PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review – The Best PRS Guitar for Metal

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review

Mark Holcomb is a master of modern-metal guitar, and his signature PRS SE Mark Holcomb signature guitar is an absolute riff machine. Even though it’s from the more affordable SE line, this guitar is actually quite often used by Mark when playing on stage. 

Mark was approached by Paul Reed Smith himself about creating a signature model. They were able to sit down and map out the design and specs, and ever since its initial introduction, these guitars have been flying off the shelves. 

One thing Mark was very adamant about, was that his SE signature guitar would be stage ready right out of the box. In fact, there was a tour date in Germany where the airline lost Mark’s guitars, and he was able to go to a local music store and borrow one of these guitars and go play the gig without any issues. This is a real testament to how consistently good these guitars are.

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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 usually have options to split into single-coils and a Strat-style switch.

The PRS SE line was created in 2001, which is a more price-friendly imported line that maintains the quality and attention to detail that the PRS Core line of guitars are known for.

Check out our full guide on the Best PRS Guitars

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Highlights: 

While this looks like a classic PRS guitar, it has the features and feel of a much more aggressive instrument. It was designed with the modern player in mind, and plays and sounds incredible. 

Let’s check out some things we liked, and some things we didn’t:

What We Liked

  • Amazing tone: the specially designed Seymour Duncan pickups provide unmatched clarity even at high-gain, every note of a chord is defined and powerful
  • Playability: the extra flat fretboard radius makes fretting and bending absolutely effortless
  • Looks: the quilted maple top is gorgeous, the black hardware and ebony fretboard give this a really killer look

What We Didn’t Like

  •  No locking tuners, common for this price point
  •  Gig bag instead of hard case
  •  Not made in the USA, but still meets the QC you’d expect from PRS

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review: Features & Specifications

  • Custom Seymour Duncan Alpha & Omega Humbuckers, with coil-splitting options
  • 3 piece maple wide thin neck, ebony fretboard, 20” radius, that’s fast and easy to play – the 25.5” scale also makes this great for low tunings
  • PRS proprietary hardtail bridge for added sustain and tuning stability
  • Mahogany body with real quilted-maple top, with body contour and curves for added comfortability

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review: Our Insights

Materials and Build Quality

As you’d expect from PRS, the build quality is top-notch. Even with the non-USA SE models, the QC is meticulous, and no details are left unchecked. 

This is a solid-body guitar made of Mahogany, featuring a gorgeous quilted-maple top. It’s lightweight and resonant which we love. The neck is a 3-piece maple, with a bound ebony fretboard and the classic PRS bird inlays. Both the body and neck feature a gloss finish, which helps with durability, and looks great.

Though this is from the SE line and comes in at under $1000, PRS is packing a ton of value into these.

Hardware and Electronics

In the hardware department, they used standard PRS branded closed back tuners, along with PRS designed 6-saddle hardtail bridge. 

The real magic on this guitar lies in the pickups. The Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups were designed specifically with Mark’s playing style in mind. Mark tends to use a lot of big chord voicings even when playing with high-gain tones. With lots of distortion, it’s typical for notes to get lost when playing chords, so these pickups tackle that problem. The clarity achieved here is second to none. 

For controls, we’ve got 1 volume 1 tone, a 3-way selector and coil-splitting via a push/pull pot. 


It’s obvious that this guitar was made with modern progressive metal music in mind. Mark’s band Periphery is known for playing in very low tunings, with high gain while retaining clarity and complicated chording.

The Alpha and Omega pickups we just mentioned are perfect for metal players, but also work very well for clean sounds. They compliment the mahogany and maple tone-woods quite well and seem to cover a full range of frequencies; not too dark and not too bright.

The bridge pickup is bright and clear with a pronounced mid response. The neck pickup sounds quite similar to the bridge pickup, but with added bass, scooped mids, and slightly lower output. 


We’re big fans of PRS’s wide-thin neck profile which is used on many of the SE models. On this guitar, it’s paired with an uncommonly flat fretboard at 20”. This may feel strange to players who are used to vintage guitars which tend to have a much more round fretboard radius between 7.5” and 9” like most Stratocasters. The benefits of the flattened fretboard are that bends have little to no resistance, and fretting notes can be much easier.

In addition to the flat fretboard, Mark also went with a 25.5” scale length like you’d find on a Fender, which is a half inch longer than most PRS guitars. The added length makes achieving a higher string tension possible for when you want to drop into lower tunings.

Overall, this is a very easy guitar to play but players who aren’t used to the flat fretboard may feel a little bit weird for a while.


At under $1000, the PRS SE Mark Holcomb embodies an amazing value. It’s a stage ready guitar right out of the box that sounds and feels like a guitar twice the price.

High quality parts top to bottom, premium tonewoods, and an incredible set of tones are what the SE Mark Holcomb signature is bringing to the table.

This guitar resembles the classic PRS Custom 24, but at potentially thousands of dollars less. We just can not recommend the SE Mark Holcomb signature enough.

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review: Buying Experience

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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. 

Return Policy

Most major retailers have great Return Policies these days, and Sweetwater is no exception. If you’re not satisfied with the SE Mark Holcomb Signature, or it’s just not the guitar for you, it can be returned within 30 days of purchase. 

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 Mark Holcomb?

We can’t tell you what to do, but yes you should buy this. Just kidding. This is a pro-level instrument that is ready for stage or studio, with sleek looks and an aggressive sound. If that’s what you’re after, then it just might be the perfect fit for your collection. 

There are some great options in this price point, but few of them will match the high build quality and tone that this guitar was built to deliver. 

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Alternatives

If you’re not quite convinced that the SE Mark Holcomb is for you, we’ve compared some similar alternatives to make your search a little easier.

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Vs PRS SE Custom 24

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The PRS SE Custom 24 is one of the best value guitars on the market. It offers professional quality, stunning design, excellent sound and playability all an affordable price.

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You’ll notice the SE Custom 24 looks pretty similar after looking at the SE Mark Holcomb for the past few minutes. The Mark Holcomb model is essentially just a Custom 24 that has been designed around the person specs that he likes. It’s just a hair more affordable than the Mark Holcomb model, about $150 roughly, but that’s not the only difference.  

At first glance, you will notice the quilted maple on the Mark Holcomb versus the flamed maple veneer on the Custom 24. It’s mostly just a visual or stylistic change, but the quilted maple is generally a bit of a premium feature, but it’s all personal preference there.

Another major difference is the pickups of course. The Custom 24 uses the ever-popular PRS 85/15 S pickups. These are widely used in the SE lineup, and feature a rich medium output tone. They’re great for both clean and crunch tones, but probably gear more towards classic humbuckers tones. We’ve already covered the Alpha and Omega pickups from the Mark Holcomb model, which are definitely a modern-voiced pickup.

The next big change is the tremolo bridge on the Custom 24, vs the hardtail style bridge on the Mark Holcomb. The hardtail is known for a bit more sustain and tuning stability, but some players love having the tremolo option, myself included. 

The Custom 24 is a versatile instrument that will be a joy to play should you choose to go this route. While it may be a bit more of a classic look than the Mark Holcomb, it’s capable of a wide range of tones, and looks great while doing so.

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Vs ESP LTD EC-1000

If you’re more of a “Les Paul” style guitar kinda player, this EC-1000 will fill that void while also keeping up with the aggressive look and sound of the Mark Holcomb SE.

The EC-1000’s mahogany body and set neck design is built for sustain and power. The thin-U shape neck is similar to the wide-thin neck on the PRS SE Mark Holcomb, and was crafted with fast playing and comfortability in mind. The fretboard radius isn’t quite as flat as the Mark Holcomb coming in at 13.7″. This might feel a bit more at-home if you’re traditionally a Les Paul or Fender player.

The EMG 60/81 active pickups in the EC-1000 are loud and aggressive. They are a little higher output than the Alpha & Omega pickup and work super well for high-gain tones. They do lack a coil split option, so you may not have as much tonal flexibility compared to the SE Mark Holcomb.

In the hardware section, the EC-1000 does have locking TonePros tuners and bridge which may provide some additional tuning stability and quicker string changes, this is a nice step above the Mark Holcomb model. 

Coming in at almost exactly the same price, both guitars are an insane value at under $1000 and you couldn’t go wrong with either choice.

Check our our full guide on the Best Les Paul Style Guitars

PRS SE Mark Holcomb Vs Ibanez RG550 Genesis

Not only is this the brightest guitar in the world, it’s one of the coolest! The Ibanez RG550 is a classic design dating back to the 80’s. You couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing a hair-metal band shredding on these neon colored guitars and wearing spandex. 

The Ibanez RG550 features a basswood body and 5-piece maple Wizard neck. The Wizard necks from Ibanez are known for being thin and fast, perfect for shredding. The fretboard radius is at 16.9” making this almost as flat as the SE Mark Holcomb’s 20”. The scale length is the same on both at 25.5”.

A set of Ibanez’s own pickups were used here in a HSH configuration, with a single-coil in the middle position. Compared to the Alpha and Omega set, these will be a bit lower output and lack a coil-splitting option. They will clean up well, but also sing when using distortion.

The big thing the Ibanez offers that the Mark Holcomb model doesn’t is the Edge locking tremolo. This is definitely a matter of personal preference, but if you’re a fan of floating tremolo systems, the Edge setup is a great example of that. Tuning stability and difficult setups are the downside of having this sort of bridge. The ease that a hardtail bridge like the SE Mark Holcomb utilizes is much simpler and reliable.

These guitars both come in just under $1000 and would both make great additions to your collection. The Ibanez probably appeals more to classic rock and metal type players, but it is a versatile instrument. If you’re looking for modern metal tones, the PRS SE Mark Holcomb is going to be a tough guitar to beat.

Check out our full guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Shredding

The Bottom Line

The PRS SE Mark Holcomb signature is a top-tier workhorse of a guitar suited for the modern player. At under $1000, it won’t be easy to find a better guitar.

Some of the best features of the SE Mark Holcomb include:

  • Seymour Duncan Alpha & Omega pickups with push/pull pot to split coils.
  • Modern neck profile and fretboard for effortless shredding.
  • Gorgeous quilted maple top and stunning finish.

The PRS SE Mark Holcomb signature is a modern riff machine, and packs a ton of value at its price range. 

If you’re looking for something a little more classic, maybe consider the PRS SE Custom 24. If a Les Paul body type suits you better, check out the ESP LTD EC-1000. And if you’re looking for an 80’s shred machine, look into the Ibanez Genesis RG550. 

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