by Adam Perlmutter | Photography by Massimo Gammacurta
Paul Reed Smith has long been known for making electric guitars of the highest quality, and his instruments have become go-to axes for players like Carlos Santana, Neal Schon, Mark Tremonti and Dweezil Zappa, to name a few. A couple of years back, Smith decided to enter the world of acoustic guitars. He’s far from the first electric manufacturer to make this leap, of course, and it goes without saying that not all such attempts have been successful. But when it comes to PRS, there’s no need for concern.
If the Diamond Collection Grand Acoustic is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot of Paul Reed Smith acoustic guitars on concert stages in the coming years.
They won’t all be quite like this instrument, however. The Diamond Collection Grand I received for review is a true luxury item. Some of the high-end appointments are obvious at first glance: the gold hardware, for instance, and the elaborate rosette and fingerboard inlays, which render a classic Celtic knot design in paua heart and white gold. And if you love your woods, you’ll be in ecstasy over the European bear-claw spruce top and the deep, rich cocobolo back and sides. But look closer and you’ll find even more deluxe touches. Those off-white bridge pins with the sandstone vibe? Mammoth ivory (yes, you read that right). And the sparkly inlays on top of the pins? Let’s just say it’s called the Diamond Collection for a reason.
Now that we’ve established how great this guitar looks, we come to the even more important question of how it plays. The body shape is pleasing and not too deep, with curves in all the right places, making it feel like a natural extension of a player’s picking hand. The mahogany neck is silky smooth, while the string spacing and texture of the frets and fingerboard (more luscious cocobolo) are all ideal. Playing past the 15th fret or so isn’t exactly practical, but if you need to have easy access to this region of the fretboard, you can always opt for a cutaway model.
As for the sound, it’s extremely well balanced. There’s no way you could help noticing the chunky bass and low mids, but these frequencies never overpower. Pluck a high note in the middle of a bunch of low-register power chords and it rings out strong. Although the Grand works fine for fingerstyle playing, it really comes to life when played with a pick. Chords, especially chords that include open strings, glitter like the gems on those fancy bridge pins. In DADGAD and similar altered tunings, the bass response becomes even more of a virtue, adding depth and power to the tone.
The Diamond Collection Grand also gives you the ability to go electric via an onboard pickup called the PRS Acoustic System, which you can plug into through the bottom strap button. I’m not generally a fan of amplified acoustic guitar tone—the phrase “neither fish nor fowl” comes to mind—but the PRS pickup does an admirable job of boosting the guitar’s volume without completely losing its character.
For me, the most pleasant surprise is how well the Diamond Collection Grand performed in my home studio. As a recording guitar, it’s outstanding. Combining the pickup signal with that of a dynamic microphone pointed at the 12th fret produced tone that was crisp and clear, yet still warm. In short, the PRS Diamond Collection Grand Acoustic is a thing of beauty fit for a museum-style display case, but you won’t want to let it languish in such a lonely place. Pick it up and you’ll find that underneath its lavish trappings is a first-class working instrument.
List Price: $20,000
Paul Reed Smith Guitars, prsguitars.com