My in-depth experience with Paul Reed Smith guitars is only fairly recent. I have to come clean and admit that for years I always considered the brand synonymous with bands like Creed, or with fusion-heads who like their guitars finished to look like a bowling ball (a la the Al DiMeola prism model). There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those tastes or styles but they’re DEFINITELY not mine. That aside, I can also say that I’ve always considered their build quality and attention to detail to be excellent. So- fast forward to this past year and the brand has come to my attention again. I can’t say for sure whether they’ve had models all along that would’ve been so killer for me and I was too oblivious to see them or whether the stuff I love has only been recently introduced but PRS is now making a bunch of gear that I think is absolutely awesome. Enter the Starla. Mahogany, set neck construction, great feeling neck and frets, classic finish, classic abr bridge, and a bigsby. Man, oh man, do I love a bigsby. The extra string length behind the bridge adds overtones that I am all about. I realize that a lot of people like a more focused sound but THEY’RE WRONG. Just kidding, well, sorta. I really like the focused punch on Les Paul’s and Tele’s but that’s not this instrument. It doesn’t sound anything like those guitars. What THIS guitar basically does is everything that I ever wanted my SG to do- only it does it way better.
Now my only downsides on the guitar. I am really not wild about the stock Starla pickups. In conjunction with the stock wiring, I will admit that they have the PRS hallmark of wide versatility and nearly hi-fi spectrum but that’s just not my wheelhouse. I got my Starla with a set of PRS’ new 57/08TM pickups and classic 500K volume/tone pots with no coil tap or any other funny business. I think that is absolutely the way to go with this guitar. Those pickups have a very vintage Gibson-y tone but with a little more power and punch that you need in an all mahogany guitar that is inherently dark and sometimes muddy. I’d liken them to a hotter set of ’57 classics if you need a tone reference. Beyond the pickups, I did find I needed to pop a roller bridge on it for tuning stability and I got my guitar made with the more standard, non-locking tuners. Also, it took me a while to warm up to the bird inlays but I dig them now. They’re very beautifully done and I like that it’s Paul’s tribute to his mom. What a good son.
Side note that’s good and bad in one fell swoop. It’s a 24.5″ scale. That’s the shortest scale guitar I’ve ever owned and it’s a double-edged sword. It is INCREDIBLY easy and fun to play set up with 10’s like I do but I will say that it doesn’t handle being tuned to Eb very well at all. It just doesn’t have enough tightness, even with heavier strings. You can do it but you have to play really gently to coax its best out of it in that realm. Just a word to the wise. Overall- a killer guitar that I love and use all the time.