After me experience last night and today, I can honestly say that I don’t feel ENOUGH good things are being said and written about the S2 line. I’m going to help change that.
I took delivery of my McCarty Tobacco Burst S2 Mira last evening. I have a bunch of older and newer MD PRSi, I used to have a 2008 Mira, and I have had thirteen (13!) SEs of various iterations pass through my hands over the last few years. So I hope to present to you a good perspective on the S2 Mira.
First of all, I am biased – I am not a Starla guy, and the body shape of the S2CU24 leaves me nonplussed. But when I first saw the S2 Mira, I found it to be one of the most proportional and balanced guitar silhouettes I have seen. The McCarty burst is just sexy on this thing.
While I thought my SEs were great, I purged all of them over the past year to help finance Maryland-made purchases. This review will contain a fair amount of comparison to, and criticism of, the SEs that I am so familiar with. No disrespect meant – the SE line encompasses some of the best guitar bargains out there – but I am hoping to answer the question “are S2s just Maryland SEs?” as part of this.
A final preface - I also mean no disrespect to my ex-Mira. She had a WICKED dead spot on “D” (I am talking 3 seconds and then abrupt cutoff), and no one ever could get the action set right, so maybe she just wasn’t “right.”
COME ON, WHATS IN THE BOX?
The S2s are packaged more securely than the SEs. New SEs come shipped inside their gig bags, inside a form-fitting box with a Styrofoam neck protector piece. That box is inside another box. The bag has your tools, warranty card and requisite Mel Bay tag. The S2s also ship in-bag, but more securely. There is a rolled piece of bubble wrap inside the bag to prevent headstock movement. The bag is placed in a larger rectangular box, with thick rolls of heavy-duty bubble wrap around all four sides. In-bag, you get your tools and accessories, including an extra locking tuning screw, and a proper S2 hang tag, born-on date, QC signoff, S2 MODCAT, manual, marketing stuff, Mel Bay, etc. It’s a-nice-nice.
FINISH AT THE START:
The S2 finish feels good, durable, and thin. It doesn’t have the buffed-out shine of a Core PRS. Mine has visible swirl marks and some minor clear coat imperfections around the neck pocket. However, the S2 finish is a far cry from the syrupy-thick SE finish that keeps you away from the wood. Color-wise, the McCarty Tobacco Burst is beautiful and even. Body-wise, the mahogany looks to be a fine grade, although a bit grainless. Speaking of body – this girl shops in the petite section at 6lbs 5.4oz.
The S2 neck is definitely more Core than SE. The mahogany board is of a noticeably higher quality than the SEs, with more grain, less pores, and without that artificial, dyed look many SE boards exhibit. Fretwork is befitting of a Core PRS. The birds are OK – they are laid with precision, but at the end of the day, they are off-white finely-grained plastic. The pattern regular profile feels fabulous – substantial and uber-comfy, all will feel at home who have ever even slightly liked a wide fat or pattern neck. She comes with .10s, and was set up very well, with a slight relief in the neck. I lowered the bridge studs about a full turn - perfect.
The S2 locking tuners have the touted unplated brass shafts, and are mounted without screws – making them look really tiny from the back. Not sure how well that bodes for aftermarkets, but you probably won’t need to replace them - they feel smooth and stable. The Core fixed bridge looks right at home here, just as I remember it on my old Mira. Strap buttons are happily the larger Core variety. Plastic on the pickguard and pickups is very shiny but feels substantial. The gold PRS headstock signature looks proud and at-home up on top.
TWISTING HER KNOBS
I was immediately pleased that the S2 volume and tone pots do not feel like the SE knobs. However, they don’t feel like the Core pots either. They are similar to the knobs on the SECU24, but the push/pull tone pot doesn’t spin like “Wheel of Fortune” and the volume pot offers a more reassuring resistance. The 3-way switch is very solid and feels even stiffer than the one on my 408. Core lampshades help to dress things up.
OK, here we go. I tune her up, placed her in my lap and hit a D chord. YES. At that moment I knew I would be sending in her warranty card instead of calling for an RMA. She rang super loud, super long, and super chimey. MOST importantly – I FELT her ringing in my lap. It always bugged me that I could never feel the SEs on my leg like I could with the Core guitars. The S2 Mira purrs in your lap like a kitty.
SHE’S A SCREAMER
A few weeks back I posted a thread about how loud my Paul’s Guitar was unplugged. Meet the new Scream Queen. At a nearly constant 69db, she trumped my PG and others by more than 1db. I even repeated the experiment to make sure environmental variables were not a factor.
ALL PLUGGED IN
I ran the S2 Mira straight into both my Mesa Boogie Express Plus 5:50 combo and my Blackstar HT Club 40 Combo via my favorite freebie PRS TY pack VanDamme cable.
HAS ANYONE SEEN THE BRIDGE?
I am going to make a bold statement. In full bucker mode, the guitar that the S2 Mira sounds the most like is my Paul’s Guitar - ALOT. It has that vocal quality that makes it sounds like a 8 ¾ scale PG. Sustain is amazingly close, too – I have older Core guitars that ring less. Tapped, the bridge reminds me a lot of the SECU24 tapped, with tons of twangy bite, but more character – and much more usable than my old Mira. That being said, nothings quite the same after tapped 408s.
The neck pickup is stellar – it has the flutey roundness that I miss from my ex-SE Santanas, but again with more character. It retains strong definition even when you back the pots down – this remains true tapped as well.
My second bold statement is that, clean, the middle position full bucker on the S2 Mira also comes scary close my absolute favorite clean tone ever: the bridge bucker / neck tapped center position on my 408 Brazzy. There is a great fullness to the tone, with the roundness of the neck and the ringiness of the bridge at just the right ratio. Tapped in combination is my least favorite sound on the S2 Mira – it still sounds great, but has the least character clean, and just a hint of the “artificialness” that I noticed on my ex-SECU24s.
The volume and tone pots, in addition to feeling better than the SEs, work better than on the SEs. Rolling back the volume cuts off the edge, and continues to clean up well. I usually leave my tones on ten, but that pot seems also comparably responsive to the Core models.
The S2 Mira is a sexy, soulful tone-beast and you really should just go get one. The character and complexity of the sounds here rivals all of the Maryland-made PRSi I have. The tone is definitely more vintage than modern, but she can growl and sing with the best of them. From my experience, the S2 Mira is a better guitar than the Core model it replaces. If you think that this is a glorified SE, a few quality moments with one will show you otherwise. For about a grand street, you will absolutely do no better. I cannot speak for the other S2 siblings, but my review answers many questions, and leaves me with only one: will a new PRS Multifit Case fit this thing? Cantankerous, OUT.