Guitars are not immune to the ephemeral nature of the beast and yesterday’s dream riff-stick can quickly become today’s rusted up 7-string with the Korn sticker between the pickups. Few companies are lucky enough to borrow their sense of style from sheer antiquity or association with genius and fewer still can claim to have crystalized theirs of their own accord. PRS guitars came to prominence in the late 90s, an era where – for better or for worse – modern rock adopted a slick, highly stylized, glossy sheen. Unfortunately a lot of the acts that toted their Custom and McCarty ranges aged almost instantaneously, as audiences quickly reminded corporate music entities of the fact that they no longer we’re willing to have their tastes dictated to them. Thank Christ for the Internet putting the burden of choice back on the consumer!
Far from suffering the impact of this association though, PRS gallantly kept on their way, steadfast in their determination to make guitars of an unsurpassed quality and singular personality. Rarely has this been truer than in the instance of their CE24. Skip to almost twenty years later and PRS’s builders have been steadily pushing their designs forward inch by inch. That signature on the headstock is a sign of the level of craftsmanship and modern adaptability that bolsters the PRS name. The newer iterations of their patented 85/15 pickups get smoother every year. Mounted in the deep, mahogany back and quilted maple face of the body, there is an unprecedented fireside warmth and roundness in the tonality that balances out the snappy responsiveness of the bolt on, 24-fret neck. Gone is the brisk, nasal quality of earlier builds; replaced by a more classic voicing that speaks to the increasing maturity of the PRS heritage.
One thing that PRS guitars have always lead the charge in is the finishing touches. Sometimes subtle and classic, other times flashy and peacock-proud, the CE24 series adds a buttery, satin nitrocellulose patina to their extensive palette. The particular beast I had in my clutches was a saccharine kingfisher blue, faded to icy silver in the middle of the body. Now, some would argue that aesthetics shouldn’t determine the worth of an instrument, but with an axe this visually stunning you can hardly say it detracts at all! The other advantage to that satin finish is that the back of the neck is a much more steady, feathery ride than epoxy finishes, which can be alternately sticky and slippery depending on environmental factors. It’s a subtle difference, but a classy one as you sail up the fretboard with the greatest of ease. T
hey’re not the new kids on the block anymore, nor are they the sentinels of the old guard, but Paul Reed Smith and his band of builders have carved a comfortable niche for themselves in today’s swollen guitar market. I didn’t want to like this guitar nearly as much as I did, but as soon as I set aside my pretences, I had no choice. It looks great, plays itself and sounds like a satisfying mid point between 70’s humbucker lead classics and to-the-minute innovation. The CE24, with its modern take on classic tonality, silky finish and unmitigated playability, marks a sort of coming of age for one of the more stylish of the second generation of guitar makers.
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