New to PRS -- "S" pickups question

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by Will0dc7, Nov 13, 2017 at 7:05 PM.

  1. Will0dc7

    Will0dc7 New Member

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    Hi all,

    I've played mostly Gibson and Epiphone guitars. Never even touched a PRS until recently, when my local store received a used Custom 24 SE.

    I played it, and I love it. The neck profile and fretboard radius are perfect for me, upper fret access is great, the instrument is well built and balances well, and it's very versatile in terms of the tones it will produce. I might like it better than any guitar I currently own.

    I'm thinking of buying it, but I have a question about the pickups: This guitar appears to be a 2015 model, and my understanding is that probably does not have the newer "S" pickups (please let me know if you think I'm wrong about that.)

    I did some googling to try and learn the differences in the "S" versus the previous 85/15s, and I haven't been able to learn very much. Just found some people saying that the earlier pickups are "brighter" sounding.

    So I guess I'm wondering:

    1.) Is the difference noticeable?
    2.) Is it worth buying a new PRS (or waiting for a newer used one) to get the "S" pickups?

    I play a lot of classic and hard rock, and I love the sound of a Les Paul or an SG. If the "S" pickups sound more Gibson-y when the distortion is on, I'd probably consider it worth the investment.

    Thanks for any info
    ScottR likes this.
  2. garrett

    garrett Not a New Member

    Jul 27, 2012
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    Easiest way to tell on an SE Custom is if it has the signature logo on the headstock or just SE. The change in logo and the switch to the "S" pickups coincided with the 2016 model year, which was released in October 2016. Therefore, you could have a 2015 serial number from late in the year with those specs.

    The "S" version of the 85/15 is made by G&B Pickup Co in Korea to PRS specs. It is a lower cost version used in the SE and S2 guitars and has the traditional uncovered pickup look vs. the squabbins on the USA version. The non "S" version is made by PRS in the Maryland factory.

    Everything I've seen on the 85/15 S has been favorable. I haven't actually heard them myself yet, but if they're anything like the core version, I'd say they're less like Gibson pickups. The core version is bright, balanced, and more percussive than pickups that are firmly in the PAF camp. My opinion, of course.
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  3. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

    May 4, 2012
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    Going along with that, the pre-2016's had the import version of the HFS/Vintage Bass pickups that were a staple of USA Custom 24's and other models for a long, long time. The SE HFS/VB pickups are fair pickups depending on what you like. The bridge pickup is fairly high output, bright, tight, and aggressive. The neck pickup is not as hot, and to my ear had a scooped midrange, almost a flute-like tone.

    Personally, I didn't care for them, I'm more into vintage to mid power humbuckers, I felt the bridge sacrificed warmer tone for output, and the neck pickup lacked cut, and overall they were just not a good match in output. Those SE HFS/VB pickups have been around quite a while, and the newer SE pickups have been really great. So unless the 2015 guitar is a crazy good deal, I would look for a 2017 (or '16). If the '15 is a great deal, you'll be able to get a set of the 85/15s pickups quite cheap on eBay, etc.
    ScottR likes this.

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