Can a $479 PRS Kick a 10k Historic Les Paul to the Curb???

The Korean PRS SE Custom

The Korean PRS SE Custom


Sometimes it’s unclear about what makes a great sounding guitar and sometimes we “listen with our eyes”, as my friend PF has become fond of saying…

So the back-story here is that I bought a cool little Korean PRS hollobody a few years back (now long gone), and after a re-fret and a few boo-teek pickup changes (I ultimately chose the stock Korean made pickups as best thing in that geetar!), I had a marvellous sounding and playing axe! The thing about these guitars is that they are built a little bit like a 335 – with a FLAT plywood top and a solid centre block… this gave it a unique and wonderful punchy tone… the guitar was small and lightweight, with a big neck too! Anyway, as I said, that guitar is long gone. When I saw another on ebay, I grabbed it. $479.00 US greenbacks. I tried to live with the frets, but ultimately I had the guitar re-fretted with jumbos (thanks, Russ), put Grovers on, and threw in a set of ’61 model Jim Rolph pickups that I had in the parts bin.

Yup, made in Korea,,,

Yup, made in Korea,,,


There are clearly some “offshore” aspects to the guitar… I didn’t trust the tuners, the bridge needed shimming so it wouldn’t wobble, the nut material was soft and rubbery (clearly not the “unotainium” material that Paul uses in his US made guitars)… But all stuff that I may change at some point. The effect on the playability was insignificant, in any case. But in a tone test, with the Jim Rolph pickups, this guitar sounded HUGE! Very lively. Big, tight bottom end. Smooth aggressive top end. I particularly noticed how percussive and “round” that the single note lines sounded. But “we have a problem, Houston”… rolling back the volume knob produced almost immediate “mud”. Problem #2: changing the offshore pots meant re-drilling the holes in the top of the guitar – since offshore pots have smaller shafts – a big hassle! Checking the wiring, I noticed that there was already a treble bleed cap, so this in itself should stop the volume pot from getting muddy, but it clearly wasn’t doing what I thought it might. At that point, my madcap brain remembered a small seemingly insignificant fact – that it was the recommendation of my late pal (and wiring genius… well, just GENIUS, period), Brian Miller, that a small bleed cap PLUS A SMALL RESISTOR in parallel was that best way to do this. In fact, I had a few of these parts that Brian had given me. So I soldered in the tiny resistor with the existing cap and VOILA! clear and beautiful all the way up and down the volume range. This was a bit astounding to me, but hey, I am thankful for small mercies! I plugged the guitar in… OMG, I’VE CREATED A MONSTER!!!

The Beast! Lightweight and Savage!

The Beast! Lightweight and Savage!


Now this guitar sounded so good… that I did an A/B with a $10,000 Historic Les Paul that I had laying around (well, not actually laying around) and, oh my! Blind-folded I might actually choose the PRS… The guitar was more lively, smoother, had more bottom end. It was punchier. It had more “bloom”. The Jim Rolph pickups in the cheap PRS – VERY highly regarded with those “in the know” (and rather expensive too) – obviously didn’t hurt the outcome either. Anyway, if you see one of these guitars around for sale used (they don’t make them with the flat top anymore), I highly recommend them as a great “project” guitar. And the stock pickups do sound excellent!



I Finally got my old Les Paul… Oh My! It’s a PRS!!!

Once again G.A.S. has gotten the better of me, and thanks to the “facilitator” extraordinaire: Brandon at Willcutt’s Guitars, it came in the form of a McCarty Burst DGT model… behold:

Brand Spankin’ new DGT in McCarty Burst

I’m a traditionalist by nature, but these dang DGTs have sort of “chosen me”, if you know what I mean. They are 90% of what I play in my 3 piece band, and for good reason. We cover everything from Stray Cats to Elvis to AC/DC to David Wilcox to ZZ Top to Stones to Black Crowes to country… and the versatility of the DGT with extraordinary tone can’t be denied. The 3/4 coil taps are super useful and, again, toneful! I use the whammy bar in some form or another on just about every song, and the DGT Trem just stays perfectly in tune… even after some sporadic dive bombing. Heck, I don’t even bother to lube the nut slots! So anyway, I have a couple of all “hog” DGT Standards that I use, but my hankering for the “‘Burst” of the DGT world led me to this spectacular McCarty Burst 10 top DGT.

Bee-you-tee-full and Toneful 1 pc mahogany back!

Notice the beautiful mahogany grain… PRS seems to get incredible, and incredibly resonant, wood! I saw a youtube clip of them randomly pulling neck blanks at the PRS factory – when they tapped them, the mahogany neck blanks rang like friggin’ marimbas!!! A pure musical note rang out! Now let me pull you aside here and say… “I am NOT a PRS guy!” by nature. Plus, I don’t work for the company or have a dealership! I’m not into “lawyer guitars” (apologies to any lawyers who may be reading this blog entry!:-) … as I said before, the DGT has sort of chosen me. I think that happens when you invest a lot of psychic energy in something… like being a student of the guitar, for example. I am playing and practicing a lot right now, and these guitars have come to the fore. I remember hearing the story about Stevie Ray that, when he saw the Strat that would become his #1, in a shop… he KNEW – without even touching it. Now, I do not put myself in the same company as Stevie (try working “Scuttle Buttin'” up to speed – I’m currently trying, me and my ol’ metronome – if you want to see where his technique was at!), but “as above, so below”.  But I digress… So maybe I’ve found my “‘Burst” with a PRS headstock?! I should also mention that I did buy one of the rare, maple necked DGTs (for sale on my site as of this writing), but even though it sounded great and played great, it was a little too “blingy” for me… JR calls it the Blingster!

The Blingster

Now before you start recommending an “intervention” for me, let me say that I still love Gibsons and Fenders… and Gretsches, for sure… and then there’s that old Eastpointe Reverend that I just got – and am re-visiting after inexplicably selling the last one I had (a great slide and jangly “Stones” geetar)… and obviously Gustavsson guitars… as well as those high end boo teek guitars like Suhr and Anderson and Grosh and Baker and McNaught and Underwood… and is there anything better than a good Telecaster??? A GOOD GUITAR IS A GOOD GUITAR! It just needs you to play it… here are a few from my past…

2005 The Herd Turning the Clock Back

The Herd from 2009

Notice the “un-tarted up” Gretsch Billy Bo in the second row… fated to become the “Blue Hugh Music” guitar after a makeover by Dave Connery of Connery’s Custom Paint!


Whaaaa…??? Two Volume Controls… NOW I Get it!

G’Day, I believe my Blog readership is up to about 4!!!… and that really has me chuffed to keep on writing! First thing, I just have to post a pic of a sign I saw at a store in Parkdale (a Toronto neighbourhood) the other day…

“Milk, Eggs, Cereal, Guitars…” All the essentials!!!

OK, Now down to business… Last night my friend RD and I got together for a little Tone Fest and we turned our attention to the much heralded Paul Reed Smith DGT guitar. We had 3 in the room (two all mahogany Standards and a maple topped DGT), and I must say that – last night anyway – they seemed to kick all the other more traditional humbucker equipped guitars to the curb. If you haven’t tried a DGT (co-designed by David Grissom and Paul Smith), you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s fairly universally accepted that the coil splits on these great guitars are just the best you can get – no big volume drop and very cool Tele and Strat style tones. One of the things we noticed is that these great humbuckers have a whole range of tones that you can coax out simply by manipulating the 2 volumes and the tone. Lots of Gibson players do this – just by leaving the pickup selector in the middle and manipulating the volumes (my friend JL recently mentioned that Clapton used to leave the selector in the middle on his “Fool” SG, open everything up and then roll the tone on the neck pickup to “0” – then you get the articulation of the bridge pickup with the fat rolled off quality of the neck pickup – “woman tone”! … but I digress!) . We got some great “horn-like” sounds simply by manipulating the 2 Volumes!  And it certainly brings to light the fact that you don’t just run a pickup at “10” all the time if you’re trying to get musical sounds! RD is totally sold on “11”s on his DGT Standard – and he ain’t swapping them out for 10s anytime soon! (as many of us do). Comparing the two Standards, my DGT sounded a bit “zingier”, and RD’s was a bit “chunkier”… perhaps due to three factors… strings (I use 10s), pickup heights (RD’s treble pickup was lower), and guitar weight (RD’s was a pound heavier).  Also – and you only really notice it when the guitar is turned down – I took out the 2 treble bleed caps because I felt that they imparted a tinny, thin tonality. 2 minute job, big improvement IMHO.

So that’s the latest foray into the bottomless pit of guitar tone… please enjoy the “guitar-porn” featured below… and maybe I’ll be up to 5 readers by the time I’m ready for my next post!!!

Sea Foam Green PRS DGT Standard

Here’s the maple topped DGT Custom… a little more top end and a little more bottom end than the standard! This one’s for sale on my site!

“None More Black” PRS DGT

Here’s the original “None More Black”…

The Original “None More Black” ’55 Custom Wraptail LP