Review Date: Friday 9th of November 2012 04:21:00 PM Last Updated: Thursday 1st of January 1970 01:00:00 AM Reviewed By: Huw Price
Dave Navarro is one of only three PRS artists to have a signature model made both in the USA and Korea. Will Huw Price get addicted to the Navarro SE?
The Maryland-made Dave Navarro model is apparently one of PRS’ best-sellers and Navarro himself has explained that the more affordable SE edition we’re reviewing came about as ‘a way to make my guitar available to people who turn to music and art as a way of dealing with the world. It’s my act of gratitude to other musicians out there.’ A lovely sentiment.
At first glance it’s hard to see where the compromises are being made. Besides the headstock logos and the ‘Built Under License’ label, the USA and Korean versions appear to be identical. The colour scheme is white, black and gold, so if you don’t like white guitars, it’s game over. The body is a lightweight layer cake of mahogany with a maple cap and a classic PRS outline. The subtly bevelled top edges are a recent feature.
The Navarro SE has a set maple neck with a full two octaves of jumbo frets interspersed with pearly bird inlays. Perhaps surprisingly the fingerboard is rosewood rather than ebony, which would have toned with the black plastic components a little better. In all likelihood, though, tone of the sonic variety was the deciding factor.
A close look at the specification reveals that the gold-plated diecast tuners and vibrato bridge are ‘PRS designed’ rather than PRS manufactured. The USA version also has locking tuners but this SE version has conventional posts.
The humbucker polepieces are gold plated, as are the height and surround screws. In the bridge there’s an HFS pickup, and in the neck position it’s a Vintage Bass. Both are SE versions of the pickups fitted in the USA-made guitar. Controls are stripped to the bone with master volume and tone controls. The tone control is also a push/pull switch that coil-taps both pickups, and there’s a three-way selector.
The build and finish quality is impressive, and there’s no sense that you’re making do with the SE version. The only detail we’d criticise is the ‘one size fits all’ nut. The fact is that it’s a bit narrow for this guitar, so you can feel small ‘ledges’ at both ends. It’s barely noticeable and doesn’t affect playability in any way, but these minor things demonstrate the difference.
The neck profile is a wide and flat ‘C’, but the string spacing at the nut is conventional. This means you have a fair amount of fingerboard each side of the E strings for wide vibrato. The action on our review example is low and fast to the extent that this guitar almost plays itself. The downside is the vibrato. Although the system feels free and smooth the tuning is very unstable, and even a thorough string stretch didn’t help. In all likelihood the nut simply needs attention.
Aside from that, the Navarro is a blast. The pickups sound extremely clear and articulate with a lively bite at the front of notes. There’s plenty of tonal variety between the settings too, with a throaty bark from the bridge and a rounded openness from the neck. Overdriven and high gain tones are beefy, powerful and clear, with the Navarro SE delivering heavy blues, rock and metal sounds with ease.
The coil-tapped tones are all highly effective. Halved-humbuckers can sound anaemic but these units are solid and full enough for funk, blues and even country-tinged tones. The Navarro SE’s secret weapon is a capacitor across the volume potentiometer. Plenty of guitars have one, but the value of this cap seems to work better than most. As you turn down to clean up an amp none of the clarity is lost, and there’s a simultaneous reduction in fatness that promotes clarity and definition.
The Navarro SE is an attractive, versatile and fine-sounding guitar. The lack of colour options may discount it as an option for some, but it’s easy to understand why this is such a popular model in the PRS range.
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