Connect with us

Guitar Gear

A Classic Design Reimagined – PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Guitar Review



In this exclusive JGT review, contributor Brad Jeter takes a very close look at the PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 guitar.

When the term, single-cut, is mentioned what comes to most people’s mind is the Les Paul. Although it was not the first single cutaway solid body guitar it has risen over the decades to sit on the throne by which all others are judged.

One of the ironic things about the Les Paul is that it proved to be a sales flop when introduced in the 1950s. It simply wasn’t that appealing to guitarists playing popular music being produced at that time. It didn’t have the twang necessary for country; it didn’t have the sparkle of the emerging guitar driven rock-and-roll personified by Buddy Holly; Jazzer’s were intrigued but hardly any traded their big boxes for it. Finally, the vast majority of chart-topping hits of the day had nary a guitar featured. 

It wouldn’t be until more than half a decade after its production ended that players discovered them in pawn shops and stores with remaining inventory whose owners just wanted to rid themselves of these dinosaurs.

This all explosively changed in the United States with the nascent rise of an underground phenomenon of Chicago-based electric blues personified by Michael Bloomfield. Although black blues musicians (B.B. King, Muddy Waters, did use Les Pauls at times in their early careers, it really was more function rather than fashion or the intrinsic properties of the guitar.

Bloomfield planted the seed but it was across the pond where the Les Paul made the world wake up and pay attention to all of its charms. Clapton, Beck, Green, Taylor, Page….game over.

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Tobacco (actual guitar reviewed)

The PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 is both an homage to the original and an update on a classic.

Aside from aesthetics–which I’ll discuss later–there are what should be recognized as welcome improvements. 

The first improvement I noticed was a fairly complex and well-executed neck/heel body joint. Not only is the heel tapered on the treble side of the neck, the body also follows this modification. It simply makes playing above the 12th fret easier. That “hard” transition with a traditional neck joint is simply gone. Whether sitting or standing, it is a welcome modification.

The second improvement is the inclusion of a “belly” contour on the back, top bout. A certain Mr. Fender figured this out in 1954 and has been enjoyed by countless players over the decades. Now, single cut guys get that comfort and convenience with the 594. This isn’t the first time a similar style guitar has incorporated it but the 594 makes you say “Why aren’t all guitars like this?”

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Dark Cherry Sunburst (Back)

Less obvious but nevertheless welcome improvements are the stop tailpiece and tuners. The former allows for quicker string changes (not an issue unless you have ever broken a string mid-song during a gig and don’t have a guitar tech waiting in the wings to hand you another guitar). There are no little holes to thread the string through, rather, a clear channel from the top down. Quick and easy.

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Dark Cherry Sunburst (Tuners)

The tuner improvement may not seem obvious but upon inspection, the familiar looks belie a better internal gear and shaft that has a very positive feel and no excess play. Tuning is accurate and stable.

As expected, the overall fit and finish is top-notch. I applaud PRS for continuing to find ways to improve their finishes.

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Dark Cherry Sunburst (Body)

This guitar uses what they call Nitro over Cellulose (CAB). It is a much thinner finish than PRS of old and, to my ears, allows more of the acoustic qualities of the woods to come out without over damping. Speaking of the woods, it is a traditional pairing of a carved, two-piece maple top and mahogany back. The finish is also well cured. Fresh out of the box, the neck feels fast and smooth without any finish stickiness “dragging” on your hand. 

The frets are what I describe as medium-jumbo and are installed and finished to a superior level that is at once obvious. Silky smooth bends from the 1st fret to last. The attention to fret detail is outstanding. Absolutely no dead spots anywhere which is an indication of proper fret installation. 

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Dark Cherry Sunburst (Neck)

While discussing the neck, 594 refers to the 24.594” scale length. Not too short, not too long and many would say, just right! A Les Paul player will barely notice the slight difference from the 24.75” scale they are used to and a Strat or Tele player will notice the easier tension compared to the 25.5” scale. Intonation rings true low to high. This may be splitting hairs a bit but it is also an indication of the research that went into incorporating the 24.594” scale length. 

One last observation about fit and finish before we move on. PRS has always made beautiful guitars but the smaller details and the level of attention may not be always obvious.  Consider this: String spacing. On this guitar and every PRS I have played or owned, the strings are perfectly positioned over the pickup pole pieces. I’m going to make you look at your guitar(s) now!

Before I plugged in the McCarty Singlecut 594 I played it acoustically for several days. I was very impressed by the acoustic qualities.

It has a richness and even harmonic content that just makes you want to keep it close at hand on the couch and play constantly. My personal philosophy on this subject, proven empirically over decades is, a great electric guitar will sound fantastic acoustically–one that doesn’t possess this trait will probably be disappointing plugged in. No amount of fiddling with pickup swaps will ultimately transform an instrument. What’s the saying about not being able to polish something?

The McCarty Singlecut 594 uses a pair of PRS 58/15 LT +. To my ears, they lean towards a traditional vintage-style humbucker but with a good measure of modernity. By this, I mean a more extended frequency response with a wee bit of growl exchanged for top-end clarity. The pickups have balanced harmonics as the gain of the amp increases. Classic rock tones are certainly here but by no means are these one-trick ponies. Both pickups’ tone controls can engage a switch by pulling up on them configuring them into more than adequate single-coils. They describe them as coil-tapped but let’s just say single-coil more for convenience. 

I found the neck pickup to benefit and take advantage of this capability far more than the bridge pickup. To clarify, with the independent volume and tone controls for each, you can set the neck pickup in single-coil mode for cleanish, well defined chord work and flip to the bridge in humbucker mode for thick crunchy rhythm or full-on lead. This combination can spoil a player with it’s versatility.

PRS McCarty Singlecut 594 Dark Cherry Sunburst

You can do the same coil-splitting with the bridge pickup and I am sure there are situations it may be just the thing, but, I personally prefer the fullness of a humbucker in this style of guitar. Having said that, I think PRS did guitarists a favor by providing these tonal options. Overall, I find these pickups leaning towards the overall balance and tone of my two favorite PRS humbuckers: The Grissom DGT Signature and the Modern Eagle II.

This particular example weighs in at 8 lb 10 Oz. Not a featherweight but here is an interesting statistic. Those coveted 1958-1960 single cut guitars that fetch well into six-figures are ALL on average very close to 9 lbs give or take a couple of ounces. As far as I know, not one is sub 8 lbs. The popular trend of “weight relief” i.e., chambers or holes under the tops may impress your friends when you say, “Check this out!” and hand it to them, but this does nothing, in my opinion, to make it a better sounding instrument. Realistically, a great guitar of this type with traditional woods and construction will most likely fall into the 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 lb range. 

In conclusion, I like this guitar–a lot! I appreciate all the attention to detail that goes into a PRS before it leaves the factory.

Fit, finish and playability are fantastic right there out of the box. For a traditional dual humbucker guitar, it offers up all the classic tones you expect and the coil-tap switches are a quite functional addition. This guitar exudes quality–quality of parts and quality of build. I highly recommend an audition if you are at all curious about what PRS achieved when they put their experience and quest for excellence towards updating a tried and true design.

Check out more at PRS Guitars.

Continue Reading

Join the JGT Newsletter

Featured Luthiers