PRS Korina McCarty and CE Alder electric guitars
Korina: $2,950.00 (bird inlays, add $420.00; gold hardware, add $440.00); Alder: $2,700.00 (gold hardware, add $440.00)
Paul Reed Smith isn’t the only guitar builder who speaks about the beautiful woods that make his guitars possible, but he was one of the first to raise awareness of how various woods affect a guitar’s tone and why choosing the right wood is so important in that respect. That said, most of PRS’s high-end guitars have been created on a foundation of mahogany, with figured eastern maple and western big-leaf maple accentuating the stunning looks and crisp response. Last year, the all-mahogany Mira served to remind players of the deliciously pure tones that are possible from a properly designed guitar that uses a single type of wood for its body.
Following this trend, PRS’s heralded McCarty, a favorite of PRS’s most fanatical tone hounds, is now offered with a solid Korina body and neck—Korina being one of the most sought-after vintage tone woods. Likewise, the more affordable bolt-on CE 22 and 24 can now be had with a very traditional solid alder body. Maple tops are not an option on these two new guitars as they are built for tone connoisseurs who want to experience the unsullied beauty of Korina and alder with the singular playability that only a PRS can offer.
PRS McCARTY KORINA
White Korina, also known as African limba, has density and tone similar to mahogany. This is the same highly valued wood used for many of the early Explorers and Flying Vs that now command such high dollars. A Korina Destroyer guitar also played a large part in Eddie Van Halen’s original “brown” sound. A nice lightweight piece of this wood, like the ones used to create the Korina McCarty guitars, has legendary depth and dimensionality, soaring highs and vocal-like velvety warmth.
The Korina McCarty’s body is carved from solid Korina, as is the 22-fret wide-fat neck. For those who have not played this neck, it’s a beefy C shape that’s set into the body on a 25-inch scale. The covered McCarty humbuckers are the same highly praised pickups found on the standard McCartys, and a Duncan-wound soapbar is offered as an option for those who want something a little different. A fixed aluminum bridge and vintagestyle tuners add a touch of sparkle to the Korina McCarty’s highs.
Performance Like the Mira, the PRS Korina Mc- Carty proves that a guitar doesn’t need a maple top to sound great. The Korina has all of mahogany’s warmth with somewhat more definition in the bass and usually a more dimensional response. The pronounced midrange harmonics are also outstanding—second-, third- and fourth-fret harmonics pop clearly from this McCarty, even with a bone-clean amp setting. If needed, treble response can be sharp but not slicing. It’s a sound enthusiasts call “refined” because the extreme highs and loose lows are shorn in favor of a more interesting blossoming midrange.
Through any type of amp setting, the McCarty’s highly developed tone just sings, but through an amp that has plentiful gain, it could be likened to Santana’s heavier sounds.
PRS CE ALDER
PRS introduced the CE line in 1988 as a less expensive bolt-on alternative from their pricey set-neck guitars. They have gained quite a following in the past 20 years for their familiar feel and driving tone as well as for their comfortable price point. This new CE’s inclusion of a solid alder body is a very traditional match for a maple neck. Alder’s open and loud ringing tone gives the 24-fret CE alder excellent clarity and copious bite. The maple neck adds even more presence, and PRS’s HFS and Vintage Bass pickups bring all of this guitar’s punchy tone into focus. The neck on my PRS sported the greasy-fast wide-thin shape. Although more than 20 years old, this shape still feels very modern and caters well to the fleet-fingered player. Sealed Phase II locking tuners and PRS’s famous floating tremolo completes the highly versatile package.
Performance Players who know their woods may expect to hear something akin to a Strat’s acoustic tone from the CE Alder. But it not more sounds like a Strat than a mahogany-with-maple-top PRS sounds like a Les Paul. It creates a solid new tone that is aggressive in the highs and quick to respond, which help the Alder CE scream out leads and gleam brightly through clean amps. At the same time, the midrange is quite firm and the lows surprisingly thick, as opposed to the scooped mids found in so many guitars that share this wood complement. The CE Alder is more fiery than sweet and seems suited to any style of music. Rotating the five-way switch through singlecoil and humbucker options, I found everything from snappy vintage tones to furious extremes.
The Bottom Line For sugary and luscious tones, the Korina McCarty is among the elite electric guitars, while the CE Alder is poised to satisfy a whole new generation of PRS enthusiasts who prefer the extra bite of a bolt-on neck and the recognizably spacious highs of an alder-bodied instrument.
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