PRS developed its S2 series to offer guitarists more affordable versions of its Core series instruments that were still completely made in the USA.
However, the PRS S2 series was also developed to stand on its own merits, which is evident with the introduction of entirely new models and designs like the PRS S2 Vela.
While the Vela shares a few common attributes with other S2 series guitars, like its comfortable neck with the famous PRS Pattern Regular profile, mahogany body and neck materials, and 25-inch scale length, it also introduces PRS’s first offset body shape, the PRS S2 Type-D single-coil pickup, and a “new” plate-style bridge with two brass saddles. The end result of the Vela’s design is something that is not only different from the rest of the PRS lineup but also different from any other guitar available today.
Every detail of PRS S2 Vela reflects the commitment to quality of the S2 series. The body is crafted from lightweight mahogany that delivers lively resonance, and generous bevels and contours as well as a deep cutaway scoop give the Vela a slim, sleek feel that is very comfortable to play for hours. The neck is also mahogany, and the fretboard is a generously thick slab of Indian rosewood decorated with either standard dot or optional PRS signature bird inlays. In addition to the Pattern Regular profile and 25-inch scale length, the neck features 22 medium jumbo frets.
The hardware is equally outstanding. Tuners are PRS S2 locking models with brass posts. The bridge pickup is a PRS S2 Starla humbucker with a coil-tapping function that is activated by pulling up on the master tone knob (other controls include master volume and a three-position pickup selector toggle switch).
The neck pickup is PRS’s entirely new S2 Type-D single-coil, which is based upon the look and general design of the vintage DeArmond Dynasonic pickup originally found on Gretsch, Guild, and other guitars but features many improvements, including fuller tone and lower noise. The nickel-plated PRS Plate-Style bridge, which features two adjustable brass saddles, makes its first appearance on a PRS production model guitar, but it’s actually based on a design that Paul Smith patented in the late Seventies. The strings are anchored below the bridge plate in a shallow cavity carved in the body’s top.
With its light weight, beveled and contoured edges, and perfectly balanced offset body shape, the S2 Vela is exceptionally comfortable to play. The neck is awesome as well, with the Pattern Regular’s signature “just right” balance between that’s neither too round nor too flat and neither too slim nor too hefty. The body and neck fit to the guitarist’s hands and body like it’s just begging to be played, and the fine fretwork makes playing a truly effortless joy.
The versatile and responsive sounds of the S2 Vela are its most impressive attributes. The guitar’s natural acoustic tone is lively, dynamic, and resonant, and the pickups deliver a surprising variety of outstanding tones from such a deceptively simple setup.
The Starla humbucker isn’t overpowered, so it retains the strings’ inherent punch, attack, and clarity even with extreme amounts of gain, and the coil-tap setting transforms it into the biggest and most aggressive Tele-style bridge tone you’ve ever heard. The Type-D neck pickup sounds round and punchy like an overwound Strat neck pickup, but it also has an alluring midrange that falls between a Gretsch Filtertron and a P-90. The Vela is undoubtedly built to rock, but more rock-oriented modern country players who want a little twang with their stang will love it as well.
STREET PRICE $1,279 ($1,399 with bird inlays)
MANUFACTURER PRS Guitars, prsguitars.com
• The S2 Type-D single-coil looks like a vintage DeArmond Dynasonic, but it has it’s own sound with more modern character and low-noise performance.
• The PRS Plate-Style bridge has two adjustable brass saddles to deliver big, dynamic, resonant tone while still providing accurate intonation.
THE BOTTOM LINE With its versatile variety of tones, first-class craftsmanship and construction, and incredibly comfortable playability, the PRS S2 Vela is a new classic that will be embraced by discriminating players looking for something a little different.