I recently had the opportunity to visit Paul Reed Smith guitars. While on my tour, I was able to see where both the PRS Core guitars are built, as well as the new line where the S2 guitars are being made. For those that don’t yet know, S2 stands for Stevensville 2, as in the second production line in the Stevensville, MD Paul Reed Smith production facility. Luckily, at the end of my tour, I was able to borrow one of the new S2 Mira Semi-Hollows. With the S2 series, PRS set out to create a more affordable American-made guitar with the same quality and craftsmanship of the PRS Core line of guitars. Based on my experience with the S2 Mira Semi-Hollow, I’d say they achieved this in spades.
Because wood is one of the most important features of any guitar, PRS builds the S2 guitars from the same high-quality tone woods as the Core guitars. In the case of my S2 Mira Semi-Hollow, the back is built from a single piece of mahogany, which is top-routed to make the guitar semi-hollow. The top is made from a second piece of solid mahogany which is routed prior to being joined to the back. All of the S2 guitars feature shallower carves than the “violin carves” of the Core guitars. This allows PRS to start with shallower pieces of wood for the S2 guitars which allows for a significant cost savings even while using single pieces of wood for entire guitars.
The necks on all of the S2 guitars are also made with single pieces of mahogany, but the headstocks are joined with a scarf joint which again, allows PRS to start with a smaller piece of wood. All of the S2 guitars feature rosewood fingerboards and the one on the S2 Mira Semi-Hollow feels and looks great. It’s uniform in color and texture with no bright or dark spots and has flawlessly inlaid acrylic dot markers. If you like the sort of thing, and I do, you can upgrade to the classic PRS bird inlays. The fret work on the S2 is also impeccable with perfectly leveled frets and no rough edges or sharp ends to be found. It’s subtle, but the fingerboard is also rounded over ever so slightly. This compared with the perfect fret work makes for an extremely comfortable playing experience.
Moving down to the body, the Mira S2 Semi-Hollow continues to impress. The thin profile combined with the contoured back and beveled upper bout make for a shape that melds comfortably into your body. Weighing in at 6.3 pounds, the Mira S2 is a breeze to keep strapped on all night. Even after a three-plus hour practice, my back and shoulders were feeling fine. That isn’t always the case with an eight pound guitar.
As you probably know, scale length plays a huge role in the playing feel of a guitar. What you might not know, is that it’s equally important in determining the tonality of a guitar. The 25 inch scale of the PRS (right between the 24.625 inches of Gibson and the 25.5 inches of Fender) provides a perfect balance between the thickness of the former and bright snap of the latter. Pairing this “in between” scale length with the ability to split the pickup coils on the PRS means you can cover a ton of basses with a single guitar. In humbucking mode, the S2 Mira Semi-Hollow is thick and bassy in the neck, full in the middle position, and powerful and gnarly in the bridge. Splitting the coils allows you to get bell like in the neck, faux Strat-like “quack” in the middle position, and serious twang in the bridge position.
It’s the little things that made me fall in love with the S2 Mira Semi-Hollow. Playing guitar is a tactile experience and the way a guitar feels in and to your hands has a huge impact on how you play. Things like the proprietary tone and volume knobs which are attractive, ergonomic, and unique to PRS really set this guitar apart from the rest of the herd. Even the larger “button” on the blade style pickup selector just feels better than other guitars. All of these little advances add up to a guitar that is as familiar as any vintage instrument but with modern touches that make it more versatile.
What we like: Just about everything. The S2 Mira Semi-Hollow feels great, is built with superb attention to detail, and sounds great. The feel of the neck and fretwork is especially nice.
Concerns: None. Other than being broken hearted that I now have to return the S2 to PRS. Someday…
Build quality: While the S2 Mira Semi-Hollow lacks some of the “wow factor” of the PRS Core guitars, it’s still made with the same precision and attention to detail as its pricier siblings. I dare you to find a guitar with this level of build quality and attention to detail for under $2,000.
Value: The S2 Mira Semi-Hollow isn’t cheap. But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. In this case however, you sort of get more than you pay for. If you can afford the S2 guitars, you’d be crazy not to check them out. And if you can afford something more expensive, check the S2 series and then invest the extra cash in your amp or effects fund.