longterm test

A few months’ gig­ging, record­ing and ev­ery­thing that goes with it – wel­come to Gui­tarist’s longterm test re­ports

Guitarist - - Contents -

When I saw the an­nounce­ment of an­other £10k PRS/John Mayer Su­per Ea­gle col­lab­o­ra­tion, I thought it’s just an­other ex­am­ple of rock star ex­cess, a gui­tar for col­lec­tors to pol­ish and put un­der their bed. Grr.

Okay, I’m jeal­ous of those who can af­ford such in­stru­ments; I’m jeal­ous of John Mayer, if I’m hon­est. But while many ‘col­lec­tor’s level’ in­stru­ments leave me cold, I have to say I find the Su­per Ea­gle in­trigu­ing. It’s also a very, well, un-PRS-like gui­tar. Firstly, it’s ac­tive. Yes, tone­hounds, that’s a no-no be­fore we start, isn’t it? Se­condly, it has an HSH pickup lay­out, which is for met­al­heads, not us cork-sniff­ing tone gurus, right? Thirdly, it’s a semi-solid dou­ble-cut with a vi­brato.

So here we have one of the big­gest gui­tar play­ers on the planet who’s a PRS player yet PRS can only be both­ered to make a gui­tar like his that costs £10k. You know what? We’ll make one our­selves. How hard can it be?

There are (more than) a few prob­lems. What can I use for the ba­sis of this ma­jor mod? There are no semi-hol­low gui­tars in PRS’s Core USA line. There are two Hol­low­body dou­ble-cuts, but nei­ther has a vi­brato. The clos­est would be the Re­claimed Lim­ited CE24 Semi-Hol­low, but that’s made of some ex­clu­sive wood, and while it proved pop­u­lar, it’s a bolt-on and even if I could get one, as a lim­ited piece it has a value that I’m not sure I’d want to di­min­ish. There is the SE Cus­tom 22 Semi-Hol­low, but that’s hard­tail-only. So there’s only one real choice: the S2-level Cus­tom 22 Semi-Hol­low, which, un­like the SE ver­sion, comes with a vi­brato.

But that still leaves us with a few is­sues. It’s a 22-fret gui­tar, not a 24-fret like Mayer’s. It has twin hum­buck­ers, not an HSH lay­out (aside from the Su­per Ea­gle, PRS only makes one of those, the solid­body 509). The Mayer gui­tar uses a unique 644.5mm (25.375inch) scale length; the S2 Cus­tom 22 Semi­Hol­low is shorter at 635mm (25 inches). And ob­vi­ously, Mayer’s sig­na­ture pick­ups aren’t avail­able to buy, nor the ac­tive cir­cuit. Luck­ily, PRS Europe had a S2 Cus­tom 22 Semi-Hol­low that had had a head­stock break. It’d been pro­fes­sion­ally re­paired and the neck re­fin­ished. Perfect. A deal was struck, plus we pur­chased a set of 57/08 hum­buck­ers. Our not-so-Su­per Ea­gle was in build!

Be­fore I got to the question of what elec­tron­ics to in­stall, a ma­jor mod – that cen­tral sin­gle coil – needed to be sorted. Clearly, this is a non-re­versible mod and a bit be­yond me. How­ever, with a trip to luthier Chris Ge­orge in my diary to sort a rather ma­jor is­sue with one of my gui­tars (you can read about that in next is­sue’s Longterm Test…), it’s time to get a pro in­volved. I stripped the parts off the S2 and let Chris do the rout­ing. A while later we had the cav­ity done for the first S2 HSH gui­tar.

Our all-black car­rier hides a maple top and semi-hol­low mahogany back, so to give it the re­quired Mayer-es­que ap­pear­ance, I was go­ing to need to re­move the fin­ish, at least from the top. But as Chris had be­gun rout­ing the new pickup cav­ity, we could see that the maple top, clearly of a very good qual­ity, didn’t have an ounce of tiger-striped flame. Ob­vi­ously, you wouldn’t use a nicely fig­ured slice of maple for an opaque black gui­tar. What was I think­ing?

Well, I did think about start­ing again with a dif­fer­ent chas­sis, but in its naked state the S2 has con­sid­er­able ap­peal, not least its light weight. If I re­duce the gloss of the body to match the neck it might give some co­he­sion… I could age the nickel parts and pickup cov­ers. Plan B was sorted: a more clas­sic take on the Su­per Ea­gle. Time to get busy.

“While many col­lec­tor’s in­stru­ments leave me cold, I have to say the Su­per Ea­gle is in­trigu­ing”

PRS S2 Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle with Dave Bur­rluck

Our gear re­views edi­tor takes a PRS S2 Cus­tom 22 Semi‑Hol­low and plans to turn it into a John Mayer Su­per Ea­gle II. Easy! Writer Dave Bur­rluck Gear re­views edi­tor, Gui­tarist

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