View Full Version : How do PRS SE's compare with the USA made?

06-05-2012, 08:13 AM
Seriously, how does the Singlecut, Custom and soapbar compare to the USA made? Is it really just as good/nice or more like a Gibson/Epiphone?

What are the real tonal/workmanship differences between the models if any?

06-05-2012, 08:29 AM
I had an SE Soapbar Singlecut at the same time I owned a Mira 25th Anniversary 245 Soapbar. I had the opportunity to A-B them, and was quite surprised that the difference in workmanship, playability, and tone was very small. The soapbars in the Mira did have a little more output, but I wouldn't say better tone. Both guitars had wide-fat necks, and played about the same. Given that the Mira sold for over 4 times what the SE did, I expected more difference. I no longer own either guitar. But I can say that I would be happy to have another SE Soapbar. I will not be buying another Mira.

06-05-2012, 08:45 AM
The SE line in general is pretty nice.
The main differences are:

Not the same quality woods are used in the body.
Veneer tops on maple toped guitars.
Cheaper hardware all around; tuners, bridge, pickups,....
Not made in the USA.

With all that said, they are still nice guitars. The quality control is quite good and the shapes of the bodies and necks are the same as USA made PRS guitars.

Tonally, you can expect a bit less than it's USA made cousin. How much less.... it depends on how and what you play. If you are going for touch sensitive blues or soft jazz, you may notice it. If you play with a good amount of distortion or in a band mix, it probably won't be that significant.

06-05-2012, 09:34 AM
PRS SEs are a huge step closer to their USA counterparts than Epiphones are to Gibsons. The quality of the Korean factory is IMHO about the same as any Japanese Fender, which is to say ranging from really good to flawless. The hardware is ok, and the nuts are a bad joke and need to be replaced immediately with a USA one ($10, precut, easy fix). Left stock, they are a great deal, and compare favorably with anything in their price range, including several USA made guitars. Their true magic, however, is as a used buy intended to be a modding platform. The neck and fretwork is as good as a USA PRS, and all else can be replaced as desired. A good used SE is around $300, and with the same investment in good pickups and electronics, the result is easily 90-95% of a USA PRS, for a 60% price discount compared to a used USA model. You will never reach the bling level possible with a USA PRS from an SE, but the feel and tone can be made to be very, very close.

I had a McCarty for years that I loved. I sold it when I realized that I was playing and loving my modded SE Singlecut more, which was about a $650 investment, including new nut, RS electronics kit, Schaller locking tuners, and McCarty pickups. My DGT is nicer, but not by much.

There are a few great SE models, such as the SE One, Semihollow, and SE245. I would avoid the SEs with trems, as the only way to get around the pot metal bridge is with a pricey USA replacement.

There is a great series of videos on youtube with Bernie Marsden playing his signature model (essentially an SE 245) A/B'd with his '59 LP. The differences are obvious but surprisingly small, with the stock pickups.

Jef Bardsley
06-05-2012, 10:01 AM
We had a Soapy and the exact SE version in the shop for several months, and I compared them many times. The SE was at least 80%, if not 90%, of the Maryland version. Oh, to be sure, if you got out your magnifying glass, the US guitar had better finish, frets, grain... but for tone and playability I'd say the biggest difference was the real Duncans (and I'll admit the SE had the first off-shore P-90s I've liked).

When the SEs were introduced, the rep told us they spent two years teaching the Koreans how to get it right. Effort well-spent, IMO.

06-05-2012, 10:48 AM
Yeah... there's a 2012 custom 24 SE coming out in August... it looks absolutely killer.. so much so that i'm going to pre-order it. For sub $600 (after promotion).. i cannot wait. what a perfect counter part to a 22 stoptail singlecut..


06-05-2012, 11:26 AM
The SE's are a LOT of guitar for the money!!! Quality control on the Korean SE's is far, far higher than the likes of Epiphone (Though sweet Epi's can be had with some searching) and that's a direct result of PRS himself showing them how to put a guitar together. And... They've been improving them ever since!

As has been mentioned, what really lets the SE's down is the nut. The good news is that it's a very cheap mod. Of course, they have to be built to a cost and so you get cheaper hardware and electrics but given the cost of the SE's in the first place are more than acceptable and easily upgradeable.

My SE Bernie is (With the exception of the nut which I replaced with a Tusq one) flawlessly built. The SE 245 pups where pretty good - the neck especially - but with a set of Bare Knuckle Mule's in there sounds fantastic!



May replace the bridge studs with some Tonepros locking studs and i'm just about done. :JAM

06-05-2012, 12:11 PM
Holy... that guitar looks amazing! Wow.. never would have thought that was an SE.

How much is the nut replacement done by a pro? and what's so important about a nut anyway? less sustain? my LP nut looks as plain as unsalted butter.

07-21-2012, 09:29 PM
I think the American made ones rock. On an aside, who has been to the "official PRS forum? Those people can get very hinky about their instruments. That moderator "Hans" can be a real Dildo.

07-21-2012, 10:41 PM
SE's are great guitars. I have one of the first run Santana SE's and love it as much as my 5 US made PRSi. I eventually modded it with Dragon II pups and a push pull pot to tap 'em, but it was good without the mods. I am recently lusting after an SE SC245. That Bernie Marsden MGBlues showed it just beautiful. When people play my US PRSi they think they are fine guitars. They pick up my SE and think it won't be as good. Well, they're wrong and shocked every time.

Go for an SE. They're probably the best bang-for-the-buck guitars out there, in my opinion. I've like most of the models they put out. I'm gettin an SE SC245 soon, and I won't even think about how it compares to a US PRS cuz they're just damned good guitars.


07-22-2012, 12:50 AM
Hated the whole idea from the start, then I played one.
From that point on I have had two, and that was only because I traded the first to get the other.

Gibson wishes their production instruments were as good as the PRS SE line , and I am NOT a Gibson basher!
Yeah, about 80% as close.

07-22-2012, 12:53 AM
I think the American made ones rock. On an aside, who has been to the "official PRS forum? Those people can get very hinky about their instruments. That moderator "Hans" can be a real Dildo.
Come on now.

07-22-2012, 03:53 AM
I had a PRS SE Custom. Could really bond with it so I ended up selling it. It was just ok in my opinion. I'm more of a strat/tele guy anyway though.

07-22-2012, 05:13 AM
You can find a used US made CE 22 on ebay for about a grand. The SE's are nice but the US models seem to be made from 'livelier' tone woods.

07-22-2012, 06:02 AM
Love the guitar if not anything else

07-22-2012, 06:54 AM
SE's are great guitars. I have one of the first run Santana SE's and love it....

I agree. I too have a first-year Santana which I modded with new locking tuners, WCR pickups and a USA bridge. That guitar's bridge tone can sound so much like my R8 it's scary. I had a McCarty for years and a Mira Korina. Those guitars are gone but the SE isn't going anywhere.

07-22-2012, 08:00 AM
I think the American made ones rock. On an aside, who has been to the "official PRS forum? Those people can get very hinky about their instruments. That moderator "Hans" can be a real Dildo.

He is a member here. Remember, the "official PRS forum" is not the place for completely open discussion. It is a fan based site.

As for the SEs, they now rival the american mades with carved tops, binding, real birds, etc. Lower price point, lower build quality in general, but absolutely great for their price.

07-22-2012, 11:41 AM
I will remember and turn the tone knob down.

07-22-2012, 11:48 AM
I have a MD made PRS and many other Gibsons & Fenders and also have a PRS SE 245 which I play mostly these days. I've had Epi's and this tone and quality is far superior, since an SC58 is out of my budget. I think my SE sounds better and more clarity than my Les Paul.

07-22-2012, 11:56 AM
I was on the road with 5 PRS's when the 'santana's come out- I had 3 real PRS's and 2 what are now SE's... I replaced the pickups and played them more to avoid beating the crap out of the more expensive ones ( one was stolen anywho). The neck's and bodies are EXACTLY the same. I should have a DGT Tuesday ( my only PRS). I honestly had no idea they were so popular. My back and discs have have it from Les Paul's

10-22-2013, 07:00 AM
I just got an SE soapbar hollowbody and I don't see how it could be any better. Maybe the pickups, but the guitar itself couldn't be any better constructed. I've played guitars worth 5 or 10 grand that don't come close.

I think a lot of the time this USA versus far east difference in perceived quality is just prejudice. I mean, I know that you can spend a long time on the binding or whatever, cosmetic stuff, and that might justify more man-hours and more spend. But I think you approach a limit to what's possible that can in any way improve a guitar in terms of playability and sound, and I think the SE series, definitely in terms of playability, some of the models have hit it.

10-22-2013, 07:06 AM
I used to own a SE Soapbar that I really loved. It was well built, played nice and the P90s sounded good. Then I got a McCarty, and the differences are pretty obvious. The USA ones just feel better, sound better and you cannot deny the superior built quality.
That being said, this is my opinion, but I still think that the SE line are very good guitars for the price, and I recommended them to a lot of people around me.

10-07-2014, 11:11 AM
I just got a new SE Santana and I am really surprised by how good it is. I basically bought it because of the specs which to me are similar to a 22 fret Mira with a trem and a 24.5" scale which is pretty much a dream guitar for me. I was fully expecting to have to do a bunch of work and put some $$ into it to make it "playable" to my standards but all I did was clean up the nut a little and open it up for heavier strings and set it up. The guitar absolutely rocks as-is. The neck feels great, fretwork is really good, even the pickups sound good and I have no plans to change them right now although I am sure I will screw around with it later since I have a couple of sets around here. Ia have owned a few USA PRSi in my time and while you can definitely see that the way they are put together is a little different - multi-piece bodies, imported hardware, etc. All of the important stuff is there - sound, playability, feel, etc. As a matter of fact I have had a couple of USA PRSi that didn't sound or feel as good as this guitar and cast 4-5x as much. It's crazy they make imported guitars that are this good that compete with their high-end line but hey, it's all good for us the consumers. Thanks PRS! :)

10-07-2014, 11:26 AM
Ridiculously good guitars. I was going to replace my SE with a mira, but i kept trying to make the mira sound better and it just didn't. It was different but not better. And my SE played better. Note that *most* SE's have a .5" shorter scale than *most* USA PRS. Different animal, neither is better, just different. But man, the SE scale plays itself !