PRS S2 594 McCarty
Posted by Robinson Earle on Sep 2nd 2020
PRS S2 594 McCarty
In the world of electric guitars, PRS is unique in their endless search for tonal and ergonomic perfection. While other guitar builder’s content themselves with simply offering stellar examples of classic designs, PRS has committed to reverse-engineering a vintage style of their own based on the insights gleaned from decades of experimentation. In many ways, the PRS McCarty S2 594 is the culmination of this effort. This guitar exists at the cross-roads of acoustic and electric tonality. It is an uncanny blend of modern and vintage style. Its ascendant pedigree is the product of careful breeding and sensitivity to the era of its conception.
Originally introduced as a core model, The S2 version of the 594 McCarty aims to make the instrument accessible to a broader player base through a lower price point. The uniqueness of the McCarty 594 demanded it be made more accessible, and it is a testament to the integrity of PRS that they were able to cut the cost of production while still building the guitar in Stevensville, Maryland. Working class musicians deserve high-quality instruments, and the PRS 594 McCarty S2 is one of the most exceptional mid-priced electrics guitars on the market.
McCarty: A Nod to Legacy
Wisdom has a way of traveling between like-minded fellows. Paul Reed Smith refined his early designs based on input from guitar dealers and famous musicians such as Carlos Santana. In the late 80s, he had the humility and good sense to reach out to former Gibson president, Ted McCarty, for advice. McCarty helmed Gibson from 1950-1966, during which time they released some of their most iconic instruments. Together, PRS and Ted McCarty developed new designs and production techniques that proved integral to the expansion of the PRS brand. The McCarty series guitars are a tribute to the power of mentorship and collaboration.
58/15 S Pickups
One of the unique innovations included on the S2 McCarty 594 guitars are the 58/15 pickups. Carefully crafted by Paul Reed Smith, these pickups accurately capture the essence of vintage style and tone. While many contemporary builders use different pickups in the neck and bridge positions to improve the versatility of their instruments, PRS recognized that the best vintage guitars relied on the subtleties of the instrument, itself, to create contrast between the pups. 58/15 pickups proved massively successful, and have become some of the most popular PAF-style Humbucker pickups on the market. They are revered for their warmth, clarity, and vintage tone.
A New Scale Length
PRS has long recognized the enormous influence that scale length has on the tone and feel of an electric guitar. Historically, Fender employed a 25.5” scale length on their instruments, while their main competitor, Gibson, used a 24.75” scale length. Both the long and short scales offer advantages. The longer scale improves sustain and in-tune-ness up the fretboard, while the shorter scale lends the guitar openness and ease of playability. In an effort to strike a happy medium between the two guitar giants, PRS employed a 25” scale on his instruments. Hordes of guitarists found that this compromise offered benefits with no disadvantages, and great contributed to the establishment of PRS as the new big name in the world of electric guitars.
Ever oriented towards growth and innovation, PRS decided a further refinement of scale length was necessary for the McCarty guitars and the PRS S2 McCarty 594. At 24.594”, the S2 McCarty is even shorter than the standard short scale, but the whole balance of the instrument ensures that it still offers massive sustain and flawless intonation. Uniquely the best of all worlds, the S2 McCarty 594 rings out nearly indefinitely (45 secs?) at the slightest provocation (just plug it in). Furthermore, it’s piano-like in-tune-ness is second to none. PRS deserves massive accolades for being bold enough to calculate the ideal scale length for this guitar and its particular construction rather than relying on the established formulas.
The Interface IS the Instrument: The Tone Knobs & 3 Way Selector Switch
Despite having two identical 58/15 S pickups, the PRS S2 McCarty 594 boasts a staggering array of eminently usable tones. In addition to the classic arrangement of bridge, middle (dual), neck Humbucker combinations available via the 3-way selector switch, each of the S2 McCarty’s tone controls are push/pull for coil tapping. The full-on Humbucker options are full, warm, and exhibit a nearly acoustic lushness, while the single-coil sounds are ideal for integrating into any sort of mix. From Funk to Jazz to Heavy Rock, this guitar is infused with the raw DNA of music, itself. In seconds, with a couple push/pull motions and a flick of the 3-way toggle switch, you’ll be able to dial in the perfect tone for any rig or context.
The Hardware IS the Instrument: Tuners
Paul Reed Smith likes to tell his taught his team of builders at PRS guitars that, “everything that touches the string is god”. For this reason, every bit of material, for every piece of hardware, is meticulously sourced, machined, and custom crafted to perfection. The S2 McCarty 594 features the same vintage-style tuners included on the core model McCarty 594, which are prized for their light weight, old-school aesthetic, and brass shafts (Paul prefers the string make direct contact with brass).
The Hardware IS the Instrument: Nut
Set in the mahogany neck is an alchemical triumph of a nut composed of synthetic material and bronze powder. This blend results in a bright, ringing tone that perfectly suits the McCarty. PRS is adamant that every nut material lends the guitar a differential timbral quality, and the synthetic/bronze powder nuts are used on some of their highest-end instruments.
The Hardware IS the Instrument: Bridge
For a master-class on building guitars, every PRS fan should check out the Rules of Tone videos on YouTube. This series consists of candid, behind-the-scenes interviews with Paul Reed Smith as he fawns over every piece of hardware that hits his bench. As he unwraps the 2-piece stop-tail bridge he mentions that he feels, “like a kid on Christmas morning”. Three different metals are represented: the saddles, thumbwheels, and tailpiece posts are unplanted brass, the tailpiece is aluminum, and the bridge, itself, is zinc. The pride and satisfaction that PRS take in every facet of guitar design is simply inspiring.
The first thing you notice when you pick up a guitar is its neck. Does it feel smooth, slick, loose, stiff? With the PRS S2 McCarty 594, the mahogany neck feels like an extension of your hand. It literally has music carved into it, with a subtlety asymmetric Pattern Vintage neck profile that anticipates your wrist movements as you shift positions. You’ll soon be soaring like the iconic bird inlays that adorn the richly striped rosewood fretboard. The pattern vintage is most popular neck profile amongst PRS employees for good reason. Even the frets are a masterpiece; machined from the finest nickel, they are custom made to match the 10” radius of a PRS guitar neck, and are carefully superglued in to prevent any movement due to moisture. As gigging musicians, themselves, the shop at PRS tends to think of everything. They preside over the marriage of vintage style with modern reliability. The pattern vintage neck profile is the product of thousands of hours on stage and at the bench.
Saving the best for last, PRS is extremely particular about wood selection. The body is made of Mahogany. Mahogany is one of the most versatile, adaptable hardwoods in the world. Owing to its grain structure, it is extremely stable and easy to work with, which is the principle reason why one encounters so many guitars with a mahogany neck. As a body wood, it lends an electric guitar warmth, punch, and definition. To top it all off, the S2 McCarty 594 has a beautifully figured Maple top, which adds sparkle and high end.
PRS has long offered some of the best-looking finishes on the market, and the S2 McCarty 594 is no exception. The trick is to land on a consummately appetizing hue that still showcases the lovely grain of the flamed maple top. Whale Blue, a deep opulent shade, seems to be the most popular option. Sticking with the animal theme, Elephant Gray would be a great choice for hard-rockers who aren’t afraid to show their tusks. Of course, if you want a guitar to play fast, it’s got to be red, andScarlett Redensures that you’ll leave thirsty fans in your wake. Finally, the sunbursts, that guitaristic homage to the earth’s daily crepuscular displays. Just as there are many varieties of sunset and dusk, PRS offers the S2 McCarty 594 in a bevy of tints. There is the earthy Burnt Amber, the effulgent Dark Cherry Burst, the denim-esque Faded Blue Smokeburst, and the quintessential McCarty Sunburst.
The S2 McCarty 594 at Midwood Guitar Studio
If you’re on the search for that holy grail, that white whale, while then maybe a S2 McCarty 594 is exactly the guitar that you’ve been looking for. With its unique style and accommodating scale length, it’s bound to be something new to the uninitiated. Paul Reed Smith has been building and obsessing over classic guitars for a long time. The S2 McCarty 594 is PRS guitars contribution to the world of affordable, vintage-inspired electric guitars.
The catalyst for the model can be partially traced back to a building clinic that featured Paul Reed Smith as a speaker. In his description of desirable characteristics for an electric guitar, Smith consistently referred to rare models that no one in the audience had ever had an opportunity to play. After this was pointed out by an audience member, it dawned on Smith that he had to find a way to incorporate the arcane knowledge about vintage instruments that he’d gleaned over the years into new guitars. After all, many of the historic guitars used on classic rock recordings were not old at the time. Therefore, they could conceivably be reverse-engineered to perfection.
Another experience that led to the first McCarty model involved two famous and hugely influential players, Duane Allman and David Grissom. Basically, Grissom approached Paul Reed Smith with a request for a guitar that sounded like Allman on “Live at the Fillmore East”, one of the greatest guitar records ever released. Paul set to work, but when he finished what he had intended to be a signature Grissom model, it reflected so much of Ted McCarty’s influence on him as a builder that he was moved to name it after his mentor.
Here at Midwood Guitar Studio, we value the history and the lore as much as the instruments themselves. We count ourselves as part of a long tradition of innovation that involves musicians, luthiers, and small shops that spread the gospel of Rock & Roll. The PRS S2 McCarty 594 manages to check virtually all our check-marks for a stellar instrument, the kind that we want to offer to our fellow players. From its uniquely accommodating 24.594 scale to its ergonomic, effortless pattern vintage neck, the S2 McCarty manages to scratch an itch that other guitars cannot touch. It’s iconic, yet adaptable voicing is both familiar and wholly original, and becomes fresh and exciting with every pickup combination and subtle shift of the tone controls. Furthermore, we greatly appreciate the effort that PRS put forth to build an S2 version of the McCarty 594 that was still constructed in Maryland. In these uncertain times, it’s a huge relief to know they we can have truly boutique, American made instruments without having to sell our cars!
If you’re interested in trying out one of these exceptional instruments, or something else, please give us a call, shoot us an e-mail, or stop by for a test drive!