||PRS Soapbar SE II
Summary: Made in Korea? Who the hell cares! Workmanship is incredible, the paint job is impeccable, and with the two P-90′s, this dog’s got bite! But roll off the volume, and it becomes a sweet, cuddly puppy.
Pros: Real simple controls: Two knobs and a 3-position pickup toggle. Very versatile tones from nice, almost chimey cleans to bright, crunchy breakup.
Cons: Not a whole lot of sustain, but that’s to be expected
Price: $250-$500 Street depending on condition
What better way to chill at the end of a busy work week than to come home, strap on a guitar and let your fingers do the walking. Even better to have a great guitar to play with, as I certainly just did with the PRS SE Soapbar II! My good buddy, Phil, from a local cover band, Phil ‘N The Blanks lent me his SE Soapbar II today to try and perhaps buy. He told me I wouldn’t be disappointed. Aw shucks! Looks like I’m soon gonna be adding to my collection! Ne’er to worry, the sound this guitar produces will more than make up for the money I’ll be shelling out. Let’s get into the details, shall we?
Fit and Finish
First of all, this is one gorgeous guitar! The one I played has a translucent teal finish that beautifully fades into a glossy black lacquer trim; and as a dedicated San Jose Sharks fan, what better than to have a guitar that’s the color of my favorite hockey team!!! The neck is also finished in glossy black lacquer. Very nice. Phil has taken great care of this guitar. There were no scratches on it whatsoever!
As far as the build quality is concerned, I couldn’t see any obvious joints or imperfections on the body. This is one well-made guitar!
The body is solid mahogany with a flame maple top, whose grain is visible through the translucent finish. It’s stunningly gorgeous. The neck is a solid mahogany set neck with a rosewood fretboard. That alone attracts me to the guitar, as I just love a rosewood fretboard and the warmth it adds to your tone.
When I read other reviews of the SE, I was a little dubious, as most people talked about the wide, C-shaped neck. I have relatively short fingers, so neck diameter is a real important to me. All I can say is that the neck on this guitar is just how I like it. It’s wider than my Strat’s neck, but despite that, it’s just a dream in my hands. The semi-flush heel also allows someone like me with short fingers to comfortably reach notes above the 18th fret with ease.
Phil had the action set on this SE a bit higher than how I usually like it, but despite that minor nit that can be easily remedied, the neck is fast, and the frets are perfectly finished – not too deep and not too shallow, so you can bend and easily articulate nice vibrato without going out of key.
One thing I really like about this guitar was the simple controls: Two knobs and a 3-way toggle. The volume knob is perfectly positioned for rolling up or down volume with your pinky – very convenient. From a playability standpoint, PRS truly made this guitar with a gigging guitarist in mind. Everything it about how you play this guitar speaks of convenience and playability with minimal fuss.
The SE also sports a bit shorter scale length than the Strat – 25″ vs 25 1/2″ – it doesn’t seem like much, but the shorter scale length does help in getting around the neck.
How It Sounds
To test how the SE sounds, I plugged it into my trusty 5 Watt Champ, which I’ve found is a great way to test out guitars as all it has is a volume knob. Tone and sustain all have to come from the guitar when plugged into this amp, and from that perspective, the SE simply shines. It’s truly the first guitar I’ve played in a long time that is SUPER-responsive to volume rolls. With any pickup you can go from clean to dirty simply by rolling the volume knob. The neck pickup produces a nice, hollow clean tone, reminiscent of using the bridge and center pickups on a Strat; but unlike the Strat there’s no ringing. The tone is deep and smooth. Rolling up the volume produces just a tiny bit of grit, that you can increase significantly by attacking the strings more. In fact, in all three settings the guitar responds incredibly well to pick attack. You gotta love it.
My favorite pickup setting was with both pickups engaged. In this position, the tonal quality became a lot more complex, with a noticeable midrange boost (something I prefer), and just as with the neck pickup,
the responsiveness to pick attack was still present – probably even more so in this position.
With the bridge pickup selected, you get that classic P-90 tight, bright honk. I’ve traditionally not been a bridge pickup kind of guy as the highs on most guitars are just too over the top for me. But with the SE, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case. Yes, the treble boost was there, but it was quite pleasing to me!
Summing It Up
I saw a video on YouTube with PRS himself with Mike Ault demonstrating the SE, and PRS said the mission of the SE was to be the best value guitar on the market. Frankly, I don’t know how true this is in reality, but I’m willing to bet that that’s not a very far-fetched statement. For the money, you get what amounts to a tone chameleon! You want blues? You got it? Wanna do some classic rock? No prob. High gain? Got it covered. I will warn that this guitar may not appeal to thrash metal guys, but hey! You never know.
So the verdict? I’m going to have to explain to my wife why I need another guitar…
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