Bringing the Vintage Sound into a Modern Instrument
First, before we talk about anything, take a look at this beautiful guitar.
Much like a trophy fish, even if it didn’t play a note, I’d proudly hang this piece of art on my wall. The kicker is, it does play a note – and it plays it like a rock star. Let’s talk about what this is, what it’s made of and what inspired it’s creation.
Those familiar with the brand can take a quick look at this instrument and see that it’s a Paul Reed Smith. While it shares many features as it’s sibling models, the PRS McCarty 594 takes several unanticipated turns away from 'traditional' and the feedback from it’s owners has been grand. While there’s a couple stories behind the layout and construction of this guitar, let’s first take a look under the hood.
The McCarty 594 has a mahogany body, but is much thicker than PRS customers are used to seeing. The wood used, however, is lighter weight, making it comparable to it’s predecessors. The thick mahogany is a nod to the vintage body style which we’ll see in several components of this guitar. The neck, also mahogany, is thicker as well, tapering from a larger bass than treble side. As some are quick to guess, the McCarty sports a 24.594 scale length, giving the model it’s name, but more-so one of it’s biggest characteristics. We’ll get back to that. As you’d expect from a PRS, the neck and indian rosewood fretboard are fabricated flawlessly with no edge to speak of, wide yet shallow nickel frets and beautiful abalone bird inlays, a subtle tribute to Paul’s Mother. Sitting up top is another change the McCarty brings, and that’s the details of the locking tuners. The open gear style is an additional artistic feature of the guitar, and inside the tuners there is now an extra grip screw, making tuning even more stable and efficient.
Now, look at this top. Paul Reed Smith has never cut corners when it comes to creating a beautiful top, and the variety available for the McCarty 594 are no exception. From a standard solid custom color top to a flamed maple 10 Top Custom in Charcoal Grey, this 594 is dressed to impress. Already seen through the door here at Heartbreaker Guitars has been the 2017 10 Top Custom in Charcoal Grey, the 2018 10 Top Custom in Charcoal Grey and the infamous 10 Top in Sunburst.
Resting atop this beautiful maple cap and veneer are two 58/15 LT pickups. PRS labels it’s pickups with the first number being the styling of the pickup (in this case 1958) and the ladder being the year the pickups were made (2015). The LT stands for “low turn” and is one of the final changes the McCarty 594 has that stemming from the goal of that vintage guitar sound. Sitting catty-corner to a three way toggle switch are two sets of dual-duty volume and tone knobs that lift to split/tap coils for a drastic change in sound. The knobs are strategically placed to be able to adjust both volume or both tone knobs simultaneously using one hand. Finishing off the guitar is a beautiful, two piece, stop-tail bridge with very high quality saddles that are incredibly easy to adjust.
So, what inspired the creation of the PRS McCarty 594? There’s a great story behind what drove Paul Reed Smith to do what many others have done, and take something great and attempt to make it better.
Smith explains, “There’s a couple of things drivin’ the bus. PRS Guitars isn’t just in competition with all the other guitar manufacturers, there’s millions of vintage guitars out there and somebody can use their money to buy a vintage guitar or a new guitar, and one of the things that I wanted was to have an instrument that served the musician as well or better than the vintage instruments they had.
One of the things I wanted to have happen was to have an instrument that you could buy that was brand new that sounded big and open and vintage and not have the problems of vintage guitars.”
Is it possible, though, to get a true “vintage” sound from a brand new guitar? The word “history” comes to mind when I answer this question for myself. If I were blindfolded, handed a guitar and asked to give my opinion on whether it was vintage or not, I’d find myself at a loss. I’d have trouble because the sound is only a fraction of what makes something vintage for me. I have vintage T-shirts, and they don’t sound like anything. What I want from a vintage guitar is the story behind it; Where it came from and where it’s been. For musicians, it’s impossible to erase the drive to hold the axe of a famous rocker of the 1970's even if the thing is broken in two, and that stems from passion. How great would it be to hold your idles guitar and have it still sound as it did at it’s peak? Chances are it won’t. But, what if we could have the classic look and sound of a true vintage guitar but the build and technology of a new one? That’s where Paul Reed Smith says he can help with his McCarty 594.
"A lot of people think that maybe one of the greatest vintage guitar tones of all time was The Wind Cries Mary that Hendricks played. I don’t think that guitar was more than a year old. I don’t think the amp was more than a year old. Those were brand new instruments, and they were making those tones. So, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with being old. I think it’s got a lot more to do with knowin’ what you’re doin’ and putting the right pieces of the puzzle together so that you can get a guitar to sound like this.” - Paul Reed Smith on the McCarty 594
Paul and his team created a guitar that not only can replicate that vintage sound and style of a historic guitar, but also satisfies the needs of the modern day musician and can flawlessly integrate with current equipment and give guitar players what they need. Paul says, “The idea of this guitar is not that it does one specific thing. The idea of this guitar is that you could use it to play jazz on, and you could use it to play blues on, you could use it to play R&B on, you could use it to play Rock on, you could use it to play these different styles and its just an instrument to get the artist what they hear in their head. I like tools that’ll do a lot of different jobs.”
And why the .594? The first drafts of the McCarty sounded good, but Paul felt they were missing a balance; A harmonic balance. He tried numerous times with numerous lengths, and when he landed on the clean and resonant sound achieved by his 24.594 scale length he put his signature on the headstock. The response from all the components of the guitar with the additional .094 inches gave the McCarty the sound Paul was after from the beginning and the 594 was dubbed.
For those who know any history of Paul Reed Smith guitars, they’re likely familiar with the name Ted McCarty. Ted was the president of Gibson Guitars years prior, and went on to work with Chicago Musical Instruments and Bigsy Guitars, just to name a couple. His patents include guitars as infamous as the Flying V, and his influence for the .594 is no accident. Paul Reed Smith befriended Ted McCarty and their friendship lead PRS Guitars to the top shelf in short time. Ted was able to keep an influence in the music industry while Paul got some first hand advice from a living legend. The influence has been felt throughout most of Smith’s collection, but the unique yet austere tweaks to the McCarty 594 left no question for Paul that it would be named accordingly. For some, the Paul Reed Smith McCarty 594 is their favorite guitar. For others, it’s a one-of-a-kind addition to their collection. Whichever it becomes for you, Heartbreaker Guitars of Las Vegas, NV is a proud dealer of PRS Guitars and currently has several McCarty 594 models in stock. From their showroom to their unmatched staff, come by Heartbreaker and try a PRS for yourself. I’m confident you’ll fall in love with it.