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, PRS mostly made electric guitars with their recognizable double-cutaway body design accompanied by a 3+3 headstock.
It’s designed to keep the strings in a straight line, even when they break over the nut.
Speaking of the headstock, the back of the headstock can reveal a lot about a PRS guitar.
You’ll find the series logos along with the serial number.
This information can help you verify the authenticity of your instrument and provide insight into its origin.
Overall, their guitars are extremely versatile.
And, importantly, they’re very consistent and keep quality control at high levels.
PRS has 6 Product Series. These are:
- Private Stock
- PRS Amp
In this post, we’ll compare their two series, the CE (which is under the Bolt-On series) and SE.
PRS CE Guitars
The PRS CE or Classic Electric line is made in the USA at the Stevensville, Maryland factory.
The CE refers to a few models within PRS’ Bolt-On line of guitars.
Technically, only four models fall within the category at the moment.
These are CE 24, CE 24 Semi-Hollow, and DW CE 24 Floyd.
The fourth one is DW CE 24 Hardtail Limited Edition (Dustie Waring’s Signature).
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 impact sustain and tone, but that’s a different discussion.
All four of these models come with a carved top similar to what you can see on most Gibson Les Pauls.
And they have the classic construction with a mahogany body and a carved maple top.
PRS CE 24
The CE 24 is the basic model.
It has a maple bolt-on 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.
If you want to pick one up, check out:
PRS CE 24 Semi-Hollow
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.
You can grab one from Guitar Center here:
DW CE 24 “Floyd”
The one that stands out is the DW CE 24 Floyd model.
Of course, there are noticeable aesthetic differences.
Apart from that, it has some different features as well.
The neck has a maple fingerboard, and those classic bird inlays are black.
Now, the pickups on it are Mojotone DW Tomahawk, the second generation.
These contribute 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 in contrast to the other two CE models with 3-way switches and push-pull pots for more options.
You can pick one up here:
DW CE 24 Hardtail Limited Edition
Dustie Waring’s signature guitar is based on the PRS CE 24, featuring a bolt-on maple neck and set necks with a slightly tweaked Pattern Thin neck carve for a slimmer front-to-back profile.
This limited edition model sports a satin-finish maple fretboard and stands out with its exclusive hardtail bridge.
If you’re interested in getting this model, check it out below.
PRS SE Guitars
PRS guitars have come a long way since their inception in the Maryland factory.
While the core lines and some high-end models are still produced in America, the PRS SE line, short for Student Edition, is made in Indonesia and South Korea.
These factories allow PRS to offer more affordable options to fans without sacrificing quality.
Now, the SE line is a much broader category of guitars.
The series within the SE line include:
- Extended Range
- SE Bass
Of course, some of these series technically overlap.
The Mark Holcomb 7-string model is both Signature and Extended Range.
Nonetheless, there’s a large variety of models here.
It’s hard to look at the SE line as one homogenous category of guitars.
What binds them together is that they’re more or less affordable variants.
Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at some of them.
PRS SE Standard
The SE Standard line is your average affordable PRS electric guitar.
SE Standard 24
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.
Get yours from Guitar Center:
SE Standard 24-08
The PRS SE Standard 24-08 is a reliable, versatile guitar made from a mahogany body that delivers many tonal options.
The guitar is equipped with PRS TCI “S” pickups, which can be controlled through a 3-way toggle switch along with two mini-toggle switches for coil splitting.
This setup allows players to independently transform the humbuckers into genuine single coil sounds, providing eight distinct pickup configurations.
Boasting a 25″ scale length and 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, the wide-thin maple neck offers a full two-octave range for creative exploration.
Additionally, the PRS-patented, molded tremolo system enhances players’ ability to manipulate their sound and achieve greater expressiveness.
You can check one out from Guitar Center here:
The SE Mira offers immediate comfort, playability, and a dynamic and captivating sound that makes it hard to put down.
Its solid mahogany body and 85/15 “S” pickups produce a well-balanced, classic tone that can be pushed into full-bodied rock sounds without losing definition or punch.
The push/pull tone control further enhances the versatility of the SE Mira.
Additional features include a 22-fret wide-thin mahogany guitar’s neck adorned with a rosewood fretboard, PRS’s signature bird inlays, and an adjustable stoptail bridge.
Get yours from Guitar Center:
SE Starla Stoptail
Embodying a vintage charm while offering distinct features, the SE Starla Stoptail is an appealing and standout guitar.
Crafted with an all-mahogany body and a two-piece adjustable stoptail bridge, this guitar produces a warm, resonant midrange sound.
The DS-02 treble and bass pickups contribute a sparkling, clear high-end that ensures the SE Starla Stoptail makes its presence known in any mix.
If you want to own an SE Starla Stoptail, get yours from Guitar Center:
SE Hollowbody Standard and Piezo
The SE Hollowbody Standard and Piezo both feature an all-mahogany body with a hollow construction for a warm, resonant tone.
They both have 22-fret wide fat neck, PRS adjustable stoptail bridge, and 58/15 LT “S” pickups.
The difference is that Piezo allows musicians to exert acoustic and electric tones in one instrument.
Get the SE Hollowbody Standard and SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo from Guitar Center:
PRS SE Custom
The PRS Custom is just one tier higher compared to the SE Standard.
The upgrades usually come down to aesthetics.
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.
Grab yours from Guitar Center:
SE Custom 24 and Custom 24 “Lefty”
Beloved by world-class touring artists, local gig performers, and budding guitarists alike, the SE Custom 24 boasts a stunning maple top alongside a mahogany body, a slim-profile maple neck, and a rosewood fingerboard adorned with the iconic bird inlays.
The PRS-patented molded tremolo further enhances the guitar’s appeal.
Delivering a wide range of tonal possibilities, the 85/15 “S” pickups work harmoniously with a volume control, push/pull tone knob, and a 3-way blade pickup selector to create a truly versatile instrument.
On the other hand, SE Custom 24 Lefty delivers the quintessential PRS experience, along with exceptional playability and vibrant sound, specifically tailored for left-handed guitarists.
Equipped for both live performances and recording sessions, this model maintains the essential specifications that make the SE Custom 24.
If you want to own either the Custom 24 or Custom 24 “Lefty”, get yours here:
SE Custom 24 “Floyd”
The PRS Core Line’s SE Custom 24 “Floyd” marries the iconic Floyd Rose bridge with PRS’s most renowned model, the Custom 24.
Featuring the dependable Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo, this combination offers guitarists an exciting range of phrasing possibilities and the assurance that executing fluttering techniques or audacious dive bombs won’t result in detuning.
You’ll find Floyd from Guitar Center:
SE Custom 24-08
The SE Custom 24-08 ingeniously melds the features of SE and PRS Core Line guitars, providing an impressive array of tonal possibilities.
This model is equipped with a pair of mini-toggle coil-split switches, allowing you to individually split each humbucker, converting them into authentic single coils.
Thanks to this flexible configuration, you’ll have access to eight unique pickup combinations, making it an ideal choice for musicians who desire a vast spectrum of tones.
The SE Hollowbody goes another step higher in terms of features and design.
These are inspired by Gibson’s semi-hollow guitars.
The Hollowbody Series are as follows:
- SE Hollowbody Standard
- SE Hollowbody Standard Piezo
- SE Hollowbody II
- SE Hollowbody II Piezo
This series has a mahogany neck.
The ones with Piezo pickup provide both acoustic and electric tones in one instrument.
They all come with two 58/15 S humbuckers and PRS’ stoptail bridge.
You’ll find this Hollowbody II and Hollowbody II Piezo models on Guitar Center. Check them out here:
I’d also mention the SE Signature series.
They’re easily the highest tier of all the SE guitars and are named after famous people in the music industry.
SE Silver Sky
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.
Get this John Mayer’s guitar SE Silver Sky from Guitar Center:
SE Mark Holcomb and Mark Holcomb SVN
Then there’s also Mark Holcomb and Mark Holcomb SVN (7-string) with some surprising finish options.
Periphery has established itself as a powerhouse in the progressive metal world, known for its intricate rhythms and captivating melodies.
Guitarist Mark Holcomb contributes to this dynamic, potent sound with his trusty PRS guitars and custom Seymour Duncan Scarlet and Scourge pickups.
PRS and Holcomb have collaborated extensively to create a one-of-a-kind instrument for the SE Series collection.
We’ve found SE Mark Holcomb (pre-loved) and SE Mark Holcomb SVN here:
Carlos Santana, a legendary PRS artist, played an instrumental role in creating the SE electric guitar series, which debuted in 2001.
PRS was delighted to present the SE Santana model as part of its lineup to celebrate this enduring legacy.
Get your cool yellow SE Santana from Guitar Center:
Other PRS Signature Models
Additional PRS Signature Models include:
- SE DGT
- SE Mark Tremonti
- SE Paul’s Guitar
- SE Zach Myers
The PRS SE DGT (David Grissom Trem) brings David Grissom’s signature model to the SE Series.
You can find this signature model on a pre-order basis on Guitar Center:
SE Mark Tremonti
The “S” model pickups in the Tremonti line are coupled with two distinct volume and tone control options, providing the precise assertiveness necessary to accommodate Tremonti’s diverse sound requirements.
Get yours here:
SE Paul’s Guitar
As the name suggests, Paul’s proud of this great example of this guitar’s engineering and design.
The SE Paul’s Guitar features two mini-toggle switches between the volume and tone knobs.
Check out the SE Paul’s Guitar in faded blue here:
SE Zach Myers
Showcasing a compartmentalized mahogany structure with a maple top, a flamed maple layer, and a solitary f-hole, the SE Zach Myers model delivers well-balanced midrange sounds accompanied by an innate, reverberating internal echo.
Combining the semi-hollow design and the silky touch of the matte-finished neck creates an instant and memorable experience when held.
Love this cool Zach Myers Guitar in Blue? You can check it out here:
You’ve got three options for this model:
- SE McCarty 594
- SE McCarty 594 Singlecut
- SE McCarty 594 Singlecut Standard
The SE McCarty boasts a vintage charm and offers a wealth of tonal possibilities, ensuring that players have access to both humbucking and single-coil sounds in a single, trustworthy guitar.
Equipped with two volume controls and push/pull tone adjustments, this versatile instrument allows musicians to smoothly navigate between humbucker and single-coil settings, opening up an array of sonic options for their performance.
Although one step above the rest, the McCarty line isn’t that different.
The only notable distinctions are predominantly aesthetic.
You can check out these models on Guitar Center:
This series has two beautiful heavier and more aggressive guitar-playing options.
SE 277 and SE Mark Holcomb SVN
Featuring an extended 27.7″ scale length, the SE 277 excels in facilitating powerful, intense guitar performances.
However, its versatility doesn’t end there. Equipped with 85/15 “S” pickups, the 277 produces exceptional clarity, along with an impressive high and low-end range, making it equally adept at tackling blues and funk genres.
To further enhance its sonic capabilities, the SE 277 incorporates a string-through bridge design that promotes robust, resonant tones.
Conversely, the SE Mark Holcomb SVN presents a 24-fret design with an extended 26.5″ scale length.
This model also features coil-splitting options for the pickups and a sturdy, plate-style, 7-string bridge with a string-through construction.
Check out the SE 277 on Guitar Center:
They’ve also got the left-handed version of SE 277:
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.
PRS CE vs SE: Weighing Your Options
When comparing PRS CE and SE guitars, there are several factors to consider, such as budget, construction, and personal preferences.
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 offers an affordable entry point into the world of PRS guitars without compromising on quality, while the CE line provides a premium, American-made option with some innovative features.
The SE line is made overseas.
Don’t get me wrong.
Over the past couple of decades, overseas guitars have become good.
But if you’re really picky, I’d say you consider the CE guitars instead.
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.
Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences as a guitarist.
PRS CE vs SE: Comfort, Playability, and Construction
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.
Both PRS CE and SE guitars feature mahogany bodies, which provide a warm and resonant tone.
Mahogany necks are also common in both lines, offering stability and a comfortable feel.
PRS CE vs SE: Scale Length and Neck Width
Scale length and width are important factors to consider when comparing PRS CE and SE guitars.
Both lines feature a 25″ scale length, which falls between a Stratocaster (25.5″) and a Les Paul (24.75″), providing a balanced feel and tone.
The necks of PRS CE and SE guitars are designed for comfort, with a slightly wider width than traditional guitar necks.
PRS CE vs SE: Pickup Options and Versatility
Both PRS CE and SE guitars also offer a range of pickup options.
Single coil, treble, and bass humbuckers can be found across both lines, ensuring a versatile tonal palette.
Some models even feature coil-splitting capabilities, allowing players to switch between humbucking and single coil sounds with ease.
Swap the hardware and pickups and you’ve got yourself a real beast of a guitar.
PRS CE vs SE: Top Design and Aesthetics
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 guitar’s necks construction.
On the other hand, I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on the matter.
PRS CE Vs SE: Conclusion
To sum it up, PRS CE and SE guitars provide outstanding craftsmanship, playability, and adaptability for musicians of all levels.
No matter if you’re just starting out or have been playing for years, there’s a PRS guitar that aligns with your requirements and budget.
By closely examining the characteristics and details of each line, you can make a well-informed choice and discover the ideal PRS guitar to take your musical journey to the next level.
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!
I have a PRS CE.