From jim.collin–(at)–andem.com Mon Jun 1 21:11:06 CDT 1998
Article: 265147 of alt.guitar
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From: Jim Collins
Subject: PRS McCarty Soapbar — Review (long)
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For a couple of years, now, I’ve been playing a PRS McCarty. I’ve
always been thrilled with this guitar. It sounds great and is a joy to
play. I thought to myself that it sure would be cool to have something
that plays this well, but was loaded with P-90 pickups. I even briefly
toyed with the idea of acquiring another McCarty, but having the Seymour
Duncan Custom Shop make me some P-90-sounding humbuckers. I never had
to act on this fantasy, because shortly after having this dream, PRS
announced several new models for 1998. One of them was the McCarty
Soapbar — a McCarty loaded with specially designed Seymour Duncan P-90
pickups. I called up Eddie Berman at Indoor Storm to get the lowdown on
this new model, and ended up laying claim to the one he had ordered. It
arrived last Wednesday.

The McCarty Soapbar has a mahogany body with a maple top, and a mahogany
neck with a rosewood fretboard. It is only available in opaque colors.
This one is in ocean turquoise. It is a stunning, deep, deep
turquoise. The entire guitar is finished in this color — the top, the
back the neck, and the headstock. The only wood that isn’t this color,
other than the rosewood fretboard, is the faux binding strip on the
body. (It is not true body binding. The sides of the guitar cap are
left unstained or unpainted so that it looks like body binding.) The
hardware is all chrome, the volume and tone knob are black, and the
pickup selector switch and pickup covers are cream. The bridge is the
usual wraparound stud tailpiece. The tuners on this guitar are the
non-locking variety found on other McCarty models. The neck is the PRS
wide/fat neck.

The finish is flawless, and the color contrasts beautifully with the
cream pickup covers. This guitar also has bird inlays, and the inlay
work is perfect. The fretwork is also top quality. The neck is
unbound. This guitar is nice and light — about the same weight as my
other McCarty. I’ve never had any trouble wearing one of these all
night at a gig.

So, how does it sound? When I first plugged in, I noticed that the tone
was pretty bright with the volume down low. The tone circuit in the
McCarty Soapbar is not wired in the same manner as a regular McCarty.
Instead, it is wired like a Custom. One of the elements of this design
is a 180 picofarad treble boost cap. My other McCarty has no treble
bleed cap, and the tone control and the tone capacitor are wired
differently. On my humbucker McCarty, you notice a loss of treble as you
roll off the volume — this is normal. On the other PRS guitars,
including the Soapbar, you do not notice this. This is a good thing,
because it affords you a greater range, especially from the bridge
pickup.

The guitar has a Les Paul style pickup selector switch, with the three
usual positions. There are no other hidden switching options — that
is, the tone control is not a push/pull control.

These pickups are really happening. They seemed to be higher output
than I remember my old P-90s being — at least the bridge pickup. So, I
put in a short cord, and measured the DC resistance with the volume pot
and tone pot up full. The neck pickup measured about 8.0K, which is
about the same as a Seymour Duncan vintage neck P-90. The bridge pickup
measured a beefy 11.5K, or thereabouts. (My multitester does not have a
digital readout.) This is hotter than a vintage P-90, but not as hot as
a Seymour Duncan Custom P-90 bridge. That’s perfect, for me. I like a
bridge pickup that is a bit hotter. These things sound great. They are
bright, but not piercing. I played the guitar using the same amp
settings I use for my humbucker equipped guitars, and it works fine.
Typically, I set my amps up on the bright side, when I’m using
humbuckers, and if I plug single coils in, they often come off shrill.
These do not. They are bright and beautiful.

The neck pickup sounds full and crisp. The bridge pickup has some
terrific bite. You can get early Freddy King tones, from his P-90 days,
by backing off the volume and taking advantage of the treble boost cap.
But you don’t have to stop with those tones. There is wide range,
here. Open it up wide, and you can sting. By the way, the pickups are
wound RW/RP with respect to each other, so the middle position is hum
cancelling. The hum in the other positions is present, but really not
bad — the control cavity is shielded with shielding paint. (Single
coil buzz is hard to quantify. Some folks are very sensitive to it, and
others don’t really care. Unless the pickups are hideously noisy, I
usually park myself in the second camp.)

The first night with this guitar was spent at home with a Mesa Maverick
amp. The next night was with the band, at rehearsal, also with the
Maverick. The following night was gig night, and I wanted to really
give this beauty the acid test. I started the first set with this
guitar, running through a Groove Tube Soul-o 75 head and GT 4×10 cab.
The next day, we had some studio time booked, and I wanted to hear how
this would record. I used the Maverick at the studio.

At the gig. I normally run the GT amp through both channels at once,
which allows me to the exact overdrive tone I want, and I can go from
clean to overdrive with just my volume control. I do not normally go
for very high gain settings. This guitar behaved beautifully, with this
setup. The neck pickup, with the volume low gave me a mouth-watering
rhythm tone. Every note in the chord showed up, and they all hung
around for a while. When you get a tone like this, you don’t mind
staying in the rhythm pocket. When it comes time to burn, there’s
plenty of fuel. Either pickup lets you be heard, and that bridge pickup
screams. This guitar sustains for a long time, and the pickups get all
the guitar has to offer. The GT and the Soapbar made fast friends.

The studio time was the first time I really heard what the Soapbar can
do with the Maverick. Prior to that, it was low volume practice. In
the studio, I got that gorgeous rhythm tone I mentioned. And, when it
came time to burn, that guitar held the match. It sounds great both
clean and distorted.

I’m really impressed with this guitar. I can’t really think of anything
negative to say, except that some folks may be disappointed by the fact
that it is only available in opaque colors. I also do not know if all
of the Soapbar guitars will be single-colored — that is, will the top,
neck, back, and headstock all be the same color, or will some guitars
feature stained backs, necks, and/or headstocks. If you like the sound
of P-90s, take a look at one of these.

Jimmy

 

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