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Thread: ATTN HISTORIANS: I NEED SOME HELP IDENTIFYING A PRS THAT I ONCE HAD

  1. #1
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    ATTN HISTORIANS: I NEED SOME HELP IDENTIFYING A PRS THAT I ONCE HAD

    Hi Folks,

    Sorry for the length of this thread, but I need some help and there really wasn't any way to taper it down. Anyway, I'm new to the Forum (first post) and I don't currently own a PRS of any kind, but I've owned several in the past, one of which I sold (like a brain-dead idiot!) some years ago (2001-2002), and I miss it terribly! In fact, after buying, playing and selling somewhere in the neighborhood of 20+ guitars since that time, I've not been able to replicate the pure tonal bliss that I obtained with that particular guitar. And so, I'm on a journey to see if I can get back something (anything?) close to what I lost (or had), in terms of its overall features and tonal quality, and that is the point of this thread. Basically, I'm hoping to get some help from those members who are very familiar with the early (1988-92) PRS lineup in identifying what it was that I had, and how I might best go about replacing it.

    I'll start by saying that I was fairly young and relatively new to electric guitars at the time of original purchase, so I wasn't very responsible when it came to things like serial numbers or pickup specifications, which would have helped a lot, but I'm confident that I remember enough to narrow it down. Besides, as I see it, the real problem, won't be identifying what it was that I had, but rather, identifying something of equal or superior quality from current day production that has any hope of replacing it.

    Anyway, from what I remember, here are the "known" specifications of the guitar that I sold (i.e., the one I'm hoping to replace):

    Purchased: Used (but almost new)
    Date of Purchase: Sometime in late '91 or early '92
    Number of Frets: 24
    Fretboard: Rosewood
    Fretboard Inlay: Solid birds
    Tuners: Locking
    Type of Body: Solid
    Color of Body: Dark Gray (probably 'Charcoal Burst")
    Top: 10-Top Flame (with cream-colored or natural binding)
    Color of Back, Sides & Back of Neck: Gloss Black
    Hardware: Gold? I believe the hardware was all gold, but I'm not sure.
    Pickups: Humbuckers (2) - Again, I'm not absolutely sure about this, but I think the pups had gold covers
    Bridge: Tremolo
    Number of Controls/Pots: Three? Maybe four? I can't quite remember the exact configuration, but there was no blade switch, so I believe it had a minimum of three (3) knobs - pickup selector, volume and tone.
    Special or Notable Features: Sweet Switch

    PHOTO: And here's a photo of something very similar. In fact, if the chrome hardware on this photo were replaced with gold, and a 'sweet switch' were added, it would be almost identical in every respect to what I once sold:



    SUMMARY:

    Unfortunately, I'm not uber familiar with all of the various models of PRS guitars that have been made over the years (discontinued and otherwise), or which specific features belong to which models, and I could be wrong about this, but I believe the model of guitar that I bought back then (the one described above) was considered a "Custom-24". In addition, I suspect that it was a pre-'92 model, because it appears that by '92, the 'sweet switch' had disappeared. In any event, I'd like to get firm clarification of this, and if at all possible, I'd really like to identify the specific year of production ('88-92?). Perhaps most important of all, I would like to identify the specific type of pickups used at that time, so that I can narrow down my future search for another PRS Custom-24 that might offer similar tonal qualities, even if it means a custom order direct from PRS. Last but not least, I'll close by saying that I've owned other PRS guitars in those same years and in the years since, including other 24-fret models and a model that I think is/was referred to as the "SE-22" (with chrome hardware and dot frets), but none of them (for whatever reason?) came close to the tone of the original Custom-24 described above.

    Thanks for your patience and for listening, and thanks also to all who choose to respond.

    Cheers!
    Last edited by Troubadour; 03-15-2013 at 05:58 PM.

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    Thanks for your reply.

    I can't tell you why, but "two" knobs just doesn't sound right. It definitely had a sweet switch and definitely lacked a blade switch (using a rotary instead), and yes, I recognize that this pretty much leaves only volume, so I trust your assessment, but I could of swore it had more than two knobs. As for the fretboard, I believe it was indeed Brazilian.

    As for "Guitar Center Throwback" models, I'm afraid I haven't a clue what that means, but I can tell you with confidence that the guitar in question wasn't carried (or sold) at the time by any Guitar Center(s). I recall from the master sales receipt that it was originally purchased at a boutique store somewhere near Seattle (where I in-turn subsequently purchased it), and I recall paying close to $3,600 for it (used) back in '91, which was a 'grip' in those days.

    Regarding pickups, I'm not uber well-versed in PRS vernacular, and I'll jump to the assumption that "T&B's" means treble/bass (?), but the guitar was factory original, so I'm not sure what to make of the statement "slugs changed". And lastly, I'm not familiar with the term "HFS", so I'm afraid that's equally nebulous for me, but I wonder if there's any way to tell between the two (HFS vs. T&B) by the fact that the pickups had covers? For some reason, covers themselves appear to have been rather rare back then. In fact, try as I may, I haven't been able to locate a single photograph on-line of an '88-'92 Custom-24 with sweet switch that had covered humbuckers.
    Last edited by Troubadour; 03-15-2013 at 07:27 PM.

  3. #3
    You indicated you bought it used; perhaps the original owner changed out the pickups to a covered set? I'm pretty sure PRS didn't offer covered pickups on the CU24s at that time.

    I had a 1991. Mine had HFS/Vintage Bass pickups, uncovered, 3 knobs, no sweet switch. I'm pretty sure that 1991 was the year they stopped making the sweet switch standard.

    If it had a sweet switch, it would've only had two knobs. HFS = Hot, Fat, Screams.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 03-15-2013 at 07:50 PM.
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    Interesting. I'm quite confident that the original owner didn't change anything on it (the guitar was too new and he just wasn't that techie), and I could have swore that they were in fact covered, but clearly, its been a long time, so I could easily be wrong. Anyway, thanks for the clarification on terms. All-in-all, it sounds like there is going to be no reasonable way to determine (at least not with any certainty) whether it was an '88, '89. '90 or possibly '91, and that's unfortunate.

    I suspect that the pickups in mine were the same HFS/Vintage Bass pickups that you had in your '91, but who knows? Any future purchase I make is likely to be a remote sale, where I'm unable to play the guitar in advance, so I really would have liked to have had some degree of confidence with respect to those pickups, before buying. In the end, it may mean that I'll be unable to replace it under the circumstances, and I'll simply have to shop at the retail level and test drive everything from here on in, before making an actual purchase. This drastically reduces the field of potential candidates and is therefore not a particularly ideal situation, and to be honest (as I said earlier), I haven't played another PRS since then, that came anywhere near close.

  5. #5
    It's a tough thing to chase memories.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

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    Yup, that's a fact, and its tougher still, when the changes that prompt those fond memories, were brought upon you by your own foolish actions! I almost wish that the damned thing had been lost or stolen, rather than knowing that it was me who consciously sold it in a moment of foolishness. What an idiot! Its the perfect lesson for young people - forget about all the cutesy fluff and flashy cosmetics, forget about the "limited edition/special reserve" marketing garbage, and just focus on tone. You'll be all-the-wiser for it. The Custom-24 that I had wasn't really a 'looker' per se, but tone???? Pppppffffff! Fuggettaboutit! I used that Custom-24 back then straight into a Mesa Boogie studio pre-amp with nothing but on-board reverb (no pedals) and a Mesa stereo 50:50 power amp to a pair of EVM-12Ls. Lord, do I miss those simple days. Somehow, someway, I've simply gotta get back.

  7. #7
    Love Boat Captain butterfly's Avatar
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    Yup as Johnny Thunders said, you can't put your arms around a memory. But buck up, PRS is making the finest guitars of their history right now. I say start anew.

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    Butterfly . . . thanks for your comment and I'm encouraged by your assessment of the more current production models of PRS, but alas, this has not been my personal experience. I've hoped beyond hope that I'd find something close, but I'm afraid everything I've played in recent years has fallen well short of what I'd hoped for. However, if you've got any suggestions in terms of specific models of PRS to evaluate, please, do not hesitate to list them here, because it may come to that for me. Hard to say at this point.

    DirtyMoon-Bob . . . thanks for your continued contributions and for the clarification on "GC Throwbacks". I hadn't heard of those, so I appreciate your sharing it. However, the more I read and learn here, the more it sounds like there are a plethora of different pickups out there to contend with (more than I had perhaps feared), including now the "59/09's". Since the T&B's and/or HFS/Vintage Bass were previously cited as being used on most Custom-24's from '90 forward, should I assume that the 59/09's were something used from '85-'90? Either way, I suspect they were used too early to have been installed on my previous C-24, right?

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    I should add that given the gloss black back and sides on my earlier Custom 24, I suspect it may have been an alder body, rather than mahogany, and also, if someone could please clarify the difference between the CE-24 and CU-24 models, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm not yet familiar with a "CU" model (whatever that is!).

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    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    The CE's have alder bodies and bolt on maple necks, but no birds until 94.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    The CE's have alder bodies and bolt on maple necks, but no birds until 94.
    O.K., it sounds like the "CE" and "Custom-24" are two distinctly different models? If so, I used the wrong terminology earlier in equating them as the same. Mine had a glassed-in neck and it was heavy as hell, with smooth (non-porous), gloss black epoxy-like finish throughout, so I'm confident that it was alder (not mahogany), which eliminates the so-called "Throwback" series, because they are apparently mahogany. This means that what I had was indeed a Custom-24, just as DirtyMoon-Bob stated earlier, not a CE.
    Last edited by Troubadour; 03-15-2013 at 10:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DirtyMoonsRJT View Post
    The 59/09's came out in 2009...the GC guitars came with an extra set of pickups.... T&B'S repro's....I figured it would be a good platform for you to try and achieve your tone......you could try the new....the vintage...and if neither floated your boat....get a set of the HFS and vintage bass...and you would have your bases covered in terms of chasing the sound in your head.
    Bob,

    You've raised another question here altogether . . . does Paul Reed Smith sell their various pickups separately? I ask this because in looking over their website, it doesn't appear so.

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    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    O.K., it sounds like the "CE" and "Custom-24" are two distinctly different models? If so, I used the wrong terminology earlier in equating them as the same. Mine had a glassed-in neck and it was heavy as hell, with smooth (non-porous), gloss black epoxy-like finish throughout, so I'm confident that it was alder (not mahogany), which eliminates the so-called "Throwback" series, because they are apparently mahogany. This means that what I had was indeed a Custom-24, just as DirtyMoon-Bob stated earlier, not a CE.
    Alder was only offered on CE's and EG's during the time period you are speaking of, it sounds like you owned a CU24 which was most certainly a mahogany body and neck with a maple top.

    Or, Yeah! What Bob says.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    Yup, that's a fact, and its tougher still, when the changes that prompt those fond memories, were brought upon you by your own foolish actions!
    I've done that several times. It never seems foolish in the moment. Then...you miss it.

    But I think two things happen after a long period of time has elapsed that make the chase futile.

    One, the memories of the tone and the feeling become romanticized and become impossible to match in your mind, and two, after twenty years our ears, hands, brains, etc, have changed physically. Whether we can produce the exact same tones is a question. Maybe yes, maybe no.

    So I'd guess you've undertaken an impossible quest.

    There's a ton of great sounding gear out there. Happy hunting!

    PS. Sergio is right, if you had a set neck, you had a mahogany body. Are you sure it had a maple top? Maybe you had an all mahogany version?
    Last edited by LSchefman; 03-15-2013 at 10:21 PM.
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    Gentlemen, thank so-much for your continued patience with me on this - I'm really grateful.

    Regarding the mahogany vs. alder issue, I'll say this much, I've owned a lot of different guitars including many mahogany units (Les Paul's, Anderson drop tops, etc.) and I've done a lot of wood-working as well, and although it is certainly possible to painstakingly "seal" the extensive pores that are present in native Honduran or Philippine mahogany, it requires a fair bit of extra labor (additional sanding and sealing and re-sanding, etc.), especially if you want to achieve the brittle, ultra-smooth, high-gloss finish that was present on my earlier Custom-24. In addition, from my experience, its notably lighter-weight than alder is. That said, are you guys saying that you're confident that the folks at PRS went to that added effort, and that despite its heavier weight, my Custom-24 had to have been mahogany?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    . . . PS. Sergio is right, if you had a set neck, you had a mahogany body. Are you sure it had a maple top? Maybe you had an all mahogany version?
    Nope, no question that it was a set neck and no question that it was a flamed maple top. The top itself was gorgeous, as was the natural binding, but again, it was a heavy bugger, much heavier than I would have expected for mahogany. The other mahogany-bodied guitars I've owned (although typically chambered) were featherlight compared to my former PRS. Who knows? Perhaps it was the added weight from the multiple layers of epoxy clear coat they used - God knows that stuff isn't light.

    Also, I should add that the neck on my CU-24 was notably deeper in profile than the rather thin-looking neck of the Throwback series shown by Paul Reed Smith himself on YouTube. In fact, that Throwback neck appears to be almost like a '62 Fender Strat or Tele (of which I own both) - way, way thin! Tends to cramp the hand something fierce after an hour or so.
    Last edited by Troubadour; 03-15-2013 at 10:35 PM.

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    Mahogany guitars CAN be heavy--go play a 70s LP! It does sound like you had a CU24.

    Yes, PRS sells some of their pickups (and does installs) through their PTC (check the site for more info on the PTC, or check the forum posts for some of their truly amazing work).

    There is a Throwback at the GC here in Denver. I played it for a few minutes earlier this week. Awesome guitar.

    If you can, go check out a modern CU, a 408, or a P22. I agree with an earlier comment that PRS is continuing to get better and better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egads View Post
    Mahogany guitars CAN be heavy--go play a 70s LP! It does sound like you had a CU24.

    Yes, PRS sells some of their pickups (and does installs) through their PTC (check the site for more info on the PTC, or check the forum posts for some of their truly amazing work).

    There is a Throwback at the GC here in Denver. I played it for a few minutes earlier this week. Awesome guitar.

    If you can, go check out a modern CU, a 408, or a P22. I agree with an earlier comment that PRS is continuing to get better and better.
    Thanks for your comment.

    I think you may have misunderstood me - I have no doubt that it was in fact a CU-24, and yes, I realize that certain cuts of mahogany can indeed get quite heavy - I've owned a couple of 10+ pound R9s in the past, but they're rare in my experience. Anyway, it sounds like that particular combination (i.e., mahogany CU-24) was in-fact what I happened to have at that time. Now the question becomes . . . how to replace it. Obviously, the pickups are going to be the key, and I honestly don't know where to begin. I'd prefer to stay with the 24-fret/25" scale format, and that doesn't leave a lot of choices. I think the most logical place to start is the current-day CU-24 itself, but I loathe blade switches. I know, I know, it seems silly, but I do. Does anyone know what year(s) they switched over from the rotary selector to the 5-way on CU-24's? And since it appears that the original HFS/Vintage Bass pickups are no longer going to be available, its hard to know what other model(s) of pickups I should focus on?

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    aka McCartyman altoidman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    And since it appears that the original HFS/Vintage Bass pickups are no longer going to be available, its hard to know what other model(s) of pickups I should focus on?
    You should be able to buy what you are looking for:

    http://www.prsaccessories.com/collections/pickups

  20. #20
    Occasionally Onery Member CantankerousCarl's Avatar
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    Troubadour - just to share with you my comparable tale, I had a 1992 Custom 24 trem with moons and gold hardware. Sold it for a song stupidly in the early 2000s, had stopped playing and was poor. When I started playing again about a year and a half ago, I knew I HAD to get that PRS sound and feeling back.

    Not having a huge budget, and doing a lot of research, and internet searching, and I ended up with a 1993 Standard 24 - same construction as my lost love except she's all mahogany, no maple top.

    As soon as I plugged her in, I was back. It's the wide-thin neck and single coil tones that defined the essential PRS for me.

    Since then, I have purchased 3 bolt-on CE 24s from the early 90s, as well as a 2011 Throwback Custom 24. While my HFS/VB 90s PRSes have their differences, they are similar enough in tone and feel that they all "get me there."

    The Throwback sounds amazing, but with the 59/09s it doesn't sound "vintage PRS" to me. To my ears, the newer PRS pickups have more complexity and smoothness, but the single-coil tones just don't have the same crispness and bite as the older ones.

    That being said, I have no interest in swapping the 59/09s in the TH with the T&Bs because it sounds great and different the way it is, with some of the most interesting harmonics I have ever heard when overdriven.

    If you value the same attributes I do, then you owe it to yourself to locate an early 90s CU24 from a reputable shop that will let you return the guitar if you're not happy. There are some older pieces out there, even at some of the major chains.

    Hope you find what you're looking for, and enjoy the journey getting there.
    1990, 91, 92 & 94 CE24s | 1991 CU24 | 2000 CU22 Semi-Hollow | 2004 & 05 SE EGs
    2008 SE Semi-Hollow Soapbar | 2011 CU24 GC Throwback | 2012 Signature Limited x2
    2013 408 Brazilian | 2013 Paul's Guitar | 2013 CU24 | 2013 XPRS 408 Semi-Hollow
    2015 S2 Vela | 2015 PS #5583 Paul's Guitar

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