The Big Review: PRS SE Hollowbody Piezo – setting a new standard
Earlier this year PRS threw down the proverbial gauntlet and set the internet aflame by announcing a plethora of new guitars for 2023, everything from the long-awaited SE DGT to the new S2 10th anniversary models was GAS-inducing. Needless to say, the folks at PRS Guitars know how to hype a release. However, one electric guitar that fell slightly under the release radar was the new SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo and I’m here to tell you why it’s arguably one of the best models PRS has released in years.
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This new SE is an updated version of the SE Hollowbody Standard. How this differs from the SE Hollowbody II (with and without piezo) is by way of an all-mahogany design that provides a bit more resonance and produces a warmer tone than its SE Hollowbody II counterpart.
Like The SE Hollowbody II Piezo, this guitar comes with the very same LR Baggs/PRS proprietary piezo system and two outputs; magnetic and mix/piezo that were previously available in the piezo-equipped SE Hollowbody II.
As the name implies, the magnetic output is just the regular humbucker output with no piezo, and mix/piezo is a blended mix of both the bridge piezo and normal pickups which you can blend with the three-way toggle switch. There are two individual volume controls for the pickups and the piezo system.
PRS rarely fails at creating an eye-catching finish and the Dog Hair Smokeburst here, while subtle, is certainly no exception to that. Contrasted by the dark amber-coloured knobs and a natural wood finish on the headstock, this double-bound guitar will certainly stand out both on stage and in your collection. All of this adds up to a guitar that conveys an appearance of a higher price tag than its currently selling for.
Weighing in at a good 6lb this guitar is light, even for a hollow body design. The neck shape is the PRS ‘Wide Fat’ – a name that is thoroughly accurate for how it feels in the hand. With a 10-inch radius and ebony fretboard, this guitar provides an extremely comfortable playing experience. In my test, the SE Hollowbody Standard excels in providing a nearly flawless feel without any cramps or fatigue for more demanding tasks and playing for extended periods of time.
Using the SE Hollowbody Standard through my small pedalboard and into a Matchless Nighthawk 15 combo, I instantly find myself channeling my inner Incubus fanboy by letting loose and easily nailing the nostalgic guitar tones of Make Yourself / Morning View era Mike Einziger and his own Hollowbody from that era.
Plugging into the magnetic output, I find The 58/15 ‘S’ neck pickup warm, responsive and benefiting from a lower vintage-style output. Everything from heavy strumming to a softer finger-picking rhythmic style results in a sound that has more depth than most neck-based humbuckers and most importantly it keeps the bass response tight while never getting anywhere close to sounding too muddy. Equally, the bridge position provides a treble response that is articulate and beautifully contrasts the low-end response of the neck pickup.
In the middle position, the 58/15 ‘S’ humbuckers produce some of the best clean tones from any PRS to date. While it doesn’t jangle like a Fender single-coil, it does a very decent job at sounding like a vintage PAF-style humbucker with a bit of Fender bite.
I’m also pleased to report that this guitar is a beast at successfully handling most types of drive pedals. Everything from my Klon-inspired Mythos Pedals Wildwood Mjolnir overdrive to Benson Germanium Fuzz, the SE hollowbody easily cuts through a full band mix while retaining sonic clarity and tonal warmth while never sounding either harsh or shrill.
Now let’s talk about the mix/piezo out because it takes this guitar to a whole new level.
Using the mix/piezo output through my Matchless Nighthawk 15, I’m in awe at how this guitar blended both acoustic and electric tonal qualities to create a rather uniquely captivating and full acoustic sound.
Turning the magnetic volume down, yields the most life-like acoustic emulation that I’ve heard from an electric guitar. While filming our unboxing for Working Class Music (shameless plug, I know), Xander, our sound engineer, noted how convincing this guitar was at producing a huge acoustic sound.
As convincing as this guitar does sound, don’t expect this new SE to serve as an outright replacement for your Martin D-28, Gibson J-45 or a Taylor 814CE. Doing so will only set yourself up for disappointment because I don’t think Paul himself intended for this to replace your favourite acoustic, but rather supplement both your acoustic and electric guitars in a live environment.
PRS has not only released one of the best SE models in decades, but the new SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo continues a nearly two-decade-old streak of releasing high-quality instruments at the SE price point that won’t break the bank for most musicians looking to invest.
With everything that the new SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo is capable of, it not only justifies its slightly higher price point, but it further blurs the line between the SE and Maryland-made models. If you’re looking for a guitar that gets close to doing everything from soft acoustic balladry to distortion-laden alt-rock, the new SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo is more than worthy of your consideration and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not trying one out. For those of us hoping for a SE Archtop (hint, hint Paul!) or looking for a guitar that can cover an elaborate array of tonal territories, this is the next best thing.
PRICE: $1,499 (includes hardshell case)
DESCRIPTION: Hollowbody double-cut piezo-equipped electric guitar, made in South Korea
BUILD: Mahogany body with bound 22-fret mahogany neck, 10″ radius ebony fingerboard with birds inlays
HARDWARE: PRS Adjustable Stoptail bridge with PRS/Baggs piezo and PRS SE tuners
ELECTRICS: 2x PRS 58/15 ‘S’ humbuckers, 1x magnetic volume, 1x piezo volume, 1x tone and three-way toggle pickup switch
SCALE LENGTH: 25’’
NECK WIDTH: 1 11/16″
NECK DEPTH: 7/8″ at the nut
FINISH: Dog Hair Smokeburst only
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Taylor T3 Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar ($2,299)
Fender Acoustasonic Player Jazzmaster ($1,199.99)
Epiphone Casino Archtop ($699)
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