In 2008, Paul Reed Smith and Santana introduced, with great fanfare, the Santana MD model. Purportedly the culmination of decades worth of development, it included all the features Carlos Santana had requested, and, after more than 40 years of gigging, knew he would use.
However, barely 18 months later in 2009, Paul Reed Smith announced a new Santana guitar model: the 25th Anniversary Santana model. Simultaneously, the Santana MD model was discontinued. At the same time, another model was introduced into the SE line: the Carlos Santana SE One Abraxas.
Not many details regarding the change in the Santana signature guitar were issued. Even more baffling was the short window of availability for both the 25th Anniversary and the Abraxas guitar: both were discontinued more months after their introduction. The result: as of the first half of 2010, Paul Reed Smith no longer offers any Santana guitar models. Editor’s Note: as of mid 2010, PRS has again begun offering the 25th Anniversary.
Santana MD and 25th Anniversary: Similarities
Both models share the traditional neck shape (“Santana wide fat”), and Mahogany body with a carved flame Maple top and Abalone Purfling. Of course, the body can be upgraded to a “10 Top” for an additional fee. The revised pickup selector switch and knob placements (Tone and Volume) introduced on the Santana MD model are maintained on the 25th Anniversary model, as are the 24 fret, 24.5″ scale neck with Rosewood fret-board.
Additionally, the Abalone bird fret inlays on the 25th Anniversary Santana model are outlined rather than solid (PRS calls these inlays “shadow birds), just as they are on the Santana MD model. Both instruments also feature a PRS tremolo bridge, PRS low mass locking tuners, covered humbucking pickups, and gold hardware. At around $3,500, the price of these two Santana guitars is virtually identical.
Santana 25th Anniversary and MD: Differences
While the two Santana signature guitars are quite similar, there are a few variations. Not surprising is the change from the 11.5″ radius on the Santana MD model to the more sharply curved 10″ radius of the 25th Anniversary Santana guitar. (Historically, Santana models have wavered on this point, with the Santana I and Santana II models having 11.5″ radii, and the Santana III having a 10″ radius.) Another somewhat pedantic change is the addition of binding on the Rosewood fretboard. And the selection of colors is almost completely changed.
However, these are minor alterations compared to the most striking difference: the absence of the mini toggle switch that accessed an out of phase sound. On the PRS Santana MD model, the “multi dimensional” circuitry was promoted as critical (thus the name, “MD”). One can only surmise that, based on Santana’s sound and playing style, he just didn’t use it that often.
As the amount of PRS Santana 25th Anniversary guitars initially produced was so limited, they were at one time difficult to find, even in the used marketplace. How long will PRS continue to offer the guitar this round? Only time will tell.
25th Anniversary Santana Colors
- Angry Larry
- Charcoal Burst
- Fire Red Burst
- Matteo Mist
- Santana Yellow
- Sapphire Smokeburst
- Smoked Amber
- Smoked Black Slate