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PRS Guitars

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PRS Guitars
Company typePrivate
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1985; 39 years ago (1985)
FounderPaul Reed Smith
Area served
ProductsElectric and acoustic guitars, basses, amplifiers

Paul Reed Smith Guitars, also known as PRS Guitars or simply PRS, is an American guitar and amplifier manufacturer located in Stevensville, Maryland. The company was founded in 1985 in Annapolis, Maryland by Paul Reed Smith. Products manufactured by PRS include electric and acoustic guitars, basses, and amplifiers.


Studio guitar
SE Custom semi-hollow
SE Soapbar body

Paul Reed Smith (born February 18, 1956) graduated from Bowie High School in 1974[1] and then briefly attended St. Mary's College of Maryland, where he began his guitar-making career.[2] Smith left school and contacted Ted McCarty, former president of Gibson and creator of the Explorer, ES-335, and Flying V guitars, and McCarty became his mentor and advisor.[2] Their collaboration resulted in the early models of Paul Reed Smith Guitars.

Smith then set up a partnership to create a factory in Annapolis, Maryland[3] and began work on producing guitars. The company's first outing was for the 1985 NAMM Show, where they debuted the PRS Custom. Featuring a mahogany neck set into a mahogany body with a maple cap, a patented vibrato, customized tuning pegs, and custom rotary pickup switching with high quality electronics, the guitar represented influences from both old and new. "I saw Adrian Belew on King Crimson's Beat tour in 1982," says Smith, "and the sound he was getting out of his guitar was on another planet somewhere. He let me rebuild his Ibanez Blazer. I put in our whole tuning-peg/bridge system and a new electronic system with an Alembic Stratoblaster pre-amp. It sounded unbelievable. Right then I decided that I wanted to put those sounds on a humbucking guitar, which is when I went back to the rotary switch and redesigned it for humbuckers."[4] After three years, the company employed 45 people and was producing 15 guitars per day. From August 1986 to June 27, it was a celebration for the company as they hit a production count of 1000 serial-numbered guitars. Later through the years, in 1996, the company moved its base of operations from the original Virginia Avenue building to a new facility in the Chesapeake Bay on Kent Island. This new manufacturing facility provided the company with 20,000 square feet of space, letting the company thrive. In 1996, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History officially added the PRS Dragon 1 among other name-brand guitars as a piece of history regarding American popular music. By 1996, PRS had 100 employees,[5] and has since grown to 300 employees.[6]





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, a vibrato, and a 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.[3]


Tremolo of a PRS Custom 24 teal black

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 pickup selector switch, PRS pickups offer 5 different sounds: a combination of thick humbucking Gibson-like tones, and chimey single-coil Stratocaster-like tones.[3] 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.[3]

PRS developed pickups for the aggressive rock market, offering pick ups such as the chainsaw, and the Hot-Fat-Screams (HFS) initially used on the Special model.[3]

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 high-capacitance hookup wire.[3] In 2012, PRS released the 408 pickups used on the 408 and Paul's Guitar models. These pickups include innovations that feature no loss of volume when in coil split mode.[7] They have an exclusive agreement to use wire drawn from the same machine that made wire for Les Paul and Stratocaster pickups in the 1950s.[8]

Certain models of PRS guitars have also used pickups by Lindy Fralin, notably in the EG II[9] and certain specs of the Custom 22.[5]


Fltr, (above): Carlos Santana model, Steven Wilson's gold models; (below): Orianthi signature, 2011 PRS Studio

In 1985, Paul Reed Smith started producing factory made guitars, which later became known as PRS Standard.[10]

In 1988, Paul Reed Smith introduced its more affordable Bolt-On series known as classic electric (CE models) which were discontinued in 2009. In 2016, the CE line was put back in production.[11]

In 1990, PRS EG was introduced as company's first 22-fret guitar. Later on in the more successful 1992 PRS EG II was introduced, which includes PRS's first left-handed guitar.[10]

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, 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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3]

In 1994, Paul Reed Smith collaborated with Ted McCarty and launched the "McCarty" Series. The McCarty series offers a more vintage feeling and sounding PRS Guitar.[10]

PRS introduced a more affordable line of guitars in 2000[12] referred to as the "SE" which are manufactured in Korea by World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd. for the electrics and Wildwood for the acoustics. PRS produces a large range of models in the SE series including the Custom 24, SE245, SE Kestrel and Kingfisher bass guitars as well as signature guitars such as the Bernie Marsden, Mark Tremonti, Zach Myers and Carlos Santana amongst others.[13] They also intro their Singlecut models in 2001.

PRS introduces a range of amplifiers and acoustic guitars in 2009.[14][15]

In 2013, PRS added the S2 Series and in February 2018 PRS began producing a Silver Sky model based on two of John Mayer's favourite guitars from the 1960s.[16]

In 2017, PRS re-launched the CE model, which was first released in 1988; the guitar represents "a more significant bolt-on model" for the company.[17]

In 2019, PRS announced three SE signature models: PRS SE Santana Singlecut Trem, PRS SE Paul's Guitar, and PRS SE Schizoid.[18]

In 2020, PRS brought the McCarty family to the S2 line, Ted McCarty, who has been a friend to Paul Reed Smith, has his own models in the S2 series for the first time ever.[17]

In 2022, PRS announced the PRS SE Silver Sky, the John Mayer Signature Silver Sky SE model.

Current models


PRS features five different series of guitars: SE, S2, Bolt-On, Core, and Private Stock series. All of them come with different prices and quality, with the lowest being the SE models and the pinnacle of PRS manufacturing being the Core and Private stock models.[4]

Location of manufacture


All Paul Reed Smith-branded instruments are manufactured exclusively in the company's factory in Stevensville Maryland. Paul Reed Smith also provides lower-priced instruments under the PRS brand that have been produced through exclusive license agreements with manufacturers in Korea, Indonesia, and China.[19][20][21][22]


In 2001, PRS released their Singlecut model, which resembled the traditional Les Paul guitar. Gibson Guitar Corporation filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the owner, Paul Reed Smith. An injunction was ordered[23] that required PRS to stop manufacturing of the Singlecut at the end of 2004. Federal District Court Judge William J. Haynes, then ruled the Singlecut was an imitation of the Gibson Les Paul.[23] However, 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 and PRS resumed production.[24]

While no changes to the design of the Singlecut occurred as a result of the lawsuit, some Singlecut owners and sellers have adopted the term 'pre-lawsuit' to differentiate their Singlecut guitar from others.[25][26][27]


  1. ^ Virginia, Terhune (January 3, 2013). "Bowie High grad, guitar maker and band perform at scholarship fundraiser Saturday". The Gazette (Maryland). Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Strauss, Karsten (April 15, 2013). "PRS Guitars -- Chasing Perfection". Forbes. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bacon, Tony (2000). Electric guitars, the illustrated encyclopedia. San Diego: thunder bay press. pp. 250–267. ISBN 1-57145-281-8.
  4. ^ a b Burrluck, Dave. (2007). The PRS guitar book : [a complete history of Paul Reed Smith guitars] (3rd ed.). Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat. ISBN 978-0879308988. OCLC 71808403.
  5. ^ a b "Model History". prsguitars.com. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  6. ^ "PRS Guitars Number of Employees, Statistics, Diversity, Demographics, and Facts - Zippia". www.zippia.com. March 25, 2022. Retrieved January 30, 2024.
  7. ^ "Why Don't PRS 408 Pickups Lose Volume in Single-coil Mode?". Sweetwater. April 16, 2013.
  8. ^ "PRS Talks PAF Pickups, Wire and 408". MusicStoreLive.com. August 9, 2013. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021 – via youtube.com.
  9. ^ Buurluck, Dave (2007). The PRS Guitar Book: A Complete History of Paul Reed Smith Guitars. Backbeat Books. p. 151.
  10. ^ a b c "NAMM 2019:30 years of PRS: 30 landmark guitars". www.musicradar.com. February 17, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "Behind the PRS CE: how the Classic Electric guitar returned". www.musicradar.com. May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  12. ^ "Year Identification". Customer Support Center. www.prsguitars.com. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  13. ^ PRS
  14. ^ Taylor, Mick; September 2008, Chris Vinnicombe 25 (September 25, 2008). "PRS launches new guitars and amp range". MusicRadar.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ August 2011, Guitar World Staff 20 (August 20, 2011). "PRS Guitars Introduces New SE Amp Line". guitarworld.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "PRS Guitars Announces the John Mayer Silver Sky". Premierguitar.com. March 5, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Smith, Paul, reed (May 17, 2023). "The PRS Story". prsguitars.com. Retrieved May 17, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "NAMM 2019: PRS Announces Three New SE Signature Models". www.guitarworld.com. January 15, 2019. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Christopher Scapelliti (April 4, 2017). "U.S.-Made PRS vs. Korean PRS: What's the Difference?". guitarworld. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  20. ^ USA Paul Reed Smith vs Korean PRS SE, retrieved February 1, 2024
  21. ^ updated, Dave Burrlucklast (November 11, 2020). "PRS SE Hollowbody Standard and Hollowbody II review". guitarworld. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  22. ^ "Review: PRS SE A40E Angelus Acoustic-Electric Guitar Is a Workhorse Import That Overdelivers". Acoustic Guitar. May 20, 2022. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  23. ^ a b Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, L.P., 325 F. Supp. 2d 841 (M.D. Tenn., 2004)
  24. ^ Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 423 F.3d 539 (6th Cir. 2005).
  25. ^ Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 423 F.3d 539 (6th Cir. 2005), footnote 13.
  26. ^ 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: 883–917.
  27. ^ Haggerty, Thomas P. (2006). "Note: A Blue Note: The Sixth Circuit, Product Design and the Confusion". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)