PRS CE 24 Guitar Review: Is it Better Than a PRS Core Guitar?
So you’re considering buying the PRS CE Custom 24 guitar.
Since its introduction in 1988, the CE has caused a storm throughout the guitar world. It’s a premium pick, so at this price point it’s integral you do your research.
The premium guitar marketplace has never been so competitive. And this is good for you as a consumer—-you have options.
As guitar manufacturers vie for your attention, does the PRS CE 24 hold up to its competitors?
This in-depth PRS CE 24 review will tell you all you need to know about the guitar including the build quality, features, performance, warranty and return policies and more.
Let’s get started.
About Paul Reed Smith Guitars
Paul Reed Smith Guitars is a premier guitar manufacture based in Maryland known for producing some of the most stunning, high-quality guitars out there.
PRS Guitars is the brainchild of Paul Reed Smith, his initials are a clue to where the PRS brand name originated. From humble beginnings crafting guitars in a garret. PRS Guitars would reach the summit of peak quality guitars.
The meteoric rise involves plenty of hustling.
Smith would hang out at concert arenas armed with his latest guitar design. Knowing full well if a famed guitarist could feel the joys of playing a PRS, they’d be a convert.
Carlos Santana was one such guitarist who became a preliminary guardian of PRS.
Where PRS guitars find themselves today is a testament to Smiths’ tenacity. But it’s not only drive and vision that has led PRS to compete with the big hitters. The quality of his guitars speaks for itself.
The original 1988 CE became one of its flagship guitars. The PRS CE 24 continues the tradition and claims to be an improvement on an already impressive guitar.
So does it live up to expectation?
In a price range, that can cause wistful eyes to wander towards Gibsons, Fenders, and Ibanez—is it worth it?
You may be skeptical. So read on to discover if this guitar warrants skepticism.
For more information, check out my guide on the Best PRS Guitars
PRS CE 24 Review: Highlights
Solid craftsmanship and a sparkling present tone. There’s so much to like about the PRS CE 24.
But no guitar is perfect. Some features might not be for you.
So let’s have a look at the things we like and the things we don’t.
What We Liked
- Craftsmanship – What else would you expect from a US-built guitar? The stringent quality control on the PRS production line shows. It’s built with care and with durability in mind.
- Value – You’re essentially getting the quality and features of an American made Paul Reed Smith Core guitar for about half the price.
- Tone – The CE 24 has a sparkling tone. It’s articulate, accurate, and full of pristine top end.
- Variety of Colors – There’s a color and finish to suit everyone. The options are vast and add a personal touch to your guitar. Also, they’re adding new finish options each year.
What We Didn’t Like
- Lack of Low End – While the top end glistens, if you’re searching for vintage warmth and depth. This guitar might not be for you.
- Inlays – The fret markers, also known as fretboard inlays, come in the form of iconic PRS birds. At this price point, you’d hope for the high-quality abalone inlays as found on the Core models. But the plastic birds on the CE 24 can feel cheap.
- Low Output Pickups – There’s no doubting the pickups are versatile and some of the clearest on the market. But their low output and cleanliness might not suit heavy metal players.
PRS CE 24 Review: Features & Specifications
- CE 24 Double Cut Body – The classic CE 24 body allows easy access to all 24 frets.
- Bolt-on Pattern Thin Maple Neck – Bolt-on necks offer a unique sound compared to other styles. The tiny gap between neck and body acts as an obstacle to slow the guitars sustain. You can expect a quick response and attack from the CE 24.
- Locking Tuners – You can have confidence that these tuners keep their tune. The reliability is brilliant in high-pressure situations like on stage and the studio.
- PRS Vibrato Bridge – Vibrato capabilities ensure you can add texture with the use of a whammy bar.
- TCI-Tuned 85/15 Pickups – These pickups are the product of 30 years of research and development. Growing from the 1985 pickup, they deliver 6 different humbucker and single-coil tones.
PRS CE 24 Review: Our Insights
The PRS CE 24 is a guitar of many facets. So let’s break it down and look at everything from its build quality to its playability.
Build quality is a core principle of PRS guitars. The CE 24 stands as a monument to the company’s dedication to excellence.
When you’re buying the CE 24, you’re investing in years of experience and development. There are so many layers that make it build quality so good.
First, you’ve got the quality of wood. Then, the staged drying process ensures minimal moisture remains in it. This begins with air drying before the wood makes its way into a drying room circulated with hot air.
So why does this matter?
Good quality, well-dried wood is the stable platform to build upon. The lack of moisture will increase vibrations and go a long way to make sure the guitar keeps its tunes.
Thereon the PRS process pays particular attention to detail. Balancing the use of machinery and skilled craft workers ensures manufacturing precision.
With the CE 24, you’ll be playing an instrument that hasn’t fallen off a production line.
Quality control occurs at each stage of manufacture by all craft workers. Smith explains, “They have a lot of authority over their work, and if a guitar falls short… they don’t pass it on to the next stage.“
Each step of building the CE24 is meticulous. With a final quality-controlled playtest, the chances of buying a dud are rare.
The procedure in place at PRS works and the CE 24 is proof. Build quality is one of its biggest charms of this durable guitar.
Hardware and Electronics
Paul Reed Smith began his passage into the world of guitars by repairing instruments. This apprenticeship served as a crash course in the inner workings of guitars.
So why is this significant to the CE 24?
It’s all about the inside knowledge. By repairing guitars, Smith noticed why guitars would break and why they’d perform.
The experience allowed him to incorporate wisdom into his designs. The hardware in the CE 24 has solutions to common problems.
The CE 24 offers a unique modernized take on hardware and electronics. The PRS Low Mass Locking Tuners may look like your standard pegs, but they hold their tune better than most.
The PRS Patented Tremolo bridge uses a cast steel block with a brass plate and saddles. Its smoothed edges are easy on the eye and will also further help keep the guitar in tune.
But be sure to use the same gauge strings that come on the guitar. Some reports suggest changing string gauge can cause less tune reliability.
And now onto the all-important pickups. Wondering where they get their name from? The first two numbers represent the year in which the original pickups came out. The second being the year in which the improved pickups followed.
So what about the CE 24’s 85/15?
These pickups are far from a vintage reproduction. They are every bit a modern take. They are reliable and will appeal to the guitarist who wants to stand far from the norm.
So let’s read on to discover how they sound.
What’s unique about the sound of the CE 24?
The pickup design is one of precision. The highs and upper mids are crystal clear. Every note will cut through whether you’re in the studio or on the stage.
By design, PRS has notched away the low mids. The theory being that mixing engineers often cut these frequencies anyhow.
While this is true. I could argue that it’s for a mixing engineer to make these decisions. After all, it’s easier to take away frequencies than it is to add.
The lack of low midrange might represent an issue for some. If you’re seeking a warm vintage deep sound, then this guitar might not be for you.
That said, the crystal clear highs make this an ideal weapon for music in the pop or contemporary genres.
The CE 24 aims to balance the history and future. It sways to a more modern sound. And for clear and accurate articulation, this guitar is a master.
But for replicating a warm vintage sound, look elsewhere.
Playability is often down to preference. What one guitarist may enjoy might annoy another.
The neck on the CE 24 has a satin finish. It’s comfortable to touch, and it might feel like a dream. But, if you’re used to high gloss necks, the texture might take time to get to grips with.
Some reports have suggested that the whammy bar is too high and intrusive. Again, this is preference. You can always remove it or have it looked at by a technician if required.
Every guitarist will enjoy the ease of access to all 24 frets. It’s a cramp-free sensation that’s a universal positive. So thanks to the precise cutaway, you’ll have unobstructed access to every note high and low.
The coil tap to access single-coil and humbucker settings is smooth and easy to navigate. It can be a challenge to switch mid-song but you’ll have tonal varieties.
The CE 24 has quite a shallow body. It’s thinner than its more expensive counterpart, the Core Custom 24. But this could be to your liking.
You’ll find the CE 24 a comfortable guitar to play. Even if it isn’t what you’re used to, the CE 24 will win you over.
So the big question is—does the CE 24 offer value for money?
When you’re about to spend upwards of a thousand bucks, you need those reassurances.
PRS themselves have models at double the price and also a lot cheaper.
The CE 24 is the middle ground between the two. It’s by far an upgrade on an intermediate option and has features that wouldn’t be out of place on a guitar double the cost.
It’s every bit the top of the range guitar. This guitar’s reliability and craftsmanship will prove valuable in the long run.
PRS CE 24 Review: Policies and Additional Info
While PRS will cover the warranty. Shipping and return policies will vary depending on the store.
Sweetwater has many benefits. It leads the way with customer service, which is why it receives the Guitar Advise seal of approval.
When buying a guitar from Sweetwater, they’ll ship your product for free. It’s one less expense to worry about.
Sweetwater often comes up trumps with packaging. A guitar traveling across the country is a cause for concern. But they package in a way to limit any issues.
If you’re spending big bucks, it’s advisable to have a hard case for your guitar. Transporting a nice guitar in a soft case is only going to end one way.
Traveling to rehearsals, gigs, and touring puts the guitar at risk. Roadworn is one thing, but permanent damage is another.
Unless the guitar won’t leave your house, a hard case is essential. If you order the hard case alongside your guitar, ask Sweetwater to ship it inside. It’ll be worth it for peace of mind and long-term protection.
What’s the first thing you should do when you’re the proud owner of a CE 24? Plug it and play it loud?
But after that, register your guitar with PRS. Doing this within 30 days of the sale will ensure you’re covered by the warranty.
PRS pride themselves on prime manufacturing. Their lifetime warranty shows they have faith in their products.
But some words of warning. The lifetime warranty is only for the original owner. So second-hand buys won’t have the same privileges.
It’s also only extended for manufacturer defects.
So what does this mean?
They do not cover “wear and tear” by warranty.
To ensure you know what you’re dealing with, have a look at the official PRS warranty information. Here you’ll find all the finer details of how to protect your warranty.
There’s a connection with a guitar. Some might say love at first sight and you’ll know it’s the one within a few minutes of giving it its first strum.
But what about if you don’t like the PRS CE 24?
Then send it back. It’s as simple as that. Sweetwater offers a hassle-free return policy with any new product. So whatever the reason, you can return it for a refund, in-store credit, or exchange.
If you don’t like the CE 24. Make sure you decide within 30 days of shipping. This is when the no-hassle return policy expires.
Should You Buy the PRS CE 24?
If you’re in the market for a PRS guitar, you’ll struggle to find a better option. There are more expensive and cheaper, but the CE 24 offers a premium US-built guitar at a competitive price.
Here are the criteria and scenarios where this guitar works wonders.
- Any genre that requires a snappy guitar sound. Pop, progressive, gospel, and blues to name a few.
- It’s a useful tool to have in a studio. It offers a unique sound that other guitars can’t offer.
- When you want to upgrade your PRS SE Standard 24.
PRS CE Custom 24 Alternatives
Not convinced with the CE 24? You have options. So let’s talk about some alternatives.
PRS CE 24 Vs PRS Core Custom 24
The PRS Custom 24 is Paul Reed Smith's claim to fame. It's one of the most iconic guitars ever made right up there with the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul. A stunning guitar that is the best of the best in terms of build quality and performance.
At close to double the price is the PRS Custom 24 worth considering?
The standout difference is that the extra money will get you a set neck.
It’s a misconception that bolt-on necks are a poor option and set necks are the holy grail. A well-crafted bolt-on neck can have durability if made well.
There can be a slight difference in tone. Set necks transfer resonance without obstruction as opposed to a bolt-on neck.
So how does this affect the sound?
The free transfer of resonance can cause more warmth and fullness. Whether this is worth the extra money is down to you?
You may prefer the snap and twang that the bolt-on neck of the CE 24 offers.
The Custom 24 is more robust to hold, offering a larger body than the CE 24. But both are US-built guitars.
So you can expect peak craftsmanship with care and attention. Ultimately, it’ll be your budget that decides whether these extra nuances are worth it.
PRS CE 24 Vs PRS S2 Custom 24
The PRS S2 Custom 24 is a nice compromise between a PRS SE and a PRS Core guitar giving you top notch American craftsmanship at an affordable price point
If the CE 24 is a bit out of budget, the PRS S2 Custom 24 shaves a few hundred bucks off.
So how do they shave off those dollars?
Do you know the 85/15 pickups equipped on the CE 24? Well, the PRS S2 Custom 24 has 85/15 “S”. Manufactured by G&B Pickup Co in Korea, the “S” version is a lower-cost alternative.
It takes an observant guitar geek to notice the visual difference. But what about sound?
The American made 85/15 pickups offer a tighter sound than their Korean counterparts. Is one better than the other? This is subjective.
This is the crux of S2 Custom 24. It’s a Korean built guitar assembled in the PRS Maryland USA factory.
Some Korean guitars are excellent stock, so don’t dismiss them.
The big question. Does the extra few hundred bucks’ merit the full US-built PRS Maryland factory experience?
If the S2 were half the price, I’d sway towards it. But for a little extra investment. You get a US-built PRS that’s every bit the professional guitar.
PRS CE 24 Vs Fender Stratocaster
Now, this is a shootout worthy of the OK Corral. The PRS CE 24 vs the Fender Stratocaster.
These are two mighty fine guitars. So you must remember it’s not a case of which one is better than the other. They’re both prime guitars.
There are many similarities. Both sound crisp and clear with a sparkle. Both are comfortable to play. And both are US-built.
Who wins the shootout is down to you?
The question to determine the winner—past versus present?
Are you a forward thinker? Or do they not make them like they used to?
See, the Fender Strat is a guitar steeped in tradition. The CE 24 is currently writing its future.
So where do you stand?
The Bottom Line
So you have a few thousand bucks to spend on a guitar. Should you go for the PRS CE 24?
If you’ve got the budget and PRS is your thing. The CE 24 is your one. Considering the PRS Custom 24 retails at close to double, you’re getting bang for your buck.
The CE 24 is the guitar that has converted the most avid Fender and Gibson users. But if you’re looking to replicate a Gibson Les Paul thickness. You’re in the wrong place.
Here’s what the CE24 offers:
- The US build-quality will rival the most decorated guitar manufacturers.
- A tone that’ll snap through the busiest of mixes.
- Reliability to withstand day to day use on the road.
I hope you now have the knowledge and confidence to decide. Good luck!