Gibson ES 335 & PRS McCarty hollow body
This is a response to an article on Harmony Central by Cliff Suttle (email@example.com) .
Cliff has been studying music for over twenty years including studies at the University of Michigan. Fluent on keyboards, guitar, and bass, Cliff is currently playing in an all original rock band Middle Earth. Cliff's motto: Understand the theory and you can play anything.
I enjoyed your article on the PRS Hollow Body so much I have just spent an hour of my life responding to it.
I have just got my PRS Hollow Body (at the end of August 2005) and I am completely blown away by it.
I liked your article and started gigging with the PRS HB and a 2003 ES 335 (that I bought at the same time), that I thought I was going to sell so I left the PRS HB as the backup.
Hence the pictures of the two guitars together.
The first few gigs I did not even open the PRS case as I felt like the first time I drove a Ferrari - a little embarrassed at having such a high end and rare (and expensive) car.
But once the night came and you hit the autobahn.....
Any how the ES 335, always one of my favourites, had a clearer sound than the last two I have owed, probably due to the Classic 57s as compared to PAF.
Also my own leaning towards a cleaner, more defined sound, has made this 335 a keeper and the band really like it too.
The construction of this particular one or is it all the post 2000 Gibson seems better than the 90s Custom Shop that I had, which was also a great guitar!
Any how by gig three I knew I was NOT going to part with the 335 so I didn't have to play it so much and I pulled out the HB.
I like light guitars, a typical gig is 3 to 4 hours and it really makes a difference when you come off the bandstand.
I have a Tom Anderson Hollow T which is fantastic and a Parker Fly which is a great guitar and my main travel guitar.
I knew the moment I picked the Hollow Body up off the hook in the store we would be spending some time together ;-)
Wasn't Paul Reed Smith that said when he took guitars to Carlos Santana he could tell within 30 seconds if Carlos was turned on or not?
So starting at gigs and rehearsals plugged into either a Marshall Valve state type thing (rehearsals) or a Boogie Subway or a Laney VC30 with 2 10" speakers I was once again transported to tonal and guitar heaven, the main advantage of a lifelong GAS affliction.
The clarity of the sound, the precision of the neck meant right away you are in a different tone zone.
This guitar sounds different from your standard Gibson humbucking mahogany type guitar, turn it down a little and turn up a little it is like a Ferrari at 300 Kph - just under 200 mph - precise, dangerous, fun and right on the edge as long as you can keep it together and if you can't you die!
The intonation is really precise - if you misfret or make a mistake you'll hear it more than on another guitar.
The set up is very well done, I can't say perfect as once it has settled down I'll tweak it to my own requirements - the action ever so slightly lower.
The HB can be cranked and as you say with a minimum of palm muting can be held in check and can be pointed in the director of whoever or whatever you want to nuke!
I agree with many of the points you raised (in blue)
The action of this guitar is quite low. Fretting is fast, clean, and easy. Even full bar chords seem effortless.
In general, this instrument is a joy to play.
The electronics in my opinion are very vintage in quality, every sound it does make is beautiful. The volume control was extremely responsive all the way to the lowest setting. The tone control has a large effect on the sonic quality of the instrument, Overall I found the electronics very usable for almost any type of music. There are no pickup settings that made the instrument sound muddy or washed out. Every setting was clean and smooth.
The output from the McCarty pickups was very clean.
Now we get to my favourite part of the instrument: its feedback characteristics (or lack thereof). At this volume an old Gibson would have blown up. I was impressed. I never liked playing a full bodied guitar in concert because of the finicky problems inherent in the design of the instrument. This guitar would make me change my mind. When I turned my back to the speakers and played as if I were at a gig, there was no feedback that wasn't very easily controlled.
The visual aspects of this instrument are impressive. The top and back are deep carved in the PRS Custom 22/24 style, making this instrument quickly identifiable as a PRS guitar. The question I always like to ask myself about any instrument is: what, if anything, would I change about the guitar? My list for the McCarty Archtop II is short and nitpicky, but here it is anyway. First, I would like to see the inside edges of the F-holes sanded perfectly smooth and finished. Keep in mind that other guitar makers don't do this either.
Mine is a 2004 model and the finish (black) is outrageous, incredible, and of the highest quality.
The F hole problem has been dealt with and it makes a difference and at this price it has to perfect.
It sounds like your model is the wider full Archtop whereas mine is the slimmer hollow body or maybe I was misled by the pictures.
No I was just carried away as at first glance this seems to be the only hollow body PRS article.
The only gripe I have with the flawless finish is looking at the top (which they say on the tag is spruce but looks like some of the prettiest wood - maple - I have ever seen) is why did they cover it up with a black finish? But from I have read and seen about PRS their standards are just way higher than Gibson or Fender.
I feel like taking this back to the factory and asking them to please strip off the black finish to have a look at the wood on top and redo it a natural finish!
Look at the stripes on the clear part of the wood on the upper horn!
The action is a little different, as you can see in the pictures it is not only a lighter guitar than the 335 but also smaller. It wasn't stiff as Ron Mladjan mentioned just different but stiff comes to mind. It was low and could go lower.
I don't particularly like the strings it is shipped with. I guess are PRS strings and will be trying my regular strings Elixir 10-46 after putting on a set of DR Pure blues.
The 335 was freshly strung with Pure Blues and they sound great and have held up a month before Stringkiller broke most of them. So they deserve another test run.
After about 30 60 minutes playing in public with the band we all really liked the sound and the diversity of tones I was dialling in with just one volume and one tone knob with a three position selection.
The general ease of playing and the responsiveness of the guitar that means you can really go for it with just your ears or without having to worry about your gear.
It is a confidence builder I guess. But aren't all sexy good sounding guitars?
The tone really responds to picking and plucking strength, the position of where the string is hit, close to the bridge or above the neck makes a huge difference, more so than with most guitars.
I guess a lot of the sound is coming from the amazing Computer aided hollowing out of the wood - so a guitar like this just could not be economically viable developed if it was hand carved.
The pickups are really clean and define the sound unlike any other guitar I have tried. I am listening to our last concert and note that the harmonics leap out, when I turn down for quieter bits the guitar doesn't end up lost in the mix. Solos in the lower register and on the bass strings are really really clear even at high volume and when you want to scream or cry it is right there.
I have had few string breaks in fact only the three top strings so I am waiting before changing strings as they haven't gone dead yet.
I love those locking tuners and after an initial doubt find these mark2 tuners easier to deal with than the mark1 on my Classic 24.
Talking about tuners one of things I admire about the PRS company is this notion of constant innovation - sure we've got a good model (money maker) this year but if we don't challenge ourselves and come up with something better NEXT YEAR. More companies need to think like this, example - we'll survive for 5 years before selling off our IBM Thinkpad division to the Chinese.
The Planet needs more PRS type innovation rather than fear and greed driven companies.
Maybe you wouldn't agree if you are still using Windows 3.1 or 95 or 98 or 2000 or XP which are not BETTER but just there. (End of pointless peasant rant)
I am sure this guitar is going to sound even better once I find the right strings as it is incredibly acoustically and electrically responsive.
Also this is going to be one of those rare designs that is going to get better with age.
Oh at this concert the Gendarmes (boys and girls in blue) came at about two and we went on playing for about 10 minutes while the owner of the club talked with them outside. The band immediately brought the level down but the guitar sound continues to sound great.
I guess the word I'm looking for is definition. This guitar just takes you to places you haven't been before. It is very precise if you play sloppy it will throw up on your audience, hey some guys might buy it just for that (joke). If you are looking to grow and expand your playing this might be just what is needed. This argument can be used for any decent guitar but for an experienced player this Hollow Body will take him or her to new planets.
So you would think with all this precision and definition where's the sustain? It's there. One of my tests and concert 'tricks' is just hold a note for 60 to 90 seconds - you know that "Gary Moore Parisienne Walkway thing right - the HB does it just fine and as the guitar is so responsive you have that extra control.
Examples of this are on the Weber amp and Snyder amp sound pages and they would immediately sound better with the HB.
Also one could ask well that's cool Stringkiller but you know I want Fat like on my amplifier - Warren Haynes, Buddy Guy, Ronnie Earl,
or the sound of Peter Green etc... It's there without any mush.
I also play slide, in standard tuning, and my only comment here is if you start using the HB you make damn sure your intonation is spot on otherwise more so than on most Les Pauls. Or give up playing slide until you've seen the Warren Haynes video on the subject and retained a couple of the basic ideas - idea number one is listen and make sure of your intonation, Mr Haynes is such a gentleman and good teacher that he doesn't put it like that but if you want to really work on your intonation this might just be the guitar to do it.
Anyhow I never thought I would spend more than 2K dollar on a guitar and it was the best buy I could have made.
Gonna stop right here as I have to go and play.
Again thanks for your article Cliff and give us a call if you are coming over to Paris.
Ps: I actually wanted to buy a PRS Singlecut in August when I was in the US - I did not even see one.
I, like hundreds of thousands of guitarists was very happy about the legal decision letting PRS continue with the production and sales of the PRS Single cut in September 2005.
I love my PRS Soapbar 1 that is 10 times cheaper than the HB! They make a good pair !
I turned at least a dozen people onto the PRS Soapbar, and one of my 'proof of funk gut' arguments were the articles on Harmony Central ;-)
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