Product Review: Paul Reed Smith SE Kestrel Bass

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine, Issue 8

Authored by Platinum Viking

While I’ve always generally played and been a huge fan of humbucker pickups, I’ve recently been delving into finding a place for single-coil pickups in my repertoire. I find the PRS SE Kestrel Bass takes this traditional single-coil bass platform to heart with a solid build and clear punchy sound while adding plenty of elements of personality and character in to round out this solidly playable bass. With an approachable price point, it would fit well into one’s everyday choice workhorse basses or as a very viable beginner’s choice that could carry them through all the growing pains and triumphs.

“The Kestrel 4B “S” type single-coil pickups are definitely punchy, brighter, crisper, and focused, with walkable mid-lows, harmonic building high-mids, sweeping top end potential for slappers, and scooped mid-range to rock out with.”

The two things I like best about this bass are its overall look and feel as well as the effortless well-rounded tone it gives right out of the box for the money. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this bass, and it just looks good. The neck-through construction was a nice additional feature I was not expecting on this price range of bass, giving the tone a good amount of natural sustain and reinforcing the feeling that this is a rock-solid bass under your fingers. Its alder body, maple/walnut neck, and rosewood fretboard additionally give it a further balanced but dynamic tone with a distinctly pronounced mid-range bite that is useful when trying to stand out among the noise.

The Kestrel 4B “S” type single-coil pickups are definitely punchy, brighter, crisper, and focused, with walkable mid-lows, harmonic building high-mids, sweeping top end potential for slappers, and scooped mid-range to rock out with. While sometimes single-coil pickups can be more sensitive to ambient sound, PRS seems to have taken the time and effort to effectively eliminate any humming or buzzing potential. The 34-inch scale/22-fret-length beautiful bird inlaid fretboard is plenty expansive enough to use this bass as a beginner bass, up to an everyday workhorse for the daily player.

One of my favorite design choices is the addition of the Hipshot TransTone bridge, an advancement over the old BAII design, that allows for strings through the bridge or the body and changeable inserts that can add further controls over intonation, string height, and actual string spacing adjustment possibilities with no need to slot it yourself.

This was overall a very comfortable and easy-to-play bass. My only hesitation is the use of the Hipshot Ultralite HB6 tuner keys, as I wonder how well this part functionally ages with heavy use and lots of wear and tear, how well it holds up with much heavier gauged strings, or how it would react in different weather conditions. Only time and putting it through its paces may tell, but I would probably upgrade those as soon as I had the chance before taking it on the road. Ultimately, this bass really looks and sounds great and is solidly one of the best bangs for your buck in this price range.

MSRP:  $849.00
PRSGuitars.com

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