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PRS CE Vs SE: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re interested in learning more about the PRS CE vs SE and which guitar might be better for you, you’ve come to the right post!

PRS Guitars: Background

Starting his business back in 1985, many think of Paul Reed Smith as having reinvented the electric guitar. And he did it with a pretty simple approach. Most importantly, he brought classic Gibson and Fender traits closer together trying to make the best of both worlds in one guitar.

Over the years, they’ve mostly had electric guitars with their recognizable double-cutaway body design. This is accompanied by a 3+3 headstock. It’s designed to keep the strings in a straight line, even when they break over the nut.

Overall, their guitars are extremely versatile. And, most importantly, they’re very consistent and keep the quality control at high levels.

Their electric guitars have five lines. These are:

  • Core
  • Bolt-On
  • S2
  • SE
  • Private Stock

PRS CE

The CE refers to a few models within PRS’ Bolt-On line of guitars. Technically, there are only three models that fall within the category at the moment. These are CE 24, CE 24 Semi-Hollow, and DW CE 24 Floyd. The third one is Dustie Waring’s signature model.

It’s common for PRS guitars to have a set-in body and neck construction. So this is out of the ordinary for PRS. These aren’t better or worse, it’s just a matter of preference. It may have an impact on sustain and tone, but that’s a whole different discussion.

All three of these models come with a carved top. It’s pretty similar to what you can see on most Gibson Les Pauls. And it’s also the classic construction. There’s the mahogany base of the body with a carved maple top.

The CE 24 is the basic model. It comes with a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 10-inch radius, and 24 frets. The pickups are classic 85/15 humbuckers. And it’s all accompanied by a PRS tremolo bridge and the company’s Low-Mass Locking tuners.

The CE 24 Semi-Hollow bears these same features. The only difference is, obviously, the semi-hollow body. However, this one is more like a thinline kind of guitar. There’s a stylish F-shaped soundhole on it. I’ve tried both, but, in all honesty, I don’t see much of a difference between the two. Regardless, they’re both great.

DW CE 24

The one that stands out is the DW CE 24 Floyd model. There are obvious aesthetic differences. Apart from that, it has some different features as well. The neck comes with a maple fingerboard and those classic bird inlays are black.

Now, the pickups on it are Mojotone DW Tomahawk, the second generation. There’s a different twist to the tone. And there’s also a Floyd Rose 1000 Tremolo with a standard locking nut.

Another difference is that it has a 5-way selector switch. This is contrary to the other two CE models that have 3-way switches and push-pull pots for more options. 

PRS SE

Now, the SE line is a much wider category of guitars. And, most importantly, these are overseas guitars. They’re not manufactured in the US alongside their flagship models.

The series within the SE line are:

  • Custom
  • Standard
  • Hollowbody
  • Extended Range
  • Signature
  • SE 245

Of course, some of these series technically overlap. There’s the Mark Holcomb 7-string model that’s both Signature and Extended Range.

Nonetheless, there’s a huge variety of models here. It’s hard to look at the SE line as one homogenous category of guitars. What bounds them together is that they’re more or less affordable variants. Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Standard

The SE Standard line is your average affordable PRS electric guitar. The SE Standard 24 is the basic example. There’s the basic tremolo bridge, set-neck construction, and a pair of 85/15 S humbuckers.

A somewhat simpler variant is the SE Mira. However, this one comes with PRS’ specially designed stoptail bridge.

The push-pull tone knob is common within the SE Standard series. It gives some versatility to tone-shaping options.

Custom

The SE Custom is just one tier higher compared to the SE Standard. The upgrades usually come down to aesthetics.

However, there are some interesting variants, like the SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow. It has the classic dual-cutaway body, but with one hollow chamber and an F-shaped soundhole.

There’s also an SE Custom 24 Floyd variant. It has a Floyd Rose 1000 Tremolo bridge and a locking nut. But other than that, it has regular features. Pretty much an ordinary low- to mid-priced electric guitar.

Hollowbody

The SE Hollowbody goes another step higher in terms of features and design. These are inspired by Gibson’s semi-hollow guitars. And there’s even a model with a piezo pickup. They all come with two 58/15 S humbuckers and PRS’ stoptail bridge.

Signature

I’d also mention the SE Signature series. They’re easily the highest tier of all the SE guitars. Relatively recently, we even got an SE Silver Sky, a cheaper yet awesome John Mayer signature model. It also comes with a bolt-on construction.

Then there’s also Mark Holcomb 7-string with some surprising finish options. SE Santana is another great one, bringing Santana S signature pickups and an overall simple design.

Although one step above the rest, the Signature line isn’t that different. The only notable distinctions are predominantly aesthetic.

PRS CE Vs SE: What’s the Difference

There’s one thing that I need to point out first. You can’t go wrong with PRS guitars. They have more than an appropriate price given their quality. I think each series is worth it given what you are getting with them.

But the main difference that I need to point out is where these instruments are manufactured. The SE line is made overseas. Don’t get me wrong. They’re great. But if you’re really picky, I’d say you consider the CE guitars instead.

Although CE guitars are bolt-on guitars, they don’t completely feel like that. The body design where it meets the neck makes it pretty comfortable. You can access higher frets with ease.

Another huge difference is the top design. CE guitars come with that carved Gibson-like top. Although SE guitars have a carved top, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing. We could say the same thing about finishing touches. However, what’s interesting is that SE guitars often come with set-in body and neck construction.

On the other hand, I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on the matter. Over the past couple of decades, overseas guitars have become good. In all honesty, SE can handle professional settings as well. These are phenomenal guitars, at least most of the models.

They’re not as flashy but are still more than great guitars. Swap the hardware and pickups and you’ve got yourself a real beast of a guitar.

PRS CE Vs SE: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand some of the differences between the PRS CE Vs SE guitar series.

And if you’re interested in reading about other PRS guitar series comparisons on this blog, check out the following posts:

As usual, feel free to let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

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