I’ve never owned a Paul Reed Smith guitar, so I’m admittedly way late to the PRS party. I first met the CE 24 on review here the night before officially taking over the guitar chair with a cover band I had never previously performed with. Generally, I’m hesitant to get on stage with any new guitar that I haven’t had in my hands for at least a few days, but I threw caution to the wind and brought the CE 24 to the gig.
First produced in 1988 as the “Classic Electric” (after a trademark discussion with Peavey the guitars were rechristened as “CE” models), early CEs featured alder bodies, bolton maple necks, and, on some, even a maple headstock. After a few design improvements and evolutions throughout the years, the CE line was discontinued in 2008. Now, PRS has brought back the CE 24 with some significant updates. The body is slimmer, and the new 85/15 Treble and Bass pickups are modernized versions of the Standard Treble and Bass pickups from 1985, which gained recognition for extracting high-quality single-coil tones out of a humbucker.
It was this promise of versatility that made me brave enough to bring the “untested” CE 24 into a show where I had to perform a diverse catalog of classic rock, funk, blues, R&B, and dance/pop tones. In addition, much of the material is bundled into long medleys, making the CE 24 seem perfect for situations where it would be inconvenient to swap guitars between tunes. Could I get comfortable with the CE 24 quickly, and would it sound convincing throughout a set that required a lot of different guitar tones?
I shouldn’t have worried. The CE 24’s contoured body and thin, carved neck with satin finish felt incredibly comfortable. The setup was top-notch right out of the case, and ergonomic niceties such as the rounded corners on the tremolo bridge made for excellent playability. The guitar seemed to magically form right into my hands, as if I had played it for years.
Sonically, the CE 24 hit all of it marks, from channeling Slash’s solos on “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” to nailing Mark Ronson’s funky rhythms on “Uptown Funk.” Plugged into a Fender DeVille 212 combo, the 85/15 Treble pickup in the bridge delivered a sweet midrange that still managed to cut right through a dense band mix. The 85/15 Bass in the neck position sounded round, warm, and evoked vintage ’70s tones. As a result, I used this pickup for all of the rhythm parts that required crunch or distortion. The Bass translated palm muting quite well (really heavy tones here), and it had lots of sustain— which was perfect for the power chords in the band’s rock version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” With the pickup selector in the middle position, the CE 24 produced really nice R&B-style sounds that blended perfectly with piano. Switching the 85/15s to single-coil gained the appropriate slice and pop for funk tunes. And these are just the basics. Exploring all the options would probably have taken me days (or weeks), and I doubt I’d find a tone that the CE 24 couldn’t emulate effectively.
With its flame maple top finished in a very handsome Trampas Green, its easy playability, and its tonal versatility, I fell in love real fast with the CE 24. Yeah, it was a long wait, but my first date with this PRS was absolutely wonderful.
CE 24 BOLT-ON
PRICE $1,999 retail
NECK 25" scale, bolt-on
TUNERS PRS locking
BODY Mahogany with figured maple top
BRIDGE PRS tremolo
PICKUPS One PRS 85/15 Treble pickup (bridge), one PRS 85/15 Bass pickup (neck)
CONTROLS One Volume, one Tone (with push/pull switch for coil tap), 3-way toggle
FACTORY STRINGS PRS, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
KUDOS Excellent playability and build quality. Versatile tones.