Paul Reed Smith CE24 Review

Few things excited me from NAMM 2016 more than the return of the CE24. Legendary for their left-field approach to PRS design, these bolt-on maple neck models are loved by some for their tone and feel and hated by others for deviating from the PRS archetype as PRS are usually set necks.  Because this guitar is so unique, you may actually benefit from reading our guide to PRS models as well! 

So how does the CE24 stack up to the original, or even against the Custom 24 we have all come to know and love?  Let’s find out!



The full specs of this CE24 used for the review are as follows:

  • Mahogany Body
  • Carved Bookmatched Flamed Maple Top
  • Transparent Grey Black Satin Nitro Finish
  • Bolt-on Maple Neck with Pattern Thin Profile
  • Natural Body Binding
  • East Indian Rosewood Fretboard
  • Signature Bird Inlays
  • 25” Scale Length with 24 Frets
  • PRS Locking Tuners
  • PRS Non Locking Tremolo
  • 81/15 Treble & Bass Pickups
  • 3 Way Toggle
  • 1 Vol & 1 Push/Pull Tone

These are full-blown PRS guitars, but less expensive due to the bolt-on neck construction. Worth noting is that the carved top on the CE24 is actually different from the CU24 as there is less “rise” to the top carve.  These are still extremely comfortable guitars though, and they retain the curvy comfort of the Custom 24.

The bookmatching is killer on these flame tops and the finish is stunning. All the cuts of rosewood are very dark with a nice grain as well. The satin nitro really allows the wood to breathe and feels great, and the natural body binding is a nice touch.

PRS does their bolt-ons a little differently than you may have seen before. The neck plate is actually on the back of the body, because the neck extends into the body similar to a set neck. This keeps the joint really out of the way. Combined with the pattern thin neck, this is a very fast-playing guitar. Both shredders and traditional players alike will feel at home.  

It’s fantastic to see birds on CEs. The older ones, while still good guitars, had dots which just did not match the aesthetic, in my opinion. If I’m buying a PRS, I expect birds. This is moreso an anecdotal point, but to me it seemed like some lackluster tops were used on olds CEs, which is not true of the new models.



Bolt-on maple necks have great punch and clarity. Combine this with the thick tone from the 25” scale and mahogany body, and you have – in my opinion – the best sounding guitar Paul Reed Smith & Co offer in a production capacity.

The cleans are spankier, the distorted tones are punchier, and drop tuning is clearer. I personally like playing PRS in Drop C because I like the tension I can gets with 11-56 at that scale length, and these work fantastically for that, even with stock pickups.

Speaking of the stock pickups, they’re fantastically versatile. In Cu24s, they come off as a bit too rounded and warm for good metal tones, but they really benefit from the neck construction on the CEs. They sound especially good in the muscular, glassy split positions for percussive crunch and airy clean tones that dominate progressive music right now. Not to imply that this is simply a modern machine; luscious vintage tones are available in every position, just with more strat-like charm.

A pickup swap would definitely benefit someone looking for a very specific sound, or the most extreme metal tones imaginable, but I think it’s unnecessary in most cases.  You won’t buy this guitar and think to yourself, “Man I can’t wait to throw in a new set of pickups.” 

A normal CU24 will have a little bit more warmth due to the set neck. Some players really enjoy that for vintage rock and jazz tones, or put very aggressive ceramic pickups in to compensate when playing metal, but I personally like to have a punchy and well balanced tone straight from the guitar and have to manipulate that less after the fact.


Build Quality:

Like any USA PRS, there are no flaws on this guitar. Some buyers wrongly assume that these are built to a lower standard due to the lower price, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The only reason the CE24 is less expensive than the CU24 is due to bolt-on guitars being easier to manufacture.

An important note to make about PRS is that they are some of the best USA manufactured guitars in existence, including many US custom shops. The nuts come well-cut, the fretwork is fantastic, and there are no finish flaws. Electronics are top-tier and all the hardware is built to last. They stand head and shoulders above their largest competitor, Gibson, as well.

Comparing these in quality to a Cu24 is simply a non-issue, the differences come entirely in feel and tone.

Some of the older CE models developed cracks in/around the neck pocket, which is fairly common on bolt-on guitars.  We haven’t personally seen any appear on the CEs we’ve handled but that isn’t to say they may appear in the future.  Either way, most buyers in the used market know to expect neck pocket cracks on used instruments, and if they do appear, I can’t see it being a big deal.  People routinely pay large sums for vintage Ibanez Jems on the used market which almost always come with significant neck pocket cracks.


Final Verdict:

The CE24 is back, and it’s better than ever. Just as well built as a traditional PRS, these guitars finally have the great tops and inlays to match the brand.

The bolt on maple neck adds the punch and clarity required to sound fantastic in all genres, including heavier ones, even without swapping pickups. Though, you could easily do that to really take it to the next level if you have a very specific and more specialized tone in mind.

This is personally one of my favorite guitars every made by PRS, even though some people will prefer their more traditional models. If you’re curious about what we think of the classic CU24, you can read our review of the CU24 here.

This model is perfect either for people looking to get into PRS that like the design but not the dark rounded tone, or for longtime PRS fans looking for a punchier sound.  If I was looking for a PRS to play metal, then this one would be it, no questions asked.


Make sure to check out more of our articles

Here’ a gallery of some of the colors the CE24 comes in…

PRS CE24 grey black

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