Given its price, versatility and overall build quality the PRS SE Silver Sky easily earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
A well-built and cleverly executed reconceived S-type that delivers a lot of tone and playability in its price range
Some players might enjoy an overwound bridge pickup to give more punch to that position
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Released in the arms of superstar John Mayer in 2018, the original Silver Sky model from Paul Reed Smith made a big splash and raised some eyebrows in the process.
The notion of this storied maker undertaking an idealized rendition of the time-honored Stratocaster drew gasps from some quarters, but those who played the thing almost universally praised its clever and archetypal PRS-like reworking of the form, and the superb playability, tone and efficiency of the effort.
With that in mind, the new SE Silver Sky is set to make big waves of its own.
Likewise released with Mayer’s full approval, and with a string of launch events to prove it, the model brings PRS’s creative take on the 25.5-inch-scale, bolt-neck, three-pickup classic to the world of hard-working guitarists at a much more accessible price, while maintaining the style, features and design in the way that has long made the offshore-built SE line a big success.
This guitar isn’t cut straight from traditional cloth, as various design points make evident.
Stand-outs include the three-to-a-side PRS headstock, and visual queues such as the diving-bird inlays on the 22-fret rosewood fingerboard.
A closer look also reveals the distinctive bevel given to the inside of the lower cutaway and the rounded neck heel, both complementing the traditional, comfort-enhancing ribcage and forearm contours by aiding playability at the upper frets.
Rather than use ash or alder, as found on Strats of the ’50s and ’60s, the SE Silver Sky has a body of poplar, which was used for models like the Mustang and Duo-Sonic II.
Our review sample is finished in Dragon Fruit, a luscious deep-pink-meets-purple gloss that comes alongside Ever Green, Moon White and Stone Blue in the new SE lineup.
Together with the three-ply white pickguard, white pickup covers and knobs, and light-gray tuner buttons and truss-rod cover, it makes for a stylish look that’s both familiar and subtly modernized.
Beneath that aforementioned fretboard, the neck is made from maple, with a scarfed joint for the gently back-angled headstock and a four-bolt joint to the body.
PRS calls its profile the 635JM shape, an easy-to-like rounded “C” that measures .828 inches deep at the first fret and .968 inches at the 12th.
The frets are smooth and well dressed, something we’ve come to expect from the Cor-Tek-made SE line, and the guitar plays easily and inspiringly in all positions, which is something we’ve come to expect from PRS in general.
In the electronics department, the SE Silver Sky sports exactly what you’d expect from a contemporary, though vintage-inspired, S-type.
The three single-coil pickups are PRS’s 635JM “S” units, made to the same specs as those on the standard Silver Sky, with a RWRP middle pickup for hum-canceling in the two and four settings.
They’re wired to a five-way blade switch with master volume and two tone controls (the lower for the bridge alone, the upper shared by the middle and neck).
Add it all up, and everything about the SE Silver Sky inspires confidence – the design, the build quality, the playability and, as we shall see, the tone.
The neck is both fast and comfortable and should present very few obstacles for fans of any particular or peculiar profile. Ultimately, this is a guitar that’s easy to sink into and run with.
PRS sets up the two-point vibrato bridge so that the back edge of the base is in contact with the body of the guitar, as is the artist’s preference, allowing for down-bend only. They have published instructions online for setting it to float parallel to the body, enabling a more even up-and-down vibrato action, should you desire. We adjusted it to the latter position, and it yielded an easy yet firm action and good return-to-pitch capabilities.
We tested the SE Silver Sky into Friedman Mini Dirty Shirley combo and a blackface Fender Bassman (head and 2x12 cab) amps, using a selection of pedals in front.
The short answer – and no surprises here – is that it does anything you’d hope to get from a good S-type, yet it does so with more ease and aplomb than you’re likely to get from many straight-out copies or reissues of the breed at this price point.
The poplar body delivers similar voicings that I’d expect to hear from an alder-bodied Strat with a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard, and the archetypal glassy shimmer, snap and quack are all part of these pickups’ sonic arsenal.
There’s also more girth underpinning much of it than many traditional S-types deliver, however, with good meatiness behind each pickup position when you dig in, and an impressive avoidance of ice-pick highs.
The pickups are all wound to the same spec of around 7 k-ohms, which leans toward the beefy side for traditional single-coils of this type.
It also means they’re a little fuller sounding in the middle and neck positions, although the overall balance is decent in this regard, and the bridge position delivers enough grunt for anything from thick twang riffs to snarling rock and roll.
Tone-wise, we were most impressed by the appealing blend of harmonic sparkle, wiry bite and gutsy punch from an electric guitar well into the sub-$1,000 zone.
That achievement firmly plants it at the center of bolt-neck SSS model’s traditionally broad range of capabilities, which in itself means the SE Silver Sky can really do just about anything you set your mind, heart and fingers to.
At this price, and given its versatility, overall build quality and the execution of the “alternative-S-type” concept in general, the PRS SE Silver Sky easily earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
- NUT: Synthetic bone, 1 5/8” wide
- NECK: Maple
- FRETBOARD: Rosewood, , 25.5” scale, 8.5” radius
- FRETS: 22 medium-jumbo
- TUNERS: Vintage-style, non-locking
- BODY: Solid poplar
- BRIDGE: Two-point steel tremolo with vintage-style, bent-steel saddles
- PICKUPS: Three PRS 635JM “S” single-coils
- CONTROLS: Master volume and two tone controls, five-way blade switch
- FACTORY STRINGS: PRS Classic .010–.046
- WEIGHT: 7.75 lbs
- BUILT: Indonesia
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Dave Hunter is a writer and consulting editor for Guitar Player magazine. His prolific output as author includes Fender 75 Years, The Guitar Amp Handbook, The British Amp Invasion, Ultimate Star Guitars, Guitar Effects Pedals, The Guitar Pickup Handbook, The Fender Telecaster and several other titles. Hunter is a former editor of The Guitar Magazine (UK), and a contributor to Vintage Guitar, Premier Guitar, The Connoisseur and other publications. A contributing essayist to the United States Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board’s Permanent Archive, he lives in Kittery, ME, with his wife and their two children and fronts the bands A Different Engine and The Stereo Field.