So you want the famed PRS workmanship but with the tonal qualities of a hollow body guitar on a budget? Let’s introduce you to the PRS SE Hollowbody II.
Many guitarists rejoiced when PRS announced the Hollowbody II as part of the SE line. See, before the SE, if you wanted a hollow body PRS, you’d have to splash big bucks.
But, at 1/6th of the cost of some PRS McCarty Hollowbody guitars, is the PRS SE Hollowbody II any good?
In this PRS SE Hollowbody II review, you’ll discover the pros and cons. So you can decide if it’s the guitar for you.
About PRS SE Guitars
SE is an abbreviation of Student Edition. The SE Series guitars mimic more expensive PRS designs. But, being that they aren’t produced in the US, the prices are more economical. By manufacturing SE Series guitars in the Far East, PRS have lower overhead costs during production.
At first, PRS aimed SE guitars at beginner and intermediate guitarists. Over the years, the quality of SE guitars has improved. Nowadays, it’s known for professional guitar players to opt for SE over more expensive options.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Highlights:
Fusing a hollow body tone with classic PRS solid body durability, it’s a fantastic guitar. While it has many amazing features, there are negatives. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the SE Hollowbody II.
What We Liked
- Hollow Body tone with the playability of a solid body.
- PRS 58/15 “S” pickups combine vintage spirit with modern clarity.
- Designed for fast playing, the Wide-Fat neck profile is sleek to play.
What We Didn’t Like
- The Wide Fat neck profile isn’t the best for smaller hands.
- A few buyers have found slight cosmetic damage to pickups.
- Out-of-the-box setup is not as detailed as found on American-built PRS guitars.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Review: Features & Specifications
- Signature PRS bird inlays on the ebony fingerboard.
- Classic thin-profile PRS shape but in hollow body form.
- Wide Fat mahogany set neck for heightened playability.
- Two PRS 58/15 “S” PAF humbucker pickups for warmth and clarity.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Review: Our Insights
By now you’re getting a sense of the PRS SE Hollowbody II and its qualities. Let’s go into more detail and highlight the build quality, sound, whether it’s worth the price point, and more.
Materials and Build Quality
On the back of the headstock, you’ll find the writing ‘Built by Cor-Tek Musical Instrument Co.’. This is a South Korean company that PRS uses to build the SE Hollowbody II. While based in South Korea, they manufacture the Hollowbody II in China.
While construction costs are less, PRS build the SE Hollowbody II to a high standard. Furthermore, the stringent PRS quality control standards make sure each guitar is exactly like you’d expect from PRS. I’ve mentioned this many times, but I’ve owned nearly a dozen PRS guitars over the years and have never played a bad one, whether it’s a $4,000 core model, or a $500 SE model.
Sure, the setup isn’t as detailed as on US-made PRS guitars, but this is a quick fix for a guitar technician to get it up to speed.
Made from mahogany, with a 5-ply maple top, the body has the fit and finish of an expensive guitar. The binding which runs around the body, neck, and headstock also is on the periphery of the f-holes, which is an eye-pleasing touch.
Speaking of the f-holes, this is a feature where we witness excellence in workmanship. They’re well-crafted and really capture that classy, vintage look that hollow-body guitars are known for.
The mahogany neck screams durability. Attached to the body by a set neck, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming apart any time soon.
On top of the neck is an ebony fingerboard, complete with the signature bird inlays. You can tell there’s thought gone into the design. The headstock has a similar ebony wood veneer, so the materials are cohesive.
Pickup rings on the outskirts of the 58/15 “S” humbuckers are a bone look finish. In the past, SE guitars had cheap black fittings here. The bone finish complements the binding.
You’ll find the screws aren’t as recessed as on Core models and the round dials aren’t as lavish as ones found on more expensive PRS guitars, but these are minor details.
Overall, the SE Hollowbody II is a touring machine ready for frequent use. It’s a guitar with top workmanship, proving guitars made in China are no longer for beginners only.
Hardware and Electronics
As one of the more affordable PRS guitars, don’t expect hardware like on Core models. That said, the SE Hollowbody II is home to some great hardware.
There’s a bone nut, something reserved for expensive guitars. A bone nut is long-lasting and contributes to a bright tone.
A PRS Adjustable Stoptail has a string over design. The brass saddles are heavy-duty. The PRS designed tuners aren’t locking, which is unfortunate considering the price point of the guitar. That said, I didn’t have any issues with the guitar staying in tune, since it’s really well put together.
Of course, locking tuners would be a welcomed addition, but without a tremolo system, it’s not a necessity. You can now buy replacement locking tuners for SE models, so if you want this upgrade, it’s achievable.
One striking feature of the SE Hollowbody II is the loudness when played acoustically. The acoustic-like qualities translate when plugged in for a true hollow body tone. The guitar has a very resonating, airy sound and you can feel the body vibrating as you play.
This isn’t a semi-hollow guitar, meaning there is no block of wood running through the inner body. Instead, PRS uses a wooden block underneath the bridge, this reduces the amount of feedback.
Still, expect some slight feedback, but for many, this is something to use and is fun to manipulate.
There’s a 3-way switch for a more traditional configuration. You can engage the neck pickup alone, the bridge pickup, and both together.
Fitted with 58/15 “S” PAF-style humbuckers, each configuration has a striking difference in tone. The neck pickup is full of warm smoothness, whereas the bridge pickup offers much more brightness and accuracy. There’s little volume distinction between the two pickups.
With notes sustaining like an acoustic, when overdriven, the PRS SE Hollowbody II sings. These pickups take to high levels of distortion.
Made in Korea, the 58/15 “S” pickups bring a lot to the table. While there are no coil split options, you can still get variety. From butter-like jazz to rock. It’s a great-sounding guitar.
Semi-hollow guitars are often large and bulky. The SE Hollowbody II is anything but. It’s slender with a thin profile body. Moreover, it is lightweight so you won’t experience shoulder fatigue.
With a body shape, any PRS fan will know, the double-cutaway allows for high fret access. All 22 frets are within reach.
The fingerboard has a radius of 10“. This is the curvature of the fretboard. For reference, vintage Stratocasters have a 7.25” radius which is more rounded, whereas most SG’s are 14” which is flatter. So, the 10“ radius feels somewhere in the middle, excellent for speedy runs but forming chords is also enjoyable.
The Wide-Fat neck accommodates fast playing with its satin neck. For smaller hands, the neck can be a little too bulky. So, if you’re not accustomed to larger necks, it’s worth taking the SE Hollowbody II for a trial run.
PRS creates perhaps some of the most playable guitars ever. The SE Hollowbody II feels like a PRS. It has the stability of a solid body, but with all the tonal articulations of a hollow body.
Priced at around $1,200, the SE Hollowbody II isn’t cheap. But is it worth the money?
For a Chinese-made guitar, it’s definitely on the pricey side, competing in the same price range as some of the higher-end South Korean-made guitars from other brands. However, it’s definitely well-made and more than capable of day-to-day live performance. It doesn’t feel like a cheap guitar by any means.
American-made PRS Hollowbody guitars retail anywhere between $4,000 to $6,000 plus. So, being though the SE is a close replica of these guitars, you’re getting value for money.
Comparing the price to other brands, let’s look at the Fender Semi-Hollow Telecaster. It’s a similar approach in design with its traditional shape but turned into a hollow body. A Made in Mexico semi-hollow Fender Telecaster retails at around $1,000. So, as a similar style guitar, the price difference isn’t huge.
While it seems like a lot, the SE Hollowbody II is a fantastic guitar. All things considered, it’s an affordable way to own a hollow body PRS without spending $4,000 upwards.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Review: Buying Experience
Here are some details you need to know when buying the SE Hollowbody II. The information below is about my dealings with Sweetwater. They offer the best policies if buying online. If you’re going into a local shop like a Guitar Center. Ask about warranty and return policies.
Sweetwater offers free delivery if you live in the United States. This is one less cost to worry about. You can pay extra for next-day shipping, but the standard delivery is adequate.
The SE Hollowbody II comes with a durable hardshell case. It’s a practical addition to ensure you’re ready to hit the road. Sweetwater ships in the hardshell case to ensure the guitars have protection during the process.
Sweetwater offers a 2-year warranty. But as a licensed PRS dealer, buying a PRS from Sweetwater qualifies you for the free limited lifetime warranty.
Upon arrival, register your guitar on the PRS website. This will protect the original owner against any defects in materials and workmanship for life. There are a few terms and conditions, but this warranty shows the faith PRS has in their products.
Mistakes during production happen, and if they pass through the PRS quality control, there’s another line of defense. Any guitar priced above $299 goes through the Sweetwater 55-point inspection. This meticulous once-over and play test ensure the guitar arrives in top condition.
The Sweetwater return policy is one of the best. If you’re not happy, you can send it back. You may not like the tone or find the playability, not to your liking. Whatever the issue, you’re covered.
Once returned, you can have a refund, in-house credit, or an exchange. You’ll need to decide within 30 days and if you return, the cost of shipping will go off the refund or in-house credit.
Should You Buy the PRS SE Hollowbody II?
First, you need to decipher whether your budget will stretch to around $1,200. If not then, no, you shouldn’t buy the SE Hollowbody II. Be pragmatic.
Obviously, it’s up to you, but if you have the budget you should consider the SE Hollowbody II. If US-made PRS guitars are out of reach, then it’s the ideal compromise.
If you’re pursuing the resonant tonal characteristics of a hollow body but don’t want the bulk of a 335 shape. The SE Hollowbody II is a happy medium. By offering the acoustic-like hollow body tonal characteristics but in a more lightweight streamlined design, it’s the best of both worlds.
If you can do without the prestige of a US-build, it’s a great guitar and one that offers a vintage tone with modern clarity. For jazz, blues, indie, rock, and many more genres. It’s a workhorse of a guitar more than capable of gigging night after night.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Alternatives
Let’s look at some cheaper alternatives and see how they stand up. Read on for other guitars you should consider.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Vs PRS SE Hollowbody Standard
With a saving of around $200, the PRS SE Hollowbody Standard is more affordable than the SE Hollowbody II.
The first striking difference is the visuals. While not a vast distinction, the stylish binding doesn’t extend around the f-holes on the Standard.
A Standard has a 3-ply mahogany top as opposed to the 5-ply maple top on the Hollowbody II. The mahogany top makes the Standard have more midrange focus. With the maple top, the neck pickup on the Hollowbody II has more treble.
But, the sound difference isn’t massive. They both have the same pickups, thus a similar articulate tone. Besides, many guitarists prefer the added midrange, especially for blues and jazz tones.
They make both guitars in China; so they have a similar quality. The dimensions are identical as is the hardware. So, is the binding around the f-holes and extra brightness in tone worth an extra $200? I’ll leave that up to you.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Vs PRS SE Zach Myers Semi-hollow
Priced at around $850, the PRS SE Zach Myers Semi-Hollow is the most affordable alternative on our list.
First off, the Myers Blue finish is for the guitarists who like to make a statement. The finish is vibrant and will make you stand out from the crowd. With a satin finish to the back of the body, it’s a sweet-looking guitar.
PRS has also used the satin finish on the back of the Wide Fat-profile mahogany neck. It feels smooth to play without the stickiness of over-the-top gloss finishes.
Fitted with PRS 245 “S” Humbuckers, the clean tones are mellow with added air and resonance from the semi-hollow body. While you can achieve smooth tones, there’s a punch to these humbuckers.
This is a Zach Myers signature guitar. As a guitarist in Shinedown, the punch in tone thrives through a little distortion. For overdriven huge riffs, it’s a rock-and-roll machine.
The SE Zach Myers is a nice-looking guitar with open pickups complimenting the black tuners. While the finish might not be for everyone, if you’re a fan of the Myer Blue finish, you’ll get a well-built guitar capable of heavy rock.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Vs PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-hollow
With its open humbuckers and single f-hole, the PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow shares a similar design to the Zach Myers signature.
It has similar tonewoods to the SE Hollowbody II with its mahogany body and maple top. But, the plastic nut doesn’t have the ping of the bone one on the Hollowbody II.
More notably, there are different pickups. Fitted with 85/15 “S” pickups, these offer a more modern tone than the 58/15 “S”. They’re also higher output. So if it’s heavy rock, then the Custom 22 is better suited,
The Santana Yellow finish is an in-vogue look. Almost like a contemporary version of the Les Paul gold top, it’s striking, complemented with the satin back.
It has all the playability benefits of a PRS. The Wide-Thin profile maple neck with a satin finish is more manageable for smaller hands.
With a saving of around $300, it’s an excellent alternative. But, the fit and finish of the SE Hollowbody is an upgrade. Sanded with more precision, the f-holes on the Hollowbody II show signs of improved workmanship.
But, with sleek playability, you can achieve all the playing techniques you would from the SE Hollowbody II. But, in a more affordable package.
The Bottom Line
For a touch above $1,200, the SE Hollowbody II is a reliable guitar that you can have faith in.
The 58/15 “S” pickups deliver a vintage tone but without the muddiness of genuine old pickups. Furthermore, the hollow body adds resonance.
With the great playability, classic shape, signature bird inlays, it has all the hallmarks of a well-built PRS.
If you want a hollow-body PRS, then this is the one. For semi-hollow guitars which will have a little less air in tone. Then, the Zach Myers Signature and Custom 22 are perfect alternatives.
The SE Hollowbody Standard is more affordable than the Hollowbody II. While $200 is a lot of money, in terms of what you get from the Hollowbody II, it’s a better all-around guitar.
Whatever way you go. These are PRS guitars, so you can expect to be playing them for years to come.