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