**** near perfect (but not flawless)
I made a custom order through Sweetwater for - well, not this exact guitar, but this is as close as it gets to my specs. I got a Custom 24, Flame Top, Gold Hardware, and Pattern Thin Neck, in Fire Red Burst (so extremely similar to this). Also I should say that this was a 2011 model Custom 24, which has a sliiightly different pickup shape (they don't completely fill the cavity in the square shape you see in the photos here for the 2012 model). I have had it for ~4-5 months now.
First, I am firmly convinced that there does not exist a more beautiful electric guitar on this planet than a PRS. I have been to a lot of guitar shops, window shopping, and I guess you could say, finger shopping - just trying out a bunch of guitars, seeing which would be the best candidate for my GOOD guitar (I had a guitar already, but it was my bargain guitar). As far as looks go, this Custom 24 is DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. I have gotten compliments from everyone who's seen it, as many from other guitarists as from people who know nothing about guitars. It certainly stands out. Even just shape-wise - the PRS "teardrop" shape is, in my opinion, more curvaceous and sexy than any other brand's shape, and I've done my research. With the quilt top and Fire Red Burst, the maple top literally looks like a crackling flame, complete with a dramatic fadeout. PRS does an incredible job of making the grain "pop" - I had always heard about that, but it really has to be seen to be believed. You could stare into this guitar for days, and still be mesmerized. It's like looking into another world. The bird inlays are something else - sooooo much nicer than the standard dots and trapezoids that go into other fretboards.
I got the Pattern Thin neck - for me, this is the most perfect neck I've ever played. I like thin, round necks (I guess that would be C-shape?) – much like a Strat. I don't like *really* thin necks though - Ibanez and Jackson guitars frustrate me with their thinness. I like having just enough "meat" to hold on to, without it feeling cumbersome (for reference, I consider the standard Gibson Les Paul neck to feel like holding a softball bat). I like being able to wrap my hand around the neck comfortably in any position. This is the most comfortable neck I've ever played. My hand never feels like it's straining. It never has to expend any effort to grip the neck. It just plain feels like home. Usually I prefer natural or satin finishes on necks (sooo much smoother), but the V12 finish is agreeable enough, and at least I know it'll do a good job of protecting the wood. Nice trick I learned from a sales engineer review on here - put some FastFret (or something similar) on the back of a finished neck, and it'll be smooth as butter.
One more thing that's REALLY nice about the neck shape (and body shape too) - incredible ease of access to the upper frets. This is of course a 24 fret guitar, but I'm sure that anybody who's played most 24 fret guitars (that aren't especially scooped to be metal shred-machines) can testify that it's not comfortable to play in, say the 18th position and up. You can do it, it just takes getting used to. It's actually comfortable to play in high positions on this guitar. That is an incredible feat.
Also, I should say, since I find it to be CRUCIAL for guitars, that the neck-body balance is PERFECT. Some guitars have absurdly heavy necks that tip the headstock toward the floor, and make you fight to keep the thing upright. Other guitars have ridiculously heavy bodies that make them want to sit vertically when strapped on your shoulder. This one sits perfectly, tilted up just enough. You expend no effort to balance it. I think this is one of the most important features of any guitar.
The locking tuners on this guitar are amazing. Once you use locking tuners, you'll wonder how you ever got by with regular tuning machines. They make string changes and tuning incredibly quick and easy, and are much more stable to boot.
I got the version with the tremolo. It is a very smooth, accurate tremolo that will bring the strings back in tune every time (assuming your guitar is setup properly). Don't expect to get any crazy tremolo effects though (dive bombs, etc.) - this trem is not made for that, and you'll probably either snap a string or something before you get to anything close to that. Of the "classical" type-trems, this is by far the best I've tried. What's nice is that you don't have to screw the arm in - it fits into a hard plastic sleeve instead, which you can tighten separately to your liking. It will stay put.
Also, I think it's worth mentioning that the pots on this thing are AMAZING. They are the smoothest and fastest damn knobs I've ever used, and they have numbers on them too, which makes it easy to find some volume / tone setting you like, and return to it.
Alright, so how does it play? Once setup properly (which is, as it turns out, with pretty low action), it plays like BUTTER. Everything is so smooth. Sometimes I find that I forget I'm playing a guitar - it just feels so natural. Probably due to the fretboard radius, the 10s that it's factory setup to work with actually feel as slinky as 9s - and the strings I use are not designed to be slinky (like Ernie Balls), since I use D'Addario. Bends feel easy and fluid.
I think it's also worth saying that, for the longest time, I wondered what the hell people meant in reviews when they said the guitar "feels alive." Now I know what they mean. If you play this unplugged (or amped, but it's easier to notice when unamped), with non-old, non-worn strings, you can feel the vibrations, from the string traveling through all parts of the guitar. Seriously. It's wild. I've never experienced this with a guitar before. You touch the tuner, it's vibrating, strongly. You can feel the vibrations traveling through the neck, strongly. You can feel them in the body, when your hand's resting on it. You can feel it in the bridge. The whole instrument's ringing out in sympathy with the strings - and this is all before the sound is captured by the pickups! I see what they mean by "it feels alive" now.
So how does it sound? This, I must admit, is where my disappointments start, few though they are, but nonetheless - it sounds good, REALLY GOOD. First, I LOVE how versatile it is - easily one of the most versatile guitars on the market. You have 5 pickup configurations - bridge humbucker, neck humbucker, bridge + neck humbucker, neck singlecoil + bridge humbucker, neck + bridge singlecoils. I've found that if one config doesn't sound great in one context, another one always does. For instance, with my amp, the bridge humbucker sounds really nasally through the clean channel. However, if I switch to the neck humbucker, or to neck singlecoil + bridge humbucker (one of my favorites), it sounds deliciously warm and wood-y. The sustain is very good for a trem guitar - better than most, but still not quite as good as a string-thru or stoptail.
[THE NOT SO GOOD]
So here's what I don't like: Overall, I was surprised at the note definition - it's not what I was expecting. It's not what I would expect from an instrument this expensive. Chords can sound muddy, once the gain is turned up enough, and this happens even on clean. I've been thinking that this may be either due to - the mahogany construction (my other guitar is maple & basswood), or due to the pickups being vintage-voiced (where my other guitar is modern / metal voiced). Or it could be my amp. But I have noticed this.
Also, unless there is something faulty with the wiring, these pickups have a surprising amount of hum, especially given that they're humbuckers. Sure, the singlecoil modes hum more, but the humbucking modes ironically still hum. Given then I use only high quality Monster cables and a power conditioner, the hum is not due to unclean power or poor connections, or even to my amp. The hum only gets bad if you're in a room with a lot of fluorescent lighting, if a fan is pointed at your guitar, or if you happen to bring your guitar within 2 feet of any source of electromagnetism (computer, tv, etc.). This is bizarre behavior for a humbucker. I'm going to get it checked out, but it's possible that it actually hums this much by design, which would be disappointing. I should also say that the pole pieces of my pickups are gold-plated, which may be affecting the hum in some way. I'm not really sure.
Although PRS did a good job of getting red of most sharp edges in its trem bridge (Fender, I'm looking at you), the bridge saddles still have sharp edges on the sides. This won't be a problem for those of you who play with your pinky anchored, but for those of you who play with your palm anchored, the sharp corner of the low E string's bridge saddle will be kind of annoying. To be fair, it will dull over time, which will make it a bit more pleasant, and less of an issue.
This guitar had the very strange problem of the tremolo springs ringing sharply at their resonant frequencies. Let me explain. Every material has a resonant frequency - some pitch, if you will, that it will vibrate in a consistent way at. The tremolo springs in my guitar cavity liked to ring out at E - and at all frequencies along the harmonic series built from E (check up on physics if this doesn't make sense). This might sound like a good thing - it can be a nice sound for the tremolo springs to ring out in sympathy. They did much worse than ring though - they produced a high pitched, squealing buzz, that was extremely distracting. This wasn't audible through the amp, but it is definitely audible from the guitar itself. It only did this at notes in the harmonic series of E. For the longest time I figured it was the string just buzzing against a fret, so a setup should fix it. It didn't, and it wasn't. It got to be so annoying that I went as far as buying PVC tubing, and placing it inside the springs to dampen them. This worked beautifully, and no more squealing after-ring! It's just weird to me that the springs would ring out like that.
In some factory video, PRS introduces the V12 finish - they say that it's really thin, but really hard and tough. This is true, but the thin part is even more true. This is great for letting the instrument ring out, but you have to be careful in how you treat it. Scratches will do nothing. Dings will do nothing. However, it is possible to gash the finish, as I found, and chip it off. In other words, it can probably survive your belt buckle, and being knocked against something, but if a sharp corner happens to meet your guitar, the V12 finish *WILL* chip off. This is probably true of most finishes, to be fair - but unlike an acrylic / polyurethane finish, ONLY PRS can repair the V12 finish - you can't go to your local guitar tech to fill in the hole, lest you risk affecting your tone in a negative way.
I have also noticed that the nut is pretty tall, and engulfs the strings in their slots. Much taller than the nut on my other electric. I've heard that strings ring out better when slightly exposed in their slots, but I don't really know.
One word about the gold hardware (in case you decide to make a special order and are considering getting that) - it seems to chip easily, at least on the screws. Thankfully, the bridge and the tuners have fared much better than the plating on the screws. It does look really good though.
Unrelated, it is somewhat on the heavier side for a guitar, so make sure you get a nice, *wide*, comfy strap.
I was not a fan of the case it came in. Don't get me wrong, it's really nice and luxurious, it's just not practical - it's made of heavy wood, the handle has a poor grip, and it sheds black hairs all over the place. It does, oddly enough, smell good though.
As you can see, my complaints are pretty nitpicky, and I probably wouldn't care about them at all if the guitar weren't so good otherwise. This was the guitar of my dreams, and although the reality is that it's not quite a perfect 10, it is the closest to a perfect 10 I've ever played, and I think PRS really makes incredible instruments.
Hope this (really really long) review is helpful to people looking at Custom 24s!