PRS 513 Review
Instrument: PRS 513
Price:- $4200 when released. Now discontinued you can still expect to pay £2500+ for a 2nd hand one.
Body:- Mahogany with a Flame Maple Cap.
Neck:- Mahogany with Rosewood Fingerboard. Special 'Bird' Inlays.
Hardware:- Vintage Trem, PRS Tuners. Chrome finished.
Electrics:- 5 single coils, 1 volume, 1 tone and 2 x blade selectors.
Well, let me start by saying what a privilege it was to be allowed to have access to not one but TWO of these guitars to review! To say that I was bowled over by the opportunity would be a vast understatement! It's not often that these things happen!
Right, so let's just have a quick look at the two instruments themselves. Both had highly figured Flame Maple caps, one with a plain 'Violin' finish and one with a slightly Sunburst edge to it. You can see what I mean in these pics:
You can see what I mean about a 'slight' Sunburst, it almost disappears when viewed from certain angles!!
The plain one has a very slightly more orange hue to it's finish.
After comparing both these guitarss, what I found surprising is how much difference there is in weight between them and how different they both sound. The violin finished one was lighter and had a brighter tone, whereas the sunburst model was heavier and had a much darker tonality. If you are lucky enough to be able to compare a few before purchase, one will likely stand out as having the tonality and feel that you find preferable. This rule does generally apply to all guitars, but I wouldn’t previously have expected it of a PRS model – the brand’s consistency in all aspects of build quality is unmatched in the guitar manufacturing world.
With its big frets and easy access to the top of the fingerboard, combined with all the tonal possibilites from Fendery single coil sparkle to the darker humbucker tones, this is a guitar for the player that needs the lot. It will do everything and, from a personal point of view, it’s the sort of instrument you could use for studio dates, recording, or any situation where you're going to be called on to produce a wide variety of sounds. With one of these, you’ll never be caught out. You could also use it through a serious effects board – I found a neutrality in the pickups that would be perfectly suited to this way of working.
So, now let's explain the guitars numerical nomenclature!!
513 means that the guitar is equipped with 5 single coil pick-ups and has 13 different pick-up combinations. These are selected by using the two Blade Type switches. The first one, located just below/in front of the Volume Control, is a normal 5-way and works exactly how you'd expect.
Position 1:- Bridge.
Position 2:- Bridge + Middle.
Position 3:- Middle.
Position 4:- Middle + Neck.
Position 5:- Neck.
Now comes the extra switching from the 3 Way located just above and behind the Tone control. This one is called the 'Mode' switch and has 3 very distinctly different settings.
Position 1:- Single Coil.
Position 2:- Clear Humbucker.
Position 3:- Heavy Humbucker.
The Heavy Humbucker setting produces traditional thick-midrange hum/single/hum sounds, while the Clear Humbucker setting gives more articulate, scooped-midrange hum/single/hum sounds, and the single Coil setting offers classic triple-single-coil sounds. Pretty straightforward stuff, like I said.
As with the Strat S-1 I was quite eager to find out what these actually sounded like whilst running through all the switching options available. So, running through the same Fender Twin as I did with the Strat, here's a description of how it sounded;- AWESOME! Seriously, it's very difficult to describe sounds with words but these guitars, albeit very slightly different in their tonal response, were absolutely stunning! In Single Coil mode they were very (dare I say) Fender-esque in the 3 main positions, Bell-like, chiming and with that top end sparkle you'd expect from one of Leo's finest but with a big difference when in the 'between' positions, sounding somehow 'thicker' and with a bit less 'quack'!!!
The only thing that detracted slightly was the hum, but you should expect that from Single Coils anyway!
In the Clear Humbucker Mode you get a more full, well-rounded sound, with the Bridge and Neck set-ups adding their Noise cancelling attributes to the mix. As Humbuckers they work very well, although slightly thinner than you might expect. Think along the lines of some overwound P-90's and you wouldn't be far wrong. The levels stay very well placed across all positions, even when using the Middle Pick-up on it's own.
In Heavy Humbucker Mode it performs as the name implies, producing a thick, harmonically rich texture, especially when increasing the Amps Gain level!! This is where you can really hear the quality of these pick-ups. Everything is possible, from bottom heavy scooped sounds to blindingly bright pinched harmonics!
Using the 3 way selector to switch from using the Clean Humbucker Mode for tight, crunchy rhythm playing and then switching to Heavy Humbucker Mode for boosting output for lead seemed to be what these were designed for. Slightly scooped sounds for rhythm had their mids boosted perfectly when switching from Clean to Heavy Mode.
Hey Sensible, you've not mentioned the Build Quality yet!!! I hear you shout!
Well, considering that these were $4000+ instruments when new I think you can imagine what the quality is like! Neither of these showed too much wear and tear and both sets of Medium jumbo frets were still in great shape and still wonderfully finished. The control Layout is well thought out and very usable whilst playing, seated or standing, thus giving a very wide ranging, versatile instrument. If there was one thing I'd like to see on this instrument that wasn't there it would be the use of the outside coils, like on the S-1, but it is only a minor niggle. I just think that these pick-ups would suit that particular sound very well indeed!
So, to finish up I'd say that this is one of the best, most versatile guitars I have ever played and would seriously consider paring down my collection and substitute 4 or 5 guitars with just one of these! As I mentioned earlier, if you do think of buying one do see if you can try a few out first and find the one that you tonally fall in love with!!
--Sensible Jones 18:11, 14 March 2011 (CET)