PRS SE 2018 Semi Hollow review

A short review of my new PRS SE 2018 Semi Hollow

PRS SE 2018 headstock

After receiving this guitar and initially not being very impressed in the store about the general finish, I started changing my mind the more I noodled on it. The first thing i did was re finish the fret ends and fingerboard edges as I found it a bit ‘square’ for my taste. This made the overall feel much nicer.

After going through the guitar, changing strings and checking the tremolo, I needed to re adjust all the tremolo mounting screws as they were all different heights, and that can’t be good. Intonation was out slightly and the high E intonation screw was completely loose and almost fell out.

My next issue was to address the tuning stability. It was all over the place and yes the strings were stretched, and no, I’m not a noob. Nevertheless, tuning was still an issue.

I checked the neck relief and that was good but action was quite high, so I lowered that by means of the small adjusting allen screws on the saddle making sure to contain the string radius. The bridge itself was set up nicely to float, so I left that alone. I decided to trim down the over tall and cheap plastic nut as I could see no benefit for it to be that tall and the string slots to be so deep. I trimmed it down enough to just hold the strings in place and ensured the break angle was sufficient. I checked all the tuning pegs and they were all different tensions, so I tightened them up by means of the small retaining screw to be all the same and slightly snugger than most of them as they left the factory.

The trem arm itself was very square and close to the body so I opened up the angle slightly in a vice to raise it off the guitar body. I readjusted the pickup height as well as I found it to close to the stings now that I lowered the action. After that, there was nothing left to do but to go gig and give it whirl.

Got to the gig, tuned her up and let her acclimatize, and re tuned 3 min before starting.

Tuning stability vastly improved as I only had to tweak in the breaks and some strings were only very slightly out if at all. This is more than acceptable I would say. The overall sound between the pickups and coil tap fit all songs I played and I never thought I was missing anything at all coming from having played a strat for the last 8 months. Nice punchy sound in clean tones on the neck and great tone when tone knob was rolled down slightly for a more fuzz sound especially in hum-bucking mode on the bridge. I did not adjust my Line6 FX pedal at all from my strat tones, I just plugged in and played.

Clean sound in split coil all positions. Great twang, punch, tone and presence. Very solid, useful and my preferred position (split coil).
Dirty tones in split coil remarkably fenderish and roll down the tone to 40% and a great old school fuzz sound is achieved.
Overdrive in split or hum bucking mode. Great drive either way, copious ammounts of sustain with great prescence and punch. Easisly transitions to feedback and the feedback tones themselves change even throughout one tone, which was nice to play with in some songs.
Solo overdrive in split or hum bucking. Stellar, clean, defined, not muddy, very round, copious sustain (Parisienne) Very convincing and satisfying.

Some negatives. The layout of the pickup switch and knobs was quite challenging as I needed to switch from split neck position to hum-bucker bridge and that was quite frustrating. Some pre planning just before hand is required and buttons are not easily reached without looking and fumbling a bit. This however is something one probably needs to get used to but in my opinion, is not the best designed layout for a solo performer that is singing and playing. Just a guitarist on their own might not have that particular issue.

QC issues:
On my guitar, the following issued were found:

  1. High E intonation screw was completely loose
  2. Jack plug nut fell off on first gig
  3. Tuning pegs were loose (or different tensions causing tuning issues)
  4. Bridge pins were all a different height
  5. Tone knob is wobbly when rotated
  6. Sharp fret ends
  7. Lacquer sanded through on corner of bottom horn at the ‘binding’
  8. Nut cut to deep causing binding and tuning issues
  9. One strap lock was loose

Overall score, based on all the guitars I have owned (30+) and my actual requirements when it comes to a guitar in my situation, a solid 7.5/10 and certainly worth the asking price. Did I need the semi-hollow body in hindsight? No, not really but it does add an air of uniqueness to the look and it is a tad lighter. Did I need the 22 frett instead of 24? Yes, I prefer the tone of the slightly wider pickup spacing, as it is a bit more old school.