You can play hard and loud without fear
of overdriving the pre or distorting. One
caution: these pickups seem really susceptible to picking up 60-cycle hum from dirty
power or florescent lighting, so use a power
conditioner or choose your outlet wisely.
But back to the very first impression: undiluted cocobolo smells intoxicating. Dark yet
delicate, it wafts up at you the second you
open the case. (These guitars should come
with a warning label: Deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents may exacerbate
existing GAS to critical levels.)
But Does It Live Up to the Hype?
This guitar has a huge sound; voluptuous and
chimey, yet fantastically warm and phenomenally detailed. It’s a dark and glassy tone that is
hypnotically appealing. I do a lot of what I call
“interior melody” playing, which is a DADGAD
convention that came from having so many
droning notes available that you can play lead
and strum rhythm at the same time. With
some guitars, you have a little trouble picking
out where the melody is; they’re too bassy or
muddy sounding. The Tonare Grand somehow
makes those interior notes sound louder—they
really “pop” inside that wash of tone.
I played in every tuning I could think of
and found it to be remarkably responsive. It stayed quite resilient with the low
E-string tuned down to a C (in CGDGBD
and CBDGAE tunings), while a lot of guitars start to sound kinda flabby tuned that
low. Flatpicked or fingerstyle, there wasn’t
anything I could do to overdrive it or cause it
to sound muddy, distorted, brash or reedy. It
simply got louder the harder I played.
If flatpicking was effortless, fingerstyle was
incredible. Sustain is off the charts. Every
note rings—even when you fret over a ringing string, you can still hear the original note
ringing in the body. You can get a cascade of
notes flowing like a waterfall; play some harmonics and then play fingerstyle melody-and-bass over that, and you hear the harmonic
ringing well into the next line you play. This
guitar performs stunningly with hammer-ons,
pull-offs and tapping. Bends and slides take
on entirely new properties with the heightened sustain.
The proprietary PRS pickup system sounds gorgeous—rich and lush with every detail audible.
There is no mid-range hump that makes this
guitar sound “electric-y” plugged in. It sounds
remarkably like the guitar itself, only louder.
When you turn it up really loud, Oh Mamma,
it’s almost unmentionably good. Honestly,
there’s not a lot to add to my comments about
tone, because it’s so very WYPIIWYG (What
You Plug In Is What You Get). Whatever PRS
has done to make these guitars plug in this
good, they need to keep doing it.
The Final Mojo
The Tonare Grand is absolutely everything
you’d want in a guitar in this price range,
even significantly higher. It makes everything
easier. It makes you a better player because it
lets you play better. Truth be told, I got quite
melancholy when I had to send it back to
PRS. If you are looking at guitars in this price
range, look at these.
you’re ready to fall desperately
in love with a guitar you’ll use for
damn near everything.
you’re not a strong, confident player,
because you won’t ever demand the
best this guitar can be.
Click here to hear sound
clips of the guitar in action at
Street $5330 (base); $5855