Review: Paul Reed Smith SE P20E Parlour Acoustic

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


Review: Paul Reed Smith SE P20E Parlour Acoustic

Words By Bridgette Baini

Electric Factory | Enquire for Pricing

Is there anything much greater than the concept of the couch guitar? Personally, I’m a sucker for conveniently sized acoustics that are well-constructed and have a big, beautiful voice. 

Parlour guitars, which were all the rage back in the early days of the acoustic (as we know it, anyway) in the late 19th and early 20th century, yet fell out of favour with players some time in the ‘40s as the need for ‘parlour’ performances was nullified by the invention of the guitar amplifier.

Read more reviews here.

Fast forward to now, however, and the idea of the parlour guitar is once again piping hot – particularly as the world returns to normal after the pandemic.

After bunkering down with their first-ever guitars to learn the instrument during quarantine, there’s a whole bunch of new players out there looking to bust out their skills in public arenas, and when you’re looking to get out on the road and enjoy the world again, there’s nothing like a parlour guitar to accompany you on your journey.

For applications like these – yet so much more – The Paul Reed Smith SE P20E Acoustic Guitar does not disappoint. The SE P20E is an all-mahogany, pro-grade parlour-sized acoustic that delivers gorgeous tones thanks to its clever hybrid bracing and intuitive design. 

If that’s not enough, the PRS P20E even comes fitted with Fishman GT1 electronics to transform it to a performance-ready guitar, making it an absolute acoustic powerhouse that’s perfect for any application. 

You can take it on stage, the campfire, or busking on the streets with its classy Antique White top, herringbone binding, and teardrop tortoiseshell pickguard against its uniquely PRS headstock. It’s visually suited for just about any performance to my eyes, and that’s not to mention the sturdy and comfortable padded travel bag it comes with, making this compact instrument easily transportable.

The guitar’s classy Antique White finish is contrasted by a beautiful ebony bridge and matching fingerboard that displays classic Paul Reed Smith bird inlays to boast that the SE P20E is proudly part of the family. 

This is complemented with its genuine bone nut and saddles, that are fitted for optimal tonal support and resonance: whether you’re playing flat-picked chords or delicate finger-plucked passages, the fretboard will bounce alive with character, and makes for a gorgeous playing experience.

This resonance is supported and sustained by its solid mahogany top, joined to laminated and reflective mahogany back and sides through an X-brace/classical hybrid bracing method which blends a collection of legendary acoustic luthier techniques. The tone created is beautifully rich but crystal-clear, allowing for all the intricacies of your guitar playing to shine through.

The neck is deceiving and doesn’t feel like you’re playing a particularly small guitar thanks to its Paul Reed Smith Wide Fat neck shape, carved from choice mahogany. I’m of smaller stature, so larger acoustic guitars can be quite cumbersome. Plus, for as long as the dreadnought shape is the standard, you can easily be fooled into thinking that you’re too small to play acoustic guitar – however, it’s models like this that really prove you wrong.

On that note, if you’ve struggled to find a guitar that works well with your hand or body size, you should definitely try this one! It’s ultra comfortable ,and has a really large and loud presence, easily competing with other acoustics without compromising in any field. Straight out of the box you can already tell that it’s ready to take on whatever you throw at it. The tension feels just right, and almost buttery to play while the construction feels sturdy, and its intricate reflections of notes and tones makes it an excellent studio partner. 

Moving onto the live performance aspect of the guitar, and we have the PRS SE P20E’s Fishman GT1 pickup system, which is found under the saddle and naturally senses all kinds of acoustic vibrations. 

The result? A clear and strong voice with good feedback rejection. Discreetly placed under the sound hole are the tone and volume controls so you can tweak your sound to suit you. Plug it in or mic it up, the Paul Reed Smith SE P20E is ready for the task. 

It feels beautiful to play, the neck fits in hand extremely comfortably and allows for free movement through its satin-like finish on the back of the neck. Nimble movements across the fingerboard allow for more intricate playing and that’s exactly what the SE P20E is for, accentuating delicate notes while capturing bellowing chords.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the big but nuanced sound that was able to come from this compact guitar, but I was certainly not surprised by the astounding quality of its build.

I love an Antique White finish but especially paired with an ebony fingerboard and tortoiseshell pickguard, so this acoustic parlour-sized guitar really ticks all the boxes. Right down to the gig bag it comes with, the PRS SE P20E Acoustic Guitar is quality and class through and through.

For more information check out Paul Reed Smith and for local enquiries get in touch with Electric Factory.