Review of PRS SE Fredrik Akesson Guitar -
Back in issue 10 we interviewed Opeth's guitar duo of Mikael
Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson - now it's time for the latter's
signature PRS guitar to get the treatment! Tim Slater
For readers who may not necessarily be au fait with the world of
progressive metal music (perish the thought! - Ed), Sweden's Opeth
boast a formidably talented lead guitarist in the form of Fredrik
Åkesson and his skills have recently seen PRS honour the fleet
fingered 40 year old from Stockholm with his own personal SE
Signature model. And Fredrik isn't the only member of Opeth to
receive this honour; lead vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt also
took delivery of his own PRS SE Signature earlier this year.
The SE Åkesson model is based on PRS popular PRS SE 245 single
cut but the overall feel is much closer to another older and very
familiar single cutaway design, whilst sidestepping falling into
the trap of becoming yet another Les Paul clone.
For starters, whilst the Åkesson's solid mahogany body is
significantly thicker than the standard PRS SE 245, the SE Åkesson
still remains lighter and more resonant than a typical LP style
axe. SE models always seem to possess an abundance of natural
resonance and the SE Åkesson is no exception, although the thicker
body also seems to lend this guitar's acoustic and amplified tones
extra gravitas. The quilted maple top is finished in an attractive
shade of dark brown (Forntida Brun), a shade that does the
attractive maple veneer justice.
Bearing in mind that Fredrik Åkesson is regarded as something of
a virtuoso Rock player, his signature SE features a couple of
subtle appointments that help pave a smooth pathway to unhindered
shredding. The lower cutaway is significantly deeper than the
standard SE 245, granting easier access to the upper reaches of the
neck during solo flights. The mahogany neck features PRS' standard
Wide Fat profile and is topped off with a smoothly luxurious ebony
fingerboard finished with 22 jumbo-sized frets. The classic bird
shaped fingerboard inlays present no puzzle regarding which stable
this guitar belongs to and, as ever, this Korean-made PRS is a
model of craftsmanship, demonstrating an exemplary standard of
finish that would leave many of its rivals envious.
The short 24.5-inch scale length is another feature that won't
exactly alienate Gibson players, even fairly heavy gauge strings of
0.11 still feeling supple and easy under the fingers, even when the
guitar is tuned to standard A440; although players who habitually
down-tune might find that this scale length is a little too short
to maintain an adequate string tension.
The control layout is wired to suit Fred (I'm sure that he won't
mind if we call him Fred) Åkesson's personal preference for the
bridge pickup. The quartet of rotary volume and tone controls sees
the front two knobs functioning as the volume and tone controls for
the bridge humbucker, putting both within easy reach of the
player's hand. Even if you are more accustomed to the more
traditional wiring, where the tone and volume controls for each
pickup are mounted horizontally rather than vertically as they are
in this case, the SE Akesson still feels very intuitive and doesn't
cause any confusion.
Sonically, the Åkesson is surprisingly gentle and accommodating.
I might have plugged in expecting a wild uncontrollable beast,
rearing and snorting as I fought for control, but what we actually
find is a very mellow and amiable guitar that places more emphasis
on sparkle and presence than unbridled aggression. The huge
TonePros adjustable stop tailpiece bridge plays a role here,
providing a solid anchor for the strings and helping to boost the
SE's abundant natural resonance by transmitting more of that all
important string energy directly down into the body. TonePros
hardware locks into place, too, guaranteeing that the bridge won't
fall off when the strings are removed or slackened.
Both pickups are PRS designed 245 humbuckers and whilst neither
appears to possess a particularly high output, they still offer the
warm beefy crunch and searing top end that has become something of
PRS' signature tone. Overall, the SE Åkesson feels like it has
plenty of room to breathe; back off the volume and it will jangle
away quite happily, crank it up and it barks with the forbidding
authority of a Rottweiler guarding a scrap merchant's cash box!
In common with many of its stable-mates in the SE lineup, the
Åkesson SE is a seriously grown-up guitar that is also very
affordable. Compared to many signature guitars, this SE feels more
like an everyman's guitar. You could walk into a guitar store, pick
up one of these and enjoy playing it purely on the strength of its
looks and features without even realizing that it is a signature
instrument and in our opinion that's why it works.
Regardless of whether or not you are an Opeth fan, a follower of
progressive metal, a Blues player or a classic rocker, if you love
this classic cutaway/mahogany combination then the PRS SE Fredrik
Åkesson ticks all of the right boxes. What's more it offers really
impressive value for money. This isn't a cheaply made Chinese
clone, it's a well designed, beautifully put together Korean-made
guitar with high quality materials and components, set-up to the
exemplary standard that has set PRS among the most consistently
well turned-out brands you will find in a guitar shop. We've given
it four and a half stars - yes, it's really that good!
Check out the full review inc. video of the PRS SE
Fredrik Akesson guitar by Tim Slater featured in
Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 17.