Mojo, Distilled
Price: $2,899

Players who appreciate simple, elegant, well-built guitars may find themselves enamored with the new PRS NF 53, inspired by one of Paul Reed Smith’s favorite Fenders – a ’53 Telecaster.

You won’t find the latest gee-gaws or high-tech innovations on this plank. But it’s also not a clone. Rather, it distills the Tele’s mojo.

As intended, the NF 53 sports a clean design and layout – a single-cut with two pickups, two controls, and a selector. That’s it – no pull pots, locking tuners, or EQ-contour knobs. Instead, its body is made of swamp ash – a venerable material with bright, resonant tone – and a maple neck, everything rolling in around the eight-pound mark. The plate-style bridge is steel with brass saddles, balanced with a bone nut and vintage-style NF 53 tuners that have nice, wide keys. The neck has a scarfed headstock joint, maple fretboard with 22 frets (a nod to modernity!) and silhouetted bird inlays.

PRS Narrowfield DD humbuckers give the “NF” its name. With their taller bobbins (DD is “deep dish”), more winds, and metal between the magnets, they produce a big, clear tone. If you’re confused why they’d put humbuckers in a Tele-inspired solidbody, it’s something the Maryland-based company has proved time and time again – a good piece of wood has a lot to do with tone. Thus, Narrowfield ’buckers in swamp ash is far twangier than you’d expect while also delivering a hum-free benefit (another Maryland connection: Telecaster master Danny Gatton often used stacked-coil humbuckers in his Fenders to get some of the greatest twang of all time).

In hand, the NF 53 has what’s sometimes termed a U-shaped neck profile, alluding to a shape from Fender history that’s coming back into vogue. It’s terrifically comfortable, with the expert fret work and setup you’d expect from PRS. Plugging in, the NF 53 proved a rockin’ beast, covering everything from heavy crunch riffs to roots-rock, blues, country, and more. Better still, the guitar’s tone was fat, bold, and bright, balancing vintage twang with noise-free Narrowfield humbuckers. Again, that slab of swamp ash makes a crucial contribution.

The NF 53 is a winner and, once again, PRS proves that superb, no-frills craftsmanship can make a difference in this world.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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