PRS Santana Retro Review & Prices

PRS Santana Retro Review
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  • From PRS's 2018 Core series
  • Carlos Santana Signature
  • Made in United States
  • 6 strings
  • 24.5"'' scale
  • 11.5" Fretboard Radius
  • Carved Figured Maple top
  • Mahogany body
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Bridge pickup: PRS Santana (Humbucker/Passive)
  • Neck pickup: PRS Santana (Humbucker/Passive)
  • 1 volume and 1 tone Speed knobs
  • 3-way Switch
  • PRS Patented Tremolo, Gen III bridge
  • Santana Retro Set neck
  • 24 Jumbo frets
  • PRS Phase III Locking tuners
  • Compare Specs >

Our Scores and Tone Evaluation

Playability 83
Sound 75
Build quality 72
Value for money 62
Overall Score 77
Tone Evaluation
  • Heavy Metal
  • Hard Rock
  • Jazz
  • Blues
  • Funk
  • Country
Strengths & Weaknesses
PRS Santana Retro
  • Locking Tuners
  • Made in United States
  • Expensive Wood
  • PRS Propietary Nut
  • Top Brand Pickups
  • Tremolo
  • Cheap Fret Wire (NS)
  • No Neck-Through Build
  • No Push Knob or Extra Switch Option
  • No Weight Relief
  • No Luminescent Inlay
  • No Compound Radius Fretboard
  • No 21:1 Tuner Ratio
  • No Strap Lock

Price Overview

Its average competitor's price is $3120, which means that the PRS Santana Retro costs around 54% more than the competition. It might be due to it having additional features, but know that you can find cheaper similar alternatives. This takes into account all instruments of the same category in our database with 6 strings and Tremolo bridge that are made in United States.

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Your feedback

Not all instruments are created equally. That's why it's important to have different opinions. Here's what our users who have played this instrument say. If you've played it before, help others by voting below!

Weight

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Fret edges

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Is it Easy to Play?

The PRS Santana Retro meets 7 out of our 8 criteria items for beginner friendliness, which means that it's a good guitar to start with as a complete beginner. This takes into account the type of frets, scale length, nut width, bridge type, fretboard radius, and neck profile to determine the easiest combination for new players to get used to.

New Player Friendliness

PRS Santana Retro
  • Comfortable shape
  • Easy-to-use bridge
  • Locking tuners
  • Tall frets
  • Narrow nut
  • Short scale
  • Comfortable neck
  • Comfortable fretboard

Hand Size Comfortability

After taking into account the neck profile, scale size, fretboard radius, and nut width, we can conclude that the PRS Santana Retro's construction favors people with relatively small hands.

Nevertheless, this comes down in the end to personal preference. Make sure you test this guitar—or another one with similar characteristics—before buying.

Big Hands
Small Hands

Scale Length

Scale length is the distance the strings will span between the bridge and the nut. It can tell you a lot about the overall playability and tone of the instrument. A longer scale length means longer distance between frets, brighter tone and more string tension—which means lower action, but more difficult bending of the strings.

Here's the PRS Santana Retro's 24.5" scale length compared to other common sizes:

PRS Santana Retro Scale Length Comparison
PRS Santana Retro's scale length (at the top) compared to other popular sizes

This is similar to some of the Les Paul guitars made in the 50s, and it's slightly shorter than modern Les Pauls (24.75''). Short scales like these make the tone sound more bassy. It also makes the frets closer to each other, and bending is easier due to the lower tension of the strings. However, it comes at the cost of not letting you set the action of the strings as low without hearing fret buzz because the low tension will make the strings looser.

Remember that you can still try a thicker string gauge to increase the tension to let you lower the action.

More with the same scale length:

Neck Profile

PRS Santana Retro Neck Profile
PRS Santana Retro's neck profile

The neck profile tells you the thickness (neck depth) and shape in cross section. Every difference will completely change the feeling and comfortability of the neck. This is a highly subjective thing, but most players indeed prefer certain types of necks (like Cs and Ds) because they feel nice in most hands.

It has a Vintage type neck. This is a type of vintage neck, so it's thick and has a wider grip than most modern guitars. This is a very particular type of neck that usually only people with a specific taste for vintage guitars will like. We recommend you try this in person before buying if it's your first vintage neck. You might end up absolutely loving it or hating it.

Fretboard Radius

When it comes to fingerboard radius, personal preference will dictate which one is better for you. However, most people seem to agree that a more curved (lower) radius will make it easier to play chords while a less curved (higher) radius is better for soloing and bending.

The PRS Santana Retro has a 11.5" fingerboard radius.

Here's an image comparing this fretboard radius to other popular choices:

PRS Santana Retro Fretboard Radius Comparison with Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul
PRS Santana Retro's fretboard radius compared to others

This is very close to the radius that Gibson uses in most of their guitars. When compare to the other popular radius of Fender Stratocasters, you can see that it's a lot flatter. Guitars with this radius are usually made to bring a good balance between single-note and chord playing.

Compound radius fingerboards give the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, the PRS Santana Retro has the same radius across the board.

Playability compared to main competitors

24.5'' Scale Length
Vintage Neck Profile
1.656'' Nut Width
11.5'' Fretboard Radius
25'' Scale Length
C Neck Profile
1.656'' Nut Width
10'' Fretboard Radius
25'' Scale Length
C Neck Profile
1.688'' Nut Width
10'' Fretboard Radius
24.6'' Scale Length
Asymmetrical Neck Profile
1.688'' Nut Width
10'' Fretboard Radius
25'' Scale Length
C Neck Profile
1.688'' Nut Width
10'' Fretboard Radius

Nut Width

PRS Santana Retro Nut Width
PRS Santana Retro Nut Width

The PRS Santana Retro has a nut width of 42.1mm (1.656''). This is considered a narrow width for a 6-string guitar. This means that this guitar will have a narrower string separation at the nut, which will affect your fretting hand.

If you are a player with big hands, you might find it difficult to play chords without muting strings. However, this is good for players who have smaller hands, as it will allow them to reach each string more easily at the nut.

Frets

The PRS Santana Retro has 24 frets. A lot of people mistakenly believe that having more frets will always be better because it gives you a higher octave. This is certainly an advantage, but there's also a disadvantage to this.

Since the fretboard will be longer, the neck pickup will need to be placed closer to the bridge. And as you may know, the further away the neck pickup is from the bridge, the warmer it sounds. This means you'll have a brighter-sounding neck pickup when using a 24-fret guitar, even if you use the same pickup on a 22-fret guitar.

It comes with nickel silver frets, so they won't last as long as stainless steel frets. If you use your instrument a lot, you might need to replace the frets after a few years. But this is unlikely as most people change instruments before this happens.

More with the same amount of frets:

Fret Size

PRS Santana Retro Fret Size Comparison
PRS Santana Retro's fret size (in orange) compared to other popular sizes

Finally, let's talk about fret size. Some people prefer tall frets because it's easier to press the strings and perform bends since there's less friction against the fretboard. On the other hand, some people like shorter frets because they like to touch the fretboard when playing, or because they got heavy hands and tend to press too much on the string and alter the of the note pitch accidently.

The PRS Santana Retro's frets are Jumbo size. This is a tall fret size that is becoming increasingly popular because it makes it easier to press down the strings cleanly. With this fret size, you won't feel the fretboard when playing, so if you press down too hard, you will get the notes out of pitch. However, this is something you can overcome by getting used to the taller size.

More with the same type of frets:

Playability Score

Bending & Vibrato Ease 90
Chord Playability 85
Solo Playability 75
Playability 83

Tone Analysis

Wood will have little influence in the final tone of an electric guitar or bass. Instead, the hardware, especially the pickups, will be the most important thing to look at. Bur first, let's see the quality of the wood.

Wood

Mahogany wood pattern used for guitar building
Mahogany Body, Neck
Rosewood wood pattern used for guitar building
Rosewood Fretboard

Mahogany Body and Neck: This is the type of wood found in many top-of-the-line guitars, so that's a positive point for the build quality. This red-looking wood Mahogany is found in Africa and Central America and has great sustain and a warm tone due to its high density. The downside about this type of wood is that it's relatively heavy.

Rosewood Fretboard: Since the ban of Brazillian Rosewood, this has become a rare and expensive wood. It's not usually used for guitar bodies because of this, and also because it's heavy. Instead, it's used mainly for fretboards. Sometimes it's also used for necks because it's an extremely hard wood (even harder than maple). Its tonality tends to favor warm tones.

More made with the same wood:

Pickups

This guitar comes with pickups from one of the top brands: PRS. So you can expect well built pickups with great sound that shouldn't need an upgrade anytime soon.

These are passive pickups, so you can expect a rounder sound and a moderade level of output.

The PRS Santana Retro's configuration is HH. With this pickup combination, you'll get warmer tones and more output than using single coils. Humbucker pickups cancel the noise that single-coil suffer from, which also results in a warmer tone. This pickup combination isn't only for high-gain music like Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. Their warmness is also popular for Jazz, Indie, R&B, Blues and more.

Versatility

It comes with the popular 3-way switch that is present in most guitars. For more versatility, players tend to prefer a 5-way switch, although it all depends on what you want to use your guitar for.

Unfortunately, it doesn't come with more options for coil split or coil tapping. This makes it less versatile than some competitors.

Diagram

PRS Santana Retro pickups switch and push knobs diagram
PRS Santana Retro's switch options

What music genre is it good for?

As a 6 strings, Solid Body guitar with HH configuration and Passive pickups, we'd recommend it for genres like Hard Rock or similar. However, you can use almost any guitar for any genre. This is just the typical type of music for this particular one.

Sound Score

Pickups 85
Sustain 75
Versatility 64
Tuning Stability 75
Sound 75

Build Quality Analysis

Country of Origin

Knowing where the instrument is produced is a good way to know how well it's built. Some manufacturing countries are known for having higher quality standards. For example, most expensive instruments are made in the US or Japan, but there are some exceptionally great countries—like South Korea—that are building a good reputation.

The PRS Santana Retro is made in United States. Guitars made in the USA have the reputation of being the best instruments you can get. This statement isn't as accurate as a few years ago, but you should still expect top-quality from a guitar made in this country.

Bridge

PRS Patented Tremolo, Gen III: This type of bridge allows you to change the pitch of the notes by pulling the bridge with the attached bar, which gives you better versatility. Also, since the bridge is not fixed to the guitar body, the bridge will move as you bend the strings. So you'll have to increase the distance of your bends to reach the same tension (note) compared to a fixed bridge. This allows you to perform smoother bends but will also make you slower. Finally, remember that this type of bridge requires a bit more maintenance than fixed ones, especially when changing strings.

More with the same type of bridge:

Tuners

The PRS Santana Retro comes with locking tuners, which helps with tuning stability and makes changing strings a lot faster and easier. As long as they're high quality, these are the best tuning machines you can have. The only disadvantage is that they are a bit heavier than normal tuners.

Nut Material

Another important thing to analyze is the nut material, as it's one of the most important aspects that can affect the sound and playability of your guitar. A well-cut nut will make sure it stays in tune and will make it more comfortable to play.

In this case, the PRS Santana Retro has a PRS Propietary nut. PRS uses a synthetic material that is self-lubricating and fairly strong. This is good for playability and tuning stability. The tone is not as bright as with TUSQ nuts, and it's also not as resistant, but it's still a good quality nut.

Neck Joint

The neck joint is the part where the neck of the guitar meets the body. There are three main techniques to attach both parts together: Set-In, Bolt-On and Neck-Through. The latter two provide different advantages, although neck-throughs are the most expensive.

This guitar has a Set neck joint. This type of neck joint consists of using different pieces of wood for the neck and the body of the guitar. Both pieces are then glued together. This is more expensive to make than a bolt-on neck, but it's cheaper than a neck-through guitar. Some people believe that this gives more sustain than a bolt-on neck due to both pieces having a 'better connection' than with bolts. Still, it's something difficult to prove.

However, this type of neck joint does have the disadvantage of not allowing you to easily swap the neck for another. This makes this type of neck joint less mod-friendly.

More with the same build:

Build Quality Score

Quality of materials 50
Features 65
Quality Control 100
Build Quality 72

All Specs

PRS Santana Retro
General
Brand: PRS
Year: 2018
Configuration: HH
Strings: 6
Made in: United States
Series: Core
Colors: Gold, White, Black, Blue, Green, Black Burst, Orange, Purple, Yellow, Red Burst, Gold Burst, Dark Cherry Sunburst, McCarty Sunburst, McCarty Tobacco Sunburst
Left-Handed Version: No
Body
Top: Carved Figured Maple
Type: Solid Body
Body Material: Mahogany
Bridge: PRS Patented Tremolo, Gen III
Neck
Neck Joint: Set
Tuners: PRS Phase III Locking
Fretboard: Rosewood
Neck Material: Mahogany
Decoration: Birds
Scale Size: 24.5"
Shape: Santana Retro
Frets: 24 Jumbo
Fretboard Radius: 11.5"
Nut: PRS Propietary
Nut Width: 42.1mm (1.656'')
Electronics
Switch: 3 Way
Knobs: Speed
Volume Controls: 1
Tone Controls: 1
Bridge Pickup: PRS Santana (Humbucker / Passive)
Neck Pickup: PRS Santana (Humbucker / Passive)

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