Ultimate Guide to
PRS Guitars

PRS is one of the musical instrument industry’s largest and most recognised guitar brands. Not far behind their contemporaries Fender and Gibson in terms of stature and success; PRS continues to innovate and strive for perfection with its stunning guitar range.

The company’s catalogue has never been more diverse; in all of its 30+ year history. Comprised of a number of different models and ranges, PRS’ appeal is widespread as it accommodates for all tastes and budgets. But with so much choice, it can be difficult to identify which particular instrument of theirs will suit you the best.

In this detailed guide, we’ve broken down each section of the PRS guitar lineup to make it as easy as possible for you to find your ultimate instrument - whether that be an affordable SE model or a premium, US-made Core guitar.

PRS Guitars Comparison Guide
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Written by

Elliot Stent

PRS is a best-selling brand at Andertons Music Co. and we work closely with the company to ensure that we’re stocking only the newest and most exciting models that they have to offer. From their flagship Custom 24 guitars to their niche Limited Edition axes, there’s plenty of variety.

While electric guitars are PRS’ “bread and butter” so to speak, the company also dabbles with guitar amps, basses and acoustic guitars too. We’ll be focusing solely on their electric and acoustic guitar offerings in this guide - but the rest of their range is still worth checking out!

The Custom 24 is the definitive PRS guitar. Unveiled at the 1985 NAMM Show, this stellar six-string was PRS’ very first production model and it remains their most popular instrument even today. Distinctive for its flying bird fingerboard inlays, dual humbuckers, carved Flamed Maple top, 24 frets and ergonomic contours; the Custom 24 is considered a modern classic among guitarists.

This instrument is acclaimed for its versatility and has been used by countless high-profile artists over the years, including Orianthi, Mark Holcomb (Periphery), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and Brad Delson (Linkin Park). Many cite the Custom 24 as a Les Paul/Stratocaster hybrid of sorts, in terms of its sound, playability and looks. However, its 25” scale length is perhaps more indicative of this, which sits between a Les Paul and Strat’s conventional 24.75” and 25.5” measurements respectively.

Regarding tonewoods, PRS Custom 24 guitars are constructed primarily from Mahogany. Used to form their bodies and necks, this material is renowned for its warmth and gives Custom 24 models a harmonically-rich, full and powerful sound. Sleek Rosewood fingerboards typically adorn their necks too; another tip-of-the-hat to Gibson’s famous formula.

Of course, their hardware and electronics play an important part too. Featuring smoothly-machined tremolo systems that are both comfortable and practical, PRS’ US-made Core Custom 24 guitars also feature locking tuners that ensure greater tuning stability. Current models come fitted with 85/15 pickups, designed to offer exceptional clarity with vibrant highs and extended lows. Sporting 5-way pickup selectors, you can also attain a mixture of full humbucking and split single-coil sounds in parallel; expanding your tonal palette.

PRS Custom 24 - Official Demo

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The Custom 24 certainly set the precedent for PRS, and many of its features dripped down into the brand’s future models. The Custom 22 is perhaps the most obvious example, as it is practically identical to the Custom 24 in terms of its aesthetics, tonewoods and appointments. But as its name suggests, this particular model features 22 frets instead of 24.

Some of you may be thinking - “why would you want less frets?” Well, with less of them, the Custom 22’s slightly shorter fingerboard allows for its rhythm humbucker to be moved further away from the bridge pickup. This therefore gives the neck humbucker a more rounded tone, with greater low-end depth and warmth. Many players prefer these sonic qualities, while some also prefer the way that a Custom 22 looks with more distance between its two pickups.

PRS Custom 24 vs. Custom 22 - Official Demo

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PRS’ CE24 model follows in the footsteps of the iconic Custom 24, albeit with a noticeable tweak in its construction. Instead of featuring the classic Gibson-esque set-neck joint, the CE24 follows a more Fender-inspired bolt-on design. This means that a CE24’s body and neck are connected with screws, rather than with wood glue.

Some players aren’t particularly concerned with the type of construction that their guitar has. However, for many it is quite an essential feature that can make the difference between buying a certain guitar or not. That’s because the type of neck joint that a guitar has can dramatically affect the type of sound that it emits. For example, a bolt-on joint is deemed to yield a brighter, snappier sound that gives notes a more immediate quality. A set-neck design, on the other hand, is believed to provide greater sustain and richer lows.

The PRS CE24 is therefore an instrument that Fender fans can get onboard with, as its offers a familiar sound and feel - especially with its Maple neck too. Apart from its construction and neck material, all the other typical Custom 24 appointments remain intact; including the signature Flamed Maple top, Mahogany body and dual-humbucker pickup configuration.

PRS CE24 Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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Legendary guitar designer Ted McCarty played a huge role in the success of Gibson’s early solid-body models in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Later becoming a mentor and consultant for PRS founder Paul Reed Smith, who he credited as a defining figure in the growth of his company; PRS unveiled the McCarty model in 1994 to pay homage to the legendary innovator.

Featuring traditional hallmarks that are synonymous with Gibson, PRS McCarty guitars boast thick bodies for enhanced sustain, substantial vintage-esque neck profiles and tasteful bound fingerboards. However, perhaps more significantly, PRS’ recent McCarty 594 models have short 24.594” scale lengths that are akin to Gibson’s standard 24.75” scale; giving these instruments a slinkier feel.

Regarding their hardware, most PRS McCarty models come equipped with an old-school stoptail bridge or PRS’ tune-o-matic-inspired 2-piece tailpiece; also reminiscent of Gibson. Their pickups likewise pay tribute to iconic Gibson design, fitted with 58/15 humbuckers that capture the essence of classic medium-output, mid-focused PAF pickups from the golden age of electric guitar design.

PRS McCarty Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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In its first 15 years, PRS achieved major success with their US-made ‘Core’ series guitars and garnered many plaudits for the quality of its instruments. However, to appeal to a wider audience, the brand launched its budget-friendly ‘Student Edition’ (SE) guitar range in 2000. Looking to take market share away from competitors Gibson and Fender with their affordable Epiphone and made-in-Mexico guitars respectively; the SE range encompasses a number of sub-£1000 PRS designs that are manufactured in the Far East.

Early SE models were originally intended for beginners and intermediates, but seasoned professionals have been seen using recent SE guitars onstage. With today’s PRS SE models featuring upgraded hardware and higher-quality pickups, these instruments are seen as viable alternatives to even their made-in-Maryland counterparts.

Modern PRS SE guitars boast many of the features that you’d expect to see on their Core series brethren. For instance, while early SE guitars featured simple dot inlays instead of PRS’ signature flying bird design; the majority of its SE offerings now feature the trademark inlays. Their tonewoods are also similar for the most part, with many SE guitars featuring Mahogany bodies and necks, as well as Flamed Maple veneers which give them that beautiful PRS identity.

PRS SE Standard Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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The PRS S2 series somewhat bridges the gap between the brand’s Core and SE lines. Made in their main Maryland factory, PRS’ S2 guitars are more stripped back than their Core models to ensure that they remain attainable to most guitarists, yet still offer that unmistakable PRS sound, feel and build quality.

Guitars in the S2 range are typically emblazoned with flat finishes rather than transparent colours, as they rarely sport the luscious and exotic tops that you’d find on Core models. Most S2s also have simple dot inlays rather than signature PRS flying birds. However, these understated guitars may be appealing to players seeking instruments that are more road-worthy and likely to take a beating!

The PRS S2 guitar range features some of the company’s usual suspects, including Custom 24, Custom 22 and Singlecut models. However, the S2 lineup also includes original designs not found in other PRS series’. The Vela is a notable example, featuring an elegant offset body shape that alternative rock fans would surely admire. The S2 Studio is also worth mentioning, with its flexible H/S/S pickup configuration making it one of the most versatile guitars PRS has ever produced.

PRS S2 Studio Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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As we’ve established; PRS is an immensely popular guitar brand. With many artists using their instruments and a raft of high-profile guitarists on their official endorsee roster; PRS has graced some of its most loyal users with their very own custom signature models. Although PRS’ signature guitars are spread across their Core and SE ranges, you’ll find the majority of them in the latter; giving fans the opportunity to purchase their heroes instruments without breaking the bank.

The legendary Carlos Santana was the very first musician to receive a signature model from PRS. His guitar is distinctive for its rounded and near-symmetrical body shape, which can be best described as a Custom 24/Les Paul hybrid. Mark Tremonti is also a long-standing PRS artist, who has used the company’s instruments for over 20 years. His Singlecut-derived model is one of PRS’ best-selling guitars, available in both the Core and SE series’.

However, John Mayer is arguably the most renowned musician to currently boast a PRS signature model. Officially teaming up with the brand in 2015, his first PRS signature guitars were the Super Eagle and Super Eagle II - unveiled in 2016 and 2017 respectively. With only 100 and 120 of each made, these Private Stock guitars were distinctive for their semi-hollow bodies, H/S/H pickup configurations and 24 frets. But after much speculation, Mayer’s production line signature model was officially announced in early 2018 - the Silver Sky. Inspired by his pre-CBS ‘60s Fender Strats, this US-made guitar features a trio of single-coil pickups and a reversed PRS headstock.

PRS Silver Sky Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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While PRS’ catalogue encompasses a diverse range of instruments, a few times a year it surprises us all by releasing small quantities of Limited Edition guitars! Featuring unusual tonewood combinations, spellbinding finishes and other tasteful tweaks; these models are inspiring for PRS fans that are looking for something a little bit different.

Applicable to their Core and S2 lines, most PRS Limited Edition guitars are released as part of the affordable SE series; much like PRS’ Signature range. Often based off an existing production model, the majority of these Limited Edition guitars come with more exotic top woods, while recent models have also featured Roasted Maple necks and double-locking Floyd Rose tremolo systems.

PRS Limited Edition Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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As we alluded to at the beginning of this guide; PRS is known predominantly for its electric guitars and the brand caters mostly for players of that discipline. However, a few years ago the brand expanded its catalogue and unveiled a stunning acoustic guitar range to rival the likes of Martin and Taylor.

With a Core acoustic lineup for some time, PRS currently offers acoustic guitars only from its SE and Private Stock series’. Here at Andertons Music Co. we stock the former, and PRS’ two main SE acoustic models are the Angelus and Tonare. Both featuring mid-sized body shapes that ensure excellent projection without a cumbersome feel, the Angelus has a cutaway that allows players to access its upper frets more easily while the Tonare is slightly more conventional.

Apart from their body shapes, these models also differ when it comes to their tonewoods. While the Tonare is constructed predominantly from Mahogany, the Angelus makes use of Maple for its back and sides; yielding a brighter and more vibrant sound. High-quality Fishman pickups are fitted to these electro-acoustic guitars, meaning that their full acoustic characteristics are translated beautifully through an acoustic guitar amp, PA system or audio interface.

PRS SE Acoustic Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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Want To Learn More?

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