When you say ‘Paul Reed Smith’, the first guitarist that comes to my mind every time is Carlos Santana. At this point PRS and Santana are almost synonymous. In fact, Santana is such an iconic and influential PRS player that his signature inspired the first ever ‘SE Series’ guitars in 2001. PRS’s goal for the SE model was to recreate the same feel and tone that the Santana Signature PRS presented, into a more affordable model.

Today, we’ll be looking at the latest SE Santana model and see if it still has all of the mojo that the Santana model became known for.


  • Mahogany Body
  • Maple Top w/ Flamed Maple Veneer
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Mahogany Neck
  • 24.5″ Scale Length
  • 24 Frets
  • Wide Fat Neck
  • PRS Patented Tremolo
  • PRS Designed Tuners
  • Nickel Hardware
  • SE Santana Pickups
  • Volume and Tone Control with 3-Way Toggle Pickup Selector

In the current PRS lineup, the only Santana model available (other than the SE) is the Santana Retro. There is actually quite a bit that separates the SE model from the Retro model, such as a signature fretwire, pickup choice, neck shape, and hardware in the Retro model. One of the differences I found most interesting was that the SE model features a signature ‘Santana Yellow’ color, whereas the Retro model does not.

The Wide Fat profile is an older PRS neck profile that is currently only offered on the Santana SE model, for the sake of the classic vibe. The closest current profile is the ‘Pattern’, such as the neck on the PRS McCarty and Custom 22 models. It’s quite a thick neck profile, and definitely a different world for someone more used to a shredder neck. It’s really great for playing rhythms and blues styles. Plenty to hold on to and it serves as an anchor when playing complex chord shapes.

SE Santana


The Mahogany body and Maple neck lends itself well to this guitar. The low end is rich and warm, and the guitar sustains freely. I won’t get into the acoustic sounds too much as we see this wood combo everywhere.

(If you want to read more about wood though, I’d recommend checking out this quick guide to tonewoods.)

The SE Santana pickups themselves are very musical and vintage-inspired of course. Loads of harmonic character without much breakup. As far as the EQ curve, they have a really warm low end and a prominent midrange as well. I’m a huge blues fan, so I had an absolute blast with these, as that’s precisely what they are made for. Blues, crystal cleans, and vintage tones shine here.

This guitar is definitely the opposite end of the spectrum from it’s metal-oriented cousin, the Mark Holcomb SE. Definitely check that one out if you’re looking for something that sounds a bit more aggressive.

Build Quality:

Something to point out is while these guitars are built in Korean factories, they still have to pass PRS Quality Inspection upon entering the USA Factory. So while they might no be built by the amazing PRS luthiers, they are quite consistent.

Something really neat about the SE series is that instead of using a tiny veneer top like many other manufacturers do on their cheaper lines, PRS actually uses a legitimate Maple top, then adds a Flamed Maple veneer to that. So while you’re not getting a huge chunk of flamed maple, you’re at least getting a nice thick top, just with a flamed veneer.

The particular SE Santana that I played had very little build issues overall. The finish was super gorgeous and shiny, the electronics were clean, and the fret job was smooth.

There was one really big issue, which I can’t really blame PRS for, because it could have easily happened in shipping or handling at the shop I played it in. One of the tuning machines was totally wrecked. The actual tuning key of the ‘G’ string was totally bent and had a lot of issues staying in tune. I’ve never even experienced this issue before. This is obviously something the shop selling the guitar should address and have no reflection on the manufacturer, but I thought I should rant about it on the internet because it upset me to see this on such a nice guitar.

(Luckily, we would never send out a guitar with an issue like this. Our expert quality check absolutely assures this!)

Overall, the SE instruments are some of the highest quality outsourced guitars I’ve ever played, and that says a lot. PRS makes sure these guitars go out without any flaws.

Final Verdict:

The SE Santana is exactly what I expected out of it. It’s an affordable, yet sweet guitar that you can score under $800. Smooth pickups, comfortable/unique neck profile, and a gorgeous look are the standout features of this instrument.

I ran into one issue that I don’t blame PRS for, but other than that, the guitar was incredibly built for what it cost.

The Santana is a great fit for any player looking for a blues/jazz workhorse, or to add a unique sounding guitar to the studio selection!


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This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.

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