PRS SE Santana vs Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute

Finding the particular specs of 2 guitars online is quite some work.

In many cases, the manufacturers don’t inform the same features about the instruments that you want to compare and you have to start digging all over the web to find them.

But hey, relax! 

If you are here, it seems like I have already done that job for you.

Here is a brief description of these 2 guitars:

The PRS SE Santana is made in Indonesia, has a solid mahogany body, a set Wide Fat “C” mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard, and HH pickups. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is made in USA, has a solid mahogany body, a set Rounded “C” maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and HH / PP pickups.

The PRS SE Santana has PRS Designed tuners, PRS SE Santana “S” Humbucker (Double Cut) / PRS TCI-tuned “S” Humbucker (Single Cut) pickups, and Standard electronics. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute has Vintage Deluxe with White buttons tuners, 490R Humbucker / P-90 pickups, and Standard electronics.

For those who want a deeper dive into all the specs that make these 2 guitars different, in this article I will put them side by side so you can see their main differences.

After that, I will show you some sound tests I found, and give you a brief history of each one of them.

I will then talk about their main specs one by one, and link you to some other interesting articles I have written about these specific features.

Finally, I will give you some comments about each of these instruments.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

PRS SE Santana and Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute side by side

PRS SE Santana
Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute
SpecPRS SE SantanaGibson Les Paul Special Tribute
Years of productionSince 2000 / Since 2019 (Single cut)Since 2020
Made inIndonesiaUSA
Body typeSolidSolid
Body shapeDouble Cut / Single CutLes Paul Special
Body materialMahoganyMahogany
Top materialMaple (Double Cut)
FinishGloss PolyesterSatin Polyurethane
Neck materialMahoganyMaple
Neck shapeWide Fat “C”Rounded “C”
Headstock shapePRSGibson
Neck jointSetSet
Fingerboard materialRosewoodRosewood
Fingerboard radius10″12″
Number of frets2422
Fret materialNickel SilverNickel Silver
Fret sizeJumboMedium Jumbo
Scale length24.5″24.75″
BridgePRS Molded TremoloCompensated Wraparound
TailpieceBridge integratedBridge integrated
NutSynthetic/Bronze powder blendGraphTech
TunersPRS DesignedVintage Deluxe with White buttons
Pickup configurationHHHH / PP
Neck pickupPRS SE Santana “S” Humbucker (Double Cut) / PRS TCI-tuned “S” Humbucker (Single Cut)490R Humbucker / P-90
Middle pickup
Bridge pickupPRS SE Santana “S” Humbucker (Double Cut) / PRS TCI-tuned “S” Humbucker (Single Cut)490T Humbucker / P-90
ElectronicsStandardStandard
Controls1 x Master Volume, 1 x Master Tone2 x Volume, 2 x Tone
Switching3-Way Toggle3-Way Toggle
Weight7 lbs8 lbs
PlayersCarlos SantanaSlash, Gary Moore, Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, Billy Gibbons, Randy Rhoads, Ace Frehley, Joe Perry, Peter Green
CaseGig bagGig bag
Price$829$999

What do they sound like?

PRS SE Santana play demo

Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute play demo

Brief descriptions

A brief description of the PRS SE Santana

“Very few guitarists can claim a tone as immediately recognizable as Carlos Santana. His signature PRS electric guitars are a huge part of that sound. With this PRS SE Santana, that same sound can be yours at an unbelievably accessible price. Yet the top-tier construction, solid mahogany body, and understated elegance of binding and bird inlays remind you that you’re still getting an amazing instrument in every way. The PRS SE Santana even boasts a pair of Santana “S” humbucking pickups, further nailing the tonal character that has made Santana a legend.”

Source: Sweetwater.com

A brief description of the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute

“Do you want to harness the primal sound of rock? Then strap on the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute. That’s exactly what it delivers. Fitted with Gibson’s Modern Classic 490R and 490T humbucking pickups, this Les Paul Special possesses a contemporary tone profile different from the old-school vibe of P-90-equipped Specials. The guitar’s mahogany-slab body undergirds their sound with a hefty bottom end and warm midrange. And, of course, the Les Paul Special tribute’s iconic stripped-down silhouette and finish will inspire your most raw-sounding riffs every time you pull it from its case.”

Source: Sweetwater.com

Body type

The PRS SE Santana has a solid body. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a solid body.

As you probably know, the body type of a guitar is a defining factor for its character and tone. 

If you want to know more about how these kinds of bodies affect these guitars, you can check out this article:

Body shape

The PRS SE Santana has a Double Cut / Single Cut body. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a Les Paul Special body.

The shape of a guitar’s body has serious implications on its playability, but not so much on its tone.

If you want to know everything about the effect of guitar body shapes, and their influence on the instrument, check out this article:

Body material

The PRS SE Santana has a solid mahogany body. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a solid mahogany body.

The kind of material used to build a guitar’s body is something you should really pay attention to.

This is one of the main factors that define the tone of an instrument.

If you want to know how these specifics materials impact the tone of these guitars, you should take a look here:

Top material

Guitarists are often curious about how guitar tops affect tone

There are many factors that contribute to the sound of a guitar, and whether it has a top is an important one. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to make a decision. 

The following article will explain what guitar tops are and why they matter, as well as provide guidance for those who want to learn more about these options.

In short, a guitar’s top has a slight, but perceivable, influence on its tone, however, they are mostly used for aesthetic purposes.

Whether your preferred guitar has one or not, it shouldn’t worry you too much.

However, if you want to know all there is about guitar tops, go here:

Finish

The PRS SE Santana has a gloss polyester finish. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is painted with a satin polyurethane finish.

Guitar players know that there are many variables in determining the sound of a guitar. Yet, one of the most popular debates is about nitro vs poly. 

Let’s explore this question, so you can make an informed decision for your next purchase.

These 2 finishes are both types of varnish that can be used to protect and beautify a guitar’s wood. They also have slightly different properties that some players argue can influence the tone of your guitar.

Nitro is a type of varnish that is thinner and less durable, while poly is thicker, way more durable, and cheaper.

Poly provides more protection from moisture and scratches, but some people argue it reduces resonance and sustain. Nitro wears off with time but has a more organic feel to the touch and is said to improve sustain and resonance.

Neck material

The PRS SE Santana has a mahogany neck. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a maple neck.

The type of wood that a guitar neck is made of will have a significant impact on the tone of your guitar. 

Tonewoods have different densities, hardness, and acoustic qualities. 

The type of wood a guitar neck is built with will determine its final sound. 

In the following article I present you a list of the most common tonewoods used in guitar necks, and the influence they could have on the tone of the instrument:

Neck shape

The PRS SE Santana has a Wide Fat “C” neck. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a Rounded “C” neck.

The shape of a guitar neck has a significant impact on the tone and playability.

Guitar necks come in a variety of shapes, so it’s important to know what each of those shapes offers.

Luckily for you, I’ve compiled some general information about each different type of guitar neck shape so you can make an informed decision when choosing your next guitar:

Headstock shape

The PRS SE Santana has a PRS headstock. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a Gibson headstock.

The shape of a guitar’s headstock is not really a big defining factor for its tone.

However, many players argue that differences in mass, especially at the end of the neck can have some implications in tone.

In this article I go deep into that topic and answer the most pressing questions:

Neck joint

The PRS SE Santana has a set neck. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a set neck.

Guitar necks come in a variety of different joints, and each one has its own pros and cons.

Knowing the differences between each joint can help you decide which is best for you.

A guitar’s neck joint is what attaches the guitar’s neck to the body of the instrument. 

There are 3 types of neck joints: bolt-on, set, and neck through. 

Bolt-on necks are attached by screws at the heel of the neck and can be removed easily for repairs or customization. 

Set necks attach to a pocket in the guitar’s body and stay put with glue.

In neck trough instruments, the neck elongates and becomes the central piece of the body, where most of its hardware is mounted. Then, there are wood “wings” glued to its side to complete the body shape.

If you want to know the specifics of each of these joints, check out this article:

Fingerboard material

The PRS SE Santana fretboard is made of rosewood. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute fretboard is built of rosewood.

The material of a guitar’s fingerboards is as important as the one of the rest of the neck.

In conjunction, both these 2 parts have a deep impact on the final tone of the instrument.

Also, take into consideration that the fretboard is the point of contact for your playing fingers with the guitar, so feel is also a very important factor.

In the following article, I share my thoughts on different fingerboard materials and their impact on the final sound of the instrument:

Fingerboard radius

The PRS SE Santana has a 10″ radius. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a 12″ radius.

The radius of the fingerboard is a measure of how curved the neck of the guitar actually is when looking at it from bridge to nut.

This curvature is really a defining factor for how the instrument plays, and some players are very strict about it.

If you want to know more about how it’s measured and the effect it has on the playability of a guitar, you should look at the following article:

Frets

The PRS SE Santana has 24 jumbo nickel silver frets. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with 22 medium jumbo nickel silver frets.

The frets on a guitar have a deep impact on its playability.

Many players don’t consider this as important as other features, but more experienced ones will be very picky about this.

Bigger frets make a guitar easier to play, however, they hinder the overall intonation of the instrument.

Also, there are different fret materials to consider.

In these articles, I dive deep into how important are frets for a guitar.

Scale length

The PRS SE Santana has a 24.5″ scale length. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a 24.75″ scale length.

The scale length of a guitar refers to the longitude of the vibrating part of the string.

This is measured from the nut to the bridge, and for intonation purposes, the middle point is always the 12th fret.

Different scale lengths have varying influences over things such as string tension, and of course, fret gap size.

If you want to know more about this, I invite you to read the post below:

Bridge

The PRS SE Santana has a PRS Molded Tremolo bridge. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a Compensated Wraparound bridge.

A guitar’s bridge is one of the 2 points of contact the strings have with the body and neck.

It is a central part for the transmission of vibrations through the instrument, and also defines many important factors for playability such as string spacing and action.

Some bridges also have extra functionalities.

To know everything there is about this part of the guitar, please go here:

Tailpiece

The PRS SE Santana has a bridge integrated tailpiece. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a bridge integrated tailpiece.

Tailpieces are often forgotten when thinking about guitar parts, however, they have been there for centuries, and there are many different designs with alternate features.

Whether your guitar has a standalone one or a bridge that works like one too, you might be interested in broadening your knowledge about tailpieces here:

Nut

The PRS SE Santana has a synthetic/bronze powder blend nut. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with a graphtech nut.

The nut of a guitar is a small but very important part of the instrument.

It helps define string spacing, action, and is the source of many of the tuning issues cheaper instruments suffer from.

There are many kinds and materials of nuts out there, and if you want to know how they can impact your instrument of choice, you should go to this article:

Tuners

The PRS SE Santana has PRS Designed tuners. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with Vintage Deluxe with White buttons tuners.

Guitar tuners don’t have a direct effect on how a guitar sounds.

However, their quality will be a defining factor in your playing experience. 

It’s fundamental that your instrument has good quality machine heads to keep it in tune.

In the following article, I dive deep into the most common questions players ask about tuners, and their functionality:

Pickups

Guitar pickups are one of the main components of any electric guitar. 

But do guitar pickups make a difference in sound? This can be a difficult question with many different answers.

The most important thing to note is that it is not just the type of pickup that determines a guitar’s sound, but also how and where you place the pickup on the guitar.

In this guide, we will discuss the different types of pickups and how they affect your sound

We will outline how pickups work and what are the central factors that determine how they influence the tone of your instrument.

Finally, we will help you compare different models and make an informed decision about which pickup is right for you.

Electronics

The PRS SE Santana has standard electronics, 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone controls, and a 3-way toggle switch. The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is built with standard electronics, 2 x volume, 2 x tone controls, and a 3-way toggle switch.

The electronics of an electric guitar are what gives the instrument its name. However, because they are hidden inside the cavities into its body, they are often forgotten.

Controls, switches, capacitors and resistances, all make for the circuitry of a guitar, and all have effects on the final tone and sounds it can offer to the player.

If you want to know the main things about this topic, I recommend you follow this link:

Weight

The PRS SE Santana weighs 7 lbs, and the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute weighs 8 lbs.

Guitar weight is an important factor when it comes to finding the right guitar for you. 

A heavier guitar will give you more sustain, but a lighter guitar will be more resonant, and easier to play and carry around. 

However, there’s no single answer to whether a lighter or heavier guitar will sound better than the other. 

There are also many factors that could determine what weight of guitar would be best for you.

Here, I explore some of these considerations and what I think are the main points to take into account:

Final comments

The PRS SE Santana is a renewed classic for PRS, now with a single cut, all-mahogany version available for those who love that kind of flavor. This is one of the most iconic entries in the SE line, hands down.

The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is a reissue of the legendary Les Paul Special that comes in 2 different pickup configurations, P-90s, and humbuckers, to cater to all audiences.

Which one do you think you like better?