How to Choose a PRS GUitar
Focus on price, playing style, body carving, and pickup type.
Your biggest considerations when choosing a PRS guitar are going to be similar to that of other guitar brands. The added distinction here is the difference between the mainline and SE PRS lines, which is going to be your first, and most important consideration.
Compare PRS GUitars
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PRS guitars are some of the nicest and most popular electric guitars on the market, with a wide range of options that we can simplify by breaking them into two categories:
- SE models
- Mainline or Core models
When choosing a PRS guitar, the first and most important decision you have to make is between these two categories. Because the SE models are what you would consider the PRS economy line, that are made in South Korea and are a lot more affordable.
The mainline PRS models are made in the United States in Maryland, and are generally a lot more expensive.
Your first step is to decide between these two routes, which will likely be determined by your budget.
Let's cover the additional considerations.
Read more: Compare PRS Electric Guitars
Consider your Playing Style and Preferred Genre
PRS guitars are widely considered some of the most versatile on the market, but there are still some playing style and genre considerations for different PRS models. I'll highlight just a few:
- PRS Silver Sky (mainline and SE versions): Ideal for blues and lighter styles
- PRS Custom 24 (mainline and SE versions): Ideal for rock metal, and more percussive styles
- PRS SE McCarty (mainline and SE versions): Rock, metal, cleans, and distortion
- PRS SE Hollowbody II (piezo or non-piezo version): Cleans, worship, more mellow playing styles
Obviously there's a ton of flexibility here. I would add that a lot of PRS guitars are particularly good with rhythm styles, since most of them use a dual humbucker configuration and often put out a more percussive tone. But they're all good for lead as well.
The body carving of the top piece in the mainline PRS guitars is exquisite to say the least. However, this carving is not reflected on the SE versions. This is a significant cost-cutting measure.
When you decide between the mainline and SE PRS models, you're making a decision between getting a PRS with this carving or not.
Here's what the carving looks like on one of the Core models. You can see it around the perimeter of the body. It's also around the control knobs and selector switch.
Here's another view of the body carving on my own PRS (ignore the ruler).
And here you can see the flatter surface on the SE Custom 24:
Pickups and Electronics
Most PRS guitars have humbuckers, that are made in-house and are quite good. Here's one that's for sale on Sweetwater:
Most of the PRS SE models come with a cheaper humbucker, though you'll also see the PRS 58/15 "S" pickup set, which are on the more expensive PRS guitars as well.
Some of the PRS guitars also have third party pickups installed. For example, the PRS Mark Holcomb signature has the Seymour Duncan Scourge and Scarlett. Additionally, the Dusty Waring signature PRS has two Mojotone DW Tomahawk humbuckers.
So you'll need to decide which pickup you're targeting, based on your playing style and musical leans. Mojotone and Seymour Duncan pickups are typically going to be a bit heavier and more aggressive than the PRS-brand humbuckers, though all of them can handle clean tones and high levels of gain.
Pricing and Budget
There's a very wide range of pricing within the PRS brand. Like I said, the SE models are the most affordable, while the Core models can get into the $4k-$5k range without skipping a beat.
You can check our full PRS price guide here, which is updated live with current pricing numbers from multiple major retailers.
PRS guitars have a lot of aesthetic considerations. They just look great, especially with the body carving. But there's a lot to think about beyond that, so make sure you take stock of my highlights here, and ask questions if you have them in the comments section below. I'll help out as much as possible.