PRS SE Silver Sky 2022 Review: (SSS) 6 String Solidbody Electric Guitar
Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky
The core version of the Silver Sky brought about a lot of controversy when it was announced a few years ago. After the dust had settled, the more affordable SE Silver Sky was announced in January 2022 to great hype with distributors getting pre-orders fully filled. Does it live up to its more expensive sibling?
I was one of those doubters that pointed fingers at the Silver Sky when PRS released the US made core model a few years ago. I wasn't a purist but I found that the design reminded me of a Behringer starter pack guitar back then. Since then, the guitar was at the back of my mind. I didn't really care for all the fancy new finishes, the steady influx of positive reviews, I didn't even click on demo videos on YouTube whenever they'd pop up on my home page. It's just not a guitar that was on my radar.
So when PRS announced the Indonesian built SE version in January with a demo featuring John Mayer cutting to the chase and playing "Slow Dancing In a Burning Room", I was somehow drawn into the hype. It might be because the Stone Blue finish reminded me of a well worn, Daphne Blue 1964 Fender Stratocaster I once had in my possession. I was struck with a double whammy of nostalgia and hype. I immediately pre-ordered a unit in that finish (which apparently is the best selling one and is hard to get a hold of).
Top: The Silver Sky SE is a fresh take on a familiar silhouette.
Bottom: The SIlver Sky has an angled headstock with a scarf joint which eliminates the need for string trees.
A few months later when they were finally in stock, I was excited to finally try it and make my first impressions. I never tried it at the store when I picked it up and immediately went home. All guitars I get always go straight to the workbench and get set up before I play. Ultimately, a guitar is most often assessed by how the end-user receives it. A lot of impressions for gear comes from how much expectations are affected out of the box.
I was... initially disappointed. Out of the box, it didn't feel like the way I expected a PRS to feel like. The setup was a bit high for my taste and the pickups were not at my preferred height. Fortunately, I didn't notice any finish flaws. I chalked it up to the difference between getting a PRS SE in the US and getting one anywhere else: PRS SE guitars distributed in the US pass through the same quality checks as their Core models and therefore get a final setup there. Aside from major retailers that provide setup, other distributors may receive units straight from the factory and don't get set up after the shipment. This may lead to less than optimal playing feel because of storage and shipment conditions.
Top: A closer look at the Silver Sky SE's fretwork.
Bottom: The nut was cut very precisely and didn't bind the strings, resulting in great tuning stability.
In my experience, setup plays a big role in not just how a guitar feels, but how it sounds. As I was setting up the SE Silver Sky, I kept referencing official PRS documentation for neck relief, action, intonation, and pickup height. The nut slots were cut perfectly from the factory though so I didn't encounter any problems there. The frets needed a little polishing but I didn't encounter any stray frets that needed hammering, nor did I feel any rough edges along the side of the fretboard. Some of these things are usually done by a team in PRS' Maryland facility and I'm fortunate to have some experience setting up my own guitars. If you're more of a player than a tinkerer than me, getting ANY guitar professionally set up is a must as it makes or breaks even the most expensive instruments.
Even before the setup however, the neck felt really comfortable. The carve is definitely more vintage inspired as it's slightly thicker from front to back but the shoulders are in between a soft V and a vintage C profile. It's perfect for Jimi-style thumb over chording and leveraging for big bends. Compared to the US Silver Sky, the back of the neck is finished in a thin, satin finish. My experience with satin finishes is that over time, they naturally gloss up but retain that smooth feel. I've only had this guitar for a few months and it's beginning to feel a bit more like a worn-in vintage neck. I've seen discussions online about how many people actually prefer this neck over the US so if that's what threw you off about the core Silver Sky, you might like the SE one a lot better.
The Silver Sky SE bridge makes full contact with the body at an angle. This isn't a manufacturing or setup error. I also removed the backplate to mimic the Core model.
The neck is also slightly narrower close to the nut when I was comparing the SE with the Core model at the store. The profile becomes more and more similar as you go up the neck. Along with the 8.5" radius (versus the Core's vintage 7.25") the SE neck feels a bit more comfortable to play with a full grip on the neck. Those with smaller hands would also love this change from the US model.
An important thing to note that I thought was odd at first is the way the bridge is angled from the bridge posts. PRS Chief Operations Officer Jack Higginbotham said in this Guitar World Interview: "We’re going about 2/32-inch up on the front and then decking the back of the bridge. I’ve tried it all sorts of ways: fully decking it, coming up one 32nd, two 32nds and dropping the saddles down – this is what we think is the sweet spot to how to get the guitar sounding the best."
After I've had it set up to my preferences, the guitar immediately felt better. Much more important than that, it sounded better. Sustain was excellent and the pickups, after adjusting them to the factory recommended height by PRS were surprisingly warm for single coil pickups. They didn't have the plinky-ness of modern Fender guitars. People who are used to the "modern hi-fi Fender" sound may find the SE Silver Sky's pickups to be the equivalent of having the tone knob rolled back slightly. The PRS 635 JM "S" pickups have a lower resonant peak, even compared to their Core version as found by Guitar Pickup Database in this investigative post.
Top: The 635JM "S" pickups are slighty different from their Core counterparts but still complement the tone of the instrument very well.
Bottom: PRS guitars are known for their lower horn scoop. They made sure the application on the Silver Sky series doesn't look out of place.
To me however, the warmer, smoother sound of the SE pickups work really well to prevent the typical "single coil icepick" sound. Interestingly enough, I remember the 1964 Stratocaster I had with me to have a warmer and smoother sound than the Fender 2011 American Vintage 62 Stratocaster I had at the time. The Silver Sky's pickups themselves are named so because of John Mayer's preference for the sound of mid-60's Stratocasters; particularly those made between 1963 and 1965. I'd say the overall vibe and tonality of the pickups give the SE Silver Sky a uniquely sound; one that would require other guitars to be fitted with boutique pickups to achieve.
I think that musical instruments have the capability to inspire you to make music regardless of price category, build and quality. For those that are particular about their instrument being consistent with its functions (aka people like me), the PRS Silver Sky SE doesn't disappoint. It manages to retain what is inspiring and fun about using a Strat and ends up being greater than its constituent parts. Something that I gleaned from watching too many PRS vids is that Paul is very particular about how the individual parts interact with the whole. The US made Silver Sky was designed by taking all that John Mayer liked from several different guitars and combining them into one guitar with parts that can, more or less, recreate that experience with as little variation as possible.
PRS SE Silver Sky Sound Samples*
The one thing that I saved to address for last is that the price point of the SE SIlver Sky is in an awkward position where people might not be pulled in at the prospect of an offshore made PRS. There are options at this price point that are made in Japan or Made in USA that people see as "better". In my experience, the great equalizer has always been the how well you can set up your guitar, which is the point I made at the beginning of this review. The SE Silver Sky is made in Indonesia in PRS's own facility with their own staff, equipment and exclusive production rights. The main difference then is how the instruments arrive at different stores, again another point I made in the beginning that I want to reiterate.
- Body: Poplar
- Finish: Gloss
- Bridge: 2-Piece Steel Tremolo
- Pickups: x3 PRS 635JM "S" Single-coil
- Neck: Maple
- Scale Length: 25.5"
- Fingerboard Radius: 8.5"
- Frets: 22
- Nut Width: 1.625"
- Controls: 1 x master volume, 2 x tone
- Pickup Selector: 5-way blade pickup switch
- Needs set up to maximize potential (as with all guitars)
- 8.5 radius might not satisfy purists
- Sound and feel that is reminiscent of vintage guitars
- Great sounding stock pickups
- Excellent build quality
- Neck profile one of the best for any Strat type I've tried
The Silver Sky SE on paper seems like a downgrade from the Core model but after my experience with making music with it, It didn't get in the way of me laying down tracks or getting inspired just by noodling around with it. Despite my guitar lineup consisting of very high end guitars like a PRS Santana III, a top of the line Ibanez Jem and whatnot, I found myself habitually reaching for the SE simply because it's a fun guitar to noodle around with while doing other tasks (such as writing this review). And for a guitar that many might feel is a "lesser" version of a premium one to do that, to creep into my subconscious and grow a habit of me reaching for it in idle times, is quite a feat in itself. I was never actually wow-ed or amazed by it, but it went from disappointing me, to a guitar that I find great comfort in holding and playing. In a way it's almost like that one person who you didn't like at first but then as you get to know them better, you become the best of friends.
Additional photos of the Silver Sky SE. Note that I removed the truss rod cover. This is a personal preference.
Gearank High Notes
- 2022.08: Equal Highest Rated Solidbody SSS Pickup Equipped Electric Guitar from $500 to $1000
- Fender Player Stratocaster with Maple Fingerboard
- Fender Player Stratocaster with Maple Fingerboard
The PRS SE Silver Sky appeared on our recommended list for Single Coil Solidbody Electric Guitars from $500 to $1000 when we published the first edition in August 2022 and it remains on that list today.
|Guitar World||Dave Burrluck||90/100|