PRS S2 Vela Review

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Since its introduction in 2013, PRS’s S2 range has worked to bridge the gap between the company’s most affordable and most expensive guitars. PRS’s cost-savings strategy for the S2 was simple. The company fitted U.S.-made bodies and necks, built using the more streamlined manufacturing processes of PRS’s Stevensville 2 facility, with Asia-made electronics from the SE line.

But with the introduction of the 2024 S2s, PRS made a critical change to that formula. Now, the S2s use the same homegrown pickups and electronics featured in PRS’s Core lineup, which, depending on your perspective, makes the new S2s more like entry-level Core guitars rather than instruments situated a whole rung down the status ladder. The U.S.-made electronics mean a price bump from older S2s that averages around $300. But in the case of the pretty S2 Vela reviewed here, that adds up to slightly more than $2K, which among American-made solidbodies represents a fairly competitive price.

Less Flash From the Birds

Among PRS purists, at least, the offset Vela has always been a bit underappreciated. The new S2 version is a lovely guitar, though. It’s built around a solid mahogany body and set mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard, and the asymmetrically beveled shape provides forearm comfort and helps set the Vela apart from more slab-like offset designs. Though the asymmetrical double-cutaway and horns echo classic PRS looks, there’s also something a bit SG-like about the overall result. It’s impressively lightweight, too, at just less than 7 pounds. Our review guitar came with a gloss finish that PRS calls scarlet sunburst, but four other gloss options are available, or you can save yourself about 300 bucks and opt for a satin-finish version.

The neck is carved to PRS’s “pattern regular” shape, a comfortably rounded medium-depth “C,” with a width of 1 21/32″ across the nut and 22 medium-jumbo frets. The scale length is 25″. Synthetic bird inlays grace the unbound fretboard, but the rest of the cosmetics are elegantly austere, which helps reduce the price, but will also appeal to players that like the PRS profile but care less for the flash.

One of the cool things about this model is that it doesn’t sound quite like anything else.”

The S2 Vela’s pickup complement includes a U.S.-made DS-01 humbucker in the bridge position and a Narrowfield humbucker in the neck spot. This configuration differs from earlier S2 Velas, which used a DeArmond-style Type-D single-coil in the neck position. Wiring and switching use the same components as Core models. In addition to the 3-way toggle, there’s a push-pull pot on the tone control that splits the coils of the DS-01. This feature employs elements of the popular DGT wiring, which uses a resistor between the push-pull switch and ground, so part of the “dumped” coil output remains to fatten the signal and tone.

Hardware includes a set of PRS Low-Mass locking tuners at one end, and the relatively new plate-style non-vibrato bridge at the other. The bridge employs slots for top-loading the strings, and two 3-string brass saddles, each milled and angled for compensation and adjusted with two intonation screws per saddle for further fine-tuning. The setup is effective. The Vela rings like a bell when played unplugged, and intonation is perfect right out of the included gigbag. The setup also made the S2 Vela an easy player across the whole neck—a PRS hallmark, most would agree.

Vicious Vela-ciraptor

Paired with black-panel Fenders, Marshall-style heads, and a Fractal FM9 modeler, the S2 Vela is very versatile despite some distinctly retro sonic leanings. One of the cool things about this model is that it doesn’t sound quite like anything else. If you need sonic archetypes for reference you could consider the DS-01 a blend of the Gretsch Filter’Tron and the PAF-style Gibson humbucker, while the Narrowfield sounds a bit like a low-wind P-90 crossed with a Stratocaster pickup. Together they add up to a very original palette and plentiful options. This is a guitar that can do a little of everything and just about anything a gigging player would need on a given night.

In full humbucking mode, the bridge pickup can send overdriven sounds to soaring lead-tone heights. And while there’s arguably a brighter, more biting edge here than some traditional humbuckers express, it’s not harsh or shrill. Tame the distortion at your amp or gain pedal and you can use the DS-01 for thick tones ranging from fat cleans to crunch, each in their own distinctive color. In single-coil mode, too, the DS-01 doesn’t obviously reference any specific tone template. Brighter and lighter than the full-humbucking tone, it’s also a little scooped and even slightly out-of-phase sounding, even though it isn’t out of phase. It serves all kinds of jangly, chimey styles well, and truly shimmers through modulation and reverb effects.

The Narrowfield pickup, meanwhile, is well-suited to the neck position, delivering the warm feel of a vintage humbucker without the dull or muddy response that is often a trade-off. It adds a touch of extra cut to the bluesy leads and mellow rhythm work that you’d usually use a neck pickup for, but with an appealing richness and depth that are, again, very much their own.

The Verdict

Whether you need Telecaster twang, throaty Strat-like blues tones, grinding garage-rock crunch, or something more distinct, the S2 Vela is game. It’s well-rounded and impressively well-made, and the styling and sound are simultaneously fresh and retro-leaning in ways that can and should broaden PRS’s appeal. Together, the lightweight mahogany body, plate-style bridge with brass saddles, and DS-01 and Narrowfield pickups produce resolutely different tones within the PRS family and among many solidbody standard bearers. And it achieves these ends with gusto, flare, and value that make it a very appealing option.

USA-Made Pickups Now in PRS Guitars S2 Vela & Custom 24-08 | First Look

PRS S2 Vela Electric Guitar – Scarlet Sunburst

S2 Vela Scarlet Sunburst

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