Guitarist

UNDER THE HOOD

We’re promised USA pickups and electrics. What do we get?

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The scratchpla­te-mounted pickups and electrics mean it’s only the side-mounted output jack that isn’t part of the assembly. Removing the Vela’s 10-screw plate you see that the neck cavity is routed for a humbucker, not just the smaller Narrowfiel­d, plus the full-width neck tongue sits into the body (as is usual for a PRS), across the full width of the rout. And, yes, the components certainly ape those in a typical Core level model. The volume pot has a nominal 500kohms value and uses PRS’s standard 180pF treble bleed capacitor; the tone cap appears to be the standard IC .033ˆf, while the pull-push pot, again rated at 500k, also uses a 2.2k resistor to achieve the partial coil-split. The right-angled toggle switch appears to be Switchcraf­t.

When the Vela launched in 2016 it used the Starla’s bridge pickup and the Type-D single coil at the neck. When PRS decided to increase the output of the Starla’s bridge pickup, the Vela retained the original (lower-wind), which became known as the DS-01 (DS apparently stands for dual or double slug), while the new hotter Starla pickup was named the DS-02. The Vela’s USA pickup retains that name and, of course, the neck single coil is replaced by the Narrowfiel­d humbucker; both pickups are clearly labelled Vela Treble TCI and NF TCI at the neck. The bridge pickup has a measured at output DCR of 7.08k (4.88k when split) and the neck pickup is 6.8k.

The Standard 24’s nine-screw scratchpla­te swaps the three-way toggle and pull-switch for a four-pole, five-position lever switch, again with the same capacitors as the Vela. The USA 58/15 LT pickups here (the LT suffix stands for ‘low turns’) have brushed nickel covers with the pickup name engraved in one corner. The pickups’ backs confirm that, and both are clearly marked with the TCI suffix on the brass baseplates. Measured at output, the DCR of the bridge is 7.08k; the neck 6.97k.

filled. We could argue these might be too utilitaria­n for the PRS fanbase, but one major thing that’s always been central to the PRS propositio­n is the perfect craft – and that’s very evident here.

Hardware

Both guitars use the brass-post, top-locking ‘Low-Mass’ tuners (available as retrofits for the SE line) and two different bridges. The Standard 24 employs the moulded (we’d say cast) not machined all-steel vibrato used on the SE and the USA CE models that’s based on the original PRS vibrato design, while the ‘plate-style’ bridge was engineered specifical­ly for the Vela and is also used on the £3k NF53 and Myles Kennedy signature models. It’s a classy format that dates back to pre-production PRS designs and uses two brass barrel saddles angled to allow pretty much bang-on intonation. The baseplate is nickel-plated steel and the strings top-load in keyhole slots behind the saddles.

Finally, we get to the new bits: the USA pickups. Our Standard 24 uses the 58/15 LT treble and bass humbuckers like the majority of the range, with the exception of our Vela, which goes for the DS-01 humbucker at the bridge and a Narrowfiel­d humbucker at the neck, the Custom 24, which uses 85/15 treble and bass ’buckers, and the Custom 24-08, which features the narrow TCI humbuckers.

Feel & Sounds

As we’ve often expressed, the faultless gloss-finished craft, not to mention the cost, of PRS’s Core guitars means that we’re almost scared to actually test them. It’s the opposite here. Both these guitars look and feel very much like working tools and, of course, their thin finishes will mark and begin to ‘age’ very quickly in use.

Perhaps surprising­ly, however, bearing in mind their similar size and materials, there’s quite a weight variance: the Vela

comes in at a very light 2.65kg (5.83lb), while the Standard 24 is heavier but far from overweight at 3.39kg (7.46lb). And while weights aren’t specified, neck profiles are: our Standard 24 goes for the Pattern Thin, the Vela the Pattern Regular. The difference? Well, the Regular is slightly thinner at the nut – 42.06mm as opposed to 42.86mm, PRS tells us – and the Thin is thinner in depth at the nut at 19.84mm, as opposed to the Regular’s 21.43mm. Our measured dimensions support that with the Vela’s nut width measuring 42mm; the Standard 24’s is 43.2mm. In terms of 1st-fret depth, the Vela measures 21.5mm, the Standard 24 is 21.1mm, and at the 12th fret we get 23.5mm on the Vela and 22.8mm on the Standard. Both necks have a pretty classic ‘C’ profile, the same fingerboar­d radius and frets (which we measured at 2.66mm wide and 1.14mm high), and that same slightly in-turning curve and rolled edge to the fingerboar­d edges. Put simply, they’re not a million miles apart in feel. Likewise when strapped-on: while the extended upper shoulder of the Vela gives slightly more of a Strat-y vibe, both feel exceptiona­l, not least with the lower profile bevelled-edge body.

And yet while the scale length and constructi­on might be the same, the combinatio­n of the different bridges, different pickups and the way they’re wired

In PRS’s post-TCI pickup world, any concerns around imbalances are a thing of the past

give us two quite distinct voices, albeit with plenty of similarity. First off, there’s not a bad sound to be had from either. We’re not reaching for the tone control to pull down excessive highs; there aren’t any. In PRS’s post-TCI world, those imbalances are a thing of the past.

The Standard’s 58/15 LT pickups offer classic, quite beautiful and very musical humbucking voices. They’re not overpowere­d, but they don’t sound weak or thin at the bridge or over-thick and sludgy at the neck, either. In part due to its placement after the 24-fret neck, the neck pickup has nice clarity to the attack, which sounds very vocal, clear and soulful. Kick in a boost and blues rockers worldwide will be at home for their expressive solos.

Back to the bridge and there is a little snarl to the attack, but it’s certainly not over-thin and is very responsive to your pick attack: pull back and you could be playing a single coil; dig in and the sound matches you. The two inner single coils (position 4) throw

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 ?? ?? 6. These covered 58/15 LT humbuckers are the draw here – they’re exactly the same as those featured on the top-level Core models. PRS doesn’t tell us what’s under the cover, but the 58/15 has always chased a more vintage vibe 7. Previous Vela models have used the well-liked Type-D single coil at the neck, which is replaced here by PRS’s USA Narrowfiel­d as used on the Myles Kennedy Signature and the Corelevel Special Semi-Hollow and Studio, for example 6
6. These covered 58/15 LT humbuckers are the draw here – they’re exactly the same as those featured on the top-level Core models. PRS doesn’t tell us what’s under the cover, but the 58/15 has always chased a more vintage vibe 7. Previous Vela models have used the well-liked Type-D single coil at the neck, which is replaced here by PRS’s USA Narrowfiel­d as used on the Myles Kennedy Signature and the Corelevel Special Semi-Hollow and Studio, for example 6
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 ?? ?? 8. Based on the original pickup used on the USA Starla, this new DS-01 is a regular-sized humbucker with its exposed slug polepieces. It can be partially split to single coil: think classic with attitude! 9. Used on the SE models as well as the USA CE 24, this all-steel vibrato is more than fit for purpose. Combined with the friction-reducing nut and locking tuners, it’s very stable, tuning-wise. A now-classic design 8
8. Based on the original pickup used on the USA Starla, this new DS-01 is a regular-sized humbucker with its exposed slug polepieces. It can be partially split to single coil: think classic with attitude! 9. Used on the SE models as well as the USA CE 24, this all-steel vibrato is more than fit for purpose. Combined with the friction-reducing nut and locking tuners, it’s very stable, tuning-wise. A now-classic design 8

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