Paul Reed Smith SE 24: Our Favorite Budget Guitar
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The Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 is one of the best guitar values available on the market today. Two coil-splittable humbuckers and a highly-regarded, rock-solid tremolo bridge combine with an all-mahogany body to create an insane value. One of our favorite guitars of all time, this PRS is built to last, capable of playing everything from blues to metal and look great doing it. If you could have one guitar that does everything, this is it.
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The Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 comes in three beautiful finishes: Whale Blue (shown above), Vintage Cherry, and Tobacco Sunburst. The finishes are transparent, allowing you to see through to the wood grain of the solid mahogany body. The body contours add both visual interest and playing comfort for your strumming hand. The lower cutaway allows easy access to the upper frets while still retaining that classic PRS shape, and the small heel doesn't get in the way of your playing. The zebra pickups combined with the cream-colored pickup ring and binding give the guitar a classic, vintage look.
Traditional PRS bird inlay fret-markers lend some functional elegance to the guitar. A glossy satin finish protects the body, giving the wood depth and a beautiful sheen.
Not one to cut corners on even their budget line, this PRS is built with a solid mahogany body. Mahogany is one of the most popular tonewoods, lending both warmth and sustain to your tone. No veneers, maple tops, pickguards, or adornments - this guitar is a minimalist's instrument.
You'll find the PRS comfortable to play too. Its very common 25" scale length (distance from bridge to nut) feels good to play no matter what size your hands are.
Commonly, you'll find guitars in this price range have bolt-on necks, which are cheaper to build. The PRS comes instead with a set mahogany neck. Set necks transfer vibrational energy more readily than bolt-ons, making your notes sound rounder and fuller. The rosewood fretboard comes with pearloid bird inlays, which add a bit of functional elegance and refinement.
The shape of the neck is what Paul Reed Smith calls "Wide Thin", a profile reminiscent of the 60s-style Les Paul necks. This is a neck shape that's kind of 'in the middle': not super thin like an Ibanez shredder guitar and not baseball bat thick like some Telecasters can be. A happy medium, this makes for a comfortable, versatile neck suitable for all playing styles. The radius of the neck is 10", which is very common and makes playing both chords and solos super easy.
The PRS SE Standard's 24 frets cover 2 octaves, giving you just a bit more range (two more frets) than a Les Paul or Stratocaster. Though you probably won't be going that far up the neck as a beginner, once you start creating your own music, you may find that having those frets gives you more ideas and options than if you had 'only' 22 frets. Again, not a huge deal for beginners, but a great feature to have for the advancing musician. Once you're past the 15th fret, you'll be glad that the heel of the SE Standard is pretty slim, making it less of a hassle to play close to the body.
Back in 2015, PRS designed a new set of humbucker pickups called the 85/15. Using the knowledge they've accumulated during 30+ years of guitar craftsmanship, PRS took a pickup design they created in 1985 and refined it extensively. The result is a medium-to-high output, well-rounded humbucker that excels at every genre you can throw at it. The 85/15 pickups are standard on the Custom 24, Paul Reed Smith's flagship guitar.
On the SE Series, you'll find a made-in-Korea version of the 85/15 pickups, dubbed the "85/15 S". Made to the same spec as the USA version, these pickups sound amazing. To add extra versatility, the SE Standard 24 comes with coil-split capability, allowing you to get single-coil sounds by pulling up on the tone-knob. While it won't sound exactly like a Stratocaster, you'll be able to get super close! A 3-way pickup selector lets you pick from multiple configurations. Combined with the coil-split feature, the sky is the limit for your tonal possibilities.
The PRS-designed tremolo is one of the most highly rated bridges available for electric guitars. The molded, made-in-Korea version found on the SE Series is of great quality. This same bridge is even found on the American-made S2 series of PRS guitars, so you know it's up to snuff. The tremolo feels smooth and the saddles are easily adjustable if you need to change the action or adjust the intonation.
The PRS-designed tuners found on the SE Standard 24 are very solid. Like the tremolo, most of the hardware on the guitar is made-in-Korea and the tuners are no exception. Made of nickel, they are very stable and will keep you in tune no matter how much you mash on the whammy bar. Though they aren't locking tuners, they are solid enough to keep you sounding great.
On the SE Standard 24, you'll find a tone knob, a volume knob, and a 3-way blade-style pickup selector. The knobs are made of see-through plastic and are easy to turn. The tone knob has a push/pull feature. Pulling up the tone knob splits the coils of the humbuckers for sweet single-coil sounds. A three-way pickup selector allows you to choose the bridge, neck, or combination of the two pickups for ultimate flexibility.
PRS installs all SE series guitars with .009 - .42 gauge D'addario strings at the factory. Bright and easy to bend (a good thing when it comes to strings!), they're more forgiving on your fingers than higher gauge strings, allowing you to play for hours on end.
Unfortunately, if you need a gig-bag or accessories, you'll need to buy them separately.
In short, the PRS SE Standard 24 sounds great and can play just about anything. PRS guitars have a signature tone of their own that's somewhere in between a Les Paul and a Strat. With a bit of experimentation and some fiddling with your amp, you can get a tone quite close to any of your favorite guitarists. That's why this guitar one of our Top Picks for Best Beginner Guitars. Need some convincing? Check out this great video direct from PRS with some low and high gain sound samples with different pickup configurations. The guitar in the video is from the same series (SE Standard 24), but a more expensive finish dubbed 'Multi-Foil'. It looks pretty cool, but costs quite a bit more than the standard finishes!
According to reviews on Guitar Center, Musician's Friend, Sweetwater, and Sam Ash (no reviews on Amazon, sadly) the PRS SE Standard 24 plays and sounds like guitars twice its price. Value for the money is a theme that comes up over and over again. Praise for the tremolo bridge is never-ending and it's well-deserved.
Looking on Reddit, you'll see that the majority of posters have positive things to say about the quality and tone. A few reviewers had complaints about the tuners and the factory setup. If you buy a PRS with tuning issues, chances are the tuners are defective, so contact the retailer you where you bought your guitar and get an exchange. After all, these complaints are in the minority, so the guitar you receive will most likely be headache-free.
A fantastic guitar that would suit any beginner, intermediate, or professional guitar player, the PRS SE Standard 24 is a titan in the budget guitar space. With its tremolo bridge, coil-splittable humbuckers, and 24 frets, you can play just about anything with this guitar. For beginners and intermediate guitarists looking for an upgrade, you won't find much to complain about here. Versatile, gorgeous, and an extremely good value, this guitar is a no-brainer.