So the world’s least secret surprise is finally revealed - the long awaited John Mayer PRS S-Type which has already been seen out in the wild at various gigs. I must say that I am both pleasantly surprised and bemused at the same time, while the £2,300 ticket price is not unreasonable really compared to other pro USA-made ’strats’ by the likes of Suhr etc. It’s called the ’Silver Sky’, while its model designation is 635JM which comes from the source samples - John Mayer’s favourite ’63 and ’64 Stratocasters - where he and Paul ’borrowed’ the best aspects of each.
The headstock has been reversed and significantly modified - elongated and slightly reshaped - and features Nickel hybrid versions of ’kluson’ style backs with PRS’s top-loaded locking tuners. The bridge is entirely new and dedicated for his model - and features Fender-style sledge-shaped saddles - which are personally not really my favourites. The one thing in fact that I seriously question is the top-mounted jack which is just an old-fashioned design ideal and really not needed or useful any more. The guitar is pretty much identical in several specs to John’s previous signature Fender Strats - the pickups are PRS-made 635JMs - again evolved from the preferred ’63 and ’64 sound - and the Fretboard is a very skinny 7.25" radius.
Other than the very obvious PRS fixtures and appointments - we have the classic combination of Alder body, Rosewood Board and Maple Neck - also the Bone nut like the Fender originals. When you compare the PRS to its obvious inspirations - there are plenty of neat touches on the PRS that subtly differentiate. Overall the body-shape is slightly more symmetrical and elegant, as are the very slight nips and tucks made to the PRS scratch-plate and the twin body cuts.
I’ve already seen a lot of people weighing in on the ’Ugly PRS headstock’ angle, but I’ve actually always preferred the PRS headstock shape - which makes for infinitely better intonation and tuning stability - regarding string-pull / string-drop etc. I can guarantee that Paul and his team of engineers have spent thousands of man-hours pouring over every tiny detail and doing everything possibly to make improvements over the original templates. Overall, I must say I really like it, and especially in the silver / Tungsten colourway - it also comes in red (Horizon), white (Frost), and black (Onyx).
I have includes the Brent Mason Signature guitar here too - which is PRS’s first proper take on a close-ish S-Style replica (actually second after the PRS EG - I really meant first proper modern take...). The BM guitar has 24 frets over the other 2 here which have the usual 22, and greater versatility via HSH pickup arrangement (408s in the main) and with 2 coil-tap mini-toggles. The Brent Mason signature guitars have been discontinued for a couple of years now, but if they and the John Mayer were available now I would struggle to pick between them.
Generally though if you want a super high quality strat-alike with deft detail touches and significant scientific improvements over, yet very close sounding to the original Fenders - then the Silver Sky could well be your bag. Sure you can say some of it is tantamount to plagiarism - but then nearly every guitar manufacturer of note has a strat-style guitar where the only really discernible difference is the shape of the headstock - so PRS is very much covered there - and the PRS body really is a thing of beauty here - very subtly refined in several ways.
This certainly is not an everyman’s ’Strat’ that will surely come later in the form of an SE version; - this is more of a pro journeyman’s instrument which competes with the other boutique ’Strats’ out there. If I wanted a classic single coil Strat - I would be sorely tempted by this. All of those who don’t like the headstock shape - you still have several Fender and Charvel and very similar lookalikes out there! In some ways I would have preferred if PRS has done more of an Ibanez AZ -style approach here and generally tried to add something more rather than just making an as close-as-possible replica.