NGD: PRS SE Starla


New Member
May 29, 2024
Hey guys,

Received this beauty on Friday, brand new from one of the few shops that still have some NOS left. This is certainly not the flashiest or most expensive guitar, though I personally love the looks of it. But I specifically wanted to post this thread because this is my 4th SE Starla and it wasn't before this one I truly "got" this guitar/model... For some reason I was convinced the stock pickups were subpar, but after reading about how some people sourced these pickups to put them into other guitars, my silly affirmation seeking brain finally accepted that it's possible they are quite good. 😝 The first time I tried one, I also expected it to be a lot more Les Paul-like than it actually is. This guitar is actually a pretty good piece of evidence that you can't read on a spec sheet how a guitar will sound - yes, it's a singlecut mahogany guitar, but it sounds pretty much nothing like a Les Paul. If it has anything from the G-camp mixed in it's more of a "singlecut SG" vibe, but it's not quite that either.

When I received the guitar I plugged it into my 2204 and it sounded good with everything on 10, but it truly blew my mind once I started messing with the volume control - the clean-up was amazing, bright and spanky. However, once I replaced the strings (which must have been really dead) I realised that on every setting beside the full neck humbucker it is actually a bit too bright and strident when rolling off the volume, but the tones on 10 were now much better. So next time I change strings I'll clip the bright cap and move the tone pot to the wiper (output) of the volume pot (so called 50s wiring) which will make the clean-up much more usable and retain the tone on 10 on every setting much more faithfully when rolling off. I do this with all my guitars that have humbuckers or P90s, really recommend it if you haven't tried it - it sounds much more natural than any treble bleed circuit I've ever tried, at least.

Anyway - as mentioned, with fresh strings the tone with volume on 10 is pretty spectacular. Both pickups are great but the bridge pickup is the star of the show for me, and it sounds roughly like an 80/20 blend of a Filtertron/PAF to me. It has that crisp single coil-esque clarity that I've never heard in a conventional humbucker, but a little more ballsy and full than something like a Tele. I bought this guitar to cover the Filtertron/Gretschy kind of thing and even ordered a humbucker sized TV Jones TV Classic for it (before I received the guitar), but I'm not sure if I'll even bother trying it...

There are many things to love about PRS, but one of the things I love the most is how incredibly varied their catalogue is: you want a mean metal chug machine that can be tuned to drop A and shatter the foundations of your house? You got it, the 277. You want a much more traditional, but improved 50s design? You got it, the 594 SC or Silver Sky. Or maybe you want something totally unique? I would definitely put the Studio, Vela and to a certain degree Starla in that category, possibly the Swamp Ash Special as well. I think it's a stretch to call the NF53 a Tele solely because of the pickups, but that's probably the only area they haven't quite covered. Perhaps on purpose, I'm sure the NF53 is amazing in its own right. I for one am in the process of replacing all my guitars, except my good ol' trusty Partsotele, with PRS's.

TTIWWP as they say, hehe. The powder blue is my favourite finish for this model, even though the metallic green one is pretty dashing I think this one fits the retro vibe of the guitar better - particularly in combination with the white pickguard.

Here's a short clip through my 2204, first time I tried to properly crank the master volume 😆

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@Alfi27 enjoyed the clip! I have a S2 Starla - great rock machine, and the split coil sounds are totally useable also, especially for clean stuff. Does the SE have a push/pull for splits also?
If you're curious about how close the DS-02s are to actual Filtertrons, I tried a TV Jones TV Classic in the bridge position of the Starla yesterday. Shortly summarised I didn't like it at all, the DS-02 is so much more pleasant in the top end with gain, cleans up better on the volume knob and splits better. Here I was, thinking I've all of a sudden become a Gretsch guy but it was just PRS doing it better (I'll dare to say, as usual) :D

I did try a Bare Knuckle Emerald in it though, and that was totally awesome... Somewhat like a beefy SG with just a little bit of Tele sprinkle/clarity on top. Andertons had a blowout sale on the black SE Starlas so I just had to go for it, estimated delivery is Wednesday... Hope it's as good as the blue one, in which case I'll put the Emerald in the black one, and keep the blue one stock. Just a sick guitar at an unbelievable price, such a shame that they're discontinued!
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