I found a magical guitar!
I was in Thoroughbred Music when it was on Hillsborough in Tampa. This was an awesome store, especially before they opened the one in Dunedin at the historic Kapok Tree location. I had an afternoon while visiting the Bay area to play pretty much every electric guitar they had, new and used.
I knew I wanted a more Strat like guitar. I had been auditioning a number of guitars for months and had been impressed by the PRS EG-1 in a Ft. Myers shop. PRS only made them 18 months...their American strat copy (neck and pick up config) but with DUAL coil tap to give full humbucking sound when desired, for a Santana like tone). And here was a hand made electric (early 90's, before PRS started making low end lines) for just $800 with the solid color paint job. I had envied a Strat with the five way switch and the EG-1 was Paul Reed Smith's implementation of it, only with low buzz in single coil mode and much, much better mechanics and intonation up the fret board. And much longer sustain. But the one I had played in Ft. Myers was just "very good" and not at all "magical." I could wait.
At Thoroughbred they also had a selection of the EG-1's too. Maybe six different ones. I picked up a solids color one or tow EG-1's and they played well, similar to what I had played on in Ft. Myers. But the third one I picked up (last because it was priced at $1400 instead of $800) was a deep purple maple pattern. The looks weren't what drew me, although it was nice. There were weird grain glitches on the back which explained why it was tinted so dark and this wood used in their low end (at that time) hand made guitar.
Then I strummed it...even before plugging in. "What??" I was totally surprised. The volume was probably twice of any other electric I had played on and even unplugged this solid body had a nice ring to it. And it felt perfect. I tried a few riffs. My fingers flew and this guitar just "sang." The neck was exactly like a Strat, but somehow "better." So easy to bend the strings. So resonant and musical. I thought it might have been tuned down. But that wasn't the case. I suddenly began to have that feeling. I hadn't even plugged it in yet. I actually looked around the shop almost unconsciously to see if anyone else noticed.
I quickly plugged it in to a small tube combo amp I'd been using. Wow! In about 5 seconds it was obvious in my hands was a "magical" guitar. I had played on $8000 PRS customs (I don't particularly care for them...neck shape....tone), dozens of Les Pauls, Strats, Ibenezes, and lots of other hand made electrics over the past year, new and used in a wide variety of shops around the southeast. But I had never, never heard or played a solid body electric guitar like this one. Just simply "magic."
I knew within 10 seconds that I could not let this one get away and that I might never in my life ever find another one like it. And, truth is, I never have. I've been to nearly every major guitar shop in the US since then and have not found a solid body electric I like as well. Some are different and I would love to ADD them, but never replace it. And this was a reasonably priced guitar.
I traded my current guitar (a Yamaha A2000 I was using just to get by for a couple years) and put down some cash and walked out with the PRS EG-1. I remind you, not any EG-1. I wouldn't have settled for the others I'd played, though they were an improvement. But this one, was magic. That was in late 1994 and I still have not found a solid body electric I like better in any shop. Some are different, but if I had to play only one the rest of my life, it would be the one I already own.