It’s been more than 35 years since Paul Reed Smith Guitars unveiled what’s undoubtedly the company’s most iconic axe, the Custom 24. From the figured maple top to the mahogany back and neck, the Custom 24 was an immediate hit for serious guitar players.
But it had one big problem: An expensive price tag.
The folks at PRS soon realized if they wanted to hang with the Fenders, Epiphones and Ibanezes of the guitar world, they couldn’t simply rely on selling high-end, four-figure guitars.
So, over the past decade or so, PRS has expanded its impressive lineup of guitars for players with tighter budgets. And that includes the introduction of the PRS SE Standard 24.
There’s a lot to like about this Asian-made guitar, especially its budget-friendly price.
If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing a PRS SE Standard 24, use this review to help answer any questions you may have about it and figure out if it’s the right guitar for you, your playing style and your budget.
About Paul Reed Smith Guitars
The Custom 24 was one of the first guitars that founder Paul Reed Smith sold under his young company, which launched in Maryland in 1985.
At the 1985 NAMM Show, attendees were blown away by the quality and craftsmanship of the guitars, which featured mahogany necks and bodies, an innovative vibrato system and super-accurate custom tuning pegs.
Over the years, the company has developed and released a number of electric and acoustic models, in addition to bass guitars and amplifiers.
The most recognizable trademark of the brand is its bird inlays that adorn the necks of all models. The birds, according to the founder himself, are an homage to his mother, who was an avid bird watcher. On 24-fret models, there are 10 different birds inlaid across the frets.
And as many guitar players know, some of the best players of all time have earned their paychecks playing PRS Guitars, the most famous being Carlos Santana.
The brand’s most recently sponsored player is John Mayer, whose Silver Sky signature model broke several sales records for the company. The guitar did draw some controversy for its striking similarities to a Fender Stratocaster — the model Mayer played before leaving Fender in 2018.
PRS now offers a wide range of guitars at all price points, with the SE Standard 24 serving as one of the brand’s entry-level models.
PRS SE Standard 24 Review Highlights:
From its stunning design to its ease of playability, the PRS SE Standard 24 plays and sounds like a guitar well above its price point.
Here are some things we liked and, well, didn’t like about the SE Standard 24:
What We Liked
- Great value. A guitar at this price typically makes some compromises, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
- Comfortable to play, thanks to its lightweight design and low action it comes with out of the box.
- Beautiful design, especially with the body and fingerboard binding.
What We Didn’t Like
- No case included, which isn’t a big deal at this price point.
- Tuning stability can be an issue depending on what style you play. No locking tuners.
- Coil-tap is good, but it reduces overall pickup output.
PRS SE Standard 24 Review: Features & Specifications
- Smooth maple neck makes playing at any speed quite easy and comfortable.
- Double-cut design allows easy access to the 24th fret.
- Versatile pickup system includes a push-pull pot for single-coil tones.
- Artistic binding around the perimeter adds a layer of class to this guitar.
- Lightweight body because it doesn’t use a maple cap or a maple veneer, which adds weight.
PRS SE Standard 24 Review: Our Insights
As you can see by now, the PRS SE Standard 24 is a very capable guitar for players of all skill levels.
We’ve broken down the nitty-gritty details of this guitar from building quality to its sound and playability.
There’s a common theme among PRS Guitars, including the SE Standard 24: solid, high-quality construction.
Pickup the SE Standard 24 and it simply feels like a solid piece of craftsmanship. Some may be weary of this because it’s mass produced in Asia, but PRS’s dedication to quality ensures each one off the line is just as good as the last.
Let’s break down the materials and build quality of the SE Standard 24:
- The all-mahogany body is as durable as wood for a guitar that’s out there.
- Maple neck is quite comfortable to play thanks to its wide-thin carve.
- Tough hardware, including the PRS-designed tremolo bridge and tuners, will hold up for the long haul.
Another note on the neck: it features a gloss finish, which really helps with its durability.
We’ve mentioned this a few times, but it can’t be said enough: The quality of this guitar is higher than its price tag would suggest, which is why it’s probably often sold out.
Hardware and Electronics
Even though this is a factory-made guitar, it features some top-notch hardware and electronics that give it a professional feel.
Believe it or not, this super-affordable guitar uses PRS’s own 85/15 “S” humbucking pickups, which are actually modeled after the 30th anniversary 85/15 pickups that Mr. Smith designed.
These versatile pickups are wired across a three-way selector. A push-pull tone knob allows you to split the humbuckers for some super-clean single coil sounds.
You’re going to find PRS-designed chrome tuners on the SE Standard 24 — and reviews are mixed on them. Many players say they work great out of the box, while others suggest swapping them out for a set of locking tuners.
PRS pairs up its tuners with its own tremolo system that works well. Those who have complained about the tuners might be using the tremolo a bit too much.
Because the PRS SE Standard 24 is made with a mahogany body, the acoustics out of it unplugged are actually really balanced and warm. That warm tone certainly transfers when plugged into an amplifier.
But the best way to describe the sound of this guitar is versatile. The 85/15 “S” humbuckers we discussed above can really handle any genre, from jazz to hard rock. If you need to distort and rock out, there’s enough power from the humbuckers to give that intense sound. And when it’s time to keep things clean, the same humbuckers offer this great single-coil tone, similar to the sounds you may find on a Fender Stratocaster.
Add in the tones offered by the mahogany body and you might argue there’s a bit of an acoustic vibe when playing clean tones.
For rockers and blues and jazz players, we’d recommend plugging this into a tube amp, like a Fender Blues Junior or an Orange TremLord, to really experience its versatility.
Paul Reed Smith’s dream was for players of all experience levels to take the SE Standard 24 out of the box, plug it in and begin playing immediately — no setup required. Many owners of this guitar argue that’s exactly the case.
- Strings. This guitar comes equipped with light, 9-gauge strings and quite low action, making it easy to play.
- Frets. By all accounts, they are perfectly rounded and polished, allowing your fingers to easily travel up and down the fretboard.
- Bridge. It’s set floating with the smallest of gaps from the body. No complaints here.
The biggest playability issue could be the molded plastic nut, which appears to be too tall. When that’s the case, strings sit inward, which could impact tuning stability. Also, depending how hard you play, this nut could wear out after awhile.
We’ve already mentioned the design of the guitar, but the cutaways allow for easy access and comfort to all frets.
This has to be the top quality of the PRS SE Standard 24. Priced at $500, you almost can’t afford to not have one.
Of course, at this price, there are several guitar options on the market, but there’s something about the high-quality build and playability of the SE Standard 24 that makes it a frontrunner for many players.
PRS is continually making improvements to its standard lineup, adding value with each new iteration.
PRS SE Standard 24 Review: Policies and Additional Info
While warranties are set by PRS Guitars, things like shipping and return policies vary store by store. We recommend shopping for your guitars through Sweetwater because of its great customer service.
With that being said, the following information is based on PRS’s company warranty and Sweetwater’s store policies.
All guitars from Sweetwater ship for free following a thorough 55-point inspection.
Fans of Sweetwater not only rave about the company’s customer service, but also their attention to detail when it comes to shipping higher-end products, like guitars. That’s important, because the guitar will only arrive in a PRS-branded cardboard box.
If you’re concerned about protecting your new PRS from the risks of shipping, you can order a case from Sweetwater and they’ll put the guitar in it before shipping it out.
As long as you register your guitar and return your warranty card within 30 days of purchasing, you can take advantage of PRS Guitar’s lifetime warranty program.
PRS prides itself on making the highest quality of guitars that should last a lifetime, thus offering a lifetime warranty on issues that are specifically manufacturer defects.
That can be tough to prove, though. A PRS Guitar warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, or negligence, like leaving your guitar in an extremely humid environment.
If PRS luthiers determine your guitar was a victim of a manufacturer’s defect, they will remedy the issue and ship your guitar back at no expense.
What happens if you end up hating the PRS SE Standard 24? We don’t think that’ll be the case, but in case it’s not the one for you, Sweetwater offers a great, “no hassle” return policy.
You have 30 days to test out your guitar and send it back no questions asked, as long as it’s still in the same new condition as when you received it.
If you want a refund, Sweetwater will deduct the actual amount to ship it back to them from that refund.
Should You Buy the PRS SE Standard 24?
You should buy the PRS SE Standard 24 if you’re in the following position:
- You want to buy a new guitar but have a limited budget.
- You’ve always wanted to own a PRS, but don’t have $2,500 to drop.
- You play in a church and need something versatile for worship music.
So, should you buy it? Of course, that’s totally up to you. But we don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you ultimately pull the trigger on a purchase.
And at the price, the worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re out $500. If you end up hating in a few years, you can always sell it for at least half of what you paid for it, which is not too shabby.
PRS SE Standard 24 Alternatives
Have your eye on something else? Here are some of the closest alternatives to the PRS SE Standard 24:
PRS SE Standard 24 Vs PRS SE Custom 24
For about $300 more, you can purchase the PRS SE Custom, which comes in higher-quality finishes, but the same great pickups as the Standard 24.
One difference between the two is where these guitars are made: The SE Standard 24 is made in Indonesia, while the SE Custom 24 is made in South Korea.
Weight is another factor. The PRS SE Custom has a maple cap, which does make it slightly heavier.
But the fretwork, playability, and tone on both of these guitars are nearly identical. You can’t go wrong with either one.
Some players may gravitate toward the “Custom” name since that’s how PRS launched this guitar more than 35 years ago. But names are only there for marketing reasons.
PRS SE Standard 24 Vs Epiphone Les Paul
This is an interesting comparison, because while the PRS SE Standard 24 and Epiphone Les Paul are close in price, their body styles are drastically different.
The PRS SE Standard 24 has often been described as the perfect in-between guitar to a Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster.
If you’ve always wanted to play a Les Paul, for $100 more, you could own the Epiphone over the PRS. But if you’re on the fence, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Weight. The Epiphone is noticeably heavier than the PRS.
- Flame top finish. While there’s no right or wrong answer, the finish on the Epiphone looks slightly better than PRS’s finish.
- Playability. Like the PRS, the Epiphone is ready to play right out of the box.
Without the double-cut design, stretching to the top frets of the Epiphone Les Paul could be tricky — especially for those with smaller hands — but it’s still certainly doable with practice.
Some owners of the Epiphone Les Paul have complained about the fretboard feeling rough, but if that’s the case, it’s nothing some fret oil can’t solve.
PRS SE Standard 24 Vs Fender Player Stratocaster
Like we mentioned above, the PRS SE Standard 24 finds itself between a Les Paul and a Strat. So, there’s a good chance you might be deciding if you want the PRS or the Fender. Let’s dive into the comparison:
- Price. The Fender is about $200 more expensive than the PRS.
- Tone. This is a big one. The PRS uses humbuckers, while the Fedner uses single-coil pickups.
- Vibrato. Fender’s vibrato system is one of the best in the business.
Fender is known for making some of the world’s best guitars, but its lower end models can show a slight lack in quality. That’s not the case with every stratocaster, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
One advantage of the Fender is its nut, which is made of a synthetic bone material. That helps with tonality, even if you’re using the tremolo.
But the PRS SE Standard 24 is more versatile of a guitar compared to the Fender, thanks to its innovative humbuckers that also have a more single-coil tone when split.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have a budget of $2,500 or $500, you can’t go wrong with the PRS SE Standard 24. The guitar offers:
- Impeccable build quality.
- A versatile tone.
- A lightweight package.
So, if your budget is on the lower end, don’t hesitate to go with the PRS SE Standard 24.
The bigger question is if you have a larger budget, should you save money and go with this more entry-level guitar? That all depends on your skill level. If you’re a more advanced player, you may prefer a more-advanced guitar. IF you’re a beginner, you should definitely go with this PRS. Again, this guitar offers incredible value.
You’re going to be hard-pressed to find any other guitar in the $500 range at this level of quality. So, if you see it’s in stock, make sure to jump on the opportunity to buy it!