Earlier this year PRS released the Indonesian-made SE Silver Sky in trumpet-waving and near internet-breaking style.
Another pair of releases went under the radar: the USA-made S2 Custom 24-08 and this little gem, the SE Standard 24-08, which is £30 shy of being the lowest-priced electric guitar currently offered by PRS.
The Standard goes right back to the birth of PRS Guitars in 1985, although at that time it was simply called the PRS Guitar: an all-mahogany version of the maple-topped Custom. It became known as the Standard from 1987 and was always less expensive than the Custom – and today it remains the most affordable model in both the S2 and SE ranges, though it’s no longer a top-deck Core model.
The ‘24’ suffix was added from 1994 when 22-fret versions of the original 24-fret guitars were offered.
The ‘08’ part of the name refers to the number of humbucking and single-coil sounds you can get from the two pickups, and this started with the Core-level Custom 24-08 that was originally released as a 50-piece-only limited run at PRS’s 2016 in-house Experience event; it became a standard Core model in late 2017. The SE Custom 24-08 was introduced in 2021 and now has a lofty suggested retail price of £959; our Standard version trims that by 35 per cent, over £300.
This new Standard 24-08 is pretty much identical to the current SE Standard (save for its expanded switching, which we’ll get to in a while), which was refreshed to this specification back in 2018. Offered in just two colours, the very workingman Tobacco Sunburst and this deep translucent blue, it’s pretty much as far as you can get from PRS’s blingy style.
As ever with the Standards, without that figured maple top your eyes are drawn to the form – and although the new ‘shallow violin’ top carve here is a lot shallower than PRS’s Core models, with an overall depth of 45mm, it remains rather classy.
The SE Standards have a bound top edge that’s cream coloured plastic, and while you can see a little of the wood grain through the top and back finish – which suggests the body is three-piece – the finish to the sides and especially the neck back is darker and barely translucent at all.
The cream binding continues around the fingerboard but not the headstock itself, and the neck here is maple, not the mahogany of the original. But like that Custom 24-08 we reviewed last year, it’s a three-piece longitudinal laminate of maple – the two outer sections diagonally matched either side of the rift-sawn centre piece.
This construction is used primarily for the Wide Thin profile and “for stability”, confirms PRS’s chief operating officer, Jack Higginbotham. “Yes, it does work to target the tone we want, but the impetus is in stability.”
It retains the original PRS scale length of 635mm (25 inches), halfway between the Fender and Gibson benchmarks, the 24 frets sitting on a 254mm (10-inch) radius rosewood that’s peppered with pearloid bird inlays.
There are no changes to the hardware. The cast (or ‘moulded’, as PRS prefers) vibrato is a close rendering of the USA version, but it uses a steel block and top-plate – the USA vibrato is brass – and is also used on the USA-made S2 line and the bolt-on CE models, though the tuners are non-locking with a friction-reducing nut.
While both SE Standards have a three-position lever pickup selector switch, the difference to the 24-08 comes with the uncovered TCI ‘S’ pickups that show off black open-coil bobbins, as opposed to the zebra-coiled 85/15 ‘S’ humbuckers of the standard model.
And while that standard Standard offers simultaneous coil-splits via a pull-push switched tone control, offering six sounds, the 24-08 has two additional mini-toggle switches, with small levers, that offer what PRS calls “true single coil” switching of each humbucker.
This means you can split the pickups individually, adding two more sounds: the full coils of the bridge combined with the neck single coil, and the full neck humbucker with the bridge single coil.
Feel & Sounds
Combining the feel and style of classic Fender and Gibson was always the basis of the PRS Standard and Custom, and that doesn’t change here. At 3.38kg (7.44lb), the weight is more Stratocaster than Les Paul, but the glued-in neck itself feels more in the latter camp, especially with its binding.
Its Wide Thin neck profile is the thinnest in depth that PRS offers, this one measuring 20.75mm at the 1st fret, 23.5mm by the 12th. Wide? For the record, the nut width here is 42.9mm, with a string spacing of 36mm.
It’s hard to find fault with the fretwork. The gauge is slightly different to the USA models but not by much (approximately 2.67mm wide by 1.1mm high). The guitar also ships with PRS Classic 0.009 to 0.042 strings, giving it a slinky feel.
But moving up to 10s is easy – aside from a very slight tightening of the vibrato springs – and the bigger gauge seems to drive the guitar a little harder, which means you get more back.
It might not have a rockstar association, but the SE 24-08 certainly holds its own with the SE Silver Sky, the single coils here sounding a little more hollow. We don’t have those classic Strat-like mixes, but the neck and bridge mix (which is hum-cancelling) shouts Fender.
The solo neck, while not quite as woody-sounding as the Silver Sky, is very valid, percussive and soulful, and the bridge single coil actually hints at early Les Paul with a little tone roll-off, or a Telecaster with the tone rolled back up.
There’s not a huge volume leap as we move onto the humbucking sounds; they’re certainly thicker and, again, it’s the bridge that impresses, particularly when thinning the sound a little with some volume reduction.
The neck does that expressive Santana voice to a T, even though it may be too thick for some in a more classic style. Yet again, use those controls because they’re the key to the breadth and range of sounds. Not only do they impress, but they keep us playing way past our allocated testing time. To say this lowly Standard punches above its price is a serious understatement.
Straight out of its gigbag the tuning is extremely stable, too, and once the vibrato and strings are settled in all we can say is that we wish all guitars at this price point stayed and played in tune like this.
Once upon a time, many of us would look down on ‘offshore’ lines, at best being cheap and cheerful, though not a patch on the real thing. When PRS’s SE line launched in 2001 it was little different, but in partnering with Cor-Tek in Indonesia there seems to have been a considerable change that’s vividly demonstrated by the SE Silver Sky.
We get the same vibe here with this lowly SE Standard 24-08. It’s faultlessly made and functions perfectly, but it’s the ‘08’ switching that turns it from being an also-ran into a serious workhorse for any player who needs to cover a lot of ground from one instrument.
Yes, there’s an element of it being a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but for the serious practising, performing and recording musician, it’s £600 well spent and £300 less expensive than the SE Custom 24-08, which, when we reviewed it last year, got a Guitarist Gold 10/10 rating. A new standard for the mass production guitar? It’s a yes from us.
- PRICE: $729 / £620 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: Indonesia
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Mahogany, bound top edge
- NECK: 3-piece maple, wide thin profile, glued-in
- SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Friction reducing/ 42.94mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, ‘old school’ bird inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
- FRETS: 24, medium
- HARDWARE: PRS patented vibrato (cast), PRS designed non-locking tuners – nickel-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
- ELECTRICS: PRS TCI ‘S’ Treble and Bass humbuckers (open coiled black bobbins); 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume and tone, 2x mini-toggle coil-split switches
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.38/7.44
- OPTIONS: SE Standard (£590)
- RANGE OPTIONS: SE Custom 24-08 (£959), S2 Custom 24-08 (£1,999), Core Custom 24-08 (from £3,950)
- LEFT-HANDERS: Not this model; SE Custom 24 ‘Lefty’ (£920)
- FINISHES: Trans Blue (as reviewed), Tobacco Sunburst
- CONTACT: PRS Guitars