By Barry Cleveland
The Brazilian Custom 24 ($4,150 retail) is one of only 500 limited-edition instruments created as part of the Brazilian Rosewood Series
(which also includes 500 each of the Custom 22 and McCarty models). Many luthiers consider Brazilian rosewood to be the most resonant wood available for instrument building, but due to a number of factors, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. The Brazilian rosewood that is available, however, is typically 20 to 30 years old, and therefore fully seasoned. As PRS Private Stock master luthier and Director of R& Joe Knaggs put it: “The Brazilian series is our way of revisiting traditional combinations of scarce and limited tonal woods in order to attain the roundest sound an electric guitar can offer.”
The Custom 24—a direct heir to the original one-off instruments made by Paul Smith in his small Annapolis workshop in the late ’70s—continues to be one of the company’s most popular models. With its slim mahogany body, 24-fret set neck, carved maple top, and Indian rosewood fretboard, the dual-humbucker Custom 24 has proved versatile enough to meet the needs of an extremely wide spectrum of players—from smooth jazzers to speed-metal shredders.
This limited-edition Custom 24 differs from the standard Custom 24 in several respects. The most important is its Brazilian rosewood fretboard, which has a slightly silkier feel than the stock Indian rosewood board, and better accentuates the shimmer and harmonic complexity of the instrument’s upper frequencies. Significant cosmetic differences include the Brazilian rosewood headstock veneer with the word “Brazilian” and Paul Reed Smith’s signature inlayed with pink abalone heart, a Brazilian rosewood trussrod cover, pink abalone heart “bird” neck inlays, and special nickelsilver and gold hardware. Also, the back plates on each guitar are individually hand-numbered and signed by Smith (and an unsigned plate is included, just in case you actually want to play your guitar without messing up Paul’s signature).
The Brazilian Custom 24 is available in a variety finishes, with either a flame or (optional) quilted maple top. The flame patterns in this particular instrument’s curly maple “10” top are beautifully accentuated by the translucent Whale Blue finish—a color that nicely complements the special hardware, gold speed knobs, and cream pickup surrounds.
There is no binding per se, but a thin strip of gorgeous plain maple between the blue top and the black body provides the same visual effect, and binding on the neck or headstock would detract from the natural beauty of the Brazilian rosewood, which is, after all, what this guitar is all about.
Like all PRS Custom 24s, the Brazilian is outfitted with a pair of humbuckers. The Vintage Bass model in the neck position produces round, sumptuous, well-balanced sounds that are powerful without being overblown, and the HFS (hot, fat, screams) model in the bridge position delivers full-bodied tones with sparkling, crystalline highs. A 5-way rotary switch is the key to the Custom 24’s tonal versatility, providing a choice of bridge pickup, outside coils, series single-coils, parallel single-coils, or neck pickup. Our review guitar also features the patented PRS Tremolo System, which employs a custom bridge that pivots on a concealed knife edge. That feature, in tandem with the low-friction nut—constructed from some undisclosed “space-age” material—assures that the arm consistently returns to the neutral position after use.
The Brazilian Custom 24’s construction is outstanding. The woodworking is immaculately precise and detailed, the fretwork is exquisite, the inlays are perfectly set, and the hardware performs flawlessly. But, besides being a work of art, the guitar sounds wonderful. In short, this is one of the finest guitars I have ever had the pleasure of playing.
PRS Guitars, (410) 643-9970; prsguitars.com.