NGD + The S2 Mira Versus Bernie Comparo


May 7, 2014
Well, the day has finally arrived. The anticipation is over. The Antique White S2 Mira from Wildwood was delivered today. For those who read or participated in my and threads, I promised a head-to-head comparison of the S2 Mira and the SE Bernie. For the sake of being clear and concise, I'll break it down into simple to understand categories.

Fit & Finish: By a very slim margin, the Bernie wins this round. It's hard to compete with a flawlessly finished/manufactured guitar, and that's exactly what the Bernie was out-of-the-box. Not a speck on it. No signs of poor craftsmanship or finish flaws. Conversely, the S2 has a few very minor flaws. On the butt end of the rosewood board, there's a bit of Antique White overspray. Nothing major, subpar tape job, but it's there nonetheless. The paint line along the edge of the fretboard going down the neck isn't perfectly crisp in a few spots. Most people might overlook this, but I'm both OCD & anal + I worked in QC for GM in a past life. The cavity for neck pup also shows a bit of bare mahogany through the pickguard if you look at the right angle. I also noticed one speck of something very small in the paint (it looks metallic) on the front of the guitar. It's very tiny, but its still there. If we're ranking the Bernie a 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, the S2 Mira comes in at a solid 8.75 ~ 9.0. All in all, the fit & finish of the Mira reminds me more of a mid-range Gibson than a PRS. That being said, it still is a very nice guitar from this aspect.

Sound: This one is easy... the S2 Mira wins this category going away. Acoustically, the Mira smokes the Bernie (even with tuner & nut upgrades). The Mira is so resonant unplugged, it rings loud & long with a very smooth and pleasant tone. Plugged in, the Mira continues to outshine the Bernie. In my mind, these are both "rock n roll" guitars, and the Mira does this & everything else better than the Bernie. Granted, this is a VERY subjective category, but for my tastes the Mira is the much better guitar here. The Mira is closer to a truly musical instrument than the Bernie. Notes are clearer, sustain is better, tone is richer, and overall it's just more "musical" than the Bernie. Despite the fact that they both wear Korean made pups, the Mira sounds delicious in all positions and has a plethora of tones available with the push/pull feature.

Out-of-the-Box Setup: By all rights, the Mira should smoke the Bernie here, especially considering that it was setup prior to shipment by Wildwood. My Bernie was near perfect out-of-the-box, and the Mira comes in near perfect as well. As with any guitar, it's all about player preference, and both guitars needed a few minor tweaks to fit my taste. It's a dead nut tie in this category.

Fretwork: As nice as the Bernie is for a Korean made guitar, the S2 Mira wins here as well. Fretwork on the Mira is as nice as you'll get for any guitar in the $1200 price range. Nicely dressed & rolled fret edges, with no sharp edges to be found. The Bernie is quite nice in this respect, just not quite as nice as the Mira.

Hardware: And the Mira for the win! For starters, the Core line Aluminum Stoptail with Brass Studs is a MUCH nicer piece than that of the Bernie. The bridge on the Bernie is totally functional, but I assume that the precision machined aluminum Core bridge adds to the natural acoustic ring of the Mira. Tuners? Seriously... I don't have to answer this one. Just take the SE Vintage Tuners and gently place them in the nearest trash can. The Phase II copies on the Mira are light years better... plain and simple. Nut? We already know the answer to that as well. Electronics... you're getting mostly Asian parts on both guitars, but the Mira clearly wins with Core line output jack and lampshade knobs. The Mira pots feel quite nice, and there's no issues to note whatsoever. I can also note that the 3-way switch on the Mira is smoother and less noisy (when switching pup positions) than the Bernie. Strap buttons look quite a bit nicer on the Mira as well... but who really cares about strap buttons?

Overall: The win has to go to the Mira. As I stated earlier, even with the upgrades on the Bernie, the Mira just sounds & feels much more musical. Sure, you could dump another $500 or more worth of upgrades (Phase 2 Tuners, Core Aluminum Stoptail, Pickup Upgrade, Nut Upgrade, etc.) into the Bernie, but it will still just be a SE with upgrades. The Mira comes stock with the almighty PRS signature on the headstock, as well as all of the appointments previously noted. If a SC245 is your thing, I'd buy a S2 Singlecut and forgo all the upgrades on the Bernie. I say this strictly from a resale value standpoint, because let's face it... anything made in the good ole USA will hold long term value much better than an Asian counterpart.

Without writing a novel, that's my quick comparison of a S2 versus a SE. In short, I think the S2 is a very fair value for someone that wants a "real" PRS. The Bernie, as nice as it is, still carries a few attributes of a foreign made guitar... specifically in the hardware department. Like I said... go ahead and mod the hell out of your SE if that's your thing. I say it's better to leave good enough alone (aside from a nut upgrade) and enjoy the SE range for what it is... a fantastic Asian made guitar. If you are wanting & willing to dump a bunch of cash into said Asian made guitar, I recommend taking that same amount of money and buying a S2. But then again, this is only my opinion. And you know what they say about opinions... :biggrin:

If I missed something, or if anyone has specific questions, please feel free to fire away.

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Sorry for the crappy pics. I will post better ones after my "top secret" (low cost) mods/upgrades are complete.
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Thank you for your thoughts man :)

You have come to the exact conclusion that made me change my ZM order to the Stripped 58. All the upgrades I planned for the ZM (the Phrase 3 tuners & PRS Nut to begin with) are upgrades that are standard on a Core PRS. It would be about $350 of parts thrown into the guitar wouldn't yield any increase in value.

SE guitars are terrific value, but there is something about a Maryland PRS. I think the hardware themselves are worthy of the upgrade fee.
I applaud you, sir. Your unbiased approach to this comparison does you credit.

Thank you for this review!

Thank you kind sir. I tried my best to give an unbiased opinion. I'm still a PRS newbie by all rights, so I considered this comparo to be quite fair. Sure... I probably missed a few points, but all in all I think it's a fair assessment of two guitars. I'd still rather play & own a lightly modified Bernie over most US made "mid-range" Fenders & Gibsons.
Excellent comparison! I am in total agreement. I am sure that several folks who have never even touched one will disagree with you, but you'll have that! The finish on my Mira was actually really good, and I can't find any flaws. My Bernie did need a good setup, including polishing a lot of sharp frets, but I am pretty sure that it was manhandled for a while hanging in GC.
That was a fantastic comparison! Thanks for putting that up, I think that'll be helpful to a lot of folks around here. I think your conclusion hits the nail on the head - for the price you would pay to buy a new SE and mod it, it would be cheaper and easier just to go for the S2 in the first place. Plus there are some innate qualities to the S2's that I think the SE's just can't match - the higher quality wood (which I assume is dried the same way core instruments are, and adds to the resonance of the guitar), and the harder USA frets.

I was gazing at an S2 Custom 24 today in the shop, and it looks like the frets are bigger/taller than the SE frets, which I prefer. I want a ZM pretty badly, but I'm also pretty jazzed to try an S2 Singlecut when I get a chance.
Well done, sir! Informative and even-handed, and sure to be helpful to someone on the fence between the two.

Congrats on the Mira!
Thanks for the comparison, your assessment JStarr seems consistent with everyone else, and that to me speaks volumes about the guitar.
The one thing that I've been noticing lately is how easily the Mira takes to most any amp or sim. Where my LP can get muddy and my Ibbycastor brittle with some amps, the Mira just stays musical. Clean or dirty.
Your assessment JStarr seems consistent with everyone else, and that to me speaks volumes about the guitar.
The one thing that I've been noticing is how easily the Mira takes to most any amp or sim. Where my LP can get muddy and my Ibbycastor brittle with some amps, the Mira just stays musical.

I have to say, after a few hours of play time, that I am very pleased with the guitar. This Mira truly does sing, and its one of those guitars that feels fantastic as it literally moves through you while you play it. It's musical... plain & simple. I guess I've never had a guitar that felt so... musical. I'm kinda shocked by how well it is has taken to my Super Champ Head & Cab. There's AT LEAST 6 usable, yet unique, tones from this guitar. I've owned a newer US LP with coil tapping & 57 Classics, and it never sounded this sweet and varied. I should have got the bird inlays, because this little lady does sing.
Congrats, and thanks for the comparison. Both are rockers and should be rocked. Have fun with your new toy.
JStarr, it is unique sounding and has a great voice, but I'm finding it can fit into a LP roll or a LP Jr zone without any problem. Really versatile.
Nice assessment. I've come to pretty much the same conclusions between my Mira and my SE245.
As a matter of fact, a good buddy and I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend just goofing around and A/B'ing all of our guitars and we came to the conclusion that my Mira is the best sounding of all of them, regardless of price or pedigree. Arguably the best feeling/playing as well.
Its funny, I couldn't stand how the Mira looked in the beginning, I'm not a fan of pickguards at all, but over time the guitar started growing on me, and last night decided I wanted one in white (or cherry) lol. I think your killer review just concreated it for me too.
I have to wonder if those Korean pickups have a reality distortion field generator built into them making us all think the Mira is that good, or is it really that good of a straight up low frills player? I mean really, it's got a scarf joint at the headstock and a built up heel so it can't sound good!

Can someone find a review of someone who played it and hated it?
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JStarr - congratulations, excellent assessment, and very much in-line with the impressions I posted back in the fall when I first got my S2 Mira.

Can someone find a review of someone who played it and hated it?

Doubtful Mike - these S2 Miras KILL. I do feel like I need to find a scarf to tie to the headstock, just to emphasize the joint, ya know.

FWIW my long-term impressions have not changed my love for my S2 Mira, or dulled my enthusiasm. At the time, I had purged all of my SEs - now with SEs creeping their way back into my home, my original comments stand. Other than having one of the less interesting-looking pieces of mahogany I have seen (the danger of buying sight-unseen) and a bit of un-evenness on the finish by the neck pocket, I wouldn't change a thing on her. The finish feels a bit more tacky than the V12 or older finishes, but it's not enough to make me want to sand the back of the neck down, and the profile is perfect.

From a day-to-day standpoint, the stability on my S2 Mira is equal to its Core stablemates. My SEs require more day-to-day adjustment - even those with fixed bridges and aftermarket locking tuners like my Akesson.
I have to wonder if those Korean pickups have a reality distortion field generator built into them making us all think the Mira is that good, or is it really that good of a straight up low frills player? ?

It's not the pickups. I changed the pickups in mine (am I the only one?) and it made the guitar significantly better.

And I agree with Carl on the stability issue: mine sits on a stand in my music room on a floor of our house that is frequently open to the outside, with breezes coming in off the ocean, and I almost never have to touch the setup. Not true of my other guitars, including the SE.