PRS Custom 22
I took a little break from photographing guitars for most of the holiday, but now I'm back at it with number 5 in the series. This a a 1996 Paul Reed Smith Custom 22. The Custom 22 was a 22-fret version of the guitar that put PRS on the map - the Custom (later renamed the Custom 24). Frankly, having two more frets at the very top of the neck doesn't mean much to me, as I just don't spend a lot of time way up there. However, there are more pragmatic considerations that made me go with the 22-fret model: First, the feel is very slightly different. When you add 2 frets, you can't just make the neck longer because that would change the scale length (the distance from the nut to the bridge). You have to extend the fretboard into the body area and either change the body shape a little to allow access or make the player reach over the body to get at the extra frets. PRS did a little of both and it changes the feel a bit. Secondly, with 22-frets the neck pickup is placed right on the two octave node of the string. You can argue whether that is a good or a bad thing from a physics point of view, but I like it because sound-wise it's a tried-and-true formula with the Gibson Les Paul.
There are several unique features on the PRS Custom line of guitars. First, they employ a 25" scale length - something of a compromise between a Gibson and a Fender scale length. For my money, it feels and sounds closer to a Gibson, but I suppose there is just a tiny bit more twang that a Les Paul. I fully admit though that that could very well be my perception being altered by what I expect to happen as a result of a slightly longer scale length The Custom 22 also comes standard with a 5-way rotary switch that combines different coils of the two humbuckers, in series or parallel. So you get your standard humbucker sounds, but there are also a couple settings that are singlecoil-like, which is handy. I think it's a very versatile arrangement, although a lot of people don't like the rotary switch because it's not as quick or easy to use as a traditional toggle switch and it's harder to tell what setting you have it on by looking at it. I've used the rotary for so long that I'm very accustomed to it. PRS was also one of the first manufacturers to use locking tuners, which I like a lot. It holds the tuning well, it's less hassle than a locking nut, and it preserves the feel and sound of having a nut.
And of course, there's the famous PRS flame maple finish. More than any other innovation, I suspect all the beautiful translucent colors over flamed maple convinced a lot of players to try a PRS. It certainly encouraged me.