Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: PRS Silver Sky (rosewood)

The PRS Silver Sky (SS) went from a much maligned variation of the Strat to its current reverence as one of the best. Thanks to the conflicting views in cyberspace, I was motivated to try one in person. This appraisal is actually slanted towards discovering how good it really is in its own right as opposed to the Strat-killer status conferred by players who are obviously satisfied with their Silver Sky investment. Could there be any case for concern? 

Construction/ fit/ finish
This is a core model PRS so we enter this appraisal with preceding reverence. The immediate feel here is that of substantiality. Against a typical Strat, the SS is not too far off in terms of weight. Strummed unplugged, the guitar gives off an amazing resonance with a little treble suppression that sounds pleasing. The neck profile is a substantial C but nothing overwhelming like a 50s take. The body has a typical Strat feel to it so if you are indeed a Strat camper, it would not be a departure. 

The SS headstock had been the controversy since its debut but it was designed this way to address the endorser’s quirks. We note that the lower cutaway mimics that of a Strat since John Mayer angles his fretting hand at the lower frets rather often & the clearance was for that intention. This is the reason why the headstock looks stunted compounded by the fact that it’s a reverse design as opposed to its other PRS siblings. More importantly, the headstock, despite the inclusion of locking mechanism, balances out with the body very well so there is no placement issues when played both sitting down on strapped on. Every detail here is nothing short of a custom shop standard but as reflected in the price tag, it remains affordable while being in the higher bracket. Top marks for the SS in this department less the rattling hardware at the headstock. It’s not an anomaly but the locking mechanism for all six tuners were not tightened. I have no idea what happened along the way but it’s something that was addressed quickly. Oh, that curved input jack plate – nice!

Rating: 89%

Playability, tone
The SS sports a C-profile neck carve that is not overwhelming like some 50s era Strats; it sits nicely in the hands with a full grip. The edges are rounded off well so it gives a nice purchase for players who take their time with every note and the ones who tend to play fast. I am not alluding to a shred-type character but it is possible for that application. The audition model has a very well-conditioned fretboard but there were pale streaks at the bass side edge around the 5th – 7th fret area. The frets here are definitely non-vintage; I deem them as medium profile. These chord nicely and facilitate fast movements especially past the 12th fret. 

Down at the body cutaways, the treble side horn was carved out to facilitate higher notes access. There is no breakthrough design in that aspect but PRS had been very mindful in giving it a very scooped profile with generous chamfering. The blocky heel at the flip side features rounded corners as well so all these add up to a very pleasant playing experience for players from various music genres including the more aggressive ones like yours truly here. If you missed it, the body attaches to the neck at the 18th fret; one higher than the average Strat. How’s that for maximum playability? 

When the SS debuted, its control knobs & selector switch tip were considered as downright ugly. The knobs look unsightly with those taller domes & the flatter selector tip is rather distasteful. However, under playing conditions, the knobs lend themselves to better grip with regards to the extended height design. Ditto the selector tip. If you are the Malmsteen type who frequent the controls & selector almost all the time with ravishing fervour, these are worthy inclusions. For the rest of us who are not, the chances of having a sure grip / handling on these are definitely higher. There is a negative element to highlight for this particular model & it’s a fret issue. Notes buzz & choke out at the 20th – 22nd frets. A closer look reveals no component anomaly; no scratches, dents or uneven fret surfaces to manifest this complication. However, the string saddles over at the bridge do not conform to the fret radius curvature. This might be the issue. It’s rather disturbing how this escaped QC before the instrument left the factory but hey, these things happen. I hope there’s no deeper concerns that would actually relegate this particular guitar as a factory second. I do not think this is part of the PRS philosophy especially so when they saw sub-standard end products into half before trashing them – yikes!


Moving on to the most worthy part of this appraisal – tone. The SS is equipped with the signature 635JM single coils. 635 here is actually a mid-way reference to a 63 & 64 tones from his Fender experience (hence 63.5, get it?). Mr. Mayer’s overarching concern with Strat tones is the fact that the pickups do not manifest desirable tones in all combinations. His particular dissent was the number 4 position (neck + middle single coil combo) where the quack totally destroys the excellent individual performance of each pickup when activated as a combined effort. Having heard the SS in person, I must say that these pickups are simply excellent in all available selections. The bridge single coil in particular, does not manifest that edgy, shrill tone in clean mode. It is also a first for me, hearing very adaptable tones in positions 2 & 4. The absence of nasal voicings when two pickups are activated simultaneously in these combos makes for a remarkable playing experience. For the sake of this appraisal (possibly an individual agenda, come to think of it), the 635s were made to go through excessive gain settings (heavy distortion & cascading drive) and they fared well, way above expectations in fact. So there you have it folks, possibly the most accomplished Strat-type performance ever manifested without going into boutique territory. The overall tone manifestation of the SS is that of a charming midrange, thanks to the rosewood presence lest we forget. Great clarity in both clean & dirty settings – the SS has plenty of those. The only killjoy here are those problematic upper frets as mentioned previously. I did not let that anomaly get in the way of a deserving tone appraisal. 


Rating: 92%


I am neither an ardent John Mayer fan nor a single coil devotee; these are simply not my thing. Signature products tend to have a partisan leaning towards the endorser pre-requisites which have very little appeal to many of us in terms of utilitarian needs. The single coil’s lack of bottom end lends itself to being a specialist in a particular genre appeal on most occasions. The SS changed all that. It is a big thing for people like me who tend to stick to whatever that works for our personal intent & avoid venturing out of our comfort zone. Then the SS came along & gave a wakeup call of sort for us to put things into perspective. Let’s be firm here – the SS is not a Strat despite harbouring details of one. It is a very clever interpretation of the single coil tone which others have done excessively but failed to appeal in a wholesome way. While playing the SS in person, it’s very difficult to stop when every single pickup selection hold its own when it comes to tone; you just want to keep going & hear the different tones in action without being jaded to the ears. Folks, the SS is priced wisely if that is your concern – value for money. At $2,999 you could be buying the Fender American Pro with spare change & comparable performance all round but you cannot get that 635JM tone appeal. This price point is also below what a Suhr or Tom Andersen would be asking for when a boutique Strat-style experience is the call of the day. The SS sits nicely in between with lots to offer in terms of playability &, once again, tone. I wish the upper frets issue was absent during audition time & it’s the only factor that prevents it from getting an OTT rating here; I am simply putting things in perspective; it’s all well understood, yes?


Final rating: 89%

PRS Silver Sky ($2,999 @ Swee Lee Co / Davis GMC, bag included)


  • Playability
  • Well-balanced construction
  • Upper fret access
  • control knobs & selector switch (promotes grip)
  • Pickups
  • headstock design could have been more appealing
  • choking upper frets
Pics: PRS / Gearnews / Guitar

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