Another Happy SE Hollowbody II Piezo Owner


New Member
Apr 29, 2018
Not in the market, this new release took me by surprise. YouTube AI fed me the early videos of usual suspects that get guitars early to demo on their YT channels. I think Darrell Braun Guitar did a pretty good job of all things except the Recto drop D example. Needed more "bite" (and it can do that). Moore Music Guitars did a nice take. The English bird had great lighting with high contrast detailing the Peacock Blue, but sound samples not so great. Some reviewers did pretty bad, but I appreciate any info they had to offer. And I have been listening to that great fusion demo Guitarist did of the SE HB I and SE HB II. But I do NOT like anything that comes from China however, I have owned Cort guitars before and think they have a good reputation. There was enough goodness there to take a chance and make me jump.

My initial experience with dealers was disappointing. My local dealer, Alto Music, said they had one on the way. I asked when it was due in. They said about a week. Great, I want to try it when it comes in (and thinking of a SE Custom 24 FR trade, as I have two and only use one). Nothing happened. I called back a little more than a week, and still no guitar. They asked for a deposit of $300. DEPOSIT? Uhhhh, no dude. By that time the dealers that got the first wave were selling out fast. And after that they were all singing the same tune of having me make a deposit for them to order one in. NO! I don't do business that way. So I searched for some of the very few dealers that still had "first wave" stock, and purchased from a dealer in MD.

Now for my thoughts after owning one long enough to evaluate it:

I've had a 2009 Gibson Memphis ES-339 and 2013 Gibson Memphis '63 ES-335 in my stable since I bought them new, and I will tell you right now the PRS SE Hollowbody smokes the 339 (which sounds dead in comparison), and is up there with the 335...if not beyond it on bridge tone. Great full bridge tone with strong mids that cut without long as you lower it down to the pickup ring height. However, the neck pickup is a bit too strong and bassy. It does well clean for nice jazz box tone, but with gain is too strong. Even lowered just below the pickup ring it's still too strong. Less windings would probably help that, or a weaker magnet. Both pickups can be split, and in fact I did that to the neck pickup by grounding the two wires with shrink tubing over the connection. It helped, but it's still too loud. And I also noticed grounding that pair of coil wires turns off the outside coil, which is the one I would prefer to hear for better single-coil tone. I don't believe you could flip the hot leads to fix this, as the piezo pickups can be mixed to great effect and you would not want to be out of phase with that. I could probably fix the strong neck pickup with another volume control using a treble bleed cap and resistor to balance the lower the neck volume setting. To be honest, I could change the pots to push/push pots to split the coils, make it three volume controls (piezo included) and have a fixed tone setting in the third push/push pot to "switch in" a desirable tone setting when that is needed. I tend to like something between 7.5 and 8.5 on tone setting to take a little top off my bridge pickup tone (at times). But having separate bridge and neck volume controls is something I prefer. But this guitar has great wood tone and sustain. It blows away many of my Gibsons, and I'm a Gibson fan. It's a "pro tone" too, and not just a nice looking guitar.

As for the Piezo, it's awesome. I noticed the magnetic pickups being too close to the strings had a "compression" effect on the acoustic tone that made it sound almost like nylon strings. Once those were lowered, it rang out better. But you do have to get the right dynamics on this to sound convincing. You don't want it to sound compressed, but you need some to balance out the stronger low note strings with the less dominant high note strings. I would like to hear more treble on the 5th and 6th strings, and more volume on the 1st and 2nd strings. Otherwise it's very convincing with the right attack and picking area. Real nice acoustic-sounding midrange comes in with a little bit of magnetic bridge pickup mixed in. It gets more real sounding with that touch. I once fell in love with a Martin D-45 made of Madagascar rosewood and Italian Alpine the point that no other acoustic will do. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford it...and passed. Now I am always looking for that experience again. I can get somewhat close if I work at this LR Baggs piezo. It had the low end fullness with the upper mid harmonics. It works! And it's really two guitars in one. Nice!

Speaking of nice, it looks great! Great Peacock Blue color, nice flame maple everywhere, lovely ebony fretboard, beautiful abalone bird inlays!, fit and finish is outstanding. The neck and frets? Frets are good, but out of the box it had slightly high action. A bit "stiff". Felt like 11's instead of 10's. A quick truss rod adjustment and lower bridge setting fixed that. At one point action was too low to grab the strings, so I came up a hair. Funny how I expect acoustic playing on an electric guitar to feel easier like an electric guitar. It doesn't. Electric feels great and very easy to manage, although the deep neck carve is a bit much, albeit the shoulders are very soft. Almost a soft V profile, but acoustic playing still has all the challenges you normally experience. I learned something from that experience. It's more about gain, dynamics and finger control...not action. With a proper setup, you can play well on this neck.

So I think this guitar is a winner. Outstanding value for the money. Yes, it's pricey for a guitar made in China, but does rise to a pro-quality instrument level. With a few modifications mentioned above, this will be a workhorse guitar for me. And it doesn't hurt to look at either! I love it.

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Am jumping on the bandwagon as I write...item listed on eBay to help defray cost of SE HBII Piezo, savings account set up, have already twice been offered both the SE HBII and SE HBII Piezo at a slightly reduced price...can't commit to buy without funds so the purchase will need to wait...would prefer to buy more locally than across the US...have put in a request for notification with my usual sales rep...not sure putting a partial deposit down would hold a guitar once one arrives, though...will need to check with the rep to be sure...

Enjoy your guitar, hope this will be a keeper for quite a while....
My experience buying my S2 594 was the similar , it seems the combination of low stock and increased demand (everyone is home) has made dealers a little pickier. I tried to trade in a 2012 Fender American Strat on a S2 example locally as well, didn't bite. It seems as soon as I talked about a trade in they cut off communication. Guitar was sold a week after I stopped hearing from them

One popped up at a big box, they offered a little off I took it and ran.