Back in the fold... recent NGD: Special 22 Semi-Hollowbody


Semi-Special Guitarist
Apr 28, 2012
South Florida
Some of you may have seen my recent posts asking various questions about the SSH, its comparison to the 509, and the differences between Wood Library, Artist, and 10 Tops, and all that. After countless hours of research and hourly checks on Reverb, TGP, eBay, and countless stores the past two months, often just barely missing a good deal, the perfect guitar literally fell in my lap.

My old PRSi were all fairly understated. I loved their playability, function, and tones, but ultimately sold them off to fund other purchases. It's been a few years since I had a PRS in the stable. Nothing really caught my eye until I stumbled across the SSH on a NGD post on TGP over the Summer. What's this? It was love at first sight. And the switching options really appealed to me. Then I played one, then another, and it was only a question of finding one that checked all my boxes.

I play with 3 other guys (2 acoustic singers and a bass player) and I'm the designated electric guy, who plays lead, fills, and provides textures. In that mix, I switch between my SG, R8, Strat, Tele, 290, and Jazzmaster, but most of the time I favor the SG or the JM. I use to wish that I had one really great, light weight guitar that had stellar humbucker tones and single coil tones, a full access neck, a shorter scale, and a workable vibrola. Well, I finally found a perfect candidate -- and it's not too bad on the eyes, either!

When I opened the case, it took my breath away. Nothing understated here, but a gorgeous faded whale blue 10 Top, two-tone hardware, a rosewood neck on the darker side, and fantastic birds. Hell, even my wife thinks it's gorgeous and encouraged me to hang it in our room, since it matches here decor. lol

Anyway, I'm riding high on the honeymoon and look forward to taking it through the paces with the band. So far, I'm very impressed with everything, but particularly the wide range of tones from the 11 settings. One thing I noticed is that the volume and tone knobs react somewhat differently than my other guitars and there are definitely certain sweet spots on the dial for particular pickup settings. There's going to be a bit of a learning curve, but I'm definitely looking forward to putting in the time!

Anyway, thanks to the forum for answering all of my (new to me, but old to you) questions. And now for the obligatory photos...




So far, I'm very impressed with everything, but particularly the wide range of tones from the 11 settings

The Special Semi-Hollow has 12 different settings. Positions 1, 2, 4 & 5 each have 2 options each depending on whether the Humbucker (either with or without the Narrowfield) is tapped or full. That's 8 possible settings and you get 4 possible settings for position 3 - HH, HS, SH, SS (where S is the tapped Humbucker) so 12 possible Pick-up selection options.

That's 3 more than you get with the 509 because position 3 only gives you the middle pick-up which cannot be split/tapped. This fundamentally changes the 509 in my opinion - not better or worse - but because it has a SC in the middle, you get more 'stratty' tones. The NF doesn't sound like a Strat SC to me and I think the split coils of the 509 do a better SC tone too that all in all make the 509 a good option for those looking for a Les Paul and Strat/Tele instrument in one.

The Special to me feels like a double humbucker guitar - with numerous ways to refine and tweak the tone to suit what you want. Positions 2 and 4 are the only ones that use the NF so 1,3 & 5 are like a 594, 408, 24-08 etc with a split/tap Humbucker option. 2 and 4, with the NF which is more 'Humbucker' just a narrower version of the 57/08 Humbucker still sounds like there is a 'humbucker' active with a tapped Humbucker so you don't get that Stratty SC sound. Not that its a bad thing at all as its got its own thing going and is a very Special guitar in its own right - I just don't think its quite as good as the 509 IF you are wanting more 'strat' like tones. The 509 though can't do the 'double' humbucker sound at all - you can only have 1 humbucker active so its not so good at being a 'double' Humbucker guitar - its a small sacrifice to get the more Strat like options this offers. I have both a Special and a 509 and this is what I have found and the way I use/view them too.

That being said, I hope you get a LOT of joy and pleasure from your Special. It certainly is a 'Special' instrument and you have found a very highly figured example. Enjoy...
Beautiful, congrats! I call these the sweet semi hollow. :)
Can’t go wrong with the SSH! I love that model. I’d like to check out one with a maple neck, and one with a rosewood neck. Maybe alter my plan and add one of those to the stable.
Thanks, guys!

As a follow-up, I was able to test out the guitar last night with my main singer during rehearsal for an upcoming gig (we are playing a family homeless shelter before Thanksgiving and were trying to nail down an hour-long setlist). In that context, without the bass or an added guitar, it was just him with his Taylor and Fishman Loudbox Professional and me with the SSH, HelixLT, and Princeton Reverb. I'm still learning all the switching positions and capabilities and it's definitely going to take a while to learn, but so far so good.

I was getting very nice sounds from just about every position. It's amazing how big and warm the neck pickup can be. The tapped sounds were very good for many of the songs we were playing. I also found some very nice, very clear settings for more rhythmic stuff (most of the time I play leads, fills, runs, and provide support for the singer).

My personal takeaways -- it was so light, and so easy to play. I dare say much more comfortable to play than most of my other guitars, even the lighter ones. Also, it played so effortlessly that I ended the 3 hour run without any hand cramping or soreness that I sometimes experience from other guitars. Those factors - weight and scale and playability were a big factor in my decision to pursue a SSH -- what I perceived to be a guitar I could "grow old" with.

My bandmate's takeaway -- he loved the look and feel and gave it high praises in those departments right off the back. I asked him to tell me the truth and let me know if he thought it sounded as good as my other guitars. Towards the end he looked up and said, it sounds really good. He was looking for a word and finally said, it sounds "pro" like something I would hear on an album by a quality band, describing the clarity and note articulation. That was something I also noticed, particularly on bar chords and playing around the nut, where some guitars can respond funny.

Looking forward to playing it with the full group and continuing to learn the capabilities, but I'm very impressed and wanted to add my thoughts for anyone may be on the fence about the SSH.