In 1985, luthier Paul Reed Smith started producing factory-made guitars, and over the next two decades, the cutting-edge, innovative PRS designs permanently changed the electric guitar industry. Initially introduced that first year, the Custom 24 is the definitive original PRS model.
Relative to guitars available from other builders in the '80s, the Custom 24 was unlike any production model on the market. It combined many intriguing high-end details into one extremely versatile, expressive guitar that covered a vast array of sounds and applications. The Custom 24 features a solid mahogany body with a Flame Maple top, a 24-fret set neck, an in-between 25" scale length (not long, not short), two humbucker pickups, Paul's innovative tremolo system, and a five-way rotary selector switch.
When players first picked up a Custom 24, the 24-fret neck felt long, and its low-profile carve was fast and smooth. The unfettered access all the way up to the second octave just means more musical possibilities. In the '80s, most players preferred the warmer, more powerful, compressed sound of humbuckers, so the Standard Bass and Standard Treble pickups looked the part. But the five-way rotary switch offered three new ways to combine the two pickups, unlocking a vast array of usable and versatile sounds. Plus, the tremolo allows you to dive-bomb and get out there without knocking the guitar out of tune. Locking Schaller tuners help quite a bit, too. It's a guitar that can keep up with you all night and deliver great tone for whatever sound you need.
As for details, Paul Reed Smith's double cutaway body, carved top, and offset headstock were eye-catching and novel. And the contours of the body are more comfortable than the clunky '70s guitars, too. Also, the early PRS guitars aren't as deep as the later '90s models, so they're a bit lighter in weight, and they feel sleek on your lap or hanging from a strap. On the fingerboard, "Birds in Flight" inlays guide the way to all 24 frets. The playability, fit, and finish were unparalleled in the '80s, and because of that, players across a wide variety of genres picked up PRS guitars simply because they were more versatile and more usable—true player's guitars.
This 1988 Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 is a great example of an early production-era PRS, and it sports a gorgeous Black Cherry finish. It has been played aggressively, so it shows considerable play wear. We've done our best to photograph the various dings and nicks to the body, and the peghead shows some bumps and bruises, too. Most severe is a finish chip on the back edge by the strap button, and there is an oversized metal washer underneath that strap button that covers up some wear. A previous owner replaced the original cream humbucker rings with black rings (which look right on this guitar), but the original cream rings are included. Also, the height adjustment screws on the neck pickup are not original. They're a bit oversized, too, so the body rout was drilled an extra ~1/4" to account for the extra length. Lastly, the graphite saddles on the bridge may not be original.
This 1988 Custom 24 has been refretted, and because of that, it plays like a brand new guitar. Its setup is smooth, low, and fast. This '88 Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 includes its original case as well as some of the original paperwork. It has been played and enjoyed, and the playwear is just proof that it is such a fantastic instrument with a lot to offer. This guitar will push you in ways you might not expect. There's definitely something special about these early PRS guitars!