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PRS Guitars The Story Of Paul Reed Smith And Best Prices!

Updated on February 17, 2013

Paul Reed Smith Guitars

PRS Guitars is an American guitar manufacturer headquartered in Stevensville, Maryland. PRS Guitars was founded by guitarist and luthier Paul Reed Smith in 1985. Paul Reed Smith Guitars is a leading manufacturer of high-end electric guitars. PRS guitars, originally crafted for local guitar players, have become highly prized by musicians and collectors around the world.

PRS Double Neck Dragon 12 & 6 String Guitar
PRS Double Neck Dragon 12 & 6 String Guitar

History of Paul Reed Smith

Paul Reed Smith (born February 18, 1956), is a luthier and the founder and owner of PRS Guitars.

Smith is originally from Bowie, Maryland. He made his first guitar while at St. Mary's College of Maryland, and continued to build guitars after he finished college, making them one at a time, one a month. Together with another local, John "Orkie" Ingram, they formed the nucleus of what would become Paul Reed Smith Guitars.

Smith would often bring his guitars backstage at concerts, and eventually got his break when Derek St. Holmes, of the Ted Nugent Band, agreed to try out #2, the second guitar Smith had ever made. St. Holmes played the guitar for the first few songs of his set, and Smith told him that after he showed it to some other musicians, he would fly out to Detroit and give it to him. St. Holmes eventually sold the guitar for $200.

Smith then contacted Ted McCarty, former president of Gibson and creator of the Explorer, ES-335 and Flying V guitars, and McCarty became his mentor and adviser. The result of their collaboration was the current line of PRS Guitars, which include solid- and hollow-body guitars. The Private Stock line of PRS guitars are made utilizing a vast range of exotic materials including various stones, elaborately figured tone woods, and intricate shells for inlays.

PRS Modern Eagle II
PRS Modern Eagle II



The bodies of PRS guitars are crafted of mahogany, with a maple top on most models. They often feature highly figured tops, including flame maple, quilt maple and figured maple creating the effect of tiger stripes. PRS necks are usually made from mahogany, although some models feature maple or Indian or Brazilian rosewood necks; fingerboards are made of rosewood. PRS's signature fret markers include the lower end moons, and the higher end birds. The moons appear similar to standard dot inlays, but have a crescent more prominent than the rest of the dot. The bird inlays feature nine or ten different birds inlayed at the appropriate frets. Inlay materials have included semiprecious stones; iridescent shells, including abalone and abalone laminates; gold; and even unearthed ivory from the (extinct) woolly mammoth.


Nuts are synthetic and tuners are of PRS's own design, although some models feature Korean-made Kluson-style tuners. PRS guitars feature three original bridge designs: a one-piece pre-intonated stoptail, vibrato, and wrapover tailpiece. The pre-intonated stoptail is unique to PRS and can be used because PRS manufacturing tolerances are so tight, guaranteeing that the distance between witness points will be within a few thousandths of an inch from guitar to guitar. However, this design does not allow intonation to be adjusted to compensate for variations in string thickness or drop tuning. The PRS vibrato resembles a vintage Fender Stratocaster unit but with much better tonal stability due to less friction, and the more recent compensated wrapover tailpiece allows for minimal intonation adjustment. An adjustable wrapover bridge is available as an extra.


PRS Pickups are designed and wound in-house; PRS is more secretive about magnet and wire type and construction than some aftermarket pickup manufacturers. PRS humbucking pickups have gone by many names, including TB(Treble Bass), HFS (Hot, Fat, and Screams); Vintage Bass; McCarty; Santana I, II, and III; Archtop; Dragon I and II; Artist I through IV; #6, #7, #8, #9, and #10, RP (after the initials of the designer, Ralph Perucci), Tremonti, Soapbar, 1957/2008(57/08); 1959/2009(59/09) and 1953/2010(53/10). Further adding to the obscurity, many of the above pickup types are actually a pair of pickups wound in opposing directions, one intended for the neck and one for the bridge position.


PRS is known for "popping the grain" on their figured maple topped instruments, a process that accents the '3D' quality of the maple through a multistep staining process. Finishes are transparent, translucent (often with bursts), or opaque and are automotive-grade polyurethane or satin nitrocellulose, meaning that in some instances, the paints were intended for automotive use.

PRS Single Cut model's legal issues

PRS Single Cut Guitar
PRS Single Cut Guitar

In 2001, when PRS released their "Singlecut" guitar—which bore some resemblance to the venerable Les Paul—Gibson Guitar Corp. filed a trademark infringement against Paul Reed Smith. An injunction was ordered and PRS stopped manufacture of the Singlecut at the end of 2004. Federal District Court Judge William J. Haynes, in a 57-page decision ruled "that PRS [Paul Reed Smith] was imitating the Les Paul" and gave the parties ninety days "to complete any discovery on damages or disgorgement of PRS's profits on the sales of its offending Singlecut guitar."

In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court decision and ordered the dismissal of Gibson's suit against PRS. The decision also immediately vacated the injunction prohibiting the sale and production of PRS’s Singlecut Guitar. Paul Reed Smith Guitars announced that it would immediately resume production of its Singlecut guitars.

Paul Smith, the founder of PRS, stated "We are delighted that the appellate court affirmed what we and the industry have long known: the PRS Singlecuts are musical instruments of the highest quality that would never be confused with a competitor’s product."

Gibson tried and failed to have the case reheard by all sixteen active Sixth Circuit judges (denied in December 2005) and then by the United States Supreme Court (denied June 2006), which was their last chance to have their original injunction upheld.

In the litigation, Gibson alleged that concert goers in a smoky concert hall might not be able to differentiate a PRS Singlecut from a Gibson Les Paul. The appellate court rejected that trademark theory out-of-hand, emphasizing Gibson’s concession in court arguments that “only an idiot” would confuse the two products at the point of sale.

While no changes to the design of the Singlecut occurred as a result of the lawsuit (given that Gibson lost), some Singlecut owners and sellers have erroneously adopted the term 'pre-lawsuit' to differentiate their Singlecut from others.

Although it appeared PRS discontinued the singlecut models as of January 2010, leaving the 25th anniversary SC 245 to be the only one left, PRS introduced the SC 58 later on in 2010.

PRS Santana SE Model
PRS Santana SE Model

PRS SE Models

To keep up with demand, PRS introduced a new budget conscious line in the late 1990s. The Student Edition line, is manufactured in Korea and is notable for opaque finishes, non-locking tuners, and lower quality tone-woods. Some do include figured maple tops such as some of the Soapbar II models, SE Custom, and Paul Allender models. The PRS SE models enjoy a popularity among hobbyists and working professionals alike, whereas the higher-end PRS models tend to be geared more exclusively towards professional musicians and collectors. While the SEs do not match the higher end PRS guitars in their build quality, it is worth noting that their street price is perhaps 10–20% of PRS' high-end instruments, with some feeling that they offer a more value when compared to competitors in their price range. Furthermore, even though the range is supposed to be at the "lower end" of the PRS range, its quality is typically attributed to be the "standard range" of many other guitar manufacturers, and employing set-neck construction on all models, unlike many other budget brands which use bolt-on necks on their lower-end models.

In 2010, PRS released the Torero, the most expensive SE model aimed for metal guitar players. The Torero is very different from other SE models, with the exception of the PRS tuners, and that it is made in Korea.

PRS Dragon on eBay

The Dragon is the most prized and pricey model PRS offers since it's a limited edition and is constructed from only top of the line materials and features an amazing full dragon inlay on the fret board.

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