Paul Reed Smith Mira X
Paul Reed Smith Guitars, prsguitars.com
Originally published in Guitar World, October 2009
Paul Reed Smith's Mira X has the flawless playability that Mira fans adore and a neo-vintage voice that we’ve never heard from a PRS guitar.
The Mira design is less than two years old and already fans have declared it to be one of the finest guitars ever offered from Paul Reed Smith. Like the PRS Custom and McCarty before it, the Mira’s characteristics and design concepts strike a harmony that is exceptional even for a PRS. Some long-time PRS fans consider the Mira perhaps the most balanced and vocal instrument ever built by the legendary Maryland guitar company. Fortunately for the guitar’s many devotees, Paul Reed Smith recognizes the Mira’s popularity and has been quick to offer variations on the theme. The latest is the Mira X, which blends an interesting mix of woods into the Mira platform and consequently creates raucous vintage tones that are entirely unlike its sister guitars or, for that matter, any previous Paul Reed Smith guitar.
In many respects, I see the Mira as an elaborate update to the original PRS Standard guitar. The darker, muted tones of that guitar’s all-mahogany design scored high with many players. By contrast, the Mira’s thinner body and profile, which is similar to the PRS Santana, let the guitar’s tones ring loudly and sing like a violin.
For the Mira X, PRS chose a basswood body and gave the top a flatter carve. These features make the guitar extremely lightweight and create greater focus in the upper-midrange and treble frequencies. Compared to mahogany, basswood makes bass notes sound softer and less deep, qualities that are ideal for achieving the vintage vibe that PRS wanted with the Mira X.
The set neck is made from African Sipo, a wood from the mahogany family that is still abundant and legal to import. (As many players are aware, the better-known mahogany stock from South America is all but depleted and now very expensive to obtain.) My test guitar came with PRS’s Wide-Fat neck profile, which is not unlike the necks found on Fifties-era Les Pauls. Even though I usually prefer a thinner neck, I quickly forgot about the stout girth and reveled in the resonance provided by the extra wood mass.
On top of the neck is a fretboard of pau ferro, another rarely seen but beautiful wood. Pau ferro’s tone and feel are somewhere between rosewood and ebony, and therefore it’s a slightly bright and appropriate complement to the resonant tones of the basswood and African Sipo. The Mira X’s 22 frets are spread across a 24 1/2–inch scale for easy bending and generally low string tension. The PRS one-piece stop-tail sets the strings at a perfect height and radius across the pau ferro board, and lightweight vintage-style tuners add a final measure of sparkle to the guitar’s acoustic response.
Electronics include two PRS Mira X humbuckers, a three-way blade-type switch and the usual master volume and tone knobs, all set on a Mira pickguard. Considering the lively sounds from the Mira X’s wood and hardware combination, I was a little surprised that PRS did not use push/pull pots to access tapped coils from these humbuckers.
Sounds from the Mira X are quite different from the thick and vocal midrange of other Miras. Its bright highs and dominant upper mids are attributable to the basswood body and the chimey Mira X pickups, which often sound much like old P90s. Accordingly, the roundest tones came through an amp with 6L6 tubes, and the Mira X produced plenty of grind in the top end, even with the amp on a clean setting. These characteristics make the Mira X perfectly suited to rock and pop, delivering tones similar to what we’ve heard from players like the Doobie Brothers’ Jeff Baxter and the Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante. Even though the center of the midrange curve is somewhat scooped, the body’s high-mid and treble tones give the guitar a very forward attitude and a fun honk, especially with the bridge pickup engaged.
In most cases, I preferred the smoother sound of the neck pickup alone or in unison with the bridge humbucker. Additionally, the trick to dialing in the best tones from the Mira X is to use the tone knob like a treble aggression control. PRS has this tone circuit wired so that the guitar remains clear at all tone knob settings, so there’s no loss of definition. This is not a guitar for metal or extreme gain, but it has a wonderfully open resonance that clean and overdriven players will find very refreshing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Paul Reed Smith's Mira X has the flawless playability that Mira fans adore and a neo-vintage voice that we’ve never heard from a PRS guitar. Its lightweight basswood body, pau ferro fretboard and resounding Mira pickups work to deliver the twinkle and spank of a single-coil loaded guitar with the fat punch and ragged bite that only come from a humbucker.
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