PRS Semi-Hollow Custom Special 22 vs 35th Anniversary Custom 24


New Member
Jan 13, 2021
My significant other is an emerging film composer (I promise you've heard plenty of her work). Her primary instrument is piano, but she would like to pickup a workhorse guitar for the studio as her guitar skills are growing and its useful to have something that other people can pick up and jam on.

Right now she's really having a hard time deciding between the PRS Semi-Hollow Custom Special 22 and the 35th anniversary custom 24. What she needs is a quality guitar (ergo PRS) that is flexible. Since she'll only have one guitar for a while, she is a bit nervous about deviating into a semi-hollow, though she knows there are advantages to doing so. This will not be a gig guitar and will be solely relegated to the studio. She is an expert at processing sounds in post, but obviously having variety in the original source is helpful.

So - the debate is between the wide range of tones on the special (5 way switch) vs having something with lots of variety that's more 'standard' in the 35th anniversary, but has the additional two frets. Right now she's leaning towards the 35th, but I thought I would solicit some opinions on her behalf before making a decision.

It’s hard to tell what someone else should buy.
As you describe the use, I would go with the semi hollow special for its wider tonal range.
For what it’s worth, my semi hollow isn’t a lot different from my solid body. It is much closer to the solid sound wise than it is to a hollow body.

In the end though, she should get the one that speaks to her.
The CU24 will have a smaller neck carve ( Pattern Reg or Pattern Thin )
Both guitars will have a wide range of tones ( I do love my SSH )
There is NO wrong with this decision
For me, the key difference is the slightly more traditional 2HB tones of the 22 vs. the 24, although the 24 can indeed conjure some very traditional yet different sounds such as very nice 'in between' strat tones. And once you learn the nuances from what I think is the broader palette of the 24, you really can go nearly anywhere.

So my bottom line is obvious ... go with the 24. While the 22 produces beautiful, rich traditional sounds, it's the 24 that will enable her to potentially reach out a little farther while searching for something a bit more distinctive.

Then again, I have both, so take this all with a grain of salt. ;)
Much of this sounds like our own internal deliberations and discussions with players. Really hard to choose between the two.
I have a 24-08 which is the same as the 35th anniversary just with a blade switch instead of the toggle and a Special 22. As much as I love my 24-08 I would give the nod to the Special 22 in this case.

The Special 22 is just so versatile but without being mediocre at everything. Every tone it is capable of sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s a semi hollow but it’s a pretty subtle difference from my solid body 24-08. My semi hollow 594 has much more of a semi hollow quality to it than the Special 22 has. You can’t go wrong with any PRS but the Special 22 model is really something special (no pun intended.)
Right now she's really having a hard time deciding between the PRS Semi-Hollow Custom Special 22 and the 35th anniversary custom 24.

One nice thing about a semi-hollow body is that it has some sound without being plugged in.
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If she has to pick one, the Semi-Hollow is likely to give her the widest tonal range. The Semi-Hollow is a bit more like weight relief so keeps it on the lighter side. The Semi-Hollow offers 12 pickup selection options and can get closer to the more classic instruments (like a LP, Strat, tele) with the various options and the Pick-ups, pick up placement. I am NOT saying they can sound the same as having those instruments at all but its going to get you closer to those 'classic' sounds but has more of its own character coming through. The Humbuckers are tapped and you can't use the Narrowfield Humbucker on its own - without modding.

The Custom 24-08 (the 35th Anniversary is basically a 24-08 with a different knob/switch layout so I am using 24-08 to mean 'either') is more modern and more of its own thing than being a bit more Les Paul like. Yes you can split the Pickups individually too but the 24 frets mean that the neck in particular has a different sound than a lot of other double humbucker guitars. Of course there are several options that offer the 'same' 8 pick up selection choices - the Pauls guitar, the 594 and the 408 for example that all also have their own vibe going on too from the Vintage inspired 594 to the more modern 24-08. Really, these are all double humbucker guitars with their own vibe and feature set and picking comes down to what 'vibe and/or features you want - trem or hardtail, vintage, classic or modern?

There is also the 509 which I think is probably the more versatile in terms of being a single guitar instead of having to take a LP, Strat and Tele to a gig IF that's what you want. Not to say the SSH won't, I just think the 509 is closer to that and the SSH is more of its own thing. The 513 too is a fantastic instrument but was replaced by the 509 so the only option is to find a used one now. You have 3 'voicings' of the HB's from Single Coil, to Clear (lower output) to Heavy (higher output) so a very versatile guitar.

The most versatile without a doubt is the Modern Eagle V. Its got 17 different pickup selection choices from its 'HSH' configuration and each of those can be tweaked with a single switch between 250k or 500k volume pot so gives you 34 different choices. Of course its more expensive, but if you are looking for the '1' guitar for all (or at least the majority) of guitar sounds, this would probably get you in that ball park. I think this would get you closer to that Stratty position 4 for example than the 509 or SSH - especially with the 250k switch.It has the same '9' options as the 509, as well as 4 from being able to use both Humbuckers together (HH, HS, SH, SS - like Cu24-08, 594, SSH etc) and another 4 from having all pickups active (HSH, HSS, SSH, SSS) and, like I said, every one of those can be switched between the 250k (more usual for a Strat) or 500k (more usual for double HB guitars)

Of course, all of that depends on whether she is 'tone chasing' - ie looking for a single guitar that can get close to being like a Les Paul, like a Strat etc - or whether she is just looking for a guitar that offers a 'great' range of tonal options in one to offer her as much choice of usable sounds as possible from a single instrument. Every single one of these is a fantastic instrument in its own right and you cannot really go wrong with any.

I see a lot of people that expect a Split Humbucker (therefore essentially a Single Coil) to sound exactly like a Strat (or Tele) and then are disappointed when their shorter scale, predominantly Mahogany with set neck build and 500k volume pots doesn't sound exactly like a strat. I can understand why as SC's are associated predominately with Strats but they are a different build too. If that is what she is looking for, she maybe better off buying a Strat (Silver Sky) and picking up any of the double humbucker guitars, whether they have splitting/tapped options or not. The Hollowbody II could be a great option - just a 3 way switch for the Magnetics, but also a Piezo for that 'Acoustic' sound too and its very light weight. In my opinion, PRS are the best at coil splitting/tapping - not because that makes them sound like a strat, but because they don't lose a lot of volume and are very usable tones in their own right. I am always wary when people are looking for a 'single' instrument with as many options as possible. It makes me think that they want a guitar that can sound exactly like a Les Paul and Strat in one guitar rather than say a Custom 22 with more tonal options to be creative with. I know people say its more 'stratty' or more 'tele' like but I think of it as a sliding scale and its not '100%' Strat - it maybe closer to the strat sound when Split than in Humbucker mode.

Point I am trying to make is that having the option to split Humbuckers doesn't mean you will have a guitar that can be the Les Paul in full HB mode and a Strat in SC mode - but that doesn't mean that the SC mode can't be its own thing and be very useful in its own right. I don't know what you/she is looking for or needing. However, the SSH and Cu24-08 are incredible instruments and offer a lot of tonal variety. They are quite different instruments and have their own character so if she is looking more for something she can use for creating her own sounds, having 'more' options in one guitar rather than say chasing a particular sound, then either of these would do - but its almost like asking whether or not you should buy a Strat or Les Paul - maybe not quite as extreme as that, but they really are tonally quite different with a different vibe too.

At the end of the day though, she should really try them herself and decide which feels the best in her hands, which has the sounds she prefers and which will be the best fit for the music she creates. If she is just considering the Cu24-08 vs SSH, the neck and 'vibe' of each is very different and as such, she should pick the one that fits her the best (tones, comfort etc). I have a regular Cu24 (same Pups) and a SSH too and can easily justify owning both because the vibe is different and hey both have their own 'role'. I also have a 509 too and that's my most 'swiss army knife' guitar despite having fewer options than my SSH. The 509/513 have a longer scale length and great for covers bands who don't want (or can't) keep swapping between different guitars through a gig. The 594 is a shorter scale with a thicker neck but still offers '8' options like the Cu24-08 and Pauls guitar - its a beautiful Vintage inspired instrument without the issues, hassles and price tag of the instrument its inspired by and Paul's guitar is another double humbucker, 8 tonal option guitar with a different vibe (and neck carve) too. The MEv has the same neck and scale length as the SSH but the most versatile guitar I have seen or heard. I think its probably the 'best' option for anyone who wants the most tonal variations from a single guitar. The Special is a very special instrument but no longer in production so you may struggle to actually try one out in person.

Its her that has to play it and use it in studio so it really should come down to which guitar fits her the best. I know this is a long post that doesn't give you a definitive answer as to what guitar she should opt for - and maybe even added more options to make the decision a bit more complicated but I also hope that I have provided some useful information that may help too. I appreciate it isn't easy to get out to a retailer to try them in person right now and therefore I would suggest you try and find some videos, not just PRS made videos, of these guitars being played to try and at least gauge which may be has the vibe/tones you prefer - the more you watch, the better as it gives you a broader range of gear its being used with. Listening to one may sound really good/bad but that could be down to their own preferred set-up for example and very different to your experience if you buy it and run it through your own set-up.
Is she able to play both first? If possible, that would be my suggestion. Play both, and through a similar amp if possible. Put each guitar through all of the various pickup combinations, and see which one feels like the better, "fit". Also, she should play several of each if she can; it's possible that one particular instrument might stand out as the absolute best.

The Kid
What do people think if we take Mozzi's advice and throw the Modern Eagle V into consideration?
What do people think if we take Mozzi's advice and throw the Modern Eagle V into consideration?

Well, it’s not a bad suggestion. They are kind of similar in a lot of ways, versatility being one. I have one of each.
I love my MEV. It’s outrageous. The TCI pickups are absolutely amazing. But... if I had to choose I actually prefer the split sounds and the ”in between” sounds (position 2 and 4 on the switch) of the SSH 22 compared to the MEV and the 58/15MT pickups of the SSH are equally good to my ears but have more of a vintage flavor to them. And there is some kind of magic in the semi hollow construction. It’s not like a 335 or any other semi hollow guitar I’ve played, it basically sounds like a more lively and resonant solid body electric guitar. And the SSH is probably a lot cheaper, given that she goes for a not too fancy one (I would recommend the standard mahogany back and neck, maple top and rosewood board version).
So all in all, I would still vote SSH 22.
I've had both (CU24 and SSH), and still have the SSH. The Narrowfield adds so much color to the positions it's used with. The SSH is a utilitarian guitar that does everything so well. You can get the regular non 10-top version and have a monster instrument that will work in any situation.
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If it's versatility you're after, don't over look the Custom 24 Piezo. Get a variety of electric guitar sounds with various pickup selections, and also a great piezo sound if your project calls for acoustic guitar. Just a thought...
SSH...for the win. To me. It’s diversity of tone, ease of use, light weight, and easy playability makes it One of the best for studio or stage! Oh, and did I mention it’s also a beautiful looking guitar?