“A fresh face”: The latest PRS drop brings back one of the most distinctive guitars in its history – and it’s only available as an SE

PRS SE Swamp Ash Special Iri Blue
(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

PRS has announced three new additions to its affordable, South Korean-made SE line, including the Custom 24 Quilt, CE 24 (in its SE debut) and, in a reprisal of one of the firm’s most unusual builds, the Swamp Ash Special.

The latter is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it’s an intriguingly unique combination of influences.

The Swamp Ash body and bolt-on maple neck construction bring to mind a Telecaster-style construction, yet the HSH pickup configuration and vibrato is right out of the Superstrat playbook of the ’80s and ’90s. 

In addition, unlike previous USA-made Swamp Ash Specials, the new SE version incorporates a scarfed neck joint, essentially shaving down the chunky heel with an asymmetrical carve to enable better upper fret access.

Then there’s the Swamp Ash itself, which makes it debut in the core SE line for the first time (following the limited-run PRS SE Sandblasted Swamp Ash models a few years back). 

As you’d expect from PRS, it looks great (particularly in that Vintage Sunburst finish, above) but is prized for its open pores, which make it lighter and more resonant –both appealing characteristics.

Add to that two 85/15 ‘S’ humbuckers and a PRS-Designed AS-01 single coil, plus a choice of six pickup positions (via the three-way toggle switch and coil-splitting push/pull tone control) and that’s a huge amount of tonal flexibility on offer.

Finally, it’s worth noting that, while the Swamp Ash Special is not a brand-new concept (it appeared in the main PRS line-up around 1996 to 2009), there’s no current option in the USA line, making the new SE version the only option in the firm’s entire catalog.

Elsewhere in the new SE drop, another bolt-on build makes its debut in the SE line: the CE 24.

The CE – first introduced by PRS in 1988 – offers its own blend of guitar history. This time taking the traditional mahogany body and maple top found on the bulk of PRS’ builds (and, of course, the Gibson Les Paul) and pairing it with a Fender-like bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood ’board. Unlike either of those well-worn designs though, the fingerboard runs to 24 frets. 

Again, it’s equipped with two 85/15 ‘S’ humbuckers (with the coil-spit tone control and three-way toggle switch) and PRS’ patented molded tremolo system.

PRS SE Custom 24 Quilted Black Gold Burst

PRS’ new SE Custom 24 Quilted in Black Gold Burst (Image credit: PRS Guitars)

The final new offering takes PRS’ own classic design, the double-cutaway Custom 24, and tops the mahogany body with a stunning piece of quilted maple, with a matching piece at the headstock.

As you’d expect, this one utilizes PRS’ much-loved set neck build, but otherwise shares an almost identical spec with the CE above, featuring the same pickups, hardware and 24 fret neck.

Expect street prices of around $849 for the SE Swamp Ash Special, $699 for the SE CE-24 and $999 for the SE Custom 24 Quilted.

For more information on all of the new SEs, head to PRS.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.