There are moments that stay in the memory. Picture, dear reader, the scene. A1 Music in Manchester, 1992. I have a cheque to pay for my terms rent at university. Or do I spend it on a PRS EG – with the best neck I had ever played. £495 and I was a coward. I paid the rent – I still wake up screaming with the regret.
The EG was the first “cheaper” PRS, stripped down where it did not matter, but with all the quality where it did. And it is a philosophy that PRS have continued with the sublime S2 line. And the latest version is the Vela.
The Vela represents a big step in the S2 range as it is very much an original. Out of the box it just looks fabulous. The offset shape has been compared to a Jazzmaster, but I think it is much. much prettier than that. Its a solid lump of mahogany with a mahogany neck and the finish is flawless. The body shape also seems to fit with the headstock shape very well. Frankly it’s about the most attractive PRS I’ve seen.
The neck – as you’d expect with PRS – is brilliant. Not too thin with perfectly set and polished frets. It also has quite a shallow neck angle for a set-neck, giving it a very pleasant Fender-y feel.
Hardware is top-knotch with S2 locking tuners at one end and a 2 saddle top-loading bridge at the other. There may be only 2 saddles but there were no intonation issues at all on my model and it was a very comfortable bridge to play and once again, finish was pretty close to perfect.
So far, so wonderful but now we come to the electrics. Pickups are a Type-D single coil at neck – think TV Jones with a lovely glassy transparency and a Starla humbucker at the bridge. A coil tap adds more tone options.
The Starla is a great humbucker and if you think that this thing cannot rock, it handles all the distortion you can throw at it with ease. But it does not have quite the quality of the Type D. This thing is wonderful, though a Yerasov 20 valve amp there is a dense, chewy richness to the clean tones. There is more body than a Strat but it is still immediate and flexible. Add a hint of overdrive and all the definition is still there but with more weight and texture. Both pickups are very well balanced and respond well to creative use of the tone and volume pots. I played it at a jam session with a couple of djent nuts and that Type D really turned their heads.
PRS have really created something important with the S2 range. Every guitar I’ve played has shown the thought, care and (yes) love that the company has thrown at the project. But the Vela may be the best yet. It is beautifully made, has a huge tonal range and sounds and feels lovely.
23 years ago, I let that PRS EG escape, I don’t think I’ll make that error again.