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Sunday, August 16, 2015

PRS Mark Tremonti -A stunning singlecut guitar

In the year of 2001 PRS challenged the much larger Gibson with a Singlecut model, and it was a bit like "David meets Goliath" in a way. Gibson's board sued Paul Reed Smith and a four-year-long feud began, a feud that Gibson eventually lost.

Maybe it wasn't so strange after all. The differences between the two guitars becomes clear when you have them side by side, and if you call them more closely, you realize that it´s actually two different kinds of animals. It´s like comparing apples with pears or Mac OSX with Microsoft Windows, they just taste differently. Gibson's mainstream versions, Standard, Classic, Traditional, etc., are not at all comparable to the PRS singlecuts, you have to step up to the Custom Shops to find the same quality.

PRS Tremonti Signature
The copy I have bought for this article is manufactured in 2013, and purchased at Deluxe Music in Stockholm, one of the stores that have great knowledge regarding PRS. It is dressed in a stunningly beautiful Fire Red Burst, not 10 top but still very nice. The First impression is that it has everything you wish for in a proper rock guitar, just as a Custom Shop Les Paul. What sets them apart is that Tremonti Signature essentially follows the special concept that PRS has built its name through, namely 25 "scale length, 10" radius, high output pickups and a detailed quality that impresses.

Body: Mahogany
Top: Maple
Finish: Fire Red Burst
Neck: Mahogany
Neck Profile: Pattern Thin
Fingerboard: Rosewood bird inlays
Band: 22
Scale Length: 25 "
Tuners: PRS Phase III Locking Tuners
Bridge: PRS Tremolo with Trem-Up Route
Hardware: Nickel
Neck Pickup: Tremonti Bass
Stable Pickup: Tremonti Treble
Switch: Three-way

When you pick it up you immediately get the feeling of "high end quality". Every detail of this guitar is stunnishing. 3500 dollars is lot of money one might think, but at the same time it should be set in light of what you get in both the short and long term. The price is all about the choice of wood, the quality of the hardware, but especially how much care and time they put into getting everything perfectly adapted to each other. A PRS and a Gibson Custom Shop is about investing in the long-term sustainability and reliability.

"The Tone Is In The Details" ...

We have to remember that the globalized world we live in, where low-wage countries produce large amounts of instruments at low cost, making the market flooded by cheap and "pricy and good enough instruments". The price has become a major factor for the buyer nowadays. The quality is, even in the cheaper guitars, much higher now than they were in the 80s. The market competition is cutthroat nowadays. The risk is that it affect manufacturers who makes really fine instruments. Gibson and Fender Custom Shop, PRS, Music Man and other "custom crafts" are instruments in a class by itself. I wish that more people could have access to this type of handcrafted instruments, it is easy to forget this when you see 10 000's of guitars on site after site.

Most of those who embraced the PRS concept testify that they are guitars for touring, and to be played often and a lot. There are of course many other guitars that also makes it and common to them all is that it is carefully crafted pieces.

The PRS success story lies in maintaining a high quality across the line over time regardless of the guitar model, duds are extremely rare and Tremonti Signature is no exception. Everything is "totally flawless".

Some interesting details:
Knobs sit differently than what you're used to, but at the same time a bit smarter in a way. The two upper and therefore closest to the right hand are two volume knobs.
The front volume knob is neck pickup and the rear is bridge pickup. Most would probably say that "they sit wrong", but I choose to see it as a matter of taste and you get used to it very quickly.

The pickups are Tremonti Treble and Bass, two pickups with the characteristics that Mark himself  was looking for, with a shimmering clean tone and rich distortion.

The bridge pickup is a very hot and pushy with an output a bit over 15,4K. It is built upon a large Alnico V magnet.

Despite the very high output, it is relatively quiet and, above all, delivers a great deal of sustain. They are very similar to the PRS other high-gain pickup, the  "PRS \ m / Metal Pickup".

The neck pickup with 7,8K is more vintage dark, so to speak, and delivers a big clean sound. My impression is that it is not so muddy as many other neck pickups.

Common to both these pickups is that they "clean up" very well even at very high gain, and they are very "responsive" and reacts to how you play, a detail worth taking into consideration, I think.

Another very good thing is great "string separation", even at pretty high gain. If you listen to Creed, Alter Bridge and the band Tremonti, you can actually hear that Mark often punctuate with "open chords" even with pretty much gain. It would not be possible as easy with other pickups I think.

Below is a video where you can hear a sample of clean, crunch and high gain. To remember is that gain is aprox at 5 (10) on the amplifier. The recording was made by a Marshall JVM Satriani and The Box of Doom isolation cab.

The bridge, PRS Tremolo with Trem-Up Route, is a is a great tremolo system. In combination with the PRS Phase III Locking Tuners it´s basically as reliable as a Floyd Rose and you can sway up and down without any problems with the tuning. It also stays in tune under heavily aggressive playing, such as dive-bombing and so on.

How is it then to play then?
One important thing with good guitars is that they are not prohibitive, they presents themselves without being noticed. Tremonti Signature is very well balanced and not particularly heavy, it makes it comfortable over your shoulder without weighing one way or the other.

The neck is "Pattern Thin" which means that it belongs to the thinner necks in PRS line-up. This makes it well suited for solo playing without losing the stability i chordsplaying.

The fretboard, made of Rosewood, creates a bit warmer and softer touch than ebony. Normally, guitars for hard rock genre is made of ebony because ebony produce a bit harder character, but I think Rosewood in this context still is the the right choice.

The inlays are beautifully crafted "Bird Inlays"

The final verdict
The big question was whether the PRS Tremonti really compete with a Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop?

The answer is in a way yes, and in a way no. If you look at it from a strictly instrumental perspective, it's a completely different guitar. Both have their unique characteristics, but aesthetically yes. They should definitely attract guitarists who identify themselves as  "Singlecut Players".

I would however say that the similarity stops there, I see really no reason to compare the two in general.  PRS Tremonti is a rock monster, just as good Les Paul, but offers the unique PRS craftsmanship and unique feeling that can not meet at a Gibson. It does not mean that it is better, but they are different and a matter of taste.

It may sound a little strange, but despite the price tag, just over 3500 dollars, this is a very affordable guitar, regardless if you are a picky Weekend Warrior or a touring musician  and seeks something that stays in tune most of the time. One should of course see these guitars as an investment for the future to give joy for 30-50 years, but it is of course a lot of money for most people.

But what the heck "Buy Quality, Cry Once".

Buy here !

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