my expectations. This is saying a lot, because I hold PRS up to a very high standard. Whether it is the USA models, or the PRS SE imports, these guitars are known for their detail and craftsmanship. The PRS SE Silver Sky is everything you expect it to be, but there are a few differences from the USA model.
I honestly cannot review the PRS SE Silver Sky without comparing it to the USA version. Because when it comes to the design, they are almost identical. There are a few tiny details between the import SE model, and the USA version that we will get to later. But I absolutely have to compare the two.
The USA PRS Silver Sky was a collaborative design between John and Paul Reed Smith. John had a 60’s Fender that he loved, and the neck of the Silver Sky was patterned after that vintage guitar. The Silver Sky may look like “just a Strat” to most people, but there are differences where it counts. Let’s take a look at the specs of the PRS SE Silver Sky:
- Poplar Body
- Bolt-on Maple Neck
- 25.5” Scale
- 22 Frets
- 8.5” Fretboard Radius
- Synthetic Bone Nut
- Vintage Style Tuners
- 2 Point Trem System
- 635JM Neck Profile (Based On His 60’s Strat)
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- Classic Bird Inlays
- Three 635JM Pickups
- Comes With PRS SE Gig Bag
Let’s start at the top and work our way down! The headstock of the PRS SE Silver Sky is the familiar look of all PRS headstocks. But this is for a good reason, and it’s not just an aesthetic decision. The PRS headstock has a proper angle, so it does not need string retainers past the nut. The break angle is perfect and the strings are balanced properly. This is a little “fix” that Paul made since neither Fender or Gibson do headstocks like this. fenders need string trees, and Gibson guitars like to break at the neck joint.
The tuners are “vintage style” and they are non-locking. However, the gear ration is pretty fine, which makes tuning up easy and precise. The synthetic bone nut is a great feature and the one I tried was perfectly cut. The bone nut will be very important if you plan on using the whammy bar. But even if you don’t use the trem system, the nut is one of the most important parts of a guitar since it is usually the culprit when it comes down to tuning issues. Bone nuts assure that the strings don’t catch or “bind”.
The neck feels like a vintage Strat, with maybe a little bit more of a chunky feeling. The frets have a “narrow tall” feel to them, and are a smidgen thicker than a Fender. Something about the neck that may take getting used to is the radius. Sitting at 8.5”, the fretboard has slightly more curve than a Fender. This means that super-low action is not going to work. But the action was set from the factory relatively low, and it was easy to play. This neck is easier to play than my Schecter NJ, which is saying a lot!
The PRS SE Silver Sky neck is satin, and looks to be a one piece neck with a scarf joint at the headstock. The satin feel is exactly what I like when it comes to Strat style guitars. Currently, all models have a smooth Rosewood fretboard with the classic bird inlays. I just can’t stress enough how comfortable the neck is to play.
The body is made of Poplar, and the PRS SE Silver Sky weighs about 7.5 lbs. The body contours are identical to the USA version, including the special “scoop” on the bottom horn that allows you to get all the way up to the 22nd fret with ease. The control layout is the same as the USA version (Volume/Tone/Tone), and you get the same quality plastics and pickguard.
The PRS SE Silver Sky has a two point trem system that you see on many Fender guitars. I was very surprised to see a full-size sustain block in the back cavity! You also get a nice “push in” style arm, instead of one that screws in. The push in arm has a set screw that you can adjust. This is common these days with the push in trem arms, and it’s a great feature.
The big question though, is does the trem system stay in tune? Yes, it actually does! Just like the Schecter Nick Johnston, this trem system has no problem staying in tune since the nut is so well cut. I feel like it would be easier to use if we could have removed a spring. It comes with 4 springs installed from what I could tell. Unfortunately this was the store sample model, and I wasn’t allowed to modify it.
The pickups are the SE version of John’s custom 635JM pickups. These pickups get their name from a 1960’s Fender Strat that John loved, particularly the pickups. The USA version of the pickups are dialed in almost exactly to John’s 60’s specs. They sound like a very low output pickup, with a little bit of the midrange cut out. This may be a call back to John’s first custom pickup set; “The Big Dippers”.
The neck pickup sounds fat and full, but also extremely clear. I generally don’t like mid scooped sounds, but this was easy to fix by just turning up the midrange on the amp. The “in between” positions have a nice quack sound to them, just as they should, but even the middle pickup has good bass frequencies. I usually never use the bridge pickup of a Strat, but this one doesn’t have that “ice pick” sound at all. In fact, with a bit of gain, you have a great lead tone. It is just a full, fat tone.
Unlike most Strat style guitars, the PRS Silver Sky pickups are all three identical. This is a little weird for a 3 single coil guitar. Usually the middle and bridge pickups have different output values, and different model numbers. But the Silver Sky uses the same pickup, just in 3 different positions. This gives you a balanced tone across all 5 switch positions.
So all together, for under $1000, this is one hell of a deal if you like Strat style guitars. But how does it compare to it’s bigger brother from the USA? Is it even fair to compare the two guitars? The answer may surprise you!
PRS SE Silver Sky: USA Comparison
As I said at the beginning, I got to try both of these guitars together. I was plugged into a Fender Twin, and I had a BOSS Blues Driver in front of the amp. I did not change the settings once I had them dialed in for the USA Silver Sky. I tried to make the comparison as fair as possible. The results I got, were incredibly surprising.
As far as the “feel” goes between the two guitars, the first difference you notice is the neck radius. The PRS SE Silver Sky has an 8.5” radius, while the American version has the vintage 7.25”. This might be a big deal for some people, but personally I like the slightly flatter radius of the SE model. I honestly think the reason they did this, was because it takes a lot of attention to get a 7.25” radius to play well. You have more room for error when it comes to the mass produced PRS SE Silver Sky’s 8.5” radius, and it is easier to keep set up by the owner.
The two point trem is different as well. But I actually like the two point better than the USA model’s vintage style. Also to point out, the USA Silver Sky ships to you with the trem “decked” and it does not come with a back cover. You can set the USA model up to be floating, but the PRS SE Silver Sky comes ready for whammy action, if not a little stiff. The SE model also has a back plate.
The 22-fret, 25.5” scale length neck includes the original 635JM carve profile and an 8.5” fretboard radius. Its sound is driven by a trio of single-coil 635JM “S” pickups, with master volume and two tone controls, and a five-way pickup switch. Other Features include the PRS Silver Sky inverted headstock shape, PRS double-acting truss rod, two-point steel tremolo, synthetic bone nut and vintage-style tuners. Comes with a gig bag.
The construction on the USA model feels just a tad more solid. But this could also be my brain playing tricks on me? Both guitars are built well, and if I had to pick out something regarding the construction…maybe the paint is a little nicer on the USA model? Really, I don’t feel much of a difference between the two. If anything, I enjoy the satin neck on the SE more than the USA model.
This may be a little controversial of me to say, but I like the pickups on the PRS SE Silver Sky quite a bit more than the USA model. The SE model’s pickups have a little more bass and “oomph” to them, which I like! The USA model is very bright sounding, as you would expect. Now, of course you can adjust the amp to accommodate the USA Silver Sky and beef it up a little. But I was surprised that I liked the SE model’s pickups so much!
The PRS SE model has great fretwork, but not quite as nice as the USA model. The USA model has hand-rolled edges up and down the neck. This treatment takes a lot of time and effort from someone that knows what they are doing. The PRS SE version might not have rolled edges, but there is no fret sprout. The neck is super comfy and while rolled edges are nice, they aren’t essential.
Tuning stability, intonation, and everything else is on par with the USA Core model. The PRS SE Silver Sky isn’t just a cheaper version of the USA model. If anything, it compliments the USA version. I wish I had something really awful to say about the PRS SE Silver Sky, but I don’t. In fact, if I am being completely honest...I didn’t want to like this guitar. Here, let John tell you about it:
PRS SE Silver Sky: The Verdict
Like I said, I wish I had something to complain about when it comes to this guitar. Even if it were just something small to nitpick about, I would feel better. I hold PRS up to a seriously high standard. Hell, I used to be a PRS player! I never owned an SE model, since both of mine were USA models. They were some of the best guitars I ever played, and the attention to detail was absolutely insane. I only moved to Schecter because it suits my style better.
If you told me that this was an American PRS, and let me play it, I would believe you. This is a seriously high quality guitar, and I cant believe that it’s under $1000. In fact, this is priced right at $850. Just like the Fender Player Series. I don’t think for one second that this pricing is on accident. This is made to compete with MIM Fender guitars, and it will. Let me also say this, since things are not normal in the world:
You can go ahead and order a PRS SE Silver Sky. PRS has said that the company will be doing small batches of all four colors at first. Later this year they will ramp up the production to higher numbers. This guitar is going to be in very high demand, so I implore you: Please don’t be a poacher, and buy tons of these only to resell them at a higher price. These will be limited for a while, and it would be a real dick move to try and rip people off to make a quick buck.
Congrats to PRS. John and Paul Reed Smith knocked it out of the park yet again. This is a really great deal if you are in the market for a Strat Style guitar, and Fender just doesn’t cut it for you. If you want one, I would go ahead and order it NOW.
Is The PRS SE Silver Sky Worth It?
Absolutely! This is not just the affordable model of John Mayer’s guitar. This is a gig-ready guitar that is made to very high specs. It feels high end, and sounds really great! It comes set up and ready to play out of the box.
Does The PRS SE Silver Sky Come With A Case?
This guitar comes with a great PRS gig bag. It is well padded, and ready for your next show.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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