I was looking for some time for another singlecut to accompany my Telecaster. I had decided on something more LP like in style and setup. I had decided I would spend around £500. That buys you a fair amount of choice.
I was also looking for something that - bar a lottery win - would be with me for the long haul. Eventually, I decided on an Epiphone tribute. Good reviews, US pickups, case etc. Then came the actual day. I went into a shop that had three of them to try them out. Then came the mounting disappointment.
They looked great, but the first one I tried was hopelessly setup. The second one I tried had finishing issues on the neck binding, but sounded pretty good. Then a PRS Bernie Marsden caught my eye. I picked it up and was immediately struck by how much more solid it felt. How flawness the flamed finish was throughout. From frets to hardware, from binding to tuners. A full width long tenon joint, A proper maple cap. You can add this PRS to Cockroaches and Keith Richards as things most likely to survive a nuclear war.
I plugged it in. The action was perfect. Not good, not great, perfect. Slides, bends, harmonics, tremolo. Effortless. Sustain, sweetness, darkness, grunt. The 245 humbuckers in this were easily as good as the '57 Gibsons in the Epiphone. These ones leave the factory with a set of 10's on as well.
I compared it to a Gibson LP Melody maker and an LPM, both of which played well, but seemed like poor relations. The Bernie Madsen was not only a great guitar for the price, it was a great guitar period. I ended up buying it several days later.
Now almost a month in, I am hugely happy with my purchase. From blues to classic rock and into grunge, it never underperforms. Unsuprisingly, getting Santana style tones is a breeze. Rather more suprisingly, given the 24.5 inch scale length, it can pull off convincing 'Stones.
I wear a strap with locking tuners that allow the guitar to hand at a comfortable, stable position. The strap buttons are snug, and it really does feel incredibly natural. The weight is not a concern, even though my Tele feels light by comparison.
I originally bought a PRS SE Tremonti custom. Another great guitar, but the neck was far too thin for my taste and the finish a little too gaudy. The Bernie Marsden felt just right. I have no problem with access to the higher frets, the signature riff to Mississippi Queen easily achievable.
Some may question the inclusion of a single tone knob that affects both pickups. For me, it removes an unncessary level of complexity. One less thing to adjust. If you do prefer having seperate tone knobs, go for the PRS SE 245. It is essentially the same guitar.
I am really impressed by the quality of the PRS SE range. Nothing in the same price range even comes close, and I have looked and looked. For those of you that may be tempted by the standard, spend the extra cash. You'll be glad you did.