PRS JUMPED INTO THE SINGLE-COIL game a while back with a model called the 513—a code that stood for the guitar’s five proprietary single-coil pickups and the 13 sounds it offered via its two pickup selectors: a 5-way for pickup switching, and another 3-way for switching between “single-coil,” “clear humbucking,” and “heavy humbucking” modes. The new 305 guitar is based on that platform, but features a simpler control scheme in which the three PRS single-coils are selected with one 5-way switch. This provides the same combinations that the Fender Stratocaster offers, but with master Volume and Tone controls only.
The 305 is lovely to behold with is flawless Violin Amber finish and striking maple fretboard with black outline bird inlays. The chrome hardware, amber-colored recessed knobs, and black pickups with their arched tops all made for an eye-pleasing combination of elements. (Several other wood finishes are available, as well as solid colors such as Seafoam Green, Grandma Hannon Pink, Powder Blue, and Black.)
Flipping the guitar around we see that the neck is glued in, although the joint looks like a bolt-on type, just without the bolts. The neck’s rounded heel allows for an easy reach to the upper frets, and even though there’s a step between the heel and the body, the design is such that your hand wraps comfortably into that area. And, speaking of comfort, there’s also nice contour on the back of the alder body.
The 305’s frets are polished to a gleam and their ends are smoothed and rounded for a snag-free ride. Another detail that I haven’t seen before on a PRS is the scalloped nut, which is made out of the same slippery synthetic material that the company has been using, but is rounded off on the corners to keep it from nicking your hand. The strings load though the inertia block and they terminate at the excellent Phase II locking tuners, which provide a rock solid grip on the strings, yet unlock easily with a coin to make string changing a super quick process. As with all PRS guitars, the intonation is spot on. You can grab chords anywhere on the neck and they’ll sound tuneful and harmonious. The PRS bridge is well designed, very inviting to rest your palm on, and sports chunky, chrome-plated brass saddles that are fully adjustable. With four springs providing tension, the bridge floats about 1/8" off the body. The beauties of this system are in how smooth the action feels—perfect for slipping in those subtle pitch warbles— and how well it stays in tune even under extreme workouts.
Sonically, the 305 delivers much of what you expect from a guitar with a trio of single-coils: crisp highs, tight bottom, and those slightly phaseoidal textures in the neck/middle and middle/bridge combinations. The tones here are served up with an extra measure of warmth, however, which makes playing the 305 a lot of fun, as you get the airiness and ring that single-coils bring, but with plenty of meatiness behind the notes. With a slight roll-off of the Tone control, the neck pickup offers sweet jazz tones, and it also wails for lead playing when you crank it into a hot amp channel. The dual-pickup tones in positions two and four have a clucky chime that sounds great for chording or single-line playing though a clean or slightly overdriven amp, while the middle pickup dishes up thick, twang-infused textures that are great for everything from Britpop jangle to greasy, Jimmie Vaughan-style blues. While the bridge pickup doesn’t seem to be any hotter than the other pickups, it delivers its bite with more upper-midrange body and presence than you typically expect from the bridge setting on a single-coil guitar. It has the fatness and top-end snap that cleaner styles of lead playing require, yet it can kick down for grinding rhythm tones and has plenty of balls for high-gain soloing. Its balance of clarity, warmth, and output made it quite easy to get buttery sounding lead tones from all of our test amps, including the Dr. Z EZG-50, which has to be driven fairly hard to deliver the distortion goodies.
The 305 has the great playability and rock-solid intonation that PRS guitars are famous for, but with a leaner overall response that’s an earmark of the single-coil/ maple neck recipe. This guitar gives humbucker players a single-coil option that requires less adjustment than switching to a Strat or a Tele entails, and it doesn’t seem at all fussy about the amplifier you plug it into. PRS undoubtedly put a lot of R&D into the 305, and the end result totally succeeds as a modern day alternative to a ’50s-era single-coil guitar. For that, and everything else it brings to the solidbody scene, the 305 earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
CONTACT PRS Guitars, (410) 643-9970; prsguitars.com
PRICE $3,850 retail/$2,300 street
FRETBOARD Maple, 25.5" scale
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
BODY Carved alder
PICKUPS PRS single-coils
CONTROLS Master Volume and Tone with 5-way selector
BRIDGE PRS Tremolo
TUNERS PRS 14:1 Phase II Low Mass Locking
WEIGHT 7.9 lbs
FACTORYSTRINGS PRS, .010-.042
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Gorgeous playability. Great blend of warmth and ringing, single-coil clarity.