The Al D — Beauty of the Beast

Step into the shoes (or the hands… yes, let’s say hands) of legendary guitarist Al Di Meola, as we cover his signature “Al D” model from PRS. I have had the privilege of playing many different PRS guitars in my time as a somewhat competent guitarist, and I can assure you that this instrument has certainly lived up to the renowned name that the master luthier Paul Reed Smith has sustained since he crafted his first guitar, nearly 40 years ago.

Right away, the beautifully colored “Prism” finish catches your eye. Sporting a mahogany body with a maple “10-top”, this guitar screams “Look at me! I am awesome!” In case you were wondering, to attain 10-Top status, the PRS website states that “a PRS top must have clearly defined figure across its entire top with no “dead” spots”. A little “10” is stamped or written on the back corner of the headstock to authenticate this. Now that is some quality wood (that’s what she s—oh forget it).

Upon first plugging in this beast, it has one of the deepest mid-range growls that PRS has to offer in its Custom 22 line of typically treble-happy axes. It features a three-way pickup selector switch, with a push-pull knob to tap the coils of the super smooth 57/08 humbuckers, covering the sonic gambit of any tone you might be searching for. These versatile humbuckers are styled after the classic 59s, with a vintage, hand crafted path-wiring system.

The neck of this guitar features a Pattern Regular carve, which is standard for Custom 22 models. The frets, however, are spaced slightly further apart than what is customary, to match Di Meola’s preferences, but the neck still sits at a typical 25-inch scale length. The double cutaway body allows for easy access all the way up to the 22nd fret, for all your face-melting needs. Finally, the essential Shadow Bird inlays, fashioned from Abalone shell, are like the icing on the cake, offering the allure that so many PRS owners know and love.

The bridge is a standard PRS tremolo system, and the locking tuners keep your intonation in check as you maneuver the whammy bar for any type of styling you desire, from a slight vibrato on bends to a clean tremolo effect on your chords.

As far as the sound you can expect, you have your distinctive PRS scream on the bridge pickup when you dial up the gain on your amp, but the real character of this guitar shines through when you roll back that gain and switch to the neck pickup. On this setting, you achieve a punchy, rich attack, which can only be described as the sound of a Les Paul/Telecaster love child. The aforementioned growl offers an instant satisfaction that will make your stomach turn, in the best possible way.

You can buy one of these babies, but it’s going to cost you upwards of $3500. A lot of money, for a lot of guitar.