PRS John Mayer Silver Sky, just a 'copy and paste'?

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

As many of you will know the relationship between John Mayer and the Fender company has not been the best in recent years. In this period we have seen the guitarist flirting with many different guitar brands to his once inseparable companion Fender Stratocaster. The main reason for these ‘dalliances’ may have to do with the guitarist's desire for over a decade to build his own guitar from scratch which, according to him, he has never been able to do at Fender ... and what happens when a company does not give you the service you want? Well, you go to another. It is at this moment in our story when Mr. Paul Reed Smith appears.  

Why has John Mayer been talking to Paul Reed Smith instead of the CEO of his beloved company Fender? Well, very simple; because Paul Reed Smith is a guy who makes guitars and apart from remaining the owner of his own company he also has a telephone number; while Fender is a gigantic conglomerate of departments and people in charge that means, in Mayer's own words, in the end "you don’t know who to call."  

That direct communication between a superstar of the guitar and a guitar builder who continues to hold the reins of his company is the key that leads us directly to the protagonist of this article: The PRS John Mayer Silver Sky.

Is this the nth iteration of a Stratocaster? It could be. But if we take into account that we are talking about a guitar devised by one of the best guitarists on Planet Earth and, above all, a guitarist who takes care of his sound and the tone we hear in each of his songs, and the fact that this guitar is designed and built by one of the most important guitar makers in history, a meticulous genius as no other, we don’t think it's appropriate to simply use the word "copy" and leave it at that - and for that reason we're going to delve a little deeper into what this new PRS offers us.  

'Copy and paste'. What is a copy? 

Of course it's a guitar based entirely on a Fender Stratocaster. But that has its logic since that is really the guitar upon which John Mayer has forged his legend, so it is not surprising that he likes its sound as much as his design. The PRS Silver Sky starts from John Mayer's desire to perfect his favourite Fenders and bring them into the XXI century; so in this section of 'copy and paste' we are forced to include both its design and its sound.  

The guitar's radius is 7.25, the favorite of Mayer's vintage Fender. The pickups are called 635JM because they try to merge the sound of the Strat's pickups from '63 and '64 that John Mayer himself has selected and enjoyed for years.

And of course we are talking about a guitar with two tone controls and one volume, and five positions in the pickup selector like any decent Strat.


What does PRS contribute?

Let's start talking about what draws our attention to its design. The first thing we notice is that the 'dots' of the typical Fender frets here become the birds that are so characteristic of the PRS. In addition we can see a considerable reduction of the classic body of Strat to make it more comfortable for the guitarist to reach the frets closer to the body of the guitar.  

The input of the jack is slightly raised making the cable connection on the guitar more comfortable. The head is one of the main differences with the classic Strat since the strings are separated in threes and not in a line of six like the original Leo Fender design. But even in the body structure the design of Mayer’s 63 Strat has been taken into account, so that the position of his hand on it is as similar as possible to the one he had with the Strat that he played more comfortably. Of course, we emphasize that the final design of the body is one hundred percent PRS but in an inverted way (the longest horn in this model is next to the first three strings and not the other way around as usual). Another basic improvement is that the tremolo lever does not twist but fits perfectly just by inserting it into the hole, in a much faster way.

In short, PRS has wanted to 'clone' the sound of a Fender Stratocaster 63/64 and has also added certain improvements to its design to achieve greater comfort for today’s guitarist. Noises have been eliminated, the five-position selector gives you five different but regulated tones with the same output (which is not the case with Fender’s three positions, which even by modifying the selector and adding five positions to the vintage model it is difficult to achieve a balance between the output of the three originals and the two intermediate positions). In short, they have tried to make the Strat that appeared in the wet dreams of John Mayer.  

Have they achieved it? Well we have to refer to the singer himself, who says ‘yes’, and also highlights above all that perhaps two or three Strats of the time had that tone and that magic that everyone craves; but in the case of the Silver Sky, and thanks to the perfectionism of Paul Reed Smith, the percentage of success at the time of finding that tone is one hundred percent. Besides, he emphasizes that he does not have a PRS of his own or with different materials, but that it is the series that he uses and that which any ‘son of a neighbour’ can buy today. Another key point that he highlights is that you do not have to spend 20,000 euros to get that tone, but this model you can get for about 2,600 euros (around the same price range of the Fender Custom Shop).

So this is more or less the PRS Silver Sky controversy. There have been many guitars throughout history that have imitated the Fender Stratocaster; those Japanese Grecos from the 70s (with rising prices today), those Pacific Yamahas, which many of us started playing, the Swiss Blade Texas, the Suhr ... In short, an infinity of models that have copied the design, imitated the sound, tried to add improvements to the original design of Leo Fender (who of course continued making his own designs with G & L) ... There have also been outstanding builders but without a great company behind them, who have specialized in making replicas of those mythical Strats pre CBS. In my opinion, this is Paul Reed Smith's attempt to give that kind of response. It is true that it is strange that a guitars giant like PRS produces in series a more or less modified replica of the star model of the competition, but it is not unreasonable to say yes to a challenge like that; especially if the one asking for it is called John Mayer and you know what he will be able to do with your guitar. I would not have said no either.