509 vs SH Special

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by Skeeter, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. Skeeter

    Skeeter New Member

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    Hi, I was wondering if anyone owns both of these or played both enough to be familiar with them.

    I’ve long wanted a 3 pup, HSH type PRS, and these both look like great options. I know the 509 has a different scale length. Otherwise, besides the SH (which is a big difference), the bodies and necks are about the same, as I understand it.

    I’m mainly interested in hearing about the pickups’ output and tone. I have a general idea of what a 58/15 sounds like from my 594 (though obviously they are underwound), but how do they compare to the humbucking sounds on the 509? I’m guessing the single coils are a bit better on the 509, but I’d be interested to hear how they compare to the Special, and how much of a difference the NF is positions 2 and 4, etc...

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    I own both and personally I feel these are 2 very different guitars - even if they do share a 'similar' type of layout. The Middle of the 509 is a Single Coil though and not a Narrowfield Humbucker and you can't select just the Narrowfield on its own but you can select just the middle of a 509. On the Special, the middle position selects the two humbuckers (something you can't do on a 509) and, with the individual tapping, you can use the middle option for 4 different tonal options - HH, HS, SH or SS.

    The best way to look at the Special is more as a Custom 22 with added options with positions 2 and 4 thanks to the addition of a the Narrowfield. Normally, 2 and 4 offer alternative 'Middle' options, splitting either the 'neck' or 'both' humbuckers - something you can get close to with the middle position now and individual tapping. In total, you have 12 different combinations of pick up combinations depending on whether the Humbuckers are tapped or not. Another difference of course is the Semi-Hollow shorter scale length build.


    The 509 is its own thing and for me, its a Jack of all trades but 'master of none'. By that I mean it can give you some LP, some Tele and some Stratty tones but not going to give you everything these guitars can do in one instrument. In other words, you can get a LP type Bridge or Neck tone but can't get a LP middle position tone, can get a passable Tele bridge tone but the neck and middle split are reasonable Stratty tones - not the most iconic stratty tone but I think that has more to do with the Mahogany body/neck with maple top and rosewood fingerboard. All in all, its a very versatile instrument and very useable but if you are really looking for a LP, Strat and Tele in one, this will come close but it does have some 'compromise' to each iconic guitar to be as versatile as it is. I think its better to look at it as a versatile guitar, its own thing that can save you having to swap guitars a lot rather than look at it as a replacement to 3 guitars.

    Tonally, the 509 and Special 22 are different. Its not surprising as the PU's are different for a start. Both sound great though and I would suggest you try both out and see which one you prefer, which offers the tones that you are looking for the most. If you have the opportunity to buy just 1 of these now with the possibility of owning both eventually, then I would say buy the Special NOW! Its a limited production guitar and won't be around forever whilst the 509 has been, and probably will be around for a while yet. Even if they stop the 509 for 2020, you are more likely to see these for sale just because they have been made for more years.

    Personally, I prefer my Special but that is because I prefer the shorter Scale Length and the option to use both Humbuckers together. My 509 was in part bought to give me the more 'tele/stratty' tones as I don't really want a Strat or Tele and this was the 'closest' I was prepared to go. Its 'humbucker' tones are great but I already had a 594 and since added the Cu24, Hbii and now the Special 22 so the 509 isn't generally the guitar I turn to when I want Humbucker sounds. Again that's not because the 509 isn't capable of those, its more down to the scale length and role its found itself in my collection. When it was my 2nd guitar, the 509 was more a Humbucker guitar that gave me the option of Strat/tele tones but as I have added more humbucker guitars, the 509 has become more and more the guitar I would turn to for an SSS guitar. I am also not going out and gigging, just a home user and maybe the 509 would get much more use on the road as its versatility could easily see you through a gig as a covers band, flicking between humbuckers and SC's as the song requires.

    I see the 509 as PRS's Superstrat (like an Ibanez HSH for example) where as I see the Special as an 'expanded' Custom 22 with added versatility. Make of that as you will but that's the roles I have given these guitars in my collection and maybe you may see or use these differently.
     
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  3. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Mozzi hit the nail on the head with his reply. I also have both, and concur with every point he made. I would preface that my 509 is a WL with a Swamp Ash back, Maple cap, Maple neck and fret board, so it gets a little closer those Strat and Tele tones than a Core version does. Just a bit brighter, I would say.

    The SSH has, IMO, the best splits/taps (whichever they are) out of any other split-able pickups. The MT (Multi-Tap) 58/15 are spectacular. Roll off the volume, twiddle the tone, and you can get some pretty convincing single coil leaning sounds.

    Overall, I would say the pickups on the 509 are a touch hotter, too. Either way, you can't go wrong. It's a toss up, but if I was on a desert island, and had to pick one to be left with, I might lean to the SSH. Tight call though.
     
  4. strat63

    strat63 New Member

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    The great descriptions above make me want to try a special.
     
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  5. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Take your wallet with you, if you do. I took mine to Rider1260's house a week after I got it. I'm not even sure if it took him another week to order his.
     
  6. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    If you do try, be prepared to buy because as soon as you try you will want it!! Its an amazing instrument and such a versatile one as well. Weight is not an issue either for something that has all that functionality built in. Another thing to consider is that the Special is a Limited Edition run and as such, you may find your choices and opportunities to try and/or buy becoming increasingly limited.

    Its why I said that if you are thinking about owning a Special, you need to buy one sooner whilst you still have a bit more choice. If you are reying to decide which to buy first, a Special or 509 (or any other PRS model), the priority ought to be towards the Special with the other PRS pushed back until a later date. At least those are still being made so you won't need to worry about stock.

    I do agree with @bodia that the 58/15 MT's (Multi-Tap) humbuckers are excellent - including when tapped (as they are called Multi-tap PU's, I would expect these to be a tap rather than a 'split'). Whether they are the 'best' split tones or not, that would depend on the person and there preference. The Paul's Guitar is getting a LOT of great reviews for its 'split' single coil tones with the TCI Pick-ups so I won't say the 58/15 MT's are the best when tapped but I will say they are very good and very useable. The 509 has great split tones too and I assume they are a 'split' because the 509 name derives from 5 single coils arranged and wired in such a way to give 9 different PU combinations.

    My regular 509 or any of my guitars with the option to 'split/tap' isn't going to give that 'Stratty' Single Coil sound - not really because none of my guitars are built like a Strat with the same woods and bolt on maple neck but that doesn't mean that they aren't useable. The big mistake will be thinking that the tones you get from Split/tapped Humbuckers on a Mahogany set-necked guitar don't sound exactly like a Single coil in a Strat or Tele rather than as a 'unique' additional tone that you can use.
     
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  7. strat63

    strat63 New Member

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    I'd prefer unique anyway. I have the other tones cover quite well.
     
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  8. Rider1260

    Rider1260 New Member

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    I would have taken your if you let me :)
    The 58/15mt to me are a far better pickup the the LT version ( IMHO ) and adding the tapped buckers to the Narrowfield is tons of fun :)
    I'm sure the 509 is killer but I have a 513 and love the Heavy Humbucker mode so I am set on that front,
     
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  9. Skeeter

    Skeeter New Member

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    Thanks for the insightful observations and information. To be clear, I have a number of PRSi, just about all 2 humbucker. I have a 408 semi-hollow that I absolutely love, so I’ve got those middle position options kinda covered there. I also have a SH Vela, and a HBII.

    And while I like the way PRS does SH guitars (doesn’t take away too much meat for crunchy, gainy stuff, but adds a nice acoustic touch to clean tones), I’m not sure if a 3rd SH, in addition to HBII is just treading too much similar ground.

    Now, as one person described the 509 as PRS’ Superstrat, that’s more what I have in mind with this purchase and have wanted from PRS for a long time. That’s definitely something I don’t have in my current PRS. And the lack of the NF alone on the Special is kind of a bummer to me (maybe a push-pull could be added later to get that option?) And hearing that the 509 pups are a bit hotter is appealing, as I’m not always convinced the 5x/xx series has enough oomph in a Custom body. And one of the 509 options I’m considering has a maple neck/fretboard, which I would imagine help the single coil tones with some brightness.

    I never expect these guitars, with all the switching options, to sound exactly like the guitars they are inspired by - for instance the 408 is my fav model, and its sounds are close, but ultimately unique to that guitar which is perfectly fine. And they are great for auditions, recording and gigging. I generally like Paul’s forward looking ideas, rather than trying to outdo an old recipe (Silver Sky, 594 - which don’t get me wrong, is fabulous. The SS is impressive, but I can’t get along with its small, vintage frets and fretboard radius).

    It would be nice to be able to try a SH Special, but there isn’t one near me. But, it is a good point that it’s a limited run vs the 509, which will presumably remain in the lineup for the coming years.

    As always, there are too many good PRS to choose from! ;)
     
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  10. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    @Skeeter It was me that described the 509 as a Superstrat and I really think its the 'best' way to describe it - even if PRS themselves wouldn't use that terminology. Most Superstrats, particularly the Ibanez guitars like the Jem for example use the 5 way blade with positions 2 and 4 adding a bridge or neck single coil to the middle PU with 1 and 5 giving the full humbuckers and 3 the middle. All of these arrangements are possible on the 509 but you can use the Bridge and Neck split on their own and the full humbucker with the middle SC added - hence you get 9 possible combinations from the 5 way.

    As for finding a 509 with a maple neck with or without a different body wood (like Swamp Ash) will make it a Wood Library option and should make the sound a bit brighter compared to the warmer tones of a Mahogany/rosewood build. I do think the 509 PU's are bit hotter but haven't really used it as much in its Humbucking mode for a while and, since I have added my HBii (Jan 19) and SSH (Jun 19) (two guitars in 6months - no wonder my Bank Balance is not that healthy right now) I haven't A/B'd it with the 58/15 MT's. As I have added more humbucker loaded guitars, I have found myself playing these more than reaching for my 509 and the 509 has become even more of a Superstrat with more emphasis on the strat part.

    I think the Guitar sounds great and I would certainly recommend it if you are looking for that Superstrat type of guitar from PRS. If you aren't looking for a Guitar that replaces 2 or 3 (LP, S & T types) in one guitar, expecting it to sound like all 3 rather letting the 509 have its own voice, then maybe you will be a bit disappointed but if you want a PRS Superstrat then I do think this is the guitar.

    The Special really is more like a Custom 22 with the added Narrowfield to give you a bit more (4 in fact) options that a Custom 22-08 wouldn't do. Without the Narrowfield, it is basically a Custom 22-08 Semi-Hollow. I am sure you could Mod either guitar to switch between having the two humbuckers (special 22) to using just the middle Pick-Up (509) but I don't have the skill or knowledge to do that. It would be great to have just the Narrowfield in the middle on the Special or have both Humbuckers on the 509 and I wouldn't be surprised if someone here has the wiring diagram and experience to give you the information to do this yourself.

    You never know if PRS are considering to carry on making the 509 or not but even if they did opt to stop making this, I am sure it would be easier to find one for sale because its been part of the core line-up for a few years now whilst the Special was a limited edition run. Its why I say if you are looking at possibly getting both, go for the Special now whilst you can. If its one or the other, the 509 is more a Superstrat whilst the Special is more a Custom 22 with added functionality.

    Based on what you have said, it does seem like the 509 would be a better fit. PRS though certainly were right to call the Semi Hollow guitar 'Special' because it really is a special guitar.
     
  11. alantig

    alantig SSBMA

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    Sounds like an impressive wallet. Any pics? (And I don’t think Shawn will let you get away with Samuel L. Jackson’s!)
     
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  12. Skeeter

    Skeeter New Member

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    I really have no designs on needing/getting both. With my SH 408 and Artist V (fancy Custom 22) and others, I’m currently just looking at one HSH PRS for my collection, hopefully for the long term.

    All of the PRS guitars that I’ve had, including the 408, seems like it’s humbuckers first and single coils second (though the 408 could be argued as equal). Not sure about the Special, but it seems like it’s still “coming from a place” of the 58/15 humbuckers, that also have fantastic coil splits.

    The 509, with longer scale and maple neck/board (on the one I’m eyeing) seems to be “coming from a place” of single coils or SuperStrats first(as it is literally constructed with 5 single coils), while also doing excellent humbucking tones. Does that distinction make sense? It may be a distinction without much of a difference, given how well PRS has evolved their coil taps/splits.

    However, I don’t have any PRS, save my Reclaimed Vela (which I almost always have the bridge split), that’s single coil oriented, so I find that idea appealing in the 509 as far as adding something different to my collection. And no, the SS is not an option.

    Finally, a really KEY QUESTION I have about both of these models - in positions 2 and 4, can you hear much of a difference when the bridge or neck is in humbucking mode, rather than the traditional single, single? I believe position 2 on a Custom’s 5-way is: the bridge full, with the neck split.

    Is that what this kind of sounds like on the 509 and/or SH Special? Cause that’s a gorgeous, very useful strumming tone that I use a lot on my PRSi with a 5 way. I’d really appreciate your opinions on those tones specifically. Thanks so much everyone!
     
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  13. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Yeah, there is a pretty good difference in sound in 2 and 4 when going between HB and Single (or split on the SSH). It is more noticeable on the 509 since you've got a single for the middle pick up vs. the Narrowfield on the SSH. If you're eyeing a maple neck 509, you're even closer the that Stratty sound. Mine gets me close enough.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    I can't really add anything that @bodia hasn't said in his post above.



    The video above does go through the sounds whilst playing to give you an idea of the sounds on a relatively clean channel. Its worth watching for the intro playing by Bryan Ewald.



    This video demonstrates the versatility and how it sounds when playing a lot of well known pieces.

    And just for comparison, here is the PRS demo of the PRS Special 22 Semi-Hollow - again played by Bryan Ewald so you can get a better idea of the two. As @bodia said, the Narrowfield is quite different to a 509 Single Coil and adds a bit more thickness to the tone but its still quite a noticeable difference if, unlike Bryan Ewald does, you play the humbucker and Narowfield and then use the mini toggle to show how it differs when tapped or full Humbucker.



    Nothing I can say or share with you can be a substitute for you trying and hearing these for yourself. Its easy to show 'visual' things online but we can't share how something sounds or feels, both of which could also differ person to person. I can't tell you how to spend your money, which guitar you really ought to buy as its not me that will be playing it, having to live with it and the financial impact of spending that much to you (and any dependants/family if you have any). It seems to me that you are leaning more towards the PRS 'SuperStrat' 509 as that will fit your requirements better. That could well be more beneficial to you as well - giving you more time and opportunity to look for any specific Wood Library versions of the 509 (if you want a Maple neck and Fretboard, maybe even a Swamp ash body to bring out more 'strat' like tones) rather than rushing to get a Special whilst you can. You also stand more chance of saving a bit of money on the 509 as there is more chance of finding a used one.

    [​IMG]
    My 2017 PRS 509 in Fire Red Burst

    I completely understand that a Silver Sky is not an option. My 509 was bought to fill the role of a Super Strat/Tele as I already had the 594 giving me the vintage Les Paul type tones as well as the other 5 PU combinations that individual coil splitting offers. Maybe we have different reasons why a 'Strat' isn't an option but my 509 is my PRS 'super strat' to give give me those Single Coil sounds. My Special 22 is my Custom 22 on steroids - giving me the most versatile instrument in my collection but, as yet, its not replacing my 509's role.

    Maybe I should of gone for a Wood Library to make my 509 more Stratty but I do prefer Mahogany set neck builds with Rosewood (or even Ebony) fretboard. I wouldn't of turned down the opportunity to have a stained flame Maple neck on my 509 as long as it has a rosewood/ebony fretboard but wasn't in a position to spend that much and couldn't find one anyway in the UK at that time.

    [​IMG]
    My 2019 PRS Special 22 Semi-Hollow Limited Edition in Charcoal Cherry Burst

    Even though my 509 is built using the same wood types with a lot of the same parts (tuners, bridge etc), I wouldn't even consider selling my 509 with the thinking that the Special 22 can fill that void, that role in my tonal palette that the 509 brings. Having rewatched the 509 demo that show's its versatility, I can see that maybe I was short-changing mine and remembered how good the Humbuckers can sound. As I said, with all my humbucker based guitars, my 509 has been more Single Coil usage and now looking forward to rediscovering and running the Humbuckers on my 509 again...

    Anyway, I really hope this has helped you to reach a decision and I look forward to your NGD post...
     
    #14 Mozzi, Jul 17, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  15. Skeeter

    Skeeter New Member

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    I never got a chance to thank you for all your lengthy insights into these two guitars. I had a false start on a 509, but that is still probably what I would like to go - though the SSH still taunts me.

    I am kind of the opposite state as you - I have too many H H all mahogany PRS guitars, and welcome the 509 as being a more single coil oriented PRS, without going Silver Sky.

    The odd thing is, I assume the 58/15 MTs can really rock - but just about all the demos online are clean, or maybe with a bit bite and overdrive. While, OTOH there are more 509 videos showing its humbuckers screaming and singing! Maybe they are just hotter pickups, or (as I know from my SH guitars), the cleans just draw you in at first, and/or maybe a lot of people are emulating the way Mayer uses his Super Eagles.

    In any event, it would be nice to see someone shredding on a SSH ;)
     
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