Review: Paul Reed Smith S2 Vela Electric Guitar

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When I first picked up the new Paul Reed Smith S2 Vela, it was kinda like, meh…didn’t seem like a real big deal. But I kept playing it…and playing it…and the next thing I knew, I was still playing it an hour later and loving it.

The new offset body shape took a minute to get used to, as with any new guitar design. It’s kind of a combination of several other guitar bodies – almost punk, almost retro, with a top horn that’s almost too much, edgy and futuristic at the same time but not in some radical axe hack sense. In the end it works fine, and it makes for a lightweight guitar that would be pretty easy to wield on stage.

I tried it out through a little Marshall MG10CF that doesn’t have much in terms of EQ besides gain and contour, the better for getting into the true tone of the guitar’s pickup combinations. This guitar has two pickups, a PRS Starla pickup in the bridge that can be split into single-coil using the push-pull tone control knob, and the new PRS Type D single coil for the neck pickup. A really broad range of sounds can be had from this guitar using the tone control, the three-way toggle selector and the coil split, especially if one were to run it through a larger amp with some tonal options and a pedal or two. It can cover everything from balls to deep blues, punk to jazz, with pretty impressive clarity.

With a mahogany body and neck, this 22-fret guitar somehow seemed to warm up and feel broken-in really fast. And while I’m generally not a fan of rosewood fretboards, this was one of the better ones I’ve played. All in all, the neck was fast and comfortable, with only a couple buzzes even though it hadn’t been set up at all since leaving the shop. The strings are top-loaded into a plate-style bridge with brass saddles, and the hardware is nickel. It has the PRS locking tuners, which I’m not real big on, but I will admit that, if nothing else, they can sure help with a quick string change in a stage situation.

The guitar comes in seven colors, and I checked out a vintage cherry model, though I think the seafoam green is the coolest. Street price is $1279 with neck dot inlay, or $1399 if you want the PRS signature birds inlay, one of the coolest aesthetic features anyone’s ever added to a guitar, in my opinion, and worth the extra cash if you have it.