The Samuel Jackson: PRS SECustom Semi-Hollow Soapbar

THE PRS DESIGN TEAM WAS OBVIOUSLY OUT TO do something different with the SE Custom Semi-Hollow, but without losing the personality of the other nine models in the popular SE line. Though the Korean-made Semi-Hollow’s chambered body is the key differentiator here, it shares many aspects of solidbody SE models— the set mahogany neck with its “wide/fat” carve, the 25"-scale rosewood board with 22 frets, the McCarty-style extended heel, a flat maple top with a pretty veneer of figured maple, and a lightweight aluminum Stoptail bridge. The P-90-style pickups appear only on two other SE models— the mahogany-bodied SE Soapbar and SE One— and they feed a simple control configuration of Volume, Tone, and a 3-way selector.
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The Semi-Hollow sounds very in tune, in spite of its one-piece bridge, and this is partially due to PRS’ use of a compensated nut that micro-adjusts the intonation to help make chords and intervals sound tuneful in all positions. It’s an important aspect of this guitar, as it not only makes the instrument sound more focused, it also makes you sound better when you’re playing it. Playing-wise, the Semi-Hollow is a gas. The gloss-finished neck has a great feel, and the lightly polished frets with their smooth ends are consistent in height to provide a buzz-free playing experience. PRS takes this aspect seriously, too—which is why the frets are superglued in place so they can’t ride up in their slots.

The Semi-Hollow’s natural resonance helps create a bright, balanced voice with lots of shimmer and dimension. Used with a Victoria Golden Melody 2x12 combo, the Semi-Hollow delivered a crisp and open sound with less of the snarky midrange bite P-90s are famous for. In terms of output, the Semi-Hollow is not a particularly hot guitar. It was less able to overdrive the Golden Melody than a humbucker-equipped Les Paul, and I also had to crank the gain on a Way Huge Pork Loin pedal to get the same amount of distortion a PRS Modern Eagle II elicited. Loweroutput pickups typically have a more extended frequency response, however, and this guitar is well suited for any kind of chordal or fingerstyle playing. What the Semi’s thin, chambered (and relatively feedback resistant) body gives up in resonance, it more than makes up for in lacy note detail, and the way the woods transmit their vibrations through your fingers. The Semi-Hollow delivers massive benefits for its $649 street price, which is why it reminds us of Samuel Jackson—an immense talent who doesn’t always get the mega-star paychecks, but whose performances never fail to leave you in awe.