Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 22


Paul Reed Smith Studio

By Andrew Leyenhorst

Since the ‘ 80s , Paul Reed Smith and his instruments have seen themselves ascend to the highest echelons of the MI world . And PRS guitars have long been championed by some of the most high-profile players from around the world and across many styles , including Carlos Santana , Mark Tremonti ( Alter Bridge , Creed , Tremonti ), John Mayer , and Mikael Åkerfeldt ( Opeth ).

While PRS has always been flagshipped , so to speak , by a steady backbone of classic models – such as the Custom 24 , Custom 22 , McCarty , and Paul ’ s Guitar – they are a company that is also innovates , determined to not only make great instruments , amps , and accessories , but to continually evolve the guitar as we know it . Lately , this has been demonstrated by the addition of a new Core model that debuted in 2021 , the PRS Studio .
Boasting a carved figured maple top and a mahogany back , the American-made , 22-fret Studio is designed to be an all-encompassing tone machine for recording guitarists ; though the stage certainly won ’ t beckon this gorgeous instrument away , by any means . It ’ s available in 18 different finishes as well , so there ’ s a look for everybody .
With a scale length of 25 in ., the mahogany neck features a rosewood fingerboard and PRS ’ s Pattern shape profile , an updated take on the Wide Fat neck style from Smith ’ s earliest designs . Dotting the neck are the company ’ s signature bird inlays , while the classic PRS headstock is loaded with its Phase III Locking tuners . The Studio ships standard with 10-46 PRS Signature strings .
On the other end of the instrument , the third-generation PRS Patented Tremolo bridge is neighbored by a 58 / 15 LT humbucker borrowed from the McCarty line , delivering a wonderfully dynamic and crystal-clear vintage flavour that can also become fiery and furious at high gain . The other two pickups , though , are what really make this guitar a unique piece , and a world-beater in the recording environment .
A proprietary PRS pickup called the Narrowfield occupies both the middle and neck positions ; according to the company , the philosophy of the Narrowfield from its initial conception around 2008 was to “ take the unique tone of a well-made , great-sounding single-coil and combine that with the positive characteristics of a humbucking pickup ,” which they define as “ full sound , no hum .”
These atypical pickups essentially condense the traditional humbucker design into the smaller footprint of a single-coil , honing in on a more focused section of strings and subsequently creating a snappy , throaty single-coil-esque tone while retaining the low end , fullness , and reduced noise afforded by a humbucker . Furthermore , with the push / pull tone knob , the pickups can also be split , delivering even further tonal versatility when the five-position blade switch is sat in positions one and two . However , there are seven possible pickup combinations , making nearly any kind of tone achievable .
I knew this instrument was something else from the moment I picked it up ; immediately the neck stood out to me as being big and chunky in just the right way . While it ’ s tall , it ’ s also proportionally thick , and I found it suited my fretting hand ’ s shape and movements while playing , resulting in a very comfortable , firm , and anchored physical experience , especially for rhythm performance .
Once I got playing , it admittedly took a while before I even started to toy with the Narrowfields . The 58 / 15 LT humbucker got my attention immediately , specifically the definition and clarity even when overdriven ; together with the pickup ’ s vintagy snarl , you can hear every note in a chord distinctly within the overall tone , but nothing sticks out unpleasantly or unevenly . That said , the cleans yielded by the 58 / 15 LT are also quite nice , but the Narrowfields especially shine in that department .
I didn ’ t quite know what to expect from the Narrowfields , but in practice they ’ re a lot of fun . First and foremost , they deliver on what they ’ re designed to do ; imagine the biggest , fattest single-coil middle or neck tone you ’ ve ever heard , and make it bigger and fatter , but still very distinctly single-coily in character . With all of the different pickup combinations on tap , it ’ s hard to detail all of the incredibly unique sounds you can get out of this guitar , but a place
can be found for all of them .
I found the Narrowfields especially useful for recording quad-tracked guitars , blending them in the mix with the bridge ‘ bucker to create massive walls of tone . While it shines in a lot of different ways , I can specifically see the Narrowfield neck pickup being a goto signature sound for stoner and doom tones , believe it or not . That is to say , you could spend hours fiddling with sounds on this guitar , and without having to fiddle with the tuning either ; the locking tuners are rock-solid .
With the Studio electric , PRS set out to provide players with a one-stop tone shop ; from the classic humbucker tones to the unique and seemingly endless sounds afforded by the Narrowfields , to their combined powers that alchemize something new entirely , this guitar redefines the workhorse . It also just feels great in your hands and is a joy to play from a purely ergonomic standpoint .
It ’ s worth mentioning , too , that my clients were just as impressed as I am . During my review period with it , this particular instrument accounted for about 90 % of the electric guitar parts recorded for a rock EP . And it wasn ’ t just for the sake of using it ; the guitarists loved playing it , and from its most fundamental sounds to its most unique , it served the music best .
As a guitar designed for , and named after the studio , it worked out nicely that I ended up getting to do a record with it outside of the review vacuum . At this point , from the standpoint of both player and producer , I can say with confidence that the PRS Studio is a proven winner .
Andrew Leyenhorst is a Niagara-based freelance producer , engineer , mixer , and a Consulting Editor at Canadian Musician .