longterm test

A few months’ gig­ging, record­ing and ev­ery­thing that goes with it – wel­come to Gui­tarist’s longterm test re­ports PRS S2 Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle

Guitarist - - Contents - with Dave Bur­rluck Dave Bur­rluck Gear re­views edi­tor, Gui­tarist In this ex­tended edi­tion of Longter­m­ers, our re­views edi­tor pre­pares the Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle and com­pares it with the real thing – in a David ver­sus Go­liath-style show­down!

The idea of build­ing our own ‘PRS Su­per Ea­gle II’ started off as a bit of a jape, and some hours into the re­build of a PRS S2 Cus­tom 22 Semi-Hol­low I was think­ing I might have drawn the short straw. I’d started off by strip­ping the chas­sis of its parts, cut­ting back the non-cur­rent opaque black fin­ish and hand-buff­ing it back to an ebony-like sheen. It’s a job and a half, but I was pleased with the re­sults: it looked like a guitar that had been well used for a cou­ple of decades. As soon as I was done, I re­ceived a call from PRS Europe’s su­per-sales­man, Jez Ayscough, an­nounc­ing a pos­si­ble au­di­ence with the real £11k Su­per Ea­gle II John Mayer sig­na­ture in a cou­ple of days’ time. I sud­denly needed to fin­ish the Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle rather more quickly than I’d an­tic­i­pated.

It was the electrics that con­cerned me. Yes, I had a pair of PRS 57/08s – the clos­est I could get to the Su­per Ea­gle’s Mayer-spec ’buck­ers.You can’t buy a mini-hum­buck­ing Nar­row­field, so Chris Ge­orge had routed a stan­dard sin­gle-coil-sized hole for the mid­dle pickup. With­out time to con­sider the best fit, it was back to the ‘bits box’ where I found a DiMarzio Area 58 hum-can­celling, sin­gle-coil­sized hum­bucker and, hey, the 58 bit tied in with the ’57 bit of the PRS pick­ups. Throw me a piece of straw and I’ll clutch at it.

Mayer’s Su­per Ea­gle cir­cuit is su­per­com­plex with coil-splits for all three pick­ups plus an ac­tive preamp and a tre­ble boost. It’s laid out in a very dif­fer­ent way to the S2, so I needed to com­pro­mise. I ditched the idea of split­ting the cen­tre DiMarzio, which meant I’d only need two coil-split switches; in­stead of the two ac­tive switches of the Mayer model, I’d just need one for an EMG PA2. To add my own spin, I planned to in­stall a ‘Seven Strat’ mod via a push/push switch on the tone con­trol, which adds, in this case, the bridge pickup to the neck, plus – with the se­lec­tor on neck and mid­dle – all three pick­ups.

With care­ful thought and even more care­ful mea­sure­ment, I drilled two holes for the coil-split switches (SPDT) be­tween the tone con­trol and the end of the new five-way lever switch. I pon­dered the PA2’s po­si­tion­ing for even longer, de­cid­ing the only place it could go is be­hind the vol­ume con­trol. The wiring proved rea­son­ably com­plex, and if you’re con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar mod then be pre­pared to put the time in. If you’re not con­fi­dent, seek out a pro who prob­a­bly won’t for­get about the nine-volt block bat­tery for the EMG preamp like I did… I just about found room and, af­ter a cou­ple of false starts, it all worked. The only blip was the cover for that DiMarzio: the white cover it came with is over­sized and I didn’t have a black one. The naked pickup looks pretty cool, though – it’d just have to do.

I knocked the edge off the nickel plat­ing on the vi­brato, strap but­tons and a bit more from the nickel vi­brato screws and scratch­plate screws, plus I added ebony but­tons to the chromed PRS tuners, just like Mayer. I didn’t have time to re­place the fric­tion-re­duc­ing nut with a bone blank I’d bought be­cause re­fit­ting the parts, string­ing up and set­ting up still had to be done.

De­spite the speed and com­pro­mises, its first play test proved that it’s cer­tainly a

ver­sa­tile con­cept – more so than the stan­dard S2 model. But how will the ap­prox­i­mately £2k S2 Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle hold up to the real thing? Time to meet our in­spi­ra­tion.

Wake-Up Call

Read­ers, not to men­tion mates, of­ten ask, “can it re­ally be worth that money?” when it comes to in­stru­ments that have stel­lar price tags, es­pe­cially new ones. As I opened the Su­per Ea­gle’s brown pais­ley cov­ered case, any hopes of a “we mod­ded a guitar that’s bet­ter than the real one” type head­line faded away like our na­tional foot­ballers’ hope of ever re­claim­ing the World Cup. I thought we might be in with a chance… What was I think­ing?

The Su­per Ea­gle II is laugh­ably good – as it should be – and you sim­ply can’t fail to be im­pressed by the craft of the luthier. But what does it sound like? I’m no Dead­head, but hav­ing spent a con­sid­er­able amount of time lis­ten­ing to con­cert clips, it’s ob­vi­ous that John Mayer uses his Su­per Ea­gles in a pri­mary clean zone us­ing other PRSes for gainier sounds. He doesn’t seem to use the vi­brato, ei­ther.

The Su­per Ea­gle has bags of Strat-iness but not a sharp, harsh edge any­where; there’s ex­cep­tional sus­tain, res­o­nance and clar­ity mar­ried with smooth­ness and bite in equal mea­sure. It might look over-blinged (to some), but it’s a com­plete tool­box of sounds that mixes the clas­sic flavours into a hugely orig­i­nal dish that’s sub­tle or pow­er­ful: you choose. The preamp doesn’t boost the sig­nal but adds ‘high def­i­ni­tion’. With the pick­ups split and the vol­ume pulled back it’s a real ‘pro­duced’ Strat voice. The tre­ble boost (again re­mark­ably sub­tle; it just adds a touch more clar­ity) widens the sound, if you like, and once you get your head around the com­plex drive, it’s sur­pris­ingly in­tu­itive.

Our Not-So-Su­per Ea­gle does a sim­i­lar job of pro­vid­ing a wide range of sub­tle tonal shades that cer­tainly drop into the same Dead & Com­pany pal­ette, but I’d be ly­ing if I said that it ap­proached the clar­ity, res­o­nance and dy­namic range of­fered by the real thing.

Then there’s that preamp, which cre­ates its ‘HD’ ef­fect by mov­ing the guitar from pas­sive to ac­tive. My EMG preamp is ac­tive in both on/off modes, so it’s re­ally do­ing a dif­fer­ent job, although hav­ing a lit­tle boost to hand is kind of fun to ei­ther add mod­ern clar­ity to the sin­gle coils or a slight kick to the ’buck­ers.

Af­ter its first gig, how­ever, I still felt there was fur­ther to go. I cut a bone nut and re­placed the orig­i­nal vi­brato with an older PRS USA two-piece brass de­sign. Bet­ter? Well, it re­ally does feel like a much older used PRS, a guitar with con­sid­er­able charm (and less ‘ev­ery­day’, if that’s the right word), com­pared with the stan­dard un­mod­ded model. It’s fur­ther proof that PRS’s S2-level gui­tars are very good, vi­able work­ing gui­tars – with or with­out any mods – and if we failed to em­u­late the real thing, we cer­tainly cre­ated some­thing that’s not only unique (the only PRS S2 HSH guitar in ex­is­tence!) but a tool with con­sid­er­able sonic po­ten­tial. And while it’s the end of this Longterm Test, it feels like it’s just the start of a jour­ney with a new friend…

“There’s ex­cep­tional sus­tain, res­o­nance and clar­ity mar­ried with smooth­ness and bite”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.