Just joined the PRS family in a big way, some input/advice would be greatly appreciated


New Member
May 13, 2018
Hello all,

I was lurking here for a few weeks trying to do some research on a potential purchase (nice forum btw, seems like a really solid and supportive community) and after some negotiations went my way, today I bought what has for a long time been my dream guitar; a 1999 McCarty Archtop II.

This is my first PRS and WOW am I in love with this guitar. I'm 30 years old and have always been a huge fan of PRS, but never bought one because I was so much more focused on acoustic/nylon guitar and other styles (and honestly, their cost was a major factor as well.) I'm finally in the family and it feels amazing, it really does.

I have some practical questions for you guys:

1. The guy I bought it from had it strung with .11 flatwounds. I'm taking it to my tech on Monday and am definitely switching over to roundwounds, but I'm really torn on whether to stick with .11's or go with .10's (not really interested in going to .12's or .13's.) I kind of want this to be my "go-to" guitar for all things electric so that's why I'm leaning towards .10's, buuuuut I would like to keep some of the warmth and tone that the heavier strings will bring combined with the archtop's resonance.

Does anyone here have experience setting hollowbodies/archtops up with .10's and .11's? Will .10's be too slinky and counter-intuitive to the nature of having an archtop? I'd like to go with .10's but I'm worried I'll set it up with them and not be happy with the sound afterwards. Maybe set it up with mixed-gauges? Idk...

2. What are the general characteristics of PRS Archtop pickups (bright/warm, hot/not, etc?) There's not much information out there... I know playing it and finding out for myself is the obvious answer but I really just want to know what these pickups compare to if I end up wanting to change/upgrade them later on.

I have several more questions but those are the two big ones that are on my mind now. Thanks in advance for any feedback, I look forward to being an active member of this forum.

Enjoy some pics -




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The Archtop pickups are divisive -- some of us love them; others, not so much. What's odd is, everyone seems to hear them differently. So, as you foresaw, you're going to have to hear and decide for yourself.

.10s on a PRS Archtop should be fine, since you're having a tech do it, just make sure he sets it up with them. Should just require a small neck adjustment.

Welcome to team Archtop! I have an SC-J and a Private Stock Singlecut Archtop, myself.
Personally, I would stick with 11s.....Give 'em a try before changing the set up. To me, the slightly fatter strings make all the difference on a hollow or semi-hollow. Even if the scale is 25.5". And I bend strings a lot.

I had one of the earliest Hollowbody (1999) IIs. Never did get on with the Archtop pickups. Finally replaced with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage for a big improvement in the "warmth" for more in the direction of rock and blues. And they fit in well with that guitar's piezo.
That said, if you are going for more of the "jazzbox sound", rather than something to cover a lot more territory, the stock pickups might work perfectly.
Friday's gig I played my HBii all night and loved it - I'm sure you'll enjoy your new purchase too.
I have 10-52 strings and they feel great. Bit more meat than the 10-48's on my customs, but still easy on the fingers for bending.

The pickups... who cares what others think. Plug in, turn up. If you don't like them, you can very easily switch them out. Your fingers, your amp, your style, your guitar. Only you know if they work for you.

Welcome to the club!
I have one from that year and would encourage you to stay with the heavier strings. I feel the suit the warm tone of the guitar better. Somehow I don’t find the higher gauge feels particularly hard to play on the Archtop, or my Hollow Body. As others noted, 10s will work if you opt to go that way, but give 11s a fair chance.

I find the pickups quite mellow. I’ve used mine to play classical music a fair bit.
The most important piece of advice given is to make it yours. I have given up on other guitars, no matter what others have told me is "the" way to go. If it's good for you, it's good. That guitar is beautiful. When it plays and sounds good to you, it IS you.
IME string gauge on electrics makes nowhere near the difference that it does on acoustics and acoustic archtops. Go the 10s for the playability!
Nice looking guitar!

I like the Archtop pups on my Spruce HB. YMMV, of course, but they are not "hot", by design.

I like to play with 11s on my HB. I think I went to 10s just to see, but the 11s felt more natural, gave a better tone.
Nice one. I believe those came stock with 11's with a wound G. If you want an everything axe 11's with unwound G or a set of 10's would do fine. It just depends on how strong your hands are and how much you bend.

The McCarty Archtop pickups are very low output for humbuckers, but they're still very warm sounding, too much so on the neck pickup for my taste. The set in the HBII I had measured about 7.2k bridge and 6.5k neck.
First off nice acquisition, it's a unique piece.

1- RE: "mixed-gauges" - Thats what I do, I use .10s and swap out the top string for an .11, easier to play, a little more tone on the top string, and I can pull off a decent jazz tone. ...... I do have a bunch of leftover .10s though:rolleyes:.

2- I am a proponent of the PRS archtop PU, for clean tones they produce none better. They take a lot of gain to get a hard rock sound and don't do metal very well but I find them easier to control all the way around. I play jazz, R&B, and classic rock, so they cover all the bases for me.

Welcome to PRStown.