NAMM 2009: New Paul Reed Smith guitars

2008 looks like a huge year for Paul Reed Smith. I’ve always liked their guitars (although they’re not quite my ‘type’ so I don’t know if I’ll ever own one), but this year they really seem to have knocked it up a notch. Here are the press releases. Hopefully I’ll be at NAMM next year so I can report on this sort of stuff in person.

First up is the Al Di Meola Prism.

The Al Di Meola Prism, world renowned Jazz guitarist Al Di Meola’s first signature model PRS guitar, will appear for the first time at NAMM during the winter trade show in Anaheim. The model, which unofficially debuted during Experience PRS 2008, features a stained top with a full spectrum of colors unlike any finish PRS has ever offered. The Prism prototype was completed just in time for Di Meola to play the new model on stage alongside legendary jazz band mates Chick Corea, Lenny White and Stanley Clark during the Return to Forever world tour in 2008.

The Al Di Meola Prism features a highly figured curly maple custom top with mahogany back, 25″ scale length, 22 fret Mexican rosewood fingerboard, custom Al Di Meola neck carve, grommet style locking tuners, standard abalone bird inlays, the new 1957/2008 pickups and a tremolo bridge.

When discussions about this new signature model began, Al and Paul Reed Smith were both adamant that the guitar maintained the highest quality and tonal integrity. Al also suggested a tie-dye like finish for the guitar to give it a truly unique look. Paul Smith and the PRS R&D team combined Al’s favorite guitar appointments and a full spectrum of colors to create a one of a kind PRS Guitar.

Al Di Meola was one of the very first artists featured on a magazine cover playing a PRS guitar and has supported PRS Guitars for more than 20 years. Not only is the Al Di Meola Prism one of the most striking guitars PRS has ever developed, it pays tribute to a legendary musician who helped lay the frame work for PRS Guitars as a company.

PRS has launched its acoustic brand, Angelus.

PRS Guitars is proud to officially announce the first in a series of acoustic guitars manufactured in its Stevensville, Maryland facility. Nearly four years of design and prototyping with acoustic artist Ricky Skaggs and luthier Steve Fischer have culminated in the Angelus Cutaway and the Tonare Grand models, which are appearing officially for the first time at Winter NAMM. Full production will commence in early 2009.

Newly designed with direct input from distinguished artists, PRS acoustic models come standard with features that are typically considered upgrades within the industry — German spruce tops, beautiful dark rosewood or curly mahogany backs and sides, rare Peruvian mahogany necks, red spruce and mahogany bracing, exotic inlays and rosettes, and thin shatter-hard all nitro finishes. Options include Celtic knot rosettes and inlays, Adirondack red spruce tops, and ebony fretboards and bridges. These instruments incorporate a proprietary hybrid bracing pattern designed to maximize volume, provide a musical balance between the bass, mid-range and warm high-end and give an articulate tonal response. Also uniquely PRS is a super high strength, high modulus graphite truss rod that enhances sonic vibration and an optional proprietary pickup system producing a natural acoustic sound that rivals vintage condenser microphones.

“After years of development, we have created a guitar with a truly unique voice. It is an honor to have these guitars so well-received by such gifted musicians,” said Steve Fischer, Senior Acoustic Guitar Luthier.

Endorser Tony McManus, nominated as “Musician of the Year” by the BBC Folk Awards and the Scottish Traditional Music Awards, will be demonstrating these remarkable instruments in a live setting that simulates a studio environment where recorded tones can be experienced. Tony McManus has also been called “the finest guitarist Scotland has ever produced” by the BBC.

The Paul Reed Smith Guitars Mira Maple Top is making its NAMM debut in Anaheim this January. First unveiled during the Experience PRS 2008 event in Maryland last fall, the instrument combines the retro vibe of the PRS Mira with the figured maple tops that PRS customers have come to expect. This new model is an evolutionary instrument stemming from the increasingly popular Mira. The maple top provides the guitar with both a distinctive visual and tonal identity.

New colors and optional gold hardware are also part of this new model’s offerings. The new finishes are all wrap-around and include Tri-Color Sunburst, Dark Cherry Sunburst, Whale Blue/Black Burst, Violin Amber Burst and Vintage Natural.

Like all PRS guitars, the Mira Maple Top is comprised of the finest woods and materials available. In addition to the mahogany and maple top body, the mahogany neck and East Indian rosewood fingerboard come with either moon inlays or optional bird inlays. This instrument is a 24-fret, 10″ radius, 25″ scale length guitar with either regular or wide-thin neck carve. Locking tuning pegs, Mira treble and bass pickups, volume, tone, 3-way blade, and a mini toggle coil tap round out the features.

PRS Guitars’ National Sales and Marketing Manager Larry Urie said, “It is a smoking guitar that appeals to a lot of players.”

PRS continues to expand its guitar concepts with the introduction of the Mira X, the first 22-fret, 24-1/2″ scale-length guitar in the Mira series of PRS guitar models. Appearing for the first time at this year’s Winter NAMM in Anaheim, the Mira X’s retro inspired design and appointments compliment others in the Mira series, but the flatter, streamlined Mira X top and lighter weight body gives new options to players in search of instruments with PRS craftsmanship, but with subtle and understated style.

The unique X wood palette includes a solid African basswood body, a Sipo mahogany neck and a Pau Ferro fretboard that contribute to the light-weight understated look and feel of this guitar, as do the dot inlays, vintage style tuning pegs and nickel hardware. Mira X Treble and Bass pickups, volume and tone controls and a three-way pick up selector on a black pickguard round out the electronics package. Color packages are Vintage Cherry, Black and Sepia Burst.

“It’s simple. It’s light. It’s classic, and it’s powerful. We’re happy that after many years of discussing concepts like this, we are finally able to bring them to market and give people new options,” said Joe Knaggs, Director of Research and Development. “It’s definitely a ‘less is more’ statement, but quality is still the most important feature of this guitar.”

Paul Reed Smith Guitars’ Modern Eagle II officially debuts at Winter NAMM 2008 after making its initial appearance during Experience PRS 2008. The newly updated Modern Eagle II builds on the tradition of the original Modern Eagle with premium grade wood, classic Modern Eagle frets and a Modern Eagle wide fat neck carve and adds to that an all new exclusive pickup system, updated finishing techniques, new colors and a Modern Eagle case.

The 1957/2008 pickups offered standard on the Modern Eagle II allow players to achieve both vintage and modern sounds. PRS obtained exclusive rights to the original pickup wire used in the most revered pickups in the 50’s. PRS obtained an exclusive to the wire in 2008, and 1957 was the year the humbucker was first commercially available, giving rise to the 1957/2008 name. “We’ve found a new kind of black rosewood that we’re using for the necks and fretboards,” said Paul Smith. “We’ve come up with a way of finishing the neck and fingerboard where it goes down into the grain, and you actually buff out the wood.” This buffed out neck finish is achieved using a finishing process developed by PRS and only available currently on the Modern Eagle II.

Curly Modern Eagle grade maple tops with premium mahogany backs and select Dalbergia wide fat necks are standard on all Modern Eagle II guitars. Other features include 22 frets, 25″ scale length, custom Modern Eagle II birds with select green abalone bird outlines and iridescent Paua heart filled centers, tremolo or stoptail bridge and a special paisley case with a maroon crushed velvet interior. The high gloss nitro finish is available in four special high-contrast colors: Faded Blue Jean, Charcoal, Red Tiger and Yellow Tiger.

Underscoring the notion that quality guitars need not be prohibitively costly PRS adds to its highly successful SE series with the introduction of the SE Custom 24 electric guitar.

Featuring mahogany body, maple top and neck, plain maple veneer, three-piece wide-thin neck, rosewood fretboard and moon inlays, the SE Custom 24 provides utility and quality at a reasonable price.

Incorporating PRS designed HFS Treble & Vintage Bass pickups, the SE Custom 24 produces a wide range of tonal possibilities enhanced by a variety of switching options including master volume, master tone, and 3-way toggle pickup selector. The SE Custom 24 is only available with a tremolo bridge.

“The SE line continues to provide players worldwide with an affordable guitar of excellent quality,” said Doug Shive, SE Line Business Manager. “The SE Custom 24 is yet another great value guitar in a wide range of the PRS SE series instruments.”

The SE Custom 24 is available in Black Cherry, Grey Black and Whale Blue.

Incorporating the highly acclaimed 1957/2008 pickups and finished in never before offered PRS proprietary nitro-cellulose burst colors, the Sunburst 22, Sunburst 245 and Smokeburst McCarty make their debut at NAMM 2009. The guitars feature custom grade curly maple tops, wide/fat mahogany necks, mahogany backs, 22-fret East Indian Rosewood fretboards and abalone bird inlays.

The Sunburst 22 is a 25″ scale-length double-cutaway model with PRS Tremolo bridge and phase II low mass locking tuners. The Sunburst 245 features a 24-1/2″ scale length with single-cutaway body, stoptail bridge and vintage style tuners. The Smokeburst™ McCarty incorporates a 25″ scale-length with double-cutaway body, stoptail bridge and vintage style tuners. The Sunburst 22 and Smokeburst™ McCarty each have a 3-way toggle pickup selector, volume knob and push/pull coil splitting tone control; while the Sunburst 245 utilizes a re-configured volume and tone control per pickup and three-way pickup selector. “The PRS team wanted to make a guitar using 1957/2008 pickups but with a totally new PRS style sunburst,” said Paul Smith. “The finish team developed new burst colors that really bring the curly tops to life and the nitro-cellulose gives a new look, sound and feel to PRS.”

For more information, visit

NAMM 2009: Paul Reed Smith amps and pickups

Remember that awesome Paul Reed Smith amp that was released in about 1991? The reviews were overwhelmingly positive but the amp didn’t last long, and it’s taken until now for PRS to jump into full-time amp production again. 

Here’s the press release from NAMM.

After nearly four years of close collaboration with master amp designer Doug Sewell, PRS Guitars introduces the highly anticipated PRS tube amp line at Winter NAMM.

“I met Doug Sewell at the Dallas International Guitar Show several years ago and needed an amp for that evening’s performance, so I borrowed one of his and was floored,” said Paul Smith. “We started working on this series and tried every conceivable component and circuit combination. Derek Trucks, David Grissom and several other known amp tone artists are now using this new amplifier line both live and in the studio. We’re pleased to be working with Doug and to have him leading the PRS amp team.”

Paying homage to both classic American as well as British amps, Sewell and Smith directed the PRS team to produce a line that covers the needs of varied playing styles while providing some uniquely different tonal possibilities.

The Dallas, Blue Sierra, and Original Sewell models make their official appearance at 2009 NAMM in Anaheim.

Producing clean tones that overdrive nicely, the Dallas harkens to the classic American reverb amps with more useable gain and slightly fuller midrange. Its percussive attack, sweet highs, and solid lows produce open, three-dimensional tone and huge sounding cleans.

Paul Reed Smith is also totally about pickups this year:

Paul Reed Smith acquired exclusive rights to the original pickup wire from the original machine used to make the most revered ’50s era pickups in 2008, and 1957 was the year the humbucker was first commercially available, giving rise to PRS Guitars’ newest and most exclusive pickup, the 1957/2008. The new PRS Sunburst Series™, the McCarty II, the Al Di Meola Prism and a limited run of solid body electrics introduced at Experience PRS 2008 are presently the only models that come standard with 1957/2008 pickups.

Three models are offered as part of a 1957/2008 Limited Run: the Custom 24, the McCarty and the SC 245. Limited to 750 guitars, the limited run and the new Sunburst Series™ are the only place outside of Private Stock where brand new “old style” McCarty PRS models are currently available.

Paul Reed Smith joked during Experience PRS 2008 and said, “Think of it this way. We’re selling you access to these exclusive pickups and giving you a free guitar and case to go with them.”

FEATURE: How to play in a band, Part 1

There comes a time when you start to look beyond the bedroom, garage, or whatever confined space your nearest and dearest have forced you into to practice your instrument. Up until that time, most of your experience as a musician has rotated around that little room. Maybe there’s a stereo and a few guitar magazines, perhaps some instructional DVDs or some TAB books of your favourite albums. Quite likely there’s a stereo. Your guitar playing experience is based on jamming to your favourite songs, maybe cranking out your own riffs here and there, and just generally having a heck of a lot of noisy, cathartic fun.
Then you and some mates decide to jam. You set your stuff up in a garage, choose a song and start playing.

It’s an unholy mess. But don’t worry, everyone’s first time generally sucks.

There are many unique differences between playing at home by yourself and playing with a band, and you can’t be expected to transfer one set of skills over to the other environment. Let’s look at a few things you will realise the first time you jam with a band at full volume.

If you’re not used to cranking your amp in your practice space, you might be in for a rude shock when you first nudge that master volume up past 4 in a band situation. The tone you had carefully crafted (if you’re like me you probably marked your settings on your pedals in permanent pen …oops) now sounds nothing like what you heard at home.
There are many reasons for this, including how the amp circuit reacts to being cranked up, and how the room sounds. You also open yourself up to the possibility of discovering feedback problems you may not have been aware of before, such as overly sensitive pickups.

Some players find that when they turn up the volume, they lose some of the detail they heard in their playing at bedroom levels, while emphasising other things they might not have noticed, like the ringing of unmated strings and the bassy, reverb-like sound created by the vibration of the springs in a floating bridge like a Floyd Rose or Strat-style system. Because of this, playing regularly in a jam situation can be great for your playing because you’ll start to develop ways to combat this. I long ago developed a habit of turning my guitar’s volume control down to 0 whenever I’m not playing, whether it’s in between songs or even during half a bar without guitar during a verse. If you make this a part of your playing style from early on, it becomes a subconscious habit, and will add to the overall professionalism of your presentation when you’re playing gigs. As for the trem spring reverb wobble sound coming from your guitar, Steve Vai packs his trem cavity with tissue paper and foam to stop this. If it’s good enough for him…

Another thing you may find when the drums and bass kick in and your amp is cranked is that you might loose the impact of your notes, making it hard to hear what you’re playing even if you’re turned up loud enough to balance with the other instruments. The natural instinct is to turn up even louder, but if you’re already perfectly balanced volume-wise, this isn’t a good idea. Often, simply turning down the level of distortion will increase the impact and presence of your notes, especially if you’re using a valve amp. Valve amps typically get their distortion from two places (there are other factors influencing distortion but we’ll look at these two for the sake of simplicity): the preamp and the power amp. Preamp distortion tends to be slightly fizzy, for want of a better term, and forms the main tonal character of your sound. Power amp distortion tends to manifest itself as an added warmth and punch to the tone, increasing the harmonic overtones and generally making the sound more direct. Power amps only distort one the amp’s master volume control is cranked, so often the difference in sound that you’re hearing at louder volumes is caused by the introduction of power amp distortion. It helps to start to think of this as your ‘real’ sound and your bedroom volume as your ‘practice’ sound. You’ll soon start to miss the power amp distortion when you’re playing at home, and you’ll find that learning to cope with the increased clarity and strength of the amp’s full-volume sound will train you to become a more confident player.

Now that your sound is sorted out, next week we’ll have a look at what to play, and how.

This article was originally published in Mixdown Magazine in April 2008.

NAMM 2009: Peavey 3120

Peavey have come a long way from the days when they were (wrongly) percieved as ‘just’ a practice amp company. High profile endorsements with Eddie Van Halen (his 5150 amp lives on as the 6505 and 6505+) and, more recently, Joe Satriani have really boosted Peavey’s bragging rights, and the new 3120 amp looks like a great alternative for those who are interested in the mutli-channel capabilities of the Peavey XXX range, but need something a bit more versatile and less metal.

Here’s the press release:

Peavey announces the debut of the new Peavey 3120 high-gain guitar amplifier head, a versatile three-channel amp with 120 watts of power and a trio of distinct voices capable of producing guitar tones from crisp and clean to total high-gain saturation.

The Peavey 3120 gives rock guitar players a triple-threat tone onslaught with generous amounts of gain, 120 watts of power and three fully independent channels of all-tube, tone-shaping satisfaction. The Lead and Rhythm channels feature gain and volume controls and an active three-band EQ, while the Clean channel offers nicely rounded tones crafted by a passive three-band EQ and volume control. A global master volume governs the amount of power put out by its four EL34 or 6L6GC power-amp tubes, while the gain controls on the Lead and Rhythm channels adjust the amount of 12AX7 gain saturation.

The 3120 rear panel hosts a unique Peavey custom tone control feature, a three-setting damping switch that alters speaker resonance to create tight, medium and loose tones, from a precise punch for rhythmic attack to a full, widely resonant sound. Also on the rear panel is a footswitchable effects loop with dedicated send and return controls and a line out with level control.

The Peavey 3120 guitar amplifier will be available in Q1 2009 from authorized Peavey retailers.

For more information, visit their web site at