I know what you’re thinking: This PRS reminds you of something, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. When Paul Smith released this collaboration with John Mayer, the online reaction was swift and brutal, with plenty of brutally hilarious memes along the way.
Yes, the Silver Sky was inspired by a guitar that we all know and love. That’s the superficial analysis—the easy part. The more interesting thing is to delve into the why and the how of this instrument.
When Smith sat down to talk to avowed Strat Cat Mayer, they discussed what, in their minds, was a conundrum: You can play 100 Strats and only two are magical. So Smith set about looking at every last detail that goes into a transcendent guitar, and he made sure he got those details right.
Despite the online outcry, there are several areas where the Silver Sky deviates from Stratti-ness. The most obvious is the headstock, which also differs from the normal PRS design in that it’s a mirror image. This was, interestingly enough, to afford greater first-position comfort. Other changes are subtle, like the beveled lower horn, which features a different color paint (pearlescent on this Frost model), the output jack, which is angled to facilitate plugging and unplugging, and a Tone control for the pickup in the position that needs it most—the bridge.
Like every PRS, the Silver Sky feels great all over. The neck carve splits the difference between a ’63 and a ’64 Strat, and it’s beautiful—substantial but not bulky, with perfectly smooth fret ends. Despite the round, 7.25” radius, the Silver Sky is very bend-friendly. I could get it to buzz acoustically on bends of more than a minor third above the 12th fret, but it wasn’t particularly noticeable through an amp, and is certainly less than any vintage neck I’ve ever played. Open strings ring amazingly loud and strong, and you can feel that all through the body.
When I first plugged this guitar in, I assumed that PRS had tweaked each pickup for optimal tone and output, because they all sounded so balanced and the in-between positions didn’t have that overly hyped cluck that many three-single-coil guitars exhibit. Come to find out that all three of these pickups are identical—same number of winds, same everything. Smith clearly found the sweet spot to make this work as well as it does. Because I favor a slightly bright neck pickup, I wouldn’t have minded a hotter, darker bridge model, but that’s a personal preference. The pickups all sound detailed, sweet, and musical and it was easy to get awesome Gary Moore-style bridge position sounds, Robin Trower middle tones, and Hendrix-approved neck flavors. The in-between settings are hum cancelling, and while the individual single-coils do hum, the signal-to-noise ratio is very impressive.
Bottom line: The Silver Sky absolutely delivers on the promise of being a damn-near-perfect version of this type of guitar. Plenty of folks are quick to pillory Paul Smith for what they see as heresy, while giving a pass to dozens of builders who have essentially done—or tried to do—the exact same thing. But any honest assessment of the Silver Sky has to conclude that this is a glorious guitar that sounds and plays amazing. Paul Reed Smith doesn’t mess around, and you’ve got to assume that he never would have made this guitar if he didn’t think he could bring something inspiring to the party.
MODEL Silver Sky John Mayer Signature
PRICE $2,299 street
NUT WIDTH 1 21/32" bone
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.5" scale, 7.25" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Vintage style, locking
BRIDGE Steel Tremolo
PICKUPS Three 635JM single-coils
CONTROLS Master Volume, two Tone, 5-way blade selector
FACTORY STRINGS PRS .010-.046
WEIGHT 7 lbs.
KUDOS Rock solid construction. Classic sound quality. Beautiful playability.
CONCERNS Haters gonna hate.