Split Personality


Price: $6,092 (as tested, retail), $3630 (street)

While PRS has for several years offered a piezo bridge-pickup system in its Hollowbody models, it recently worked with LR Baggs to improve their collaborative piezo, and the end result is being offered for the first time on a production PRS solidbody.

The P22 is based on PRS’ Custom 22 but with a slightly thicker double-cut mahogany body a la the McCarty model, figured maple top, set mahogany neck with 25″ scale and 22 frets, a PRS/LR Baggs wraparound bridge/tailpiece, and Phase III locking tuners. Our test guitar sported a fancy maple top in Black Gold Burst finish with the company’s V12 topcoat, and Bird inlays on the fretboard. Electronics include a pair of PRS 53/10 humbuckers mated to a five-way blade selector, master Volume and Tone controls for the magnetic pickups along with a master Volume for the piezo, and a three-way mini toggle to combine (or switch between) the two systems. The five-way gives the player the bridge humbucker alone (in position one), the inside coils of the neck pickup and the bridge humbucker (position two), both humbuckers (three), the inside coil of the bridge pickup and the neck humbucker (four), and the neck humbucker alone (five).

The P22 has two output jacks; one mixes the acoustic and magnetic pickups into a standard instrument cable for use with a single amp, the other routes the piezo to a separate acoustic amp or PA system. Also on the jack plate is the piezo’s 9-volt battery compartment, which houses six mini pots that control the output of individual string saddles on the piezo.

Our tester had PRS’ Pattern Regular neck profile (also borrowed from the McCarty), which has a very comfortable feel, fitting right between the company’s Wide Thin and Wide Fat profiles. The fretboard’s rolled edge gives it a lived-in feel, while the low string action and nicely polished frets made bending easy. The one piece mahogany body was light and resonant, fit and finish of all components was nicely executed, and intonation was spot-on.

Other notable features include PRS’ new pickup bobbins, which have a slightly squared shape along with new surrounds with recessed cavities that keep the height-adjustment screws flush with the top of the ring, and Phase III locking tuners that have an elegant semi-open-back design, larger buttons, and tighter gear ratio.

We tested the P22’s 53/10 magnetic pickups through a 6L6-powered 1×12″ combo and its piezo through a 1×12″ acoustic amp. The 53/10s, while true full-sized humbuckers, take inspiration from single-coils of the early ’50s, producing a thick, articulate tone with a single-coil top-end snap. Through the amp’s overdrive channel, they have plenty of midrange punch, with sweeter highs and excellent note separation. Positions two and four, which mix single-coil and humbuckers, produce a surprisingly Fender-ish quack. Darker humbucker tones are achieved by simply rolling back the well-voiced Tone control without appreciable loss of clarity.

Through a dedicated acoustic amp, the new PRS/Baggs bridge produced an outstanding acoustic tone with a realistic, “woody” vibe and clear, crisp highs, even mids, and tight low-end response. The tone is not metallic-sounding in the least. Rather, it’s warm and round, but still exhibits the classic piezo “glassy” top-end shimmer, without, of course, the feedback, howling, or noise rendered by a traditional acoustic/electric when it’s turned up or moved too close the amp. And as a player, one needn’t adapt their technique, so it remains easy to solo in upper registers, execute full bends, and do things that prove challenging an acoustic. While having to use two cables and running into two amps complicates matters a bit, it’s key to getting an authentic acoustic sound without sacrificing regular electric tone, as well as adding a new dimension and space when both systems are engaged.

The 53/10 pickups and re-tooled piezo make the P22 one of the most versatile-sounding guitars on the market. With its huge palate of single-coil, humbucker, and acoustic tones, excellent playability, quality, and killer looks, the P22 will be the go-to guitar for many.

This article originally appeared in VG July 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.