Paul Reed Smith introduced its original Custom 24 design back in 1985. Since then, it’s become a classic, albeit a rather expensive one.
For players looking for the same great tone, look and feel of the Custom 24, PRS introduced the SE series.
The PRS SE Custom 24 offers the same design platform as the original Custom 24 but at a much more affordable price.
The PRS SE Custom 24 shares many of the same features as the higher-priced original, and it’s a roadworthy instrument that should provide years of enjoyment.
In this PRS SE Custom 24 Review, we’ll take a deep look at the guitar’s features, build quality, price, and performance as well as compare it to competition to see if this guitar is a good fit for you.
Let’s get started!
About Paul Reed Smith Guitars
PRS Guitars was founded by Paul Reed Smith himself in 1985. Many of their flagship designs are still manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Maryland.
PRS began as a small, boutique company that catered to professionals like Carlos Santana and Al Di Meola. Eventually, it would grow into a worldwide brand with a full range of models for every style and budget.
One unique thing about the design of PRS guitars is how they merge features from traditional Fender and Gibson designs. Many of their designs feature a double cutaway design reminiscent of a Strat, but with a Gibson-style headstock with 3 tuners on each side. Like Gibsons, they feature dual humbuckers, but with options to split into single-coils and a Strat-style switch.
The PRS SE Custom 24 is based on one of Smith’s earliest designs, and it’s probably the most recognizable shape in the PRS line. Price-wise, it’s somewhere in the low-to-mid-range of all PRS models.
Read Also: The Best PRS Guitars: Review & Buying Guide
PRS SE Custom 24 Highlights:
From its classic shape to its tonal versatility, the PRS Custom SE 24 is a great all-around workhorse guitar.
Here are some things we liked and didn’t like about the SE Custom 24.
What We Liked
- Versatility. With 2 humbucking pickups, coil tap push/pull pots, and a 3-way switch, there’s no gig you can’t cover with this guitar
- Iconic design, with a variety of beautiful flame-top finishes and bird inlays, this is a guitar that will turn heads
- Playability. The wide thin maple neck is great for fast playing, and the cutaway makes reaching top frets a breeze
What We Didn’t Like
- Not made in the USA, common at this price-point
- Gig Bag instead of case, again common for this price level
- Reported tuning issues, could be fixed with better nut & set-up
PRS SE Custom 24 Review: Features & Specifications
- Maple Wide Thin neck for fast and comfortable playability
- Flagship 85/15 pickups deliver humbucker and single-coil tones
- Tremolo bridge offers whammy capabilities
- Mahogany body and maple top features “violin” body carve for better feel
PRS SE Custom 24 Review: Our Insights
By now you can see that the PRS SE Custom 24 is a versatile, well-made guitar fit for any style of playing.
Now let’s break down the details of this guitar, from build quality to playability and overall value.
As with all PRS guitars, the build quality of the PRS SE Custom 24 is very good. Though it is made in Indonesia, the materials are all of high quality and the craftsmanship is solid.
The PRS SE Custom 24 is a solid-body guitar made of mahogany with a maple top. Both the body and neck feature a gloss finish, which helps with durability.
Speaking of the neck, it’s made of maple with a rosewood fretboard, a classic combination. The wide-thin design ensures comfortable playability. Classic bird inlays are a nice touch.
The hardware is all solid, as well, from the PRS-designed tremolo bridge to the nickel tuners.
Though it is a less expensive version of the top-of-the-line Custom 24, this is still a very well made guitar with a much smaller price tag.
Hardware and Electronics
The SE line is more affordable overall, but these guitars share many of the same features as their more expensive counterparts, including great hardware and electronics.
The PRS SE Custom 24 uses the same style of 85/15 pickups that Paul Reed Smith designed for its flagship models.
These “S” pickups are designed to give you classic humbucker tones, as well as single-coil tones with the push/pull pot. These are very articulate pickups that retain clarity even while delivering fat humbucker tones. A 3-way switch offers a wide variety of pickup combinations.
The PRS SE Custom 24 offers PRS nickel tuners with a nut made from a synthetic/bronze powder blend. Many players love this combination out of the box, while some feel the need to upgrade to locking tuners or a bone nut. Either way, this is a cheap and easy upgrade.
The tremolo system in the bridge is another PRS design that is meant to stand up to heavy whammy bar use. The bar can easily be removed if that’s not your thing, though.
The keyword here is versatility. Like most classic PRS guitars, you get the best of both worlds from Gibson and Fender style designs.
A key part of the PRS SE Custom 24’s versatility is in its pickups. From the push/pull tone pot, you can go from thick and beefy humbucker tones to biting or bell-like single-coil tones. Play the neck humbucker with some overdrive and you’re in Les Paul territory, while the bridge pickup in single-coil mode gives you Tele-like twangy country tones.
With its pickup options and design, there’s no genre you can’t cover with the PRS SE Custom 24.
PRS guitars are known for their smooth playability, and the PRS SE Custom 24 is no exception.
The “violin” body carve emulates the feel of the classic Custom 24, while the Wide Thin neck and easy cutaway allow for fast playability all the way up the neck.
As the name indicates, the PRS SE Custom 24 comes with 24 medium frets. By all accounts, these frets come perfectly rounded and polished out of the box, so all you have to do is play.
The PRS SE Custom 24 comes to set up with .009-.042 gauge strings and low action, also making it easy to play. However, you can always change the string gauge and adjust the action if it’s not to your liking.
For under $900 new, the PRS SE Custom 24 is an outstanding value for the money. With its tonal options and build quality, you won’t find many guitars under $1,000 to match it.
With the regular Custom 24 retailing for thousands more, you can’t beat the value that the SE version offers.
PRS SE Custom 24 Review: Policies and Additional Info
While PRS guitars come with their own warranty policies, other details like shipping costs and return policy will vary depending on where you shop for gear.
If you’re shopping at your favorite local store, consult their policies. If you’re shopping online, however, it’s tough to beat Sweetwater. The information below is based on their policies.
If you buy your guitar online from Sweetwater, it will ship for free if you’re in the continental United States. This covers ground shipping, though you can also get Next-Day shipping for a fee if you can’t wait to start playing
Another great thing about buying guitars from Sweetwater is that each instrument goes through a 55-point inspection before shipping. This ensures that the guitar will be ready to play out of the box. The box itself will also be an official PRS box, not a generic box.
All PRS guitars come with a lifetime warranty, provided you return the warranty card within 30 days of purchasing.
This warranty only covers manufacturer defects, however, not things like normal wear and tear or accidents. As long as your guitar is properly cared for, there shouldn’t be any major issues.
While PRS guitars are built to last a lifetime, things do happen, and having the comfort of a lifetime warranty is very nice.
Most major retailers have great Return Policies these days, and Sweetwater is no exception. If you’re not satisfied with the SE Custom 24, or it’s just not the guitar for you, it can be returned within 30 days of purchasing.
If you’re trading the guitar in for something else, Sweetwater will apply the difference. If you’d like a full refund, though, they will simply deduct the cost of shipping from your refund.
Should You Buy the PRS SE Custom 24?
That’s entirely up to you, but if you’re looking for a pro-level guitar under $1,000, you should definitely consider the PRS SE Custom 24.
While there are other great guitars in this price range, few offer the versatility that the PRS SE Custom 24 does. If you want a Strat, get a Strat. If you want a Les Paul, go for a Les Paul. But if you want something in-between that can cover both of those classic tones, check out the PRS SE Custom 24.
PRS SE Custom 24 Alternatives
What if you’re considering other guitars in or around this price range? Here are some of the top alternatives to the PRS SE Custom 24.
PRS SE Custom 24 Vs Epiphone Les Paul Custom
For a Les Paul-style guitar on a budget, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom is a great option.
This is a more affordable version of the Gibson Les Paul Custom, and it shares the iconic look of its more expensive counterpart. It features gold hardware, an ebony fingerboard with block inlay, and an inlaid Gibson diamond on the headstock.
For pickups, the Epiphone Les Paul Custom comes loaded with PAF-style ProBuckers. These pups offer classic, fat humbucker tones that retain clarity and dynamics.
Compared to the PRS SE Custom 24, the Epiphone is around a couple of hundred bucks cheaper. Since it’s a Les Paul, it will be heavier than the PRS. There are no push/pull pots or coil-splitting options, so it’s less versatile overall. But if you’re looking for that sound and feel, this is a great, affordable option.
PRS SE Custom 24 Vs PRS SE Standard 24
For another PRS guitar at a lower price-point, the SE Standard 24 is a great option.
Like the SE Custom 24, this guitar is based on the original Custom 24 design. It uses the same 85/15 “S” pickups, and the overall look and design of the guitar is basically the same.
The SE Standard retains the Wide-Thin neck and bird inlays on the rosewood fingerboard. However, it doesn’t have the “violin” body carve that of the SE Custom 24.
For around $300 less than the SE Custom 24, the SE Standard is virtually the same guitar. So what’s different?
Well, for one thing, the SE Standard is only available in two finishes – Translucent Blue and Vintage Cherry. While these finishes are still nice, the variety of flame-top finishes available for the Custom SE could be considered a bit nicer.
The body wood of the SE Standard is all bound mahogany, while the SE Custom is a combination of mahogany with beveled maple. Some of the hardware components are a bit nicer on the Custom, as well.
Ultimately the main differences between the SE Standard and SE Custom are cosmetic, with a slight difference in the quality of components. They also likely have different levels of quality control, though both guitars are produced in Asia according to Paul Reed Smith’s standards.
PRS SE Custom 24 Vs PRS S2 Custom 24
For an upgraded alternative to the SE Custom 24, the PRS S2 Custom 24 is a great choice.
The S2 version of the Custom 24 shares the same overall design as the SE version, but with some upgraded components. It features locking tuners, a synthetic nut, and a molded tremolo bridge.
The pickups are the same 85/15 S design, though these are tuned to be closer to those Paul Reed Smith designed for the company’s 30th anniversary. The S2 includes the push/pull pot and 3-way switch for a wide variety of humbucker and single-coil tones.
The biggest difference between the S2 and the SE, however, may be that the S2 is made in America. While PRS makes several high-quality guitars in Asia, those manufactured in their Maryland factory are generally considered to have the higher build quality and better overall components.
Of course, guitars made in America don’t come cheap, and the price difference between the SE and S2 is nearly a grand. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if those upgrades are worth the difference in cost. But for under $1,000, you can get a guitar that is very close to the S2 with opportunities for cheap upgrades if necessary.
Read Also: Where are PRS Guitars Made?
The Bottom Line
The PRS SE Custom 24 is a solid, pro-level workhorse guitar at any price. For under $1,000, it’s one of the most versatile guitars you’ll find anywhere.
Some of the best features of the SE Custom 24 include:
- 85/15 humbucker pickups with push/pull pot to split coils
- “Violin” body carve for smooth and ergonomic playability
- Classic PRS design with signature bird inlay
The PRS SE Custom 24 brilliantly straddles the line between Strat-style and Les Paul-style guitars. And for this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Strat or Les Paul of similar quality.
If you’re looking for a great all-around electric guitar at a decent price, you can’t go wrong with the PRS SE Custom 24. If you want something even nicer, the SR is a great choice, while the Standard 24 SE is a solid budget option. Whichever way you go, your PRS guitar should provide a lifetime of enjoyment.