Old PRS Vs New PRS Guitars

Old PRS Vs New PRS Guitars

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It is my firm belief that the older PRS Guitars are far superior to the new ones.  It is also my firm belief that the hand made pre 1995 Guitars will be the only ones to ever escalate in value.

As of 2007 the prices on even the older ones took a huge nose dive. A lot of people lost a lot of money who had large PRS collections that they were sitting on to increase in value.

PRS's salespeople will try to tell you that the newer models are more precise because of the high technology employed in the construction. They will tell you that the newer guitars are more stable than the older guitars, and they will even try to tell you that the new ones sound better. Poppycock!!!!

These Claims May be Partly True!!

But I think these are carefully orchestrated and engineered claims.

Let's address PRS's claims one at a time:

  1. Precision:
    Yes the computer controlled routers and robotic machines are more precise than the old hand made way.  I just object to paying hand made prices for computer made products.  I would always prefer hand made to computer made except in a $300.00 to $500.00 price range.  Don't forget that it costs a fraction to computer build a guitar versus hand making it.
  2. Stability:
    Ok maybe the new ones are more stable. I have never ever had a stability problem with any PRS guitar. If you overbuild something just so you can say it's more stable is OK I guess, But the problem is the new "Supposedly more stable ones" play like tanks in comparison to the old slender neck non heeled models.
  3. Sound:
    As for sounding better I simply don't believe that anyone in their right mind could make a subjective statement like that.  I could easily believe that if someone said it with enough conviction and confidence that a weak minded or inexperienced person would believe it.   Just remember how a guitar sounds is totally subjective.  Think for a minute how ridiculous a statement like "it sounds better" actually is.  In effect what these people are saying is the old ones sounded bad.

     ED ROMAN, 05/10/99


1989 PRS Studio 24 Made for Ralph Perrucci (handwritten on headstock)
The First Ever PRS Studio Model

1 piece Quilt 15 top, Gold Hardware, Real Abalone Birds on the Darkest Brazilian Rosewood I have ever seen (looks like ebony fingerboard), Extremely Rare Original Eagle Logo on Headstock.

Ralph Perrucci is a 15 year PRS employee, Plays with Paul in Paul's Band "The Dragons"  Ralph designed the Swamp Ash Special and the Original 3 Pickup Studio Model.

PRS Classic Maple Top Original Pre 1995 (Recommended Model)
Alder body, figured book matched Maple top, Solid 1 piece Maple neck, Indian Rosewood fingerboard. I Strongly recommend this model, It sounds great it's extremely versatile and it's very easy to play. PRS did not offer Birds or any other upgrades on this model until approximately 1993. Because these options were not available on the model the price was considerably lower than a Custom. Because the street price was as much as $600.00 less. Many people mistakenly thought the model was not as good as the higher priced Custom. The Custom at the time offered many expensive options like gold hardware, Bird inlays, 10 Tops etc. etc.  Naturally people assumed the Custom to be much better because of the mega price difference when you figured in the options only available on the Custom. 

PRS Classic's Made after April 1995
I believe That PRS should have changed the model name for this guitar when they decided to use Mahogany for the body instead of Alder. After all it is made from an entirely different sounding wood. This is the type of thing that tends to confuse the buying public. Coincidentally around the same time as they went to an all Mahogany back PRS also decided to discontinue their relatively heel-less neck joint and replace it with the large bulky (Heel from Hell). Personally I despise that new heel and I feel that the Mahogany darkens the tone enough so that even an inexperienced ear would be able to tell the difference. IMPORTANT Some people may read this and deduce based on what I have written that the new ones are no good. Good is a relative term.. I am not saying they are no good I am just saying I do not like them as much as I liked the earlier ones.

The large group of 15 investors who own "The Paul Reed Smith Guitar Company" obviously want to sell new PRS guitars. They obviously don't want people to buy an older model.  So they have mounted a huge advertising campaign to promote their newer models.

One of my favorite quotes in their new advertisements goes something like "Quite a few important people are saying good things about the new PRS Guitars".  As if to say that if someone thought differently, they would be unimportant. I believe that advertising slogan was directed right at me and other people like me who are exposing many of PRS's changes.

Oh yeah, just who are these important people,  Are they perhaps reviewers from magazines that PRS advertises in?  Do these people have any vested interest in the PRS company?  Whoever these people are PRS says they are important.

So you better believe whatever they say because they are important!!!

     Ed Roman

PRS Frequently asked Questions

  1. When and WHY did PRS go to that VERY LARGE BULKY uncomfortable neck heel?
  2. What year did PRS stop using real abalone in their inlays?
  3. What year did PRS stop using the one piece construction original tremolo & how can I spot the difference?
  4. Why did the older ones have nicer tops?
  5. What exactly is a sweet switch, and can I remove it or can I put one in?
  6. Why does the McCarty model cost more, when it does not include a 5 position switch it does not have locking tuners, it doesn't come with a tremolo and the wood doesn't look as nice?
  7. Why did PRS name a guitar "The McCarty Model" after an ex Gibson employee?
  8. What is the difference between a Custom 24 and a Custom 22?
  9. Why does PRS charge so much more for gold hardware?
  10. Why does the Original Classic model sound more versatile than the ones available today?
  11. Why does PRS on their newer stop tailpiece models use a design that makes it hard to intonate the guitar?
  12. What year did PRS stop using Brazilian Rosewood on their fingerboards?
  13. I want to buy a PRS Guitar but I'm not sure which one will be the best investment?
  14. Just what the Hell is a "10 top" !  & why is it stamped on the guitar over the finish?
  15. Why do some 10 tops look better than others and why have I seen super nice tops that weren't stamped "10"?
  16. What different woods are available on different PRS models?
  17. What is Michigan Maple ?  What is Corinthian Leather?
  18. Just what does the 5 position switch actually control?
  19. How do the PRS locking tuners work? and are they any better than all the others on the market today?
  20. All the PRS Guitars look basically the same, why is one more expensive than another?
  21. When did PRS switch from Duplicarver machinery and go to computer controlled CNC machines?
  22. How many different neck sizes are available and how can I tell them apart if I don't have another PRS next to it to use as a point of reference?
  23. Why does the PRS guitar have such a small headstock?
  24. How come on the red Custom's and royal blue Custom's there is no strip of raw wood around the body that simulates a binding?
  25. What is better a 22 fret guitar or a 24 fret guitar?
  26. Why is a Dragon guitar so much more money than a regular PRS when the only real difference is the inlay?
  27. How come PRS doesn't offer a Maple or Ebony fingerboard?
  28. Why did PRS stop using Alder on their 1995 and up Classic models?
  29. What were Paul's "private stash" woods?
  30. When did Paul change the brand of the 5 position switch?
  31. When did PRS switch to Japanese made Gotoh brand tuners?
  32. What  happened to the old Central Labs Pots and where can I get them?
  33. I have seen many colors that don't show up on PRS's Color Charts,  How do I find out about them?
  34. How come on a premium guitar like PRS there is no neck binding, and how come it's not an option?
  35. I want an Ebony fretboard. How come PRS won't accommodate me?
  36. Why did the Swamp Ash model cost more than a Classic?

More Questions Coming

Get ready for some heavy reading.

Recently a consumer named John Klein read the above list. He E-mailed PRS a list of some of these questions. The person who answered was supposedly someone named "Jim Cullen." Here are some of the answers given to the questions that were posed.

PRS Finally Responds ...

Several Years ago PRS told me they would not respond to my questions.
The exact word used were
"We don't want to give you any credibility"

Customers Name : John Klein
Address: 313 Hibbs Ave.
City: Glenolden
State: Pa
Zip: 19036

Dear Ed,

I sent a couple of the questions you had about PRS guitars to the company and here is the B.S. they said.


1. When and WHY did PRS go to that VERY LARGE BULKY uncomfortable neck heel?
. What year did PRS stop using real abalone in their inlays?
3. Why does the McCarty model cost more, when it does not include a 5 position switch it does not have locking tuners, it doesn't come with a  tremolo and the wood doesn't look as nice?
. Why did PRS name a guitar "The McCarty Model" after an ex Gibson employee?
. What is the difference between a Custom 24 and a Custom 22?
. Why does PRS charge so much more for gold hardware?
. Why is a Dragon guitar so much more money than a regular PRS when the only real difference is the inlay?
. When did PRS switch to Japanese made Gotoh brand tuners?
. How come on a premium guitar like PRS there is no neck binding, and how  come it's not an option?
. I want an Ebony fretboard. How come PRS won't accommodate me?
. Why did the Swamp Ash model cost more than a Classic?

Answers: From Jim Cullen at PRS

1-1995 -- PRS went to the new longer neck heel to improve the strength and tone of the guitar.  When you reduce the length of the neck you increase the strength by its cube (x3). When you increase the thickness you increase the strength by its square (x2). The playability of the guitar is opinion based since we have found no problems with this design in reaching notes at the upper register.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #1

I believe that answer to be ridiculous, the neck was already plenty strong, I have only seen one PRS neck break anywhere near the heel and it was a later model one.  I suppose if you needlessly overbuild something just so you can say it's better than the original because the old ones were in demand and the new ones weren't. I suspect that the new automated plant required some type of flat spot on the neck so that a machine could easily grip the neck while it was being carved robotically.

Paul told me while driving to a restaurant for lunch that the reason for the large heel was to add mass to the neck to eliminate any so called dead spots on the neck. I suggested a number of other options.

1. Insert 2 brass weights into the heel of the neck before inserting the neck into the guitar. This would add sufficient mass and still retain the original playability.

2. Attach the pickup directly to the tongue of the neck this would not only easily add the required mass to the neck but it would make the guitar sound better because the spring dampening would be eliminated and the pickup would resonate in time with the actual neck.  (Quicksilver Guitars Use This Method)

2 - 1991 -- PRS stopped using real abalone because of the world shortage of shells large enough to cut one piece inlays. For a short period of time we went to the mother of pearl inlays, but returned to laminated abalone when a Korean company developed a cutter that could cut on the curve of the shell.  This process uses 80% less shell and therefore not only allows us to offer the beauty of abalone once again, but puts less of a strain on
this natural resource.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #2

I think it puts a lot less strain on the cost of the guitar also. I love the way PRS is trying to turn this into a GREEN issue. If PRS is really a Green, company.  Why did they build the Archtop II & Hollow Body II models by hogging out the mahogany & wasting 90% of the wood it takes to make the body. Notice also they are buying it from a Korean Company. BTW the PRS inlays aren't that big at all. Jackson & Rickenbacker are probably the only mainstream company I can think of that may have a problem getting large enough shells.

3 - There is more wood on the McCarty model, due to its thicker back.  If you break it down by options, it does not cost you any more than a Custom 22 model.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #3

That is total Bullshit, Lets break it down according to PRS's price sheet.
The list price for the PRS Custom is $2,650.00
The list price for the PRS McCarty is $2,840.00
That means that the McCarty is $240.00 more dollars and it doesn't come with locking tuners, In fact it doesn't even come with high quality Schaller tuners. PRS has opted to use Korean made Vintage style Kluson Tuners.
It doesn't come with a 5 way switch,
You can't order a 24 fret version
The topwood is lesser expensive midwest maple instead of the more expensive west coast big leaf maple. (Bull$hit to that)

All the options cost the same on all the guitars so the statement about break it down by options is total doubletalk.

4 - Ted worked very closely with Paul for a number of years with Paul, and assisted in the design changes on the McCarty model.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #4

I simply don't believe it, I have spoken to Ted McCarty myself at least 3 or 4 times. It is my opinion that just because he was the CEO of Gibson is why his name actually got on some of the patents. In my experience I would say that the whole thing is nothing more than total hype.  I will clarify again and say that is my opinion. Yes it is possible that Paul consulted with Ted McCarty but what for?   Paul Reed Smith is 3 times the designer than Ted McCarty,  Paul came up with many original ideas himself, Extremely Good Ideas.

My opinion is Ted McCarty's name was used to simply add credibility to the PRS name. In fact I personally don't like any of the supposed McCarty designs except for the Archtop II. That they discontinued last year. I think that the board of directors or whatever at PRS wanted to do was to gain credibility with all the Gibson Geeks by using Ted McCarty as a figurehead. (Hey it worked) (Good marketing but bad designing)

5 -    two frets, and different pickups.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #5

I think PRS better train their people a little better. This answer is a total half truth.

The Question Was ....What is the difference between a Custom 24 and a Custom 22?

He left out the most important part, Pickup location!!!!
The Custom 22 pickup is situated in a location where the 24th fret harmonic falls. There is a node or phase cancellation at that location. This simply means that a lot of the midrange frequencies are gonna go bye bye because they are cancelled out.  You will get a muddy sound just like a Les Paul on a 22 fret model whereas the 24 fret version pickup falls off axis or away from the node. You will get a more clear lively rhythm sound.  The 22 fret sounds good for lead but at what sacrifice.  The 24 sounds good for lead also but on the 24 you don't have to sacrifice your midrange frequencies.

He also left out that the 22 fret neck chokes your hand when you play it sitting down.  At least it does for me but I've got a big belly so that may also contribute to the problem. However the 24 fret model doesn't bother me a bit.

The Dreaded Heel from Hell is even longer on the 22 and the neck angle seems different to me also.

6 - Gold plating is not cheap

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #6

Yeah nothing is cheap,  I have never heard of any other company charging more than a $100.00 for Gold, PRS charges $240.00 extra.
That is insanity

7 - Right

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #7

I guess there was no answer for that one!!  I know it costs me about $1,200.00 to have a dragon done. All the ones I have are totally hand made. The one on the PRS is totally a machine made copy of each other and they aren't even done at PRS.  They are done at an outside automated shop for approximately $700.00 each (That is an educated guess and I guessed high)
Remember these dragons cost a dealer about $8,500.00 more than a Standard guitar and they sell upwards of $22,000.00 (More insanity)

8 - We did?

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer 8

That question mark almost makes that sound like a denial.  Hey Jim you better check your facts.

9 - Because itís not!

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #9

And People say, I'm Arrogant? (Give me a break)

10 - We do not offer ebony!

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #10

Yeah, I already know that,  The question was a simple basic why question.

11 - More labor involved.

Comments from Ed Roman on Answer #11

I definitely don't believe that, The body is solid Swamp Ash, There is no laminating a top to a mahogany back and there is no cost of maple for the top itself.  These are primary reasons why PRS is a high priced guitar in the first place and they are simply not on the Swamp Ash Special.


I had a customer come up from South America recently,  He came up intent on buying a PRS. Usually  foreigners are the least informed customers I get and the hardest to sell anything too because they basically don't trust gringos. I guess I can't blame them for that.  After all many of them are used to superstores etc etc.

I showed the customer my selection of about 90 PRS guitars. He picked up an Amber one and proceeded to play it.

He was completely pre sold on PRS guitars, He thought they were about the best he could buy. Probably the only reason he was coming to me were my prices and my huge selection.  He told me he wanted to buy the guitar and he was all ready to pay for it and leave.  Usually I show all my customers some other brands that I prefer. Sometimes they buy them and sometimes they don't.  In any case it was late in the day and we were getting ready to close.  Just for the Hell of it I asked him if he would like to see something better?  He responded that he had an open mind so I showed him several other brands, Jaros & JET.

I showed him the superior bridge design,  I showed him the superior electronics layout and the set through neck construction and several other things and to my complete surprise he was totally converted within 5 minutes. Usually it takes me up to an hour to deprogram someone.  In any case he purchased a Jaros Guitar and was quite happy about it.

I asked him what he did for a living and he replied that he was an engineer.  Well the smoke cleared for me instantly. I realized that because he was an engineer it was a simple matter for him to determine the better guitar from an engineering standpoint.  To him the fact that the Jaros sounded about 20% better to him was a bonus.

Ed Roman, July 5th 2001

---Original Message-----
 From: Darren Kraemer
 Subject: thank you for the reprogramming, please help


First off, fine work getting me to realize I had been brainwashed...about 10 years ago, when I was a teenager, I played a pre 1995 PRS guitar that just blew me away....however I didn't have the money to buy one until a few years ago...unfortunately I had not read your page of criticism...

I was set on getting a PRS, after trying lots of shiny new models (1999) that didn't really sing to me, I bought a beautiful natural finish 97 custom 24 with moon inlays and a non 10 top...seemed great at first, but as I got to know this guitar I realized that it had some serious flaws.

The most annoying being.........

1. the tuners are crap (these are not the low mass tuners).. and have a low gear ratio, and they seem to slip/skip gears when I'm tuning up

2. the tone control is way too extreme for me, I already own a wah wah, and don't need another narrow band pass filter, built into the guitar!

I've talked to PRS about these issues and they just blow me off...so I'm asking you, because you seem to know what your talking about.

My question to you is simple...I'm very sensitive to pitch, and these tuners just don't do it for me...(I build lasers for a living, and am used to using micrometers with micron accuracy)...

What tuners should I install as replacements? (I want the highest gear ratio that is reasonable for guitar, preferably locking tuners) are there any on the market that don't require major alterations to the headstock???


After I pluck a note, I can hear the pitch of this note going up and down...is there an established technique to damp these frequency oscillations!!! (I have a trem on my guitar, but I keep it tight so that it touches the body (it seems to increase sustain and deepen the tone)

Darren Kraemer 

University of Toronto Department of Physics


Hello Darren

Newer PRS tremolos have tuning stabilization problems

I suggest dumping the PRS trem and possibly going to a Buzz Feiten System