I just happened to re-read an article in last year's Signature magazine on Paul's Rules of Tone, and thought, gee, this isn't mere marketing hype. It's real.
I know that PRS players love to debate pickups, finishes, woods, models, tuning machines, bridges, etc. And that there is tremendous demand for the early stuff. I get that; it's hard to beat a good guitar that's got 25+ years of aging under its belt. If only I had aged so well!
I've been a PRS player since 1991, and have had quite a few. I've depended on them professionally. It's my belief that the guitars have been improving over the years, and that these improvements have accelerated since the 25th Anni models came out. A bunch of little things, each seemingly minor, add up to results that can be heard and felt.
Twelve years ago on the old PRS Forum, a debate raged as to poly v. nitro. I adamantly felt that that the type of finish was a red herring issue. With the V-12 and PRS thin nitro finishes, and hearing the results as part of the overall equation, it's apparent to me that I was wrong. It does seem to make a difference.
Same with truss rod changes, wood drying methods, bridges, tuning machines, and more obviously, pickup and electronics design. I can't quantify this stuff, all I know is that I like the results. Yes, I spend a lot of time in the studio listening, so my ears are pretty acutely attuned to detail, but I really think anyone who knows what to listen for can hear these differences.
I realize that I'm something of a gear-head, and that I'd be well off considering my technique more than my instrument, but...if the instrument inspires me to write better, or play more often, that's a small victory right there.
So yeah, I'm gonna follow the rules!