Replacing pick ups in a PRS - Advice needed


New Member
Jun 7, 2014
I have a PRS that plays/feels great but is lackluster sounding - dull, doesn't cut through when playing with a band, wimpy single coil sounds. Thinking of selling/trading it but wondering if replacing the pickups could turn it into an entirely different sounding guitar and into something that would cut it in a band setting. Have you replaced pickups in a PRS and found it to make a huge difference? Tell me about it. ]

(FYI: guitar in question is an S2 Custom 22 semi-hollow)
Which pickups are in yours, the 7’s (covered) or 85/15’s (uncovered)?

I have the same guitar, with the 7’s, and had similar findings where tone was concerned. The thing that made the biggest difference, also the easiest, was switching to a set of nickel plated steel strings from pure nickel. It added much more definition, cut, and percussive quality to the wound strings. Second, adjusting the pickups and pole pieces.

If you don’t have the 7’s, I have tried the 85/15 “S” version in other guitars, and felt they cut out much of the highest treble frequencies - the semi hollow body of these guitars do the same, so it could be too much of that effect at work when combined. I would look to the S2 7’s, or 57/08 or 59/09 if you want to try different pickups from PRS, if you go aftermarket from someone else, something with a good bite on top.

Keep in mind, though, there’s a personality to that body construction that will always be there. It will never be a guitar that has a lot of zing on top, or the punch to play low string riffy rock. It’s strength is sweet, singing midrange, I like to say it’s a guitar that sits in a mix, rather than jump out of it. It’s the guitar I grab when I want to impersonate a polite guitarist. If you have a drummer that wails on his cymbals and slams his kick drum, and a very percussive bass player, this guitar won’t be able to compete with that.
Depending on budget and desire I'd try to stick with PRS pickups, there are plenty on reverb for affordable prices.

Bare Knuckles makes some great one as well!
There are loads of great pickups. So that search can turn into a rabbit hole. If you can get the pickups you have to do what you want, all the better.

If not, email BKP. Tell them what you have and what tone you've looking for. I've gotten some great advice from them. You can use that to give you some pickup characteristics to think about while you're looking.

Yes, pickups can make a huge difference. I hated my first SC245 with the 245 bass and treble pickups. LOVED it with BKP Cold Sweats.

I'm wondering though if the semi hollow isn't the issue. It will always have lots of thump. Nevertheless, if you like how the guitar plays, it's worth trying to keep it.
Swapping out PUs is nothing new to S2 guitar owners, but try the easier methods mentioned above first...I think the S2 series are perfect in this regard, as they have a price point is a little lower, for various reasons,
but the construction is top notch (Typical PRS). I've seen many players purchase them, knowing they will be swapping out PUs in the immediate future. Enjoy a great, affordable axe!!!!! (...and enjoy tinkering with it!!!)
I went through a phase of experimenting with every pickup under the sun - lots of expensive aftermarket sets. Were they good? Yep. Pretty much all of them were good.

However, during that same time I was reading some thread on some forum somewhere about modding existing guitars that you aren't in love with to try to fall in love with them. One poster said "prepare to be disappointed....". Generally I've found that to be true. I don't do much modding anymore - if I am not in love with a guitar I'm not in love with it and I move on.

Just my opinion based on lots of tinkering and spending too much money on pickups. ;-)
I'm a very big believer that if you don't like how the guitar plays unplugged (or even sounds acoustically) that no pickup will really change that feeling.
I’ve swapped pickups in several of my PRS guitars... I try to stay with PRS pickups as much as I can but if I can’t find the tone that I want there then I feel no guilt for branching out.

If you like the way the guitar feels, then I’d encourage you to keep it and find the right pickups for it. It’s so much harder to find a good feeling guitar than it is to change out the pups...

Try the 5909, the 85/15, Bare knuckles, then WCRs. You will find the set that makes that guitar sing like you want it to.
I’m thinking of throwing some bartolini tuck andress in my hbii
Usa 85/15 are never coming out of my S2 SC

I have a s2 mira which is getting BK MQ P90 neck with its SD pearly gates bridge.

On both guitars the new pickups sounded better than stock. S2 guitars platform only need a pickup change imo
I do have sd pearly gates set waiting, but i don’t mind the 85/15S on my 2018 S2 custom 24...
I have an S2 Custom 24. Hated the stock bridge pickup, so I swapped it for a DiMarzio EJ Custom. It really helped the guitar cut thru, and gave it a unique voice. As others have said, S2s are a great platform for modding.