My PRS CE24 Semi-Hollow to Super Eagle (style) Conversion!
This is turning out to be quite an important project for me with both learning a new skill, as well as bringing my sonic expression to whole new levels. I had a PRS Silver Sky for a short period and I ended up returning it. It was a fantastic guitar, but it kept me wanting a little more after spending a pretty decent amount of money on it. Shortly after I returned it, PRS announced a CE 24 Semi-Hollow and I was instantly drawn to it. I've been thinking about making a PRS Super Eagle type of guitar for a while now. I am really going far after "getting on the bus" (AKA Grateful Dead) and learning about Jerry Garcia's tone and what influenced the Super Eagle in the first place.
I did a bunch of forum reading through RUKind and Dozin to learn what made up Jerry's tone starting with the guitar. From what I learned, Jerry used the middle pickup for most of his tone so I decided to focus on this part which landed me with a choice of either a DiMarzio Dual Sound or DiMarzio Super II pickup. Another important part is to split the humbucker and choose the pickup that's closer to the neck. This will place the middle pickup to exactly where the middle pickup of a Stratocaster would be. I observed John Mayer's Spring 2019 Dead & Company unofficial Super Eagle "3" for inspiration since it contained 3x full size humbuckers. Notice the two holes on the treble string side. Looking through the DiMarzio pickup forums, I'm 90% sure these pickups are vintage Dual Sound ~early 80's as the newer Dual Sound pickups do not have those extra holes. I found a NOS Dual Pickup on Reverb and I started to acquire more parts for my eventual build.
Before I knew it, I had all the parts delivered to make the mod to be a triple humbucker PRS CE24 Semi-Hollow. The internet was shocked and amazed that I was taking my DeWalt router to my two week old PRS guitar from Sweetwater.
I started researching a little more about the electronics in Jerry's guitars as well as what is in the Super Eagle. Folks attribute Jerry's tone a lot to the onboard buffer of his guitars. The Super Eagle also has an onboard buffer but with the addition of a treble boost. After owning my PRS and the stock 85/15 pickups, I could see why a treble boost would be nice for the PRS humbuckers. The JM pickups they designed for the Super Eagle might be a little brighter but I've talked to a few Super Eagle owners and they agree that the guitar sounds best with the treble boost on. One Super Eagle owner from Germany was kind enough to take a bunch of pictures and offer me sound bites so I can learn even more about the real guitar. (Shout out to my friend in Germany!!) Now I have a lot of information to start processing.
Wiring this guitar was fun to learn. I did not have much prior knowledge about humbucker pickups or how to wire them so this required a bit more investigation and research. I installed the Super II pickups first as they are the go-to pickups for the Jerry tone chasers. My understanding is that they are fairly bright pickups without much bass. After I installed them, I found that the 2/4 positions on the CRL switch don't have that in between quack to them so another internet search revealed that the polarity is wrong and my weak output in the 2/4 position was because I have my phase wiring backwards. After those two swaps the pickups sounded great!! Of course, I documented my wiring to date.
I've also started documenting my build for the YouTube followers.
I was pretty happy with the Super II pickups but they didn't blend too well with the stock PRS 85/15's so I decided to swap with the NOS DiMarzio Dual Sounds. I am very happy with this swap as it sounds great in the guitar and has a better balance of Jerry type of tones as well as John's interpretation of Jerry's tone.
This guitar is an absolute delight to play. The neck is very familiar to me since it feels a lot like a Stratocaster and the tones are familiar since I wired the 5 way CRL switch in a similar way that a Stratocaster would be wired. The guitar pairs extremely well with my Fender Dual Professional as well as my Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue.
My next step is to dive into reverse engineering the JCF preamp on the Super Eagle. I already have a schematic drawn for it but I need to verify my trace by simulating the circuit in LTSpice. Stay tuned for more of the fun as I progress through this build!