PRS S2 vs Core: Which Is Better? [2023 Guide]

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If you’re interested in the PRS S2 vs Core series of guitars, this post is for you!

I’m no expert, but I have been a guitar player since 2003 and know a bit about the guitar.

Also, if you’re want to read more about PRS Guitars, check out some of my other posts about them:

PRS Guitars

Since 1985, PRS has been making some awesome instruments. As they have grown, some even think they have posed a threat to major manufacturers like Gibson and Fender. And at this point, many consider them one of the most important names in the world of guitar.

Another interesting fact about PRS Guitars is that the company is still led by its founder Paul Reed Smith. To this day, he’s still innovating and coming up with new stuff. And he has a say in the manufacturing of every model.

It’s hard not to praise PRS for their qualities. They’re one of the most consistent brands out there. With them, you know you can expect high-quality instruments. Even their cheapest series of guitars is known for its quality.

But as far as their electric guitars go, they have five main lines. These are:

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

PRS S2 vs Core: Which Is Better?

What I aim to explore in this article is PRS Guitars’ S2 and Core series. Both of these series encompass a wide group of instruments. This is especially the case with the Core guitars. So let’s get into it.

The S2 Series

PRS’ S2 Series includes guitars that are in the mid to high price category. They’re not super expensive like the Wood Library or Custom series. But their prices are usually between $1300 and $1900.

What’s special about them is their design. Some of these instruments look noticeably different compared to their standard guitars. The idea here was to reinvent classic PRS body designs.

The S2 series is divided into three categories:

  • Custom
  • Standard
  • McCarty

S2 Standard has the most guitar models. These also include semi-hollow-body instruments. There are also both 22 and 24-fret variants. 

The basic model here is the S2 Custom 24. This one is done according to PRS’ original guitar model from the 1980s. But it’s a stripped-down variant. Nonetheless, you still have the classic mahogany body with a maple top. It also has a mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard, and a scale length of 25 inches.

However, most of the other models come with just a mahogany body. There are also differences in hardware and pickup configurations. The Standard variants all come with mahogany bodies, no maple top, and a reinvented design.

There are also some significant changes in body aesthetics. You may even be tricked into thinking these aren’t PRS guitars. S2 Standard models have a large pickguard over the body. But they still retain the regular beveled body top.

S2 Standard Vela Guitars

This line also includes Vela models. These come with a plate-style bridge with only two saddles, each holding three strings. It’s a vintage approach similar to some Fender Telecasters. There are also semi-hollow-body Vela models.

But what’s awesome about Vela are the pickups. In the bridge position, they come with a PRS-designed DS-01 humbucker. Meanwhile, the neck position includes a Type-D single-coil. This is also accompanied by a push-pull tone knob for the humbucker.

Vela guitars are for lovers of vintage sound. This is mostly due to the hardware and pickup choices.

S2 Standard McCarty Guitars

The McCarty models within the S2 series are the most advanced in the bunch. They come with four knobs, 58/15 “S” pickups, as well as push-pull tone knob action for the coil-tap feature.

This line contains a total of three models: McCarty 594, Mccarty 594 Singlecut, and McCarty 594 Thinline. The first two come with a mahogany body and a maple top. And the Thinline has just a mahogany body. They also come with a tune-o-matic bridge and a specially designed tailpiece.

Core Line of Electric Guitars

Core guitars are PRS’ standard models. As a result, this category includes about 20 models in total divided into five different series:

  • Custom
  • McCarty
  • Hollowbody
  • Specialty
  • Signature

It’s hard to give a unified review. But what’s clear is that these are pro-level instruments. Their prices often go for more than $6500. Such is the case with the Hollowbody II Piezo variant.

Core guitars also come with some pretty advanced pickups. Although electronics controls are very similar, there are some innovative humbuckers here. For instance, you have 85/15 humbuckers, as well as 58/15 LT. Some of them even come with Narrowfield humbuckers or even specially designed TCI pickups.

There’s an improvement with hardware as well. This includes anything from stopbar fixed bridges up to advanced tremolo bars. For instance, some Core guitars come with PRS’ Gen III tremolos. Meanwhile, some have a Floyd Rose.

Finally, their finishes and designs are of premium quality as well. You can notice a difference in the top carving on Core guitars. They come with a violin top, which makes them a bit more similar to Gibsons.

PRS S2 vs Core: Which Is Better?

Let’s get one thing straight here. Both of these series are great. In fact, it’s hard to find a bad PRS guitar. Even the cheaper models tend to be great within their price category.

Another thing to know is that both of these categories contain several different instruments. There’s a lot of stuff within the S2 series. And the Core line is also vast, currently including about 20 6-string electric guitars. So asking which one is better is a bit vague.

But with that said, there are some standard traits that we can compare. Firstly, the Core line is usually much more expensive. Although both are made in the US, the S2 line is much cheaper.

This difference is anywhere between $2000 and $2500 on average. But the biggest difference between the cheapest S2 and the most expensive Core is over $5000.

It’s no secret that PRS Core guitars are better than the S2 line. Taking a closer look, you can notice that Core has prettier-looking tops. Compared to the “beveled” top of the S2 series, it’s a huge improvement.

Aside from the electronics, hardware, and build qualities, Core guitars have way more finish options. And these are all premium quality finishes.

You can check out a more detailed tone and features comparison in the video below:

PRS McCarty 594 - Core vs S2. Is there a $2000 difference?

PRS S2 vs Core: Conclusion

I’d recommend Core models to professional players. Sure, S2 guitars are pretty awesome as well. In fact, an average guitar player most likely won’t recognize any notable differences. Both feel and sound pretty great.

But there are good reasons why Core guitars are so much more expensive. For instance, Core McCarty models come with 58/15 LT pickups. These are designed to replicate the old Gibson P.A.F. humbuckers.

Meanwhile, the S2 guitars are just a notch below the pro-level guitars. These are still pretty awesome and aren’t cheap either. But you still won’t get some premium design and build qualities as with the Core guitars.

Objectively speaking, Core guitars have higher-quality build materials. But honestly, there’s hardly any need for most to go for them. Paying $2000 or $2500 more for a guitar isn’t really necessary for an average guitar player.

But once you reach the pro level, you might consider getting one. Up until then, the S2 should be more than enough.

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have further questions!  

One Response

  1. Bill Russell says:

    I”ve been playing for some 50 years now, I’ve had the beginner Epiphone, went thru the LTD/ESP phase, Ibanez, but still love them, and have had a few Gibson’s, which to me, barring the Traditional model- can take or leave them, then came Fender- for me. I was never a Strat guy but truly love the Strat sound thru a JCM. With regards to PRS, I never found them to be ‘the next level’. I’ve played them a gazillion times, but in the end- I have found that once you pick up a Suhr guitar the world of guitar playing changes. I’ve sold my Traditional, sold my last ESP, frequently look into the rear view of Fender, but the Suhr Modern, Ash wood neck with stock or Aldrich pick-ups seems to have entrenched my belief that this Luthier is my choice for playing both in a gigging Jersey shore band 56 X a year to sitting on the back porch, or noodling with a digital 16 track- it, in my eyes, has no equal. With reference to the PRS models- they feel like high school guitars, sound like glorified Strats and cost more like a Suhr sounds. Sorry, not a fan.

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