The Paul Reed Smith S2 Vela Guitar

Updated on November 24, 2017
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Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

PRS S2 Vela in Tobacco Sunburst

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Paul Reed Smith is one of the most accomplished luthiers in the business of making guitars. He is a master craftsman, and an artist. His guitars are widely desired, but they've always been rather expensive.

Paul Reed Smith had been building guitars way back in the 1970s. He used expensive woods. It is tough to break into the guitar market with high priced instruments and unique designs. Ted Nugent and Derek St. Holmes had PRS guitars a long time ago, but when Carlos Santana started playing one, everyone noticed.

The 1980s were a time dominated by super-Strat guitars. The kinds of electric solid body instruments that Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen were playing were the kinds that were selling. Even the Gibson Les Paul was barely in style. The Les Paul only really became fashionable again when Slash and Guns N' Roses made the scene.

PRS S2 Vela in Antique White

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In 1985 Paul Reed Smith with help from family and a business associate set up shop in Maryland, and began building guitars in earnest. He knew his skill was legit, possibly superior to others. He had faith in his product as well.

He had 8 workers and they split a building with a furniture business. In three years time he had 45 employees and was building 15 guitars per day. By 1995 PRS employed 80 persons and the output in guitars jumped to between 25 and 30 instruments built in a day.

The PRS guitars were much more closely similar to Gibson guitars than to Fender. But PRS instruments were excessively beautiful, often having extreme flame maple tops. They were splendid to behold visually. Their sonic presence was also distinct. These were expensive guitars.

Sea-foam Green and Vintage Mahogany Finishes

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Paul Reed Smith Guitars became widely desired, but cost prohibitive

Paul Reed Smith guitars caught on in a big way over time. Carlos Santana, who enjoyed a bit of a comeback in the 1990s helped a lot. But the PRS guitars themselves are what really sold the public on the product. When the product is that good, people will eventually catch on.

PRS guitars are usually mahogany bodies with maple tops. Mahogany is usually the material for the necks too. Rosewood on the fingerboards or fret-boards. The hardware and electronics are all PRS original production equipment. So despite the body construction recipe of woods being something well known and tried and true, the sound is all PRS.

But these were guitars using highly figured maple tops. Hand made guitars are always expensive. More and more people wanted a PRS guitar, but few can afford those very expensive figured tops and dashing finishes.

Paul Reed Smith designed the S2 series of guitars for the people who wanted all the elements that make PRS guitars so good, but who couldn't afford the spectacular aesthetics of the extreme figured maple tops. So with S2 series of instruments will play and sound like the PRS guitar you always wanted, but fit into a working musician's budget nicely.

PRS S2 Vela guitar with birds in flight fret-board positioning markers

The birds in flight positioning markers are optional. Dots are standard.
The birds in flight positioning markers are optional. Dots are standard. | Source

PRS S2 Vela provides many unique features and unique hardware at an affordable price

While the PRS S2 Vela guitar shares some traits with the classic or more established models PRS has offered. The S2 Vela is all original. The off-set body is new, the bridge is new, the single coil Type-D pickup is all new.

The S2 Vela was designed to stand on its own. And it does so nicely. The guitar is not only different from any other in the PRS catalogue, it is different from any guitar in production anywhere else. The mahogany off-set body is beveled and contoured for comfort of play and for balance.

The neck is mahogany, and the fret-board is a thick slab of Indian rosewood. Dot inlay positioning markers are standard, but the PRS birds in flight inlay positioning markers are available as an optional upgrade. The scale is PRS standard 25" with 22 jumbo frets.

Tuning machines are Paul Reed Smith designs and makes, just like always. They are locking models with brass posts.

The bridge hum-bucking pickup is a pickup shared with the Starla model. The pickup is equipped with coil tapping, so it can go as a single coil or a humbucker. The master tone knob is the control for the bridge pickup. The pickup positioning control is a three position mechanism, and then utilizing the coil tap function, you've 5 total pickup configurations.

The forward or neck pickup is all brand new. It is based on a DeArmond Dynasonic pickup from years gone buy. The kind of pickup which used to be featured on Gretsch and Guild electric guitars. But this Type-D pickup has been improved to produce less noise. The pickup isn't so twangy as a Telecaster, but could be described as being somewhere in between an old Les Paul's P90 and a Stratocaster neck pickup.

The all new bridge with two brass saddles is an old PRS patented bridge design, but it has never before appeared on a PRS guitar, or any other guitar.

This guitar is lightweight and very comfortable to play. The off-set contoured body style make this instrument very ergonomic. I'm pricing these all new, all American beauties at $1,279 with standard dot fret-board positioning marker inlays, and at $1,399 with the PRS hallmark bird in flight inlay.

Guitarists everywhere now have the S2 series as an option for an affordable working man or woman's guitar. The cost prohibitive '10' flame top isn't evident here, just the great play-ability and tonality of a PRS solid body.

Paul Reed Smith S2 Vela Guitar specifications:

  • Body shape: Double cutaway
  • Body type: Solid body
  • Body material: Solid wood
  • Top wood: Not applicable
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Body finish: Gloss
  • Orientation: Right handed
  • Neck shape: Pattern regular
  • Neck wood: Mahogany
  • Joint: Set-in
  • Scale length: 25"
  • Truss rod: Standard
  • Neck finish: Gloss
  • Fretboard Material: Rosewood
  • Radius: 10"
  • Fret size: Medium jumbo
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Inlays: Birds
  • Nut width: 1.656" (42mm)
  • PRS Brand Pickups Configuration: HS
  • Neck: S2 Type-D single-coil
  • Bridge: S2 Starla humbucker
  • Active or passive: Passive
  • Series or parallel: Series
  • Special electronics: Push/pull tone control
  • Control layout: Separate volume, tone
  • Pickup switch: 3-way
  • Coil tap or split: Coil tap
  • Bridge type: Fixed
  • Bridge design: PRS plate-style
  • Tailpiece: Not applicable
  • Nickel Color Tuning machines: PRS locking
  • Special features: Pickups
  • Case: Includes gig bag
  • Country of origin: United States

The PRS S2 Vela

The all new PRS S2 Vela Vernon Reid models
The all new PRS S2 Vela Vernon Reid models

The PRS S2 Vela has now been around long enough to have gained some big name fans. In this case we're talking about Vernon Reid, the metal rocker and blues-man from the band Living Color. While the standard S2 Vela is a very versatile guitar that would already be quite capable of eliciting tones appropriate for both metal and country music, this guitar is much more suited for pure aggression.

This is a dual humbucker guitar, and the humbuckers in question are the highest output bucks PRS produces. The higher the output the pickups are, the more suited the guitar is for provoking and using distortion. These pups will still be very touch sensitive, but they likely won't reproduce any of the twang the normal Vela is capable of.

Then there is the Floyd Rose 1000 series tremolo, and locking nut. Feel free to simulate a dive bomb of London with this great hardware. The unit is, of course, double locking, and provides all the facility of the original Floyd Rose whammy bar.

You can see the art work on the pick-guard. This reminds me of the Jimi Hendrix Monterrey Stratocaster. These guitars are available in black and yellow.

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