New to PRS -- "S" pickups question

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by Will0dc7, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Will0dc7

    Will0dc7 New Member

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    Hi all,

    I've played mostly Gibson and Epiphone guitars. Never even touched a PRS until recently, when my local store received a used Custom 24 SE.

    I played it, and I love it. The neck profile and fretboard radius are perfect for me, upper fret access is great, the instrument is well built and balances well, and it's very versatile in terms of the tones it will produce. I might like it better than any guitar I currently own.

    I'm thinking of buying it, but I have a question about the pickups: This guitar appears to be a 2015 model, and my understanding is that probably does not have the newer "S" pickups (please let me know if you think I'm wrong about that.)

    I did some googling to try and learn the differences in the "S" versus the previous 85/15s, and I haven't been able to learn very much. Just found some people saying that the earlier pickups are "brighter" sounding.

    So I guess I'm wondering:

    1.) Is the difference noticeable?
    2.) Is it worth buying a new PRS (or waiting for a newer used one) to get the "S" pickups?

    I play a lot of classic and hard rock, and I love the sound of a Les Paul or an SG. If the "S" pickups sound more Gibson-y when the distortion is on, I'd probably consider it worth the investment.

    Thanks for any info
     
    ScottR likes this.
  2. garrett

    garrett Lurkin'

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    Easiest way to tell on an SE Custom is if it has the signature logo on the headstock or just SE. The change in logo and the switch to the "S" pickups coincided with the 2017 model year, which was released in October 2016. Therefore, you could have a 2016 serial number from late in the year with those specs.

    The "S" version of the 85/15 is made by G&B Pickup Co in Korea to PRS specs. It is a lower cost version used in the SE and S2 guitars and has the traditional uncovered pickup look vs. the squabbins on the USA version. The non "S" version is made by PRS in the Maryland factory.

    Everything I've seen on the 85/15 S has been favorable. I haven't actually heard them myself yet, but if they're anything like the core version, I'd say they're less like Gibson pickups. The core version is bright, balanced, and more percussive than pickups that are firmly in the PAF camp. My opinion, of course.
     
    #2 garrett, Nov 13, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  3. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Going along with that, the pre-2016's had the import version of the HFS/Vintage Bass pickups that were a staple of USA Custom 24's and other models for a long, long time. The SE HFS/VB pickups are fair pickups depending on what you like. The bridge pickup is fairly high output, bright, tight, and aggressive. The neck pickup is not as hot, and to my ear had a scooped midrange, almost a flute-like tone.

    Personally, I didn't care for them, I'm more into vintage to mid power humbuckers, I felt the bridge sacrificed warmer tone for output, and the neck pickup lacked cut, and overall they were just not a good match in output. Those SE HFS/VB pickups have been around quite a while, and the newer SE pickups have been really great. So unless the 2015 guitar is a crazy good deal, I would look for a 2017 (or '16). If the '15 is a great deal, you'll be able to get a set of the 85/15s pickups quite cheap on eBay, etc.
     
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  4. dogrocketp

    dogrocketp I drank the PRS kool aid, and it was tasty!

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    I have a 30th Anni SE Custom 24. What it boils down to is simply whether or not you like the sounds of the pickups in the guitar for your style of play. None of us know how you sound or what amp you use. My SE has the original pickups with nickel covers. It's one of the few I haven't changed pickups on.
     
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  5. BWV548

    BWV548 Custom Title

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    I have to echo the personal preference sentiment.
    I have several core, an S2 and a CE. Amongst all of them, the split coil sound on my S2 85/15S are my favourite split coil sound of the lot. The 408s are louder in split, but the 85/15S have a much better sound to my ears (split, not humbucking)

    That said, I prefer the regular 85/15 in humbucking.
    Long winded way of saying: trust your ears first. Not mine, or anyone else’s
     
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  6. AkiraSpectrum

    AkiraSpectrum New Member

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    Interesting, what about the US 85/15's in humbucking mode sounds different than the Korean 85/15's? Any sonic qualities you can identify?
     
  7. BWV548

    BWV548 Custom Title

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    In fairness, some differences may be down to different guitars (S2 CU22/SH vs CE). However, I suspect it’s mostly pickups.
    The US 85/15 seem both fuller and clearer in humbucking mode. However, the “S” pickups in single coil mode, just seem to have an amazing sonic sensitivity and depth. I find it a bit shocking, actually. But in a very good way! This seems to be most pronounced in the bridge. I just love the sound! And I don’t often go single
     
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  8. Mec78

    Mec78 New Member

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    I have an old (2004) EG SE hard tail and a 2012 Bernie Marsden. The EG SE sounds great, the Bernie is fairly muddy and I know a lot of people change out the pup's. It all depends on what you like. There are jst as many who hated the stock EG SE sound.
     
  9. CyFan4036

    CyFan4036 New Member

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    I've been very surprised by the 85/15 S pups in my 2019. They have a very modern PRS kind of tone but not overly hot. Mine measure 8.75k bridge and 8.07 neck. My guitar also came with a .033 tone cap. I switched it out to a .047 which warmed up the tone a bit. I know that's unconventional with humbuckers but these may be the brightest humbuckers I've ever heard. Besides, I like playing outside the box.
     
  10. Mozzi

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

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    I don't know when the SE's would have been switched to 85/15 'S' Pick-ups and, if its important to you, I would suggest asking the seller.

    The 85/15 S pick-ups do sound different if you are comparing a Custom 24 SE to a Core Custom 24. How much of a difference that is just 'Pick-ups' compared to the differences of the guitars as a whole. As an example, I doubt the SE has as thick a maple top under its thin veneer compared to the solid Maple top on the Core. The bridge, whilst a very similar design is not the same materials. The nut too is different so there are differences between the guitars that will impact on the tone even if the Guitars had exactly the same Pick-ups.

    To me though, that's immaterial. If you pick up the guitar, its in your price range, feels great to play etc and you like the tone it makes, it really doesn't matter if they are 85/15 'S' PU's, 245 'S' etc. If you don't really like the sound, then try a different guitar, another maybe newer Custom 24 SE and compare how it sounds. Tone is totally subjective and, if you go chasing a Core Custom 24 sound with an SE version, even if you put the US made 85/15's in, it maybe closer but you will hear a difference if you play clean.

    Unless you can afford to experiment with Pick-ups, happy to swap them out and see if the tone your guitar has is 'better' to you than the previous ones, I would suggest you buy a Guitar that sounds great to you. I can sit here and say my Core PRS Custom 24 sounds 'better' than any SE Custom 24 I have heard BUT that is irrelevant because its a sound that I prefer and that's played through my preferred amp with my preferred settings and not an SE in a shop using an amp I am not overly familiar with which is no doubt affecting my opinion on the way a guitar sounds. I have no doubt that some here may prefer their Custom 24 with 57/09's in, some may prefer the way the SE sounds with the 'S' pick-ups, some may prefer to put Seymor Duncans or Bare Knuckles into their SE and would argue that their SE is better than any 'core' PRS.

    Point is, if you like the guitar and the way it sounds 'stock' in a shop, then chances are, when you get it home, play with your set-up and tweak a few settings to your 'taste', it will sound 'better'. I do not see the point in buying a guitar that doesn't sound 'great' unless you are buying it as a 'project' guitar. I also believe that you should give the guitar a chance to show you what it's capable of - stock! I do think with some guitars, there is a 'placebo' effect - you paid a lot of money for after-market/alternative PU's so it 'must' be a lot better and even willing to spend time tweaking your gear to suit the 'new' pick-ups but weren't prepared to do that for the stock PU's. I haven't heard a 'bad' SE (not saying they don't exist - but I have never heard one myself). If you are looking to buy the 2015 SE, give it a try, don't worry what PU's it has, it really only becomes an issue if you don't like the tone and then you want to know why and which PU's can rectify the issue - for example if the current PU's lack bass/middle and sound a bit bright and thin for your taste, then you need to know why so you can then find a PU that maybe less treble, with more mid and bass that sound fuller. If the guitar sounds 'great' then why change? Why spend money unnecessarily? Give the guitar a chance to show you what it can do and you maybe surprised at just how good the SE Pick-ups are. You can spend that money on a new Pedal instead.

    As I said, tone is subjective anyway so the only person that really matters in this is you. Some may say pick-up 'X' is better but others will say that pick-up 'y' is better but what really matters is which pick-up sounds best to you. If you aren't sure that the 2015 SE sounds 'right' to you, even after playing with the amps EQ, then you have a decision to make, look for a different SE that maybe a bit more expensive (newer perhaps) but sounds a lot better to you than the 2015 SE and will be cheaper than buying the 2015 SE and a new set of PU's. Its also possible that 2015 guitar won't sound much better because the issue is something else - like the nut or bridge, set-up (although if you are replacing the PU's, it may be just the height of the old ones that was causing a problem which has now changed because you set the new ones at the right height).

    Anyway, the TLDR is that the PU's in that guitar doesn't matter - what matters is whether or not you like the sound and, even if it doesn't have 85/15's, you may prefer the 'older' PU's to the newer ones anyway. The 'S' pick-ups are great and 'good enough' for PRS to use them in their S2 range. Try it, see if you like it, maybe even try a 'newer' SE so you know how that sounds for comparison and buy the one that sounds the best to you!!
     

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