For many Moons now, I was looking to upgrade my guitar, having had 16 guitars (and one Bass guitar) in my life so far I was looking for something different.
I knew I wanted a certain shape that felt good to my own body holding it, but should also be of high quality and perhaps a looker too.
And this time, no matter the price… kinda…
Easily said, not so easy to find, and I have had my fair share of shitty guitars, mostly because of budget issues, and also because it takes a while for me to find out if I do like something, or if it simply does not work out. So after a few moons processing I end up buying a guitar, and then a few moons later it needs to go again.
Reading my MoonBlogs one can see I have an affection for PRS (Paul Reed Smith) guitars, most say because he makes guitars that sit somewhere in between Fender (Stratocaster) and Gibson (Les Paul), and while that may be true, what speaks to me, is his openness to share about his products, his own nerdiness in going all in in finding that tone through all the little components that make up a musical instrument, his factory, and so on.
Sure some of it is marketing, some of it is ego showiness, a little american sauce over it, but it’s good, I like it. I’ve learned a lot more about guitars and guitar making through investigating about their company and products, something that is much much harder to find out about with most other guitar making companies.
So I had a vague kind of wishlist of components, or elements that my next guitar should contain, where quality was probably the most important.
And if there is one thing PRS is well known for, are their necks, and they go to great lengths making them but then also to explain why their necks are built the way they do, explaining it so well, I am drinking it all up. Watching video after video, old ones, new ones. And all this is what I enjoy, to go so deep, for hours on end, that turn into days, and weeks of focused attention with my individual Gates, exploring all these fascinating production processes and information, being my own nerd as I dive into this stuff.
Searching for it, is the journey, and maybe finding it too, but researching it, comparing minute details of all guitars they make and making my own spreadsheets with the details I find/discover/overhear & read in the incredible amount of reviews and press releases, snippets here and there, and then reading different user forums (fora) and topics about their views and experiences on them. What upgrades people do after buying, which products do they then swap/buy, and why?
So besides it being a huge undertaking, I’m swimming in it, doing laps in all of it, and slowly, slowly something is building, being constructed, as a compilation of factoids stored in memory about this combination with that and then that, but not that, etc.
They launched this new product, the S2 line/series which was properly hyped/marketed of combining some cheaper made Korean parts from their SE line/series now with US built body & neck and paint. Having played a few SE’s and owned one, I was kinda done with this cheapest version of their products, as I always seemed to run in some form of unease, unpleasantness with it in my hands. Nothing wrong with them as products, as guitars, or musical instruments per se, but just not for me. I was not sure exactly why though, but luckily I was about to find out..
However good the Korean factory is, and is known for (World Musical Instruments) I guess I found the SE’s too fat, thick, too bulky, not refined enough I guess, kinda clunky, and the Paul Reed Smith SE Custom Semi-Hollow Soapbar I had before, just did not fit in my hands, with this body. And it was beautiful, and beautifully made, but… naaah. Nope, couldn’t live with it.
I liked the idea of Semi-Hollow, my last 2 guitars were (Fender Pawn Shop Offset Special) there is a certain sound quality to it, when you overdrive them slightly amplified, which is nice, and to be able to play them not amplified because of the semi-hollowness is a nice extra too, since I mostly play without amp, just grabbing it for a little tune, a riff, a song, and put it back in it’s stand. Just a minute sometimes, or 5 or 10.
So seeing they make the PRS S2 Custom 22 Semi-Hollow I was intrigued at first, and fascinated not much later and kind of obsessed after a while. This was it, on paper it had all the correct elements it seemed. A beveled top so my fore-arm would not cut into the body, mahogany back with maple top for the sound, with maple veneer for the looks, a glued-in neck, locking tuners and kinda decent pickups (#7’s first and later 85/15’S’). That combination of the beveled top with semi-hollowness and being US made were the 3 most important elements I digged it for. And having a tremolo was nice, not needing one, but if it’s there, and this one was also well seen & reviewed by many (although some quickly change it for the more expensive brass USA one) Looking at prices was a bit of a shock, cause in the Netherlands it was expensive, almost 2000 euros, quite removed from the other S2 models or even further from the SE’s.
Not that I don’t mind paying good money for something, it’s just that I don’t have it lying around. So how to tackle that, since this one looks to be the one? I had just sold the other PRS, and also sold my Zoom R24 (digital 24 track recorder) and thus had about a third of the money to start saving for it. I’d just have to get another Audio Interface so I can connect several instruments at once to my computer now the Zoom is gone, and record with Reaper, a very affordable ‘complete digital audio production application for Windows and OS X, offering a full multi-track audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering tool-set.’ Because some of this project had started a few years back, with wanting to re-record my own old songs from around 1990, so I needed good recording equipment too.
While there are tons of interfaces on the market, few would suit my needs of minimum 4 analog inputs, all these individual artists with no money, trigger the companies to make single or duo inputs machines only, or 16+ input professional ones for the studio/professionals. However, some older ones had these options and were much cheaper now second hand, so after some nerding away I found an M-Audio/Avid Fast-Track C600 and for fun bought a Korg Nano-Control 2 second-hand too. When I received the interface there was an MBQuart 45x headphone in the box too which is a cheap version of the Beyer-Dynamic DT990, surprise 🙂
Slowly getting all elements in place, but… unexpected bills also happened, draining the funds to zero, especially when keeping the money in house. So I would start over saving money while continuing to investigate, and this time put the money somewhere else, safe and away from my needy hands/life. But again, unexpectedness plundered the newly acquired funds once more, and this time it affected me. Sure I was glad I could pay the bills but this project was already a multi-moon operation, this way it will be a countless one, a never ending story… what to do?
Letting go of the funds issue for a bit, I finally took this project out of the house and drove my BMW R1100GS over the freeway to Dijkmans musical instrument shop about an hours drive away. This shop was known for having not just the cheaper SE range by PRS, but also S2 and much much higher (CE, Core and even Wood Library & Private Stock) Once there I said I had a short story and a longer one. The short one being: I want to compare an S2 and a CE. The employee that was going to help me said: and the longer version? And put a 4000 euro guitar in my hands (the main/well known guitar by PRS is their ‘Custom 24’, and this was the charcoal burst version) which felt… nice… good actually. But somehow also not what I was looking for, without being able to name why, maybe the thickness of the carve/body? He asked me what amp I had at home (Vox VT40+) and then picked a Vox version closest to mine from the shop floor to plug in the guitar(s), which I thought was really nice.
He then gave me a CE24 in Ruby red, and it felt like a dream, WOW, like putting on velvet or something, really -really- nice, lightweight, and slick, great contours, and felt great to hold the neck too, smooth, and string height was quite good I found, but… I don’t like red guitars for myself, it is just a bit too much color for me, I like wood colored guitars. Not needing to do a lot of effort to see the wood grain, or have a blob of red in your room/corner of your eye somewhere.
Then I got my coveted S2 Custom 22 Semi-Hollow, not in Violin Amber Sunburst which I liked best, but in Elephant Grey, with a black neck which they did have in store/stock. I was so curious about it, but also would have bought this online ages ago if they money was there, pure on specs alone, and it felt…
dead… overweight, clunky, boring. That neck was FAT and not smooth at all with it’s glossy paint on it, I maybe only held it for 20-30 seconds and was already done with it. Oh oh…
But hey, there is another CE24 here, in Amber, now that LOOKS nice too. Played it for a bit, string were a little higher than the Ruby, but for the rest the same good feel. All of a sudden I notice that the tremolo bridge is not only for diving but also for pulling up. No one ever talks about this online in -all- those reviews and videos. And also, I was a little afraid of the violin carve edge on the body. I hated the the sharp body edge on the PRS SE Semi I owned just before, I wanted to take a band-saw and make a Fender like fore-arm cut on it, hated it. But to my surprise both on the core as on the CE because the body is much thinner there, it does not grind in your fore-arm much, if at all. And also, the body carve was not nearly as thick as I thought it would be, the CE24 even thinner (5mm is said) than the Core and therefor the strings not becoming a finger grinder (egg cutter) like a Les Paul. Nice discoveries, and had wondered about both often during all those hours.
I then played a brand new SE, which as most, if not all PRS’s, are upgraded frequently in both color schemes, top-woods as well as other details like pick-ups but also necks and bridges and what not (nuts?! 😉 ) And it felt solid, pretty good, and was pretty too, but not what I was looking for. Nice, but no, felt a bit heavy too, and a bit thick, but solid. But mostly, all the un-amped ring was -gone- ! The CE24 was loud and clear, when playing un-amped, but this SE was a LOT less loud, a real significant drop in volume. I noticed I snuffed at it, not good enough, go away with this sub-quality piece of very nicely constructed musical thing. Which was fun to notice how expressive and loud I was in my body and opinion on things, ooh this is nice, oh god no away with that! 🙂
Then onto a Private Stock that was pre-owned with lots of fancy details like Charcoal Burst colour, Flame Maple, Lightweight African Mahogany, East Indian Rosewood with Mammoth Ivory J Birds on a South American Sinker Mahogany neck, with a PRS Tremolo Gold/Nickel and 408B and 408T pickups for only 6000 euros, second hand… which, felt nice, smooth, good, you could feel it was better than the CE24 and the Core Custom 24 I played here first.
But playing the CE24 Amber once more convinced me, for now, this was it. Not a semi-hollow at all, not an S2 either. And with US pick-ups, which sounded from clear, gentle, airy, clean, wide, to even harsh when driven hard(er). But most surprising was that they sounded to have lots of nice bass, something you can hardly hear on YouTube. Not overly thick, but correct amounts of smooth good bass, clear, audible, present, and can be felt too. Perhaps a little light on the Mid range to my ear, but when playing a power-chord there was nothing missing either, and then that sustain, combined with the solidness of the sound to have it ring on for ‘a good little while’ (understatement yeah?)
I sighed deeply and loudly when leaving the store, which the employee noticed and made him laugh. Yeah, good job there !
Back on my motorbike, taking the scenic inner roads back home, enjoying myself, the moment, life. The weather was good, lots of fresh air inhaling as I enjoy all the curves and dykes of this 3D landscape of Brabant province, then crossing the Haringvliet on the side-road, and into and through Rotterdam, across Delft and back home to The Hague.
Now what about the money? I now had a serious case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and I knew which one, and I knew I wanted that one alone, which was in that store right now, and for how long still!!?? Ffffffffffuuuu….. I got into high gear solving this riddle, needing more food for all this thinking and contemplating, finding some kind of scheme, or structure, think, think, THINK. I was raging a little bit inside (reminding me of fellow birthday Reflector James Frey’s book – a million little pieces)
Until *plop* or maybe *pling* perhaps: solution.
Why not simply borrow the money, and ask for real easy payments, as in, real easy… Whether this multi-moon project is this way or that way, saving beforehand, which is hard if not impossible, or the payment is long. If easy enough, no trouble whatsoever, I know I’m good for it, always. And I found someone willing to help me with this, knowing me well and this story.
So ok, money is coming in, but it’s going to take days at least, after the weekend, what if it is sold beforehand, or played by other seeking customers, it’s right there on display, oh crap. It’s too far away to just go there and get it, transportation/money-wise too. But I can use my own credit card to front it until I do get the money and pay it back before its monthly due, mmm.
I call them on Saturday afternoon, and order it, payment link is send to me, and I pay it immediately at 15:41:47, and it gets confirmed, but… shipping not today but Monday, because of how that works here. They tell me they’ll send a tracking code for the shipment on Monday and so I wait, rage is gone, g.a.s. is subdued/nurtured, I calm down again. I notice how incredibly tired I am from all this scheming, I try to relax.
Early Monday evening I email and ask for that tracking code, no reply, grrrr. I wonder and worry if it will arrive tomorrow, or not, maybe they forgot, they send it on Tuesday, ah fuck, more waiting, aaargh !
Tuesday morning at 08:59 the doorbell rings, and at 09:02 I signed for a big package, sigh 😀
Pictures in the shop are here: MoonBlog 64.4
Written during both
Gate 9 of focus, the taming power of the small. Potential that can be fulfilled through detailed attention to all pertinent aspects.
Gate 9 Line 6 Gratitude. The joy which comes with accepting small rewards for small victories.
Exalted: The Moon exalted, where the power of the small nourishes right perspective. The power to enjoy the concentrating process.
Gate 5 of fixed Rhythms, waiting. The fundamental attunement to natural rhythms. Waiting as an active state of Awareness.
Gate 5 Line 1 Perseverance. If the captain must, he goes down with the ship.
Exalted: Courage in the face of adversity. The power to maintain one’s own rhythm.
Detriment: The premature and often disastrous urge to cut one’s losses. Weakness in maintaining one’s rhythm when challenged.