Paul Reed Smith started out just this way, building his first guitar as a challenge from his high school woodwork teacher.
From there he founded the company on the rampant self-belief and earnest, local-boy-makes-good confidence that saw him sneaking back stage at Santana and Al Di Meola shows in an attempt to ply his wears. Clearly something he was doing struck a chord, as his design has become as much a part of Carlos Santana’s signature as the Latin infused guitar rock that launched his career in the 70s and again in the late 90s. PRS builds are a thorough combination of traditional techniques and technological advancement and it’s this refusal to adhere to any way of working purely for tradition’s sake that renders them the gold standard in modern guitar design.
The Custom range has long been the flagship model in the PRS catalogue and to a point it seems 2017’s update flies the “if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it” flag. The instantly recognisable Bird In Flight fretboard inlay, beveled cutaway and Smith’s signature in the headstock are all present and tie the design together as nicely as they ever have. The patented PRS molded tremolo anchors the façade together, floating a few millimetres off the deep scarlet, flame maple top side of the guitar, offering the best of both traditional and Floyd Rose style whammys. I’m not entirely sure which aspect of this design works so well but I’ve been dive-bombing on it long enough for it to lose itself altogether and lo and behold, it’s still in tune. Chalk that up as a win.
The biggest update by far is the in the pickup system. The PRS website briefly alludes to having advanced something about their workhorse 85/15 pickup that cleans up some of the spanking mid range while maintaining the uncompromising high-end clarity that is the design’s bread and butter. Signified only by the ‘S’ in the spec sheet the distance between this and previous models is profound. It’s a much less obtuse characteristic, less singular maybe but only inasmuch as it slots in more effortlessly next to other axes in your armory as opposed to poking out like a sore thumb. With the extra option of the pull-up coil tap in the tone pot, surprisingly by bringing the tone more in line with tonal classics the 2017 Custom 24 feels that much more versatile than its predecessors. The Custom 24 is as lean, fast and sleek as player as its ancestry. For 2017 however, PRS have encouraged their favourite child to mature somewhat and the result is a guitar that it more comfortable with itself than it has ever been.
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Hits and Misses
Cleaned up tonal thumbprint
Lightening quick fingerboard
Very modern sound and feel that not all players will connect with