2023 Review: Guitars For Home Playing

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m doing a rundown of what guitars I’ve had my hands on, and what I’ve learned from the experience.

This post covers guitars that I play at home for fun. I’ll cover the guitars that I gig with tomorrow.

Previous years: [2019] [2020] [2021][2022]


I have a new (to me) #1 guitar … and it’s another Gibson Les Paul.

Last year, I found the right Telecaster for me. This year, I’ve found the right Stratocaster for me too. Well, actually, I found two of them 🙂

I’ve done unspeakable things to my PRS Paul’s Guitar in a (very) successful attempt to overcome my buyer’s remorse, after PRS themselves inspected the guitar and said there was nothing wrong with it (grrrr).

The Sigil Pickups Have A Home … And I Have A New #1 Guitar

I’ve had this set of Sigil Bluesman Snakebite pickups hanging around for the last few years. I put them in my Vintage Lemon Drop (a budget Les Paul copy), and they turned a pretty good guitar into a great-sounding one. However, my tastes in neck carve have changed in the last couple of years, and I decided to replace that guitar with one that has a bigger neck.

On the way home from holiday at the end of April, I swung by World Guitars and picked up a second-hand Gibson Les Paul CR8. It’s a chambered Les Paul with a lovely understated lemon drop top. The stock pickups were fine, but I’ve got to tell you: with the Snakebites in, this guitar is just perfect for me.

It’s replaced my PRS McCarty 594 (aka Deadnote) as my #1 guitar.

Tone-wise, it’s very similar to Deadnote, just … more. It’s got more power, more punch, more dynamics, more low-end, more top-end … more of everything that’s already good about Deadnote.

Deadnote isn’t going anywhere. I still love it and I still play it regularly. But if circumstances forced me to let one go, I’d keep the Les Paul CR8 over the McCarty 594.

Overcoming Buyer’s Remorse

In last year’s annual review, I wrote about how I treated myself to a PRS Paul’s Guitar (aka The Earl) as a 50th birthday present to myself … and how I do have buyer’s remorse.

Writing that spurred me on to do something about it.

I sent the guitar back to the dealer that I got it from, to have the problem with static build-up looked at. They, in turn, sent it back to PRS for them to work on it. Unfortunately, PRS sent it back saying there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it (grumble grumble). Fair to say, PRS’s total disinterest in the problem only made the buyer’s remorse worse.

But I was still playing the guitar, and still enjoying how unique it is. So I took matters into my own hands, and stripped all of the finish off of the neck. In the space of about an hour, I trashed the guitar’s resell value, and turned it into a much more usable instrument. It was the right decision.

As far as I can determine, the problem is two-fold: static charge builds up on the guitar’s finish, and the guitar pickups (especially the neck pickup) sucks at discharging that to ground.

I read on a forum somewhere that Gibson went through a phase with the same problem, and folks who’d run into this sorted it by replacing the pickups. The pickups on The Earl are unique; I can’t buy an aftermarket set of pickups for this guitar, and PRS don’t sell replacement pickups either. Plus, I bought this particular Paul’s Guitar because it didn’t sound like the others. There’s a risk that changing the pickups would take that away.

I couldn’t in good conscience sell the guitar on, knowing that it had an issue (even though PRS have given it a clean bill of health). I’d kept it too long to ask the retailer for a refund (although they might have been open to it).

That left one option: stopping the static from building up in the first place.

I experimented with a tumble dryer sheet. Before playing The Earl, I’d wipe down the back of the guitar and the neck with the tumble dryer sheet. This put a light coating over the guitar’s finish, which helped to prevent static building up. That convinced me that I was on the right track. But it was only a temporary solution. I wanted a permanent fix.

As it’s my hand movement along the neck that generates much of the static, I thought it made sense to strip the neck to take way the surface where the static first forms. And solve it, it did. Well, mostly. Certainly good enough for home use.

Static still forms on the back of the guitar. At some point, I’ll need to take it to a luthier to get all of the finish stripped off the entire guitar body. Maybe next year?

I’m very disappointed in PRS that I had to resort to this on Paul Reed Smith’s own signature guitar. This is the second PRS I’ve owned that has had a serious (non-cosmetic) problem. QC-wise, I’ve had far more problems with PRS than I’ve ever had with Gibson.

Still, I’m very glad that I kept the guitar and stripped the neck. Although I don’t consider it my #1 guitar, it is the guitar I play the most. It’s somewhat unique, and it brings something out of me that none of my other guitars do. The neck now has a satin finish (thanks to several coats of Crimson Guitar’s Penetrating Guitar Finishing Oil), which makes it play so much better than before. (What is it with PRS and their sticky, grabby neck finishes?!?)

I’m looking forward to many more years with this guitar.

I Found My Stratocaster!

More than anything else, The Earl showed me that what I really wanted was a great Telecaster and a great Stratocaster. Last year, I was able to say that I’ve found my Telecaster. This year, I feel that I’ve found my Stratocaster too.

I’ve actually found two of them.

The Paoletti Stratospheric Loft is a super-Strat with the softest, most vintage-like pickups that I’ve ever come across. It’s an incredibly sweet and mellow guitar. I can switch between the single coil pickups and the bridge humbucker without any noticeable change in volume or aggressiveness. It’s perfect for when I want delicate tones, or a single guitar that can do most things well.

At the other end of the spectrum is my PRS Silver Sky (aka The Fox). This gives me the sound of a 63 Fender Stratocaster (the sound I’ve been chasing with my upgraded green Fender Stratocaster) and then some. It’s bold, powerful, and demands attention. It’s also incredibly comfy to play (the Paoletti is a bit on the heavy side).

I’m so happy with the Silver Sky, I’ve stopped looking for The One That Got Away™ – the Fender Custom Deluxe Stratocaster from 2012. In fact, I’ve gone a bit further, and started moving my Fender Stratocasters on.

Any Plans For 2024?

The main thing I want to do is find the right pickup for Hedgehog – my other Squier Esquire.

At the moment, it’s rocking a Bare Knuckle True Grit Telecaster bridge pickup. While it does give me a sound that I can’t get from anything else – and I do love having options – I’m just not making much use of that sound. So I need to make a change.

One Reply to “2023 Review: Guitars For Home Playing”

  1. Glad you posted about the PRS Pauls guitar. I have a similar experience, so the noise is ‘by design’.
    I got mine in 2021 to be a single guitar to cover all grounds, but was really surprised by the amount of noise, especially when just lightly touching the strings. If you’re not careful you get pops and scratching sounds as you lift your fingers from the fretboard. Some people suggest it’s bad grounding on the guitar – that’s incorrect. If it was bad ground you would not cancel it by touching it. The noise is actually caused by your body which when touch the guitar creates and earth for your body which dissipates the noise from you. I put it down to the guitar’s shielding and pickups. I have a solution where I have wire from my foot stool to my pedal board – this grounds me and helps reduce the issue.
    Don’t get me wrong, this is a work around, and a disappointing one for a £4000 guitar.
    In the summer I also went on a hunt for a Strat. Settled on a Custom Shop ’64 from Coda. I expected this to have similar noise issues. But I was surprised when I plugged it in at home – silent and even with gain is very quiet.
    So definitely the PRS is the issue.

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