|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2008)|
|Founder(s)||Paul Reed Smith|
|Headquarters||Stevensville, Maryland, USA|
|Key people||Paul Reed Smith|
|Products||Guitars, Bass Guitars, Guitar Amplification|
PRS Guitars also known as Paul Reed Smith Guitars is an American guitar manufacturer headquartered in Stevensville, Maryland, founded by guitarist and luthier Paul Reed Smith in 1985. PRS has a reputation as a manufacturer of high end electric guitars made in the US, and known for their custom shop instruments. However since the 1990s they have expanded production to Asia, where they manufacture the more affordable 'SE' line of instruments. As of 2013 they have begun making more affordable guitars in the US with their 'S2' line. PRS Guitars also manufactures guitar amplifiers. One of PRS's most notable endorsers is Carlos Santana. In addition to this, many other artists endorse the company, including Mike Oldfield, who has used a PRS Artist Custom 24 for studio recordings and live shows since the late 1980s; Mikael Åkerfeldt; Dave Navarro; Al Di Meola; Mark Tremonti and Orianthi.
Paul Reed Smith was a guitar player who began building guitars while he was in college. Early guitar players to use his hand-built guitars were Derek St. Holmes (of Ted Nugent's band) and Howard Leese (then with Heart), but Smith's big break came when Carlos Santana began playing the still hand-built guitars, which at the time looked like a Gibson Les Paul with a double cut-away and were made of expensive woods like curly maple. He used the custom as a prototype to raise orders on the road worth nearly $300,000. Smith set up a limited partnership with his wife Barbara and business man Warren Esanu, and set up a factory in Virginia Avenue, Annapolis. Smith produced 20 guitars for the 1985 NAMM Show (those guitars are now known as the "NAMM 20"), and managed to find a niche in the guitar market: the mid-1980s was the time of the Superstrat, and there was little competition for the higher-quality, upscale guitars PRS was building, guitars with "an elegant, modern, vintage-inspired design--the kind of guitar one might have expected Fenders and Gibsons to evolve into".
At first there were eight workers taking up one third of the building which they shared with a furniture-stripping shop. After three years PRS had taken over most of the building, with 45 people producing 15 guitars every day, and as time progressed a separate woodshop was added. By 1995 the factory was making 25-30 guitars daily and employed 80 people. In 1996 production moved to a new factory in Stevensville on Kent Island, just across a bridge from Annapolis. By the end of 1998 Prs was producing 700 guitars a month with a staff of 110 people.
The bodies of most 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. A small number of bodies are made of korina wood. PRS necks are usually made from mahogany, although some models feature maple or Indian or Brazilian rosewood necks; fingerboards are normally made of rosewood. PRS's signature fret markers include the standard birds, and the optional moons (becoming rare nowadays). 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 with often expensive material.
A very small percentage of maple trees cut in North America are actually figured. To make "10-Top" status, a PRS top must have clearly defined figure across its entire top with no "dead" spots. A guitar designated as a 10-Top will usually have a small "10" written on the back of the headstock in the upper right corner. Some earlier guitars have the "10" stamped into the finish in the same position.
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 Vibrato was designed with the help of guitar engineer John Mann. It was an update on the classic Fender vibrato and used cam-locking tuners, which offered wide pitch bending with exceptional tuning stability. The pre-intonated stoptail is unique to PRS, 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, and the more recent compensated wrapover tailpiece allows for minimal intonation adjustment. An adjustable wrapover bridge is available as an extra.
Pickups are designed and wound in-house. While most of the pickups are humbuckers, some are actually a pair of single coils wound in opposing directions, one intended for the neck and one for the bridge position. Through the use of a unique rotary pick up selector switch, PRS pickups offer 5 different sounds: a combination of thick humbucking Gibson-like tones, and thinner single-coil Stratocaster-like tones. The Standard Treble and Standard Bass pick ups use magnetic pole pieces in the non-adjustable inner coil, and a rear-placed feeder magnet in order to achieve a more authentic single-coil tone when split by the rotary switch PRS developed pickups for the aggressive rock market, offering pick ups such as the chainsaw, and the HFS (Hot-Fat-Screams) initially used on the Special model. The Vintage Treble and Vintage Bass humbuckers were used on the Classic Electric Model, and a combination of HFS and Vintage bass pick ups were used on the CE maple top models, the Standard, and The Custom models. In 1998 an electronic upgrade kit was released for pre-1993 instruments which included, lighter weight tuner buttons, nickel-plated brass screws for saddles and intonation, a simulated tone control, and a high capacitance hook up wire.
PRS introduced a new, affordable, line of guitars in the late 1990s referred to as the "SE" which is manufactured in Korea. Contrary to popular belief, SE does not stand for student edition. The incorrect assumption was even published in the PRS Book. In an odd twist of irony, Paul Smith will not reveal the details. See the official PRS forum for more details (prsguitars.com/forum).
The Dragon Models
In 1992 Prs introduced the Dragon 1 model. Only 50 units were produced. It featured an intricate dragon inlay which ran down the finger board, a wide 22 fret neck, and a non-vibrato Stop-tail bridge and a new pick up design. The changes in design from previous models added a noticeable tonal improvement which led the company to use the same characteristics in later models such as the Prs Custom 22. The Dragon 2 was released in 1993, and the Dragon 3 in 1994. Both featured dragon inlays which became more extreme with every year. Only 100 of each of the 2 models were made. In 1999 Prs released the Dragon 2000, which featured complex body curves, and a 3 dimensional dragon inlay. Just 50 Dragon 2000's were ever produced.
In 2001, PRS released their "Singlecut" guitar—which bore some resemblance to the venerable Les Paul. Gibson Guitar Corporation filed a trademark infringement lawsuit 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. PRS announced that it would immediately resume production of its Singlecut guitars.
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.
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 adopted the term 'pre-lawsuit' to differentiate their Singlecut from others.
- Bennett, Joe (2002). Guitar Facts. Hal Leonard. pp. 122–23. ISBN 9780634051920. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- Marten, Neville (2009). Guitar Heaven: The Most Famous Guitars to Electrify Our World. HarperCollins. p. 184. ISBN 9780061699191. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- Bacon, Tony (2000). Electric guitars, the illustrated encyclopedia. San Diego: thunder bay press. pp. 250–267. ISBN 1-57145-281-8.
- Gruhn, George; Walter Carter (May 2012). "PRS #15". Vintage Guitar. pp. 50–52.
- Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, L.P., 325 F. Supp. 2d 841 (M.D. Tenn., 2004)
- Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 423 F.3d 539 (6th Cir. 2005).
- En banc rehearing denied by Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Ltd. P'ship, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 29220 (6th Cir., Dec. 30, 2005)
- Certiori denied by Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 126 S. Ct. 2355 (June 5, 2006)
- Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 423 F.3d 539 (6th Cir. 2005), footnote 13.
- Marchisotto, Paul Anthony (2006) "Note: Gibson v. PRS: the Applicability of the Initial Interest Confusion Doctrine to Trademarked Product Shapes" —Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 24: pp. 883-917
- Haggerty, Thomas P. (2006) Note: "A Blue Note: The Sixth Circuit, Product Design and the Confusion Doctrines in Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP" Tulane Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property 8: pp. 219-230