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Stringkiller’s Guitar Galleries - Paul Reed Smith SE Soapbar


What is there to say about a made by Paul Reed Smith in Korea?

The overall workmanship and design delivers the sound that you would expect from a good P 90 guitar.
It is very confortable and great fun to play, even acoustically and these saopbar pickups have some great electric sounds.
It is not a Gibson 1960 Les Paul Special Cutaway or a 1957 Les Paul Junior Single cutaway or a 1958 Les Paul Junior Double cutaway or a 1960 Les Paul Special SC, not is it meant to be.
This is a case of a high end US luthier licensing Student Editions (SE) to Korean builders meeting the highest standards to build a lot of guitar for the money.

There are not a lot of these PRS SE Soapbars in France and most guitarists who have played it rated it at two to four times that price.
They unanimously commented on the finish which they felt was better than a lot of big name US guitars.
The wrap around one piece bridge is well designed.
It intonates correctly from the set up and looks easy to tweak.
The body is one light slab of mahogany with a very thin and professional looking red finish.
It resonates accoustically and is light which is nice after a 4 to 6 hour gig.
The neck is set into the body and is what PRS call Wide Fat or what most guitarists call a 1959 Les Paul thick neck as opposed to the thinner 1960s necks.
Great sustain, great feel, great finish and even more sustain ;-)
The fretboard markers are the Paul Reed Smith half moon markers.
They aren't in abalone but are a very nice classy understatement. Specially on such an economical guitar.
When I bought this guitar, I was ready to change the pickups and volume and tone controls if I felt I could get a better sound or if the electronics could be improved on.
Again a lot of people, and some publications Guitarist magasine UK also mention potential tuning problems wit the machine heads/tuners but I have to say mine stays in tune well.
After six months (1997) or 13 years (2010) I am very happy with the sound of each pickup, thick and creamy through a good tube/valve amplifier.
Many guitars, especially with P90s can have a balance problem between the pickups, I'm glad to say here the mix is very even.
This increases the possibilities with the tone and volume control which have a better than average taper, much better than a pot that has all the action in a quarter of a turn.
So you are getting a lot of tone and different sounds, maybe even more than you would expect.
Sounds gritty, dirty and mean which is what I wanted. I had to reset my amps to get a semblance of a clean tone at high volumes as these pickups deliver grit when pushed.
Also I set up this guitar at 5 on both tone and volume and when turning up I get all the gain and sustain I need without having to go through an overdrive channel or overdrive pedal.
The toggle switch is fine and quite sensibly placed.
The tuners are not the locking Paul Reed Smith ones but good quality tuners marked with their brandname.
The carrying case is 10/10, with two pockets instead of one.

Less positive notation
The nut is made out of something like black graphite and is well placed and set up.
Maybe it would be an idea to smooth the rough edges?
The strap holders did not stay in and had to be superglued. This happens on many guitars.
The guitar is light and well balanced either sitting or standing.
The action is medium low and it was exactly was I wanted for slide.

Some remarks
For the price, US 400, (2004) one can't get a better deal.
These models have been discontinued due due a lawsuit brought by Gison Guitars against PRS who have been ordered to stop production of this model and the Paul Reed Smith Single Cut vibrato and hard tail models as they are deemed to be copies of the Gibson Les Paul Model.
There is a new Soapbar II model which is looks exactly the same as the Soapbar one but with the characteristic PRS double cutaway.
I'm looking forward to checking this model out but I am really saving up for a PRS SC Tremolo model.
12 years later I finally managed to get not one but two
The design, the woods, the finish, the craftmanship and electrics combine to make a great playing guitar with a lot of it's own characteristc sounds as well as more than a passing bow to the many vintage Gibson, Epiphone guitars equipped with the original P90 pickups.
The craftsmanship is better than on some big name US manufacturers guitars at much higher prices.
You get more than what you pay for.
2010 - There is now a whole range of PRS SE guitars, including hollowbody and trem models - Would n"t mind trying out the Korina Singlecut SE but I'm trying to stay away from another GAS attack and with three Singlecuts I'm keeping it under control for the moment.

More information
I was very influenced not only by the various Guitar magazine reviews and CDs but also from the feedback at Harmony Central.
What a great resource for musicians.
Their instrument feedback columms make for some great reading and hopefully more informed choices.

The Gibson lawsuit
For your search engines- Middle District Tennessee - Gibson Guitars ref 00-CV-1079 - Judge William J Haynes - Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars (use a multiple search for better results like or
Enjoy your reading!
Example Tradedress and Functionality The Middle District of Tennessee held that the availability of alternative body shapes and control knob arrangements is conclusive proof that the single-cutaway design of an electric guitar body is not functional and is thus protectable with a showing of secondary meaning. Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars LP.Source

I find it strange that these justice rulings are not very well documented on the Internet.
Does this mean that other single cut, two pickup guitars with four volume/tone controls will now stop being manufactured as 51 years after coming out with the Les Paul Gibson Standard, Gibson are now trying to protect this shape and configuration?

Does this mean the Fender Telecaster Thinline with the humbugers and four knobs is a LP copy?
Hamer, Tokai, ESP, etc... plus all the small boutique luthiers will have to go to court to have the right to manaufacture their guitars?

I have enjoyed reading about this debate.
I understand the Gibson Havard MBAs using patent rights to protect their investments and to maximise their income.
I understand PRS coming out with an exceptional NEW design. I read that some unfortunate references were made in the PRS meeting minutes to the Gibson Les Paul and to aiming at that market segment.

Anyhow the American way seems to be litigation and leaving it up to the lawyers.
I will be interested to see how this finally winds up in the country known for free entreprise and innovation. As always there will be a winner and a loser, but my concern is more how will this effect the consumers choices in the next 10 years? But then I'm not a lawyer!

A great guitar, better than some guitars more than double the price.
In terms of the original design - if you think this is a Les Paul stop playing the guitar and get a career in law or justice. Heh heh.

In terms of workmanship this guitar matches or exceeds the high quality of the first Japanese 'copies' from Tokai, Fuji Gakki, Yamaha, Ibanez and Squier.
The wrap around bridge is neat and contributes to making the guitar sound good.

The mahogany neck has been shaped on '59 Gibson neck and the fretwork is better than I have seen on some recent Gibsons.
The moons are cool.
A great guitar at an incredible price. What more can you want?
Let's see how the Soapbar II is received by the market.

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18:08 18/03/2010
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