I bought a new S2 Custom 24 last Saturday night. It's my first PRS, and I am so happy with this thing. Since I bought it I've almost felt like I've been high .
Short of the story is that I went to my local shop with the intention of buying the flagship guitar of a major brand that I will leave anonymous to avoid a flame war. After going through 6 of the aforementioned big brand and all having playability and fretwork issues, I picked up an SE Singlecut. It played pretty well and I liked it, but I wasn't going to buy it brand new considering the prices these can be had for on the used market.
I was just about to walk out when I decided to take down an S2 Custom 24. It was the only S2 they had at the time. When the line came out I laughed at the S2s because I thought they were just over-priced SEs. I plugged it in to the HRD that the shop had provided for me to demo my potential guitars with. Within moments I knew the guitar was going to be mine. Weight felt nice, body was comfortable to, and the neck was amazing. Unplugged, it had an awesome resonant sound. I put it to work through the HRD at a few different settings and it was clear that this thing was a tone monster. So I want to now apologize publicly to Paul Reed Smith, both the company and the person. At least to me there certainly is a difference between the two lines other than the price. My S2 sounds amazing and I think I am very lucky to have it as my first PRS.
I literally only played the S2 about five minutes. Once I picked it up it never went back on the wall. Got the salesman to right it up, thanked him for his help with all the different guitars I played, and went home. Played the S2 until midnight despite having to be up at 4:30 the next morning for work.
This past Monday I bought a modded Boss Metal Zone from a tech that was working on my CVC Tele for me. Holy cow the S2 is amazing even through a relatively cheap pedal and my Blues Jr. Straight clean through the amp is amazing as well. But with the Metal Zone and the Blues Jr I am getting some good metal tones.
So is the S2 line worth the price increase over an SE? To me, it was, at least in the case of this one S2 Custom 24. It just felt right to me, and I could not see myself not buying it. That said, the experience with the few SE's I've played lately in guitar search is such that I am keeping an eye out for that right deal on one, particularly a Bernie or a Fredrik Akesson. I think they would pair up nicely.
Also, my CVC Tele plays leaps and bounds ahead of the 6 from the big named guitar company that I tried out. I'm being serious. They were that bad. The S2 was out of sight compared to guitars that cost $1000 more.
FWIW the S2 C24 was the most expensive PRS there. They did have a used McCarty that I played for a bit, but it just did not speak to me. I got along with the neck on the S2 much better. I think it might have to do with the finish on it.
Also, I know a lot of people are probably to say I should have bought a used Core model. It is very hard to buy good used gear here. There is literally no music scene around here, and the gear market sucks.