PRS S2 Vs CE: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re curious about the PRS S2 vs CE lines of guitars, you’ve come to the right post!

After playing the guitar since 2003, I’ve heard and learned a lot about PRS guitars.

Let’s get to it.

PRS Guitars

Paul Reed Smith, the founder and namesake of PRS Guitars, is a serious innovator in the world of guitar. Starting PRS Guitars in 1985, he managed to get the attention of both Fender and Gibson fans. About a decade or so later, he had one of the leading brands in the business.

There are a few reasons why PRS Guitars became so popular. First, they offer quality instruments within all price categories. Second, their guitars are pretty versatile and functional. And, finally, their quality control and consistency are really good.

These days, they have five main lines of electric guitars. They are:

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

Of course, each of these has multiple series. The only exception is the Private Stock line that does custom orders. But the Bolt-On line, for instance, has the CE and the Signature series.

PRS S2 Vs CE: What’s the Difference?

In this article, I’m taking a closer look at the S2 line and the CE series of the Bolt-On line.

If you’re considering getting a PRS, you’ve likely thought about either of these two. So let’s get down to the comparison.

PRS S2 Electric Guitars

The S2 line is one of PRS’ most popular ones. They’re priced above mid-tier guitars, although they’re not quite in the extraordinarily expensive category. In most cases, you can expect S2 guitar prices to fall between $1300 and $1900.

Sure, they’re not the top-of-the-line PRS guitars. However, they come with some high-end traits. And, in most cases, they’ll serve you as well as any pro-level high-end guitar.

The S2 line comes with three individual series. These are:

  • Custom
  • Standard
  • McCarty

Although there are some obvious differences, they all come with some of the same features. First, you will notice that they all have beveled tops. It’s not a completely arched violin-style top. The edges are just smoothened out.

Second, they also come with mahogany bodies and some of them have maple tops. Other than that, they have a scale length of 25 inches, mahogany necks, and rosewood fretboards.

They also come with push-pull tone pots for the coil-tap feature. But that’s also common for almost all PRS guitars these days.

S2 Standard

The S2 Standard series is pretty simple with a few interesting design traits. You will also notice pickguards on top, which is pretty uncommon for PRS guitars. A lot of them come with 58/15 S pickups. However, some models come with a rather interesting DS-01 in the bridge and a Type-D single-coil in the neck.

S2 Standards also come with vintage-oriented bridges. This is especially the case with fixed bridges. It reminds me of old Telecasters but it has only two adjustable saddles, each holding three strings.

Finally, there’s also a semi-hollow-body variant within the S2 Standard series. But it’s still made out of mahogany and bears the same body shape.

S2 Custom

S2 Custom has only one guitar model. This is an S2 Custom 24 with 24 frets and 85/15 S pickups. But otherwise, it’s a standard PRS guitar that you’d expect from the company.

Apart from some nice finish options, this is basically a stripped-down guitar. On the other hand, it keeps some of the pro-level build qualities.

S2 McCarty

The S2 McCarty series includes only three guitars. And these three are the most advanced models within the S2 line. There’s the 594, 594 Singlecut, and 594 Thinline. All of them come with 58/15 S humbuckers, vintage-style tuners, and a two-piece fixed bridge.

Their bodies have a beveled design instead of a full arched top. And the S2 McCarty 594 Thinline model has an all-mahogany body without a maple top. But it looks almost the same as the basic S2 McCarty 594.

Bolt-On CE Series

PRS’ CE series is part of the company’s Bolt-On line. These instruments do not conform to PRS’ usual design practices since they have bolt-on necks. This difference in design also results in some differences in performance and tone. It doesn’t make them better or worse, just a bit closer to classic Fender designs.

There are three basic models within this series. These are CE 24, CE 24 Semi-Hollow, and the DW CE 24 Floyd. The third one is also a part of the Signature Bolt-On series. It’s a signature model of Dustie Waring of Between the Buried and Me.

You can check this guitar out in action in the video below:

The DW CE24 "Floyd" | PRS Guitars

The same thing all these three guitars have is the arched top. And we’re looking at a classic Gibson-style or violin-style arched top. All three also come with mahogany bodies and maple tops.

CE 24 and CE 24 Semi-Hollow come with two 85/15 humbuckers and a 3-way selector switch. They also have a push-pull tone knob for the coil-tap feature.

Meanwhile, the DW CE 24 Floyd has a pair of DW Tomahawk Gen 2 humbuckers. These are controlled through a 5-way selector switch. Overall, this signature guitar is a bit more metal-oriented, including its Floyd Rose bridge. What’s also really fun about it is the maple neck with a maple fingerboard.

DW CE 24 also comes with some darker finishes. Especially interesting is the Waring Burst – an awesome combo of red and black.

But other than this, PRS CE guitars are pretty simple. There aren’t any crazy controls and features. They’re classy guitars with a lot of versatility.

PRS S2 Vs CE: How Do They Compare?

It’s no secret that the CE series is nicer than S2 guitars. You can realize that at a single glance. The classic violin-style carved tops and high-end finishes make it fairly obvious. If you care about the looks, the CE series is a step above the S2.

The choice of pickups is also different. The S2 guitars usually come with 85/15 S humbuckers. Meanwhile, the CE series has the regular US-made 85/15 humbuckers. They’re very similar, but the regular US variant is slightly different.

The hardware is also obviously different. All of the CE guitars come with some pretty awesome tremolo bridges. The S2 McCarty series, however, also has great quality hardware.

Finally, bolt-on guitars will just feel different. Now, this isn’t something that makes them better or worse. They’re just different and are more like classic Fender guitars. 

As for pricing, the S2 series lies somewhere between $1300 and $1900. Meanwhile, the CE series is usually between $2300 and $2700.

Although S2 guitars are cheaper, they’re still close in quality to a high-end professional instrument. They’re just a bit stripped-down and have a few slightly cheaper components.  

However, in my opinion, the S2 series is enough guitar for nearly any musician.

PRS S2 Vs CE: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand some of the differences between the PRS S2 Vs CE guitar series.

And if you’re curious about other PRS guitar series comparisons, check out the following posts:

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

7 Responses

  1. Great info. Though I have a PRS S2 Studio. It’s a single cut HSS model which I never seem to hear anything about, though it’s incredible. Also have an S2 Custom 24 and an SE Paul’s Guitar. Love em.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul! It sounds like you’ve got some great instruments!

  2. Student of guitar but definitely not of English.
    Possessive for PRS is PRS’s not PRS’.
    The apostroophe only comes after the s when it is PLURAL possessive. PRS is not plural so possessive PRS is PRS’s.

      1. Richard Paulsen says:

        OMG 😆 That made me laugh.

  3. Guitar Guy says:

    Sorry to say as the owner of a first year build of a S2 Custom 24 and 30th year Anniversary Core Custom 24, you did not address some of reasons of how the S2 build is able to cut cost and still offer a very playable instrument. One big difference is the construction of the neck. Hardware is another area where PRS has been able to cut cost. I believe the PRS approved pick up are imported. I love my S2 but after 6 years of moderate use the finish is not holding up very well. The finish on the hardware has worn away. The blade pickup selector is sloppy and should be replaced. I would expect this from the SE line but not the US built S2. It still sounds good and stays in tune.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for sharing your experience! This is valuable intel that could definitely help someone considering these instruments.

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