Comparing two Santana SEs - 2010 & 2015

alex1fly

New Member
Joined
May 12, 2020
Messages
106
Location
USA
Thought this might be of interest to some folks. I picked up two PRS Santana SEs this month with the intention of squaring them off against each other and picking one to keep. There are some interesting differences that I wasn't expecting, and it's brought up some questions about construction methods, design, and the effect of component combinations on the resultant tone.

TLDR: The two Santana SEs are only 5 years apart but were made in different factories, have different sized frets, differently shaped tremolo cavities, and different pickups.

For those interested in the details, here are the two guitars:
https://reverb.com/item/35226830-pau...buckers-orange
https://reverb.com/item/33742522-201...vintage-cherry

And here are some photos of the tremolo cavities and pickups: https://forum.seymourduncan.com/forum/the-guitar-shop/6021896-comparing-two-santana-ses

The orange one is from 2010-ish. It's mahogany with a pretty thick maple top, mahogany neck, rosewood board. Made in Korea. 7.2 lbs. Short frets, radius feels flat. Sounds and feels amazing with a set of Dadarrio 9s on it. I usually prefer .10s at the minimum, so this was a surprise. The tremolo floats and the thing just sounds massive and classic. It has C&B Santana pickups and sounds similar to my Gibson SG re-issue with PAFs - lots of pleasing high end harmonics, warmth in the mids, tight low end, punchy, responsive. Beautiful guitar, plays and sounds perfect.

The red one is from 2015 and is surprisingly different. All mahogany, rosewood board. Made in Indonesia. 6.2 lbs, light, awesome. The frets are taller and rounder and the radius feels rounder. Feels plinky with .09s, so it's getting a bigger gauge soon. The tremolo does not float - the tremolo cavity has a lip of wood that prevents the bridge block from rocking forward where the orange one has no such lip. Not sure if this is a purposeful design or an oversight. The nut on this guitar is getting replaced ASAP - the high B and E string slots are much lower than the other slots so they buzz on the first fret, which may have occurred from being stored for 5 years with the strings at tension. Or it's just a bum nut because the A string slot is narrower than the D string slot. Pretty weird. I've ordered a core nut and am hoping it'll fit. Despite the oddities, the guitar plays great and feels great on my back. It has C&B 245 pickups, and the sound is more like an overwound modern voiced pickup with a bump in the low mids. Similar sound to my SE Custom with 85/15s, but with that low mid bump and significantly less high end. Not thrilled with the tone yet - sounds muffled, like the tone knob won't go past "6", making the low mid bump even more prominent - but then I haven't played much with the polepieces and pickup height. Though I'm on a kick lately of wanting to leave stock electronics in as long as possible, I can't help but wonder if the sound would open up and get richer with different pickups and/or higher quality pots. It sounds fine, just not nearly as rich or balanced as the orange one or my SE Custom (see my avatar). Distortion on the bridge sounds great, cleans on the neck sound great, but the other tones are a bit lacking. Not as punchy, gutsy, or frankly as sensitive as the orange one. Just feels "softer", like there's something absorbing my attacks on the string.

Anyways, just thought I'd share my journey since it's been interesting to A/B two of the same models in my own music space. Any thoughts on some of the issues or differences would be appreciated (nut, tremolo, tonal muffledness)!

Thanks! Alex
 
Last edited:

dogrocketp

I drank the PRS kool aid, and it was tasty!
Joined
Apr 28, 2013
Messages
4,269
Location
Washington, DC
Personally, I'm not sure if the nut will fit. I would PM Sergiodeblanc, the seer, sage, soothsayer, and Santana Savant, and ask him. This is the first I've heard about the lip, would love to see a picture of that. I'm guessing that G&B opened a pickup facility in Indonesia and that's where the second set came from. I'm also a 25" scale guy, so I appreciate your sharing what you've learned.
 

alex1fly

New Member
Joined
May 12, 2020
Messages
106
Location
USA
Personally, I'm not sure if the nut will fit. I would PM Sergiodeblanc, the seer, sage, soothsayer, and Santana Savant, and ask him. This is the first I've heard about the lip, would love to see a picture of that. I'm guessing that G&B opened a pickup facility in Indonesia and that's where the second set came from. I'm also a 25" scale guy, so I appreciate your sharing what you've learned.

You can see photos of the lip here: I'm kind of a dinosaur when it comes to image hosting, apologies!

I'm enjoying getting to know different scale lengths. 25" is really fun in a jam situation, coming from Strat land it's familiar but just a liiiiiitle easier to hit things. 24.75" and 24.5" feel a little cramped in a jam space, but is fun at home for woodshedding. Who knows, lol :)
 
Top