I’ve enjoyed numerous conversations and interviews with PRS Guitars founder Paul Reed Smith. On several occasions we’ve done this thing where I’ll name a guitar from the past and he’ll tell me several ways it could be improved as well as details that the original manufacturer got right. Whenever I played a new PRS model, Paul’s insights were pretty obvious to me, along with the fact that he applied the same critical eye to his own creations as he did to those of other companies.
Earlier this year when PRS introduced its new John Mayer Silver Sky model, many observers remarked that it looked like a Strat with a PRS neck and wondered why PRS would produce such an instrument. My response was, “why not?” and I was particularly excited to see how Mr. Smith’s take on a beloved classic would incorporate the improvements we talked about in the past—and if it would still deliver the details that have made PRS guitars a favorite of discriminating players for decades. Yes, the PRS Silver Sky looks like a Strat, but unlike the many copies produced over the years, this is no clone but rather a guitar that truly combines the very best of classic Strat and modern PRS designs.
FEATURES The basic construction features are what one would expect for a solidbody guitar with this design: alder body, bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, 25.5-inch scale length and 22 frets and three single-coil pickups with master volume and two tone controls. However, numerous details reveal that a lot of thought and refinement went into the Silver Sky’s design, proving that the two-and-a-half years of collaboration between John Mayer and PRS was no exaggeration. The rounded C-shape neck profile, 7.5-inch radius and narrow/tall medium-profile frets all provide incredibly comfortable playability, fitting into the player’s fretting hand with a “just right” feel that previously was more of an elusive exception than the norm. The curvature at the top of the body’s heel block and the signature PRS treble horn scooped contour provide effortless access to the uppermost frets. Even the trademark PRS headstock design is modified, with a “reverse” horn configuration and offset three-on-a-side tuner placement.
Other refinements include the rich, bold-sounding 635JM single-coil pickups, a five-way-blade pickup selector switch with a switch tip design that is easier to manipulate while playing, locking vintage-style tuners and classic steel tremolo design featuring Gen III knife-edge screws, a PRS trem arm and vintage-style bent steel saddles. The control knobs are redesigned to provide a more solid grip, while the recessed angled output jack is raised and rounded to make it easier to plug and unplug cables. The two-way truss rod adjustment is accessible from the three-on-a-side headstock by removing a single screw from the flush-mounted truss rod cover.
PERFORMANCE If Goldilocks were a guitarist instead of a porridge and bed aficionado, she would find the PRS Silver Sky just right, as I’m sure many fans of this classic guitar design also will. From the second I picked it up, it felt absolutely perfect, from the overall weight to how the neck cradled into my left-hand palm and seemingly begged me to play. PRS fans will love this neck, as will players who have turned down dozens of vintage instruments in search of perfection. To me it’s like the ultimate circa ’62-’63 neck, coaxing expressive, singing tones similar to a unique and particularly sweet vintage Strat I once had the privilege of playing.
That sensation continues when the Silver Sky is plugged in as it delivers “holy grail” tones from the get-go, with round, percussive bass, rich, sonorous midrange and treble that sparkles without sounding thin or shrill. John Mayer knows his single-coil pickups, and anyone familiar with the pickups on his previous signature models will likely find these the ultimate version of his trademark tone tools. While the pickups are not entirely immune to the usual single-coil hum issues, the noise is barely perceptible and essentially vanishes while playing, even through an amp with a generous high-gain setting.
After playing the Silver Sky, it’s easy to understand why it took so long to design and why John Mayer embraced this endeavor. For aficionados of the classic three single-coil pickup solidbody guitar design, this is truly one of the finest examples ever produced.
STREET PRICE: $2,299
MANUFACTURER: PRS Guitars, prsguitars.com
● The signature PRS scooped treble horn contour and rounded heel block on the body provide effortless access to the Silver Sky’s uppermost frets.
● Three single-coil 635JM pickups deliver rich, full-bodied tone, while the five-position-blade pickup switch provides all the classic individual and dual “in between” settings.
● The headstock design is modified from the standard PRS headstock and features a “reverse” horn configuration and offset three-on-a-side tuner placement.
● Several features are enhancements of classic designs, including the tremolo’s Gen III knife-edge screws, rounded molded output jack and even the control knobs.
THE BOTTOM LINE Guitarists may reach for their glasses when they first see the PRS Silver Sky’s combination of PRS and Strat features, but they’ll reach for their wallets once they pick it up and play it, as it’s one of the finest three-pickup solidbodies ever produced.