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PRS S2 Vela Satin Review – Is This More Than Just an Iterative Upgrade for PRS’s Offset?

by Madonna

When the Vela was launched in 2015, it was a standout in the PRS lineup. It was the first all-original design in the more affordable US-made S2 line and the brand’s first-ever offset guitar, prompting many to ask: is this the coolest PRS ever?

Nine years on, the Vela has won over offset guitar purists, becoming a popular choice for Jazzmaster and Jaguar fans curious about PRS. It combines the unique qualities of offset guitars with PRS’s renowned craftsmanship.

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Now, in 2024, PRS has revamped the S2 line, addressing criticisms that the range was more like “USA SE” guitars than true PRS instruments. This blurring of lines is partly due to the high quality of PRS’s offshore instruments, as seen with the impressive SE CE24 Standard Satin. The other factor is Paul Reed Smith’s ongoing quest to perfect his instruments.

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So, can the tweaks to the Vela make it an essential offset guitar?

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What’s Different About the 2024 PRS S2 Vela Satin?

The S2 range, including the Vela, has undergone significant updates. The new Vela features brand-new pickups that bring it closer to the Core PRS range. The original Vela had a Type-D neck pickup and a PRS-Designed DS-01 bridge pickup. The 2024 model replaces these with a PRS Narrowfield pickup in the neck and a true PRS DS-01 in the bridge.

Aesthetically, the Vela retains its body shape, asymmetrical bevel top, low-mass locking tuners, Pattern-regular neck shape, control layout, and Plate-style bridge. A notable change is the finish – the satin nitro option, introduced later in the Vela’s life, adds a tactile and organic feel. Additionally, the fingerboard now features standard PRS bird inlays instead of dot-moon inlays.

Do the New Pickups Change the Sound?

The Narrowfield pickups are among the best PRS makes, offering a vintage style with a responsive bite that sits between a P-90 and a single coil. The neck position delivers a clear, articulate low end, perfect for clean tones and responsive to drive pedals. The DS-01 bridge pickup offers a bell-like chime reminiscent of Seth Lover’s Wide Range humbucker, superior to the previous Starla-derived SE version. The coil split adds single-coil chime, though it may be too thin for some tastes.

The in-between position blends the pickups’ highs and lows beautifully, making it versatile and dynamic, especially when paired with drive. Splitting this position yields a Danelectro meets Tele-single coil jangle.

Is the PRS S2 Vela Satin Worth the Money?

Despite seemingly incremental updates, the new S2 Vela is a significant improvement. While it doesn’t boast flashy new finishes or tuners, the changes under the hood are meaningful. The USA pickups and wiring are akin to a new processor in an Apple product – not radically different in appearance but vastly superior in performance. This makes the Vela one of the most versatile US-made offsets available.

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