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$10K Private Stock... Inspiration or Frustration?

I agree. The only ‘better’ that counts is whether something’s a better fit for the person making the choice.

I pick guitars to impress only myself.

On this, I do agree - although only in the case of the PS guitars you commissioned yourself. The fact that you hot to pick the woods, the pick-ups, the switching, the colour and inlays etc etc - essentially having a guitar built to your preference so therefore it 'must' be a better fit and you also have an attachment to that instrument long before it actually becomes an instrument.

I know that if I got to pick the maple top, the Mahogany back and neck, the rosewood fretboard and inlays etc to make a PS 594 in Fire Red Burst, even though both the PS and my Core have exactly the same materials, same pick-ups and electronics, the very fact that I commissioned the PS, picked everything myself and virtually 'birthed' that instrument, it would be 'better' to me - even if others couldn't tell them apart in a blind test. That PS would be special because I commissioned it, I chose every part of it.

If I were able to buy the Graveyard 2, it would be 'special' in a different way. The design on the neck and headstock, although I am not too keen on the back of the body colour, and the fact that I would be just 1 of 60 to own it would make it special. Its the same with those Dragon guitars I lust after - these are 'special' guitars and I almost wouldn't care how well they played or sounded because I wouldn't necessarily buy them for that purpose. Not saying I would 'never' play them, just not really ROCK on them or would let them out of the house. Apart from the odd 'Shop' demoing these guitars, I bet you won't see anyone playing these guitars regularly on tour - I have never seen a PRS Dragon being rocked regularly on a tour.

Point is, Some PS are special in a different way to being special because you had a massive impact by choosing everything and having it built specifically for you. Other PS, those that have been built to another person/retailer specs may not be much (if any) better than a regular core. They could even be slightly worse tonally if you prefer the woods in a regular core. Someone's choice to pick brighter, snappier woods that lose a bit of that warmth and depth of mahogany may not be 'better' than your Core version.

Private Stock encompasses too many variations. By variations I am referring to he fact that PRS build their own PS (such as the Dragons and Graveyard 2) and some that are prelude to core versions. then you have those that are commissioned by others and built to 'their' specs (or yours if you are in a position to do so). Therefore, you get those that are pieces of art (as well as an instrument of course). The craftsmanship and intricacy of the designs - whether its all the inlay work of all those little pieces that combine to form an image, or some elaborate carving, they are amazing pieces of art. Then you have those instruments that showcase the beauty of nature by using the finest woods - many of which are only available in Private Stock and maybe find some 'oddities' in PRS that you won't get in the core line, like fan-fret with evenly spaced out 5 509 pick-ups, 24 fret hollowbody 594 in a natural wood finish that were commissioned. If you don't like the position of the neck pick-up on the 24 fret HB594, it may not be 'better' to you than the regular core version but to the person that commissioned it, I bet its worth every single penny/cent they spent on it and better than any core model because its 'their' baby.

Better is certainly relative when it comes to Private Stock, in fact its relative across the whole spectrum of guitars, price points and preferences. Even if you just take PRS guitars, there are a number of people that are happy with SE's and don't think paying the price for a core because to them, its not 3-5x better to them. All the extra care, attention, quality checks, hands on time etc is not worth the extra money. I also don't know how many times myself or have seen others asked which guitar is better between often very different guitars. Should you buy a PRS Cu24 or a Silver Sky - which is 'better'. Its impossible because they are so very different and would suit different people based on what they prefer or need at that time. Ideally you may want/need both of course. The same applies to the 10top or 'regular' core, I don't know how many times I have seen people ask if a 10top is worth the extra. The same can apply to Wood Library and Private Stock too. Its all relative to the individual and whether or not they have an invested interest in the design/build of an instrument, whether they prefer the aesthetics or woods used of a certain instrument. Too many variables and its all relative. I have seen people say they wouldn't want a core because they would to frightened to take it out of its case and wouldn't want to get it scratched let alone a PS. Some may prefer the snap and chime of a CE24 over a Cu24 its all relative...

There are instruments I would buy (money no object) just because they are aesthetically stunning and wouldn't really care too much how they play or sound - that wouldn't make them 'better' or 'worse' just fulfil a different criteria. There are guitars I would buy because they offer something I want or need tonally - like a 594, 509, Cu24 and my HBii all of which are very different instruments tonally and offer something uniquely different. None of these are 'better' or 'worse', none are necessarily 'better' or 'worse' than the 10 top, wood library or PS versions - different maybe, aesthetically maybe but if I commissioned one, chose everything and had it built specifically for me, I may well feel it is 'better'. I am sure that spending more on a guitar may also make it 'feel' better because of the financial investment but whether its actually better to play (assuming its set-up the same) and/or sound better is subjective.

It would be interesting to blind test with a group of people - that way you get to hear others play so its just the tonal qualities and get to play the instruments so playability is assessed. I think it would be interesting to see if those that commissioned a PS could identify it in a blind test like this. Maybe Rob Chapman could as he seems to be great at identifying things in a blind test but could others too? I do generally hear the difference between an 'S' pick-up and a USA made Pick-up...
 
There is one interesting caveat to all of this and to the OP's actual question. First, I would consider runs like the Graveyards, Dragons, Golden Eagle, Collections, etc core Private Stock Grade. Some limited editions were created before PS even existed. Such as Rosewood LTD, 10th ann, sigs and some others. Paul's knowledge and expertise on these runs is enough for me to know there is something special here in all regards, tonally coming first. So when he makes a run of 10-100 of something he's excited about I usually have faith in his quest.

If I feel the gas and a run appeals to me such as the Graveyard, this is where my focus has been re what I have acquired. In fact I have a Graveyard Ltd and got it after careful research on why this is a notch above a core 594. I luckily have someone inside PRS that worked on this build and called him for feedback on this very issue. With utmost confidence in his advise and feedback I felt assured of the special differences and love my new guitar.

I could have built a nice PS for the price but if I ever do want to move a guitar, it's probably easier to sell/trade a know great collectable run than my own creation one of a kind. However I'm always drooling over the one offs from PS. Come on PRS, where's the next Dragon, I am already in!!!!
 
There is one interesting caveat to all of this and to the OP's actual question. First, I would consider runs like the Graveyards, Dragons, Golden Eagle, Collections, etc core Private Stock Grade. Some limited editions were created before PS even existed. Such as Rosewood LTD, 10th ann, sigs and some others. Paul's knowledge and expertise on these runs is enough for me to know there is something special here in all regards, tonally coming first. So when he makes a run of 10-100 of something he's excited about I usually have faith in his quest.

If I feel the gas and a run appeals to me such as the Graveyard, this is where my focus has been re what I have acquired. In fact I have a Graveyard Ltd and got it after careful research on why this is a notch above a core 594. I luckily have someone inside PRS that worked on this build and called him for feedback on this very issue. With utmost confidence in his advise and feedback I felt assured of the special differences and love my new guitar.

I could have built a nice PS for the price but if I ever do want to move a guitar, it's probably easier to sell/trade a know great collectable run than my own creation one of a kind. However I'm always drooling over the one offs from PS. Come on PRS, where's the next Dragon, I am already in!!!!

And that’s an important distinction to understand too, I feel.

The limited runs actually devised by PRS should at least hypothetically have more collectible value than some random dude’s Private Stock. Otherwise buying a used Private Stock is just buying someone else’s discarded dream.
 
And that’s an important distinction to understand too, I feel.

The limited runs actually devised by PRS should at least hypothetically have more collectible value than some random dude’s Private Stock. Otherwise buying a used Private Stock is just buying someone else’s discarded dream.

I have bought my fair share of discarded dreams. They too are worthy of love.
 
I think the answer that I’m most comfortable with is that anything you buy is only worth what you or someone else is willing to pay for it.

The material costs with a handmade guitar are a small percentage of the cost of the human involvement in its creation.

With a PS you are paying for a personal service, where you are treated to the experience of choice of materials, design etc. A big part of the value to the customer is this personal service and the joy of owning a custom made instrument. The craftsmanship that produces these masterpieces are second to none!

For some it’s a dream, for some a reality. I’m very pleased for those who realise that dream and love to live vicariously through all of you who do. Long may it continue :D
 
There is one interesting caveat to all of this and to the OP's actual question. First, I would consider runs like the Graveyards, Dragons, Golden Eagle, Collections, etc core Private Stock Grade. Some limited editions were created before PS even existed. Such as Rosewood LTD, 10th ann, sigs and some others. Paul's knowledge and expertise on these runs is enough for me to know there is something special here in all regards, tonally coming first. So when he makes a run of 10-100 of something he's excited about I usually have faith in his quest.

If I feel the gas and a run appeals to me such as the Graveyard, this is where my focus has been re what I have acquired. In fact I have a Graveyard Ltd and got it after careful research on why this is a notch above a core 594. I luckily have someone inside PRS that worked on this build and called him for feedback on this very issue. With utmost confidence in his advise and feedback I felt assured of the special differences and love my new guitar.

I could have built a nice PS for the price but if I ever do want to move a guitar, it's probably easier to sell/trade a know great collectable run than my own creation one of a kind. However I'm always drooling over the one offs from PS. Come on PRS, where's the next Dragon, I am already in!!!!

And that’s an important distinction to understand too, I feel.

The limited runs actually devised by PRS should at least hypothetically have more collectible value than some random dude’s Private Stock. Otherwise buying a used Private Stock is just buying someone else’s discarded dream.
Very much agree here. Being part of a PS limited run does lend an authenticity to a guitar. Though it may vary from case to case.

The other thing that PS lends is truly rare and exotic woods. I could ever only have got this solid African Blackwood necked killer through PS, and PRS only ever had two such neck blanks in their entire history. It is an extremely limited edition, limited by nature. It would have been impossible with any of the other big brands unless you’re an oil tycoon.
mHhkKTH.jpg

The other great example is their pernambuco necked guitars (Collection Series and some limited runs eg Violin I). No other brand had pernambuco, and it’s unavailable even with PRS now.

To me the special thing about the Graveyard limited is not so much the design, but the wood. It’s old growth tops they’re using there.

I like unique and different. Designs can be easily replicated and even outdone. Woods and materials however, can not be replicated as nature itself holds the key, not the manufacturer. To me the best limiteds are those limited by Nature itself.

And that’s what I really like about PS.
 
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Very much agree here. Being part of a PS limited run does lend an authenticity to a guitar. Though it may vary from case to case.

The other thing that PS lends is truly rare and exotic woods. I could ever only have got this solid African Blackwood necked killer through PS, and PRS only ever had two such neck blanks in their entire history. It is an extremely limited edition, limited by nature. It would have been impossible with any of the other big brands unless you’re an oil tycoon.
mHhkKTH.jpg

The other great example is their pernambuco necked guitars (Collection Series and some limited runs eg Violin I). No other brand had pernambuco, and it’s unavailable even with PRS now.

To me the special thing about the Graveyard limited is not so much the design, but the wood. It’s old growth tops they’re using there.

I like unique and different. Designs can be easily replicated and even outdone. Woods and materials however, can not be replicated as nature itself holds the key, not the manufacturer. To me the best limiteds are those limited by Nature itself.

And that’s what I really like about PS.
I’ve seen the other one and was offered it in a trade once.
 
I’ve seen the other one and was offered it in a trade once.
Woah! Do you have a pic? If you happen to know whether it’s still available, do drop my a pm...:)
 
Woah! Do you have a pic? If you happen to know whether it’s still available, do drop my a pm...:)
Over a year ago and no longer available - the owner ultimately decided it was a lifetime keeper. It was a beautiful Tiger Eye Quilt stop tail. Sorry for the tease, I don’t have a great pic of it.
 
Very much agree here. Being part of a PS limited run does lend an authenticity to a guitar. Though it may vary from case to case.

The other thing that PS lends is truly rare and exotic woods. I could ever only have got this solid African Blackwood necked killer through PS, and PRS only ever had two such neck blanks in their entire history. It is an extremely limited edition, limited by nature. It would have been impossible with any of the other big brands unless you’re an oil tycoon.
mHhkKTH.jpg

The other great example is their pernambuco necked guitars (Collection Series and some limited runs eg Violin I). No other brand had pernambuco, and it’s unavailable even with PRS now.

To me the special thing about the Graveyard limited is not so much the design, but the wood. It’s old growth tops they’re using there.

I like unique and different. Designs can be easily replicated and even outdone. Woods and materials however, can not be replicated as nature itself holds the key, not the manufacturer. To me the best limiteds are those limited by Nature itself.

And that’s what I really like about PS.


Regarding the Graveyard.
After investigation I felt it may be hard to find wood like this particular maple become available again in the near future if at all. Like the perni or blackwood. It was visibly more 3d and iridescent as PRS presented it in their description. I got the first Graveyard since I found one with major chevron and depth. Most really are straight grained that I looked at but still special. However tone and playability to me are the first priority since I use this guitar. And again, the actual luthier in PRS that worked on them intimated to me how special this run is for a player that wants a 594.

Now for the original post. There are jewels out there that still can be ferreted out for prices half that of a PS. Good example to me of one of the best Paul ever created, the ME1 Braz neck. So glad I got some new when released. Still one of my main players. These go to show some of the best is not still out of reach and there is hope. Pick up a great ME1 out there between 5-6 k and fall in love. These will never lose value loaded w the Braz. That may be the answer!!!

I wish I bought a violin1 when they came out. Try to find one now. I have never seen one again for sale. And a perni Collection is a keeper too. As Tonart says nature holds the key. As Paul says he is always in search of the best tone woods and materials. The restrictions of availability make some of the finest tone woods unobtainium extrodinair, and therefore very costly if I want my instrument made w them. The rest is up to me on when I need to pull the GAS TRIGGER!
 
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Over a year ago and no longer available - the owner ultimately decided it was a lifetime keeper. It was a beautiful Tiger Eye Quilt stop tail. Sorry for the tease, I don’t have a great pic of it.
No worries, glad that the owner has rated it as highly as I do mine. Sounds like an epic build.

There’s a story behind the ABW. Paul declared it a magic guitar when mine was done, according to my dealer. That led him to source for another ABW neck and they subsequently found one more. Then Paul wanted a retrieve a guitar from a dealer which an artist fancied. The only thing the dealer would accept was Paul’s ABW neck blank on a swap basis. That led to the second guitar I suppose. Paul mentioned all this in a Facebook video PRS made of the PS vault.

Go to 11:25 of this video:
 
On this, I do agree - although only in the case of the PS guitars you commissioned yourself. The fact that you hot to pick the woods, the pick-ups, the switching, the colour and inlays etc etc - essentially having a guitar built to your preference so therefore it 'must' be a better fit and you also have an attachment to that instrument long before it actually becomes an instrument..

The things you mentioned aren’t at all how or why I bought my PS models, Mozzi.

I neither spec’d features or trim, nor chose the wood for any of my PS electrics. I bought stock-run PS models, and in fact, two of my three were dealer stock. Nor did I choose the wood or spec anything on the PS20; it was a PS model run like the other two, though I did pre - order that one (there was no customization, and the run only offered two colors).

I didn’t even choose the wood for my one special-order PS, an acoustic; I asked my dealer, Jack Gretz, to pick the wood at Experience that year, and he ran into Paul Smith, so they picked it together.

I wasn’t there. The only reason I went PS on my acoustic was to get a maple body and neck, which I prefer for recording acoustic parts in a dense mix, because it cuts a little more.

Jack’s a luthier. I trust his judgment after many years of working together on finding the right PRS for me. Obviously, Paul is the man when it comes to tone.

He and Paul did the tapping and choosing. I didn’t care much what the wood looked like, I knew the choices were going to be good-looking; what I wanted was for it to sound great, and I had good luck. It’s easily the “most me” sounding acoustic guitar I’ve ever played (this includes some very high end makes like Olson and Gurian, and some special order stuff from Collings and Martin).

Not one spec was different from the Artist version acoustics that PRS offered at the time, except my choice of maple. The guitar’s pretty, but that’s on the PS team, Jack, and Paul.

I wasn’t planning to buy the PS 30th Anniversary CU24; I was interested in the Core model, but I wanted to get a point of reference for how it sounded. Jack Gretz’ shop had a PS in stock, so I thought it’d make for an interesting comparison.

So he had John, who’s a fine player, play both through the same amp, and he took a video to send me that I listened to in my studio. The difference between the tone of the two guitars was quite clear, even with the mic on Jack’s camera, and I couldn’t get the sound of the PS out of my head. I was blown away.

The PS was exactly what I was looking for tonally. The Core was great, but sonically it wasn’t close. Incidentally, I don’t really like the look of quilt wood very much, but I bought the quilt PS, even though the Core was an Artist with flame maple that I preferred for looks. A small sacrifice to get the tone I wanted, I guess.

So I bought the PS. We did the same thing when Jack had the McCarty SC run in stock. I’d had a few recent Core SCs; the difference in tone was obvious.

I’d never say the tone of these guitars was ‘better’; only that it appeals to me more.

Point is, I’m not into the customization or special features lots of PS buyers want, nor do I have any interest in traveling to PRS to pick out wood. My interest is in having a beautiful sounding guitar. If it also looks great, bonus!

I’m a guy who makes a living in a recording studio, where I spend hours and hours every day setting up mics, recording, listening, mixing and mastering broadcast music I write. That’s probably a little different from most PS customers. But I buy ‘em because I like the way they sound, and yeah, I can hear the difference. That’s the 100% truth. The looks are only a nice bonus.

It may be that most folks will never hear a difference between two guitars, but I can, and I can articulate those differences in terms of frequency response, resonance, etc. :)
 
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But does the extra quality of materials and time investment equal a better sounding instrument? It appears that this, like beauty, is in the eyes and ears of the beholder. The answer is probably ‘sometimes’.

Sometimes I can hear the difference between a SE and a core, sometimes I can’t. Same for Wood Library and PS. For me, the difference, if there, is felt vs heard. Whether the ‘feels’ is worth 15k is up to the player.

I have greatly enjoyed reading all these posts. This one made me think of my favorite vs. least favorite PRS' from a tone perspective. My favorite, as has been mentioned dozens of times, is my SC245 57/08 LTD. There is something magical about the wood and that first batch of 57/08s. It's a magical guitar. PS? No, but - and please correct me if I am wrong - this was a special guitar for PRS.

My two least favorite - and these are tied for "meh" in the tone department. Each has something that just niggles my ears. Of course, it's subject to change at some point, but for now...."meh" is the best I have, lol.

The first I will mention is the Artist Package DGT with the Brazilian board. It's beautiful, and the single coil sounds are super - so much so I am considering having the volume pots wired up to split each pickup, and have the tone done on a standard pot. Could be fun. Now, the annoying thing I hear could be the pickups or the Brazilian board. It's a coin flip. Either way, don't care. The guitar is what it is. I am guessing it's more the fingerboard because what I hear is an irritating thing in the high frequencies....

The second is my Wood Library Custom 22 with the IRW neck/Ebony board. This one has the 58/15LT pickups. This guitar has a brighter tone than I like. Again, like the DGT there's something in the high end that annoys me. I love the pickups - there have been a couple of times I have almost pulled the trigger on sets I see on Reverb. It's the ebony board combined with the maple top.

Feel? Those two feel ORGASMIC, as does the SC245.
 
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My favorite, as has been mentioned dozens of times, is my SC245 57/08 LTD. There is something magical about the wood and that first batch of 57/08s. It's a magical guitar
My exact sentiments about the 57/08 LTD run! Magical indeed!
 
I have greatly enjoyed reading all these posts. This one made me think of my favorite vs. least favorite PRS' from a tone perspective. My favorite, as has been mentioned dozens of times, is my SC245 57/08 LTD. There is something magical about the wood and that first batch of 57/08s. It's a magical guitar. PS? No, but - and please correct me if I am wrong - this was a special guitar for PRS.

My two least favorite - and these are tied for "meh" in the tone department. Each has something that just niggles my ears. Of course, it's subject to change at some point, but for now...."meh" is the best I have, lol.

The first I will mention is the Artist Package DGT with the Brazilian board. It's beautiful, and the single coil sounds are super - so much so I am considering having the volume pots wired up to split each pickup, and have the tone done on a standard pot. Could be fun. Now, the annoying thing I hear could be the pickups or the Brazilian board. It's a coin flip. Either way, don't care. The guitar is what it is. I am guessing it's more the fingerboard because what I hear is an irritating thing in the high frequencies....

The second is my Wood Library Custom 22 with the IRW neck/Ebony board. This one has the 58/15LT pickups. This guitar has a brighter tone than I like. Again, like the DGT there's something in the high end that annoys me. I love the pickups - there have been a couple of times I have almost pulled the trigger on sets I see on Reverb. It's the ebony board combined with the maple top.

Feel? Those two feel ORGASMIC, as does the SC245.

Mark, you no doubt already do this, or know about it, so I’m mostly posting a reply in case others don’t.

A high quality parametric EQ pedal (there aren’t usually enough frequency bands in a graphic EQ pedal to find just the frequency you need) can isolate the offending frequency, and you can dial it out. Kick it in when you need it, bypass it when you don’t.

There’s also dialing in/matching amp to guitar, and so on, but I’m sure you already do that, too, or have consciously chosen not to for reasons of convenience.

I find endless uses for EQ pedals, so I’m all about good ones, of which there are a few out there.
 
Mark, you no doubt already do this, or know about it, so I’m mostly posting a reply in case others don’t.

A high quality parametric EQ pedal (there aren’t usually enough frequency bands in a graphic EQ pedal to find just the frequency you need) can isolate the offending frequency, and you can dial it out. Kick it in when you need it, bypass it when you don’t.

There’s also dialing in/matching amp to guitar, and so on, but I’m sure you already do that, too, or have consciously chosen not to for reasons of convenience.

I find endless uses for EQ pedals, so I’m all about good ones, of which there are a few out there.

Right on. The tone of each guitar - while not my favorite - also has a place in a song or a mix. Being a song-writer/session guy/player for hire, certain guitars will also work in scenarios that your "favorites" might not. What my ear hates a producer might love. But, yeah, you are totally right - if I wanted to bend a guitar to one application a parametric is great. I have a Furman PEQ-3 for that purpose - haven't touched it for years because I want the character of each instrument to shine through.

It's one of the reasons I like my Helix. I have a bank of presets that bring out the best of each guitar. As soon as I get one I set-up the "standard" amps - Vox, Fender, various Marshalls, and something high gain (depends on the guitar) - then tweak until that guitar sounds "ideal" through the rig.

Now that I have the Bad Cats, I find that EVERYTHING sounds good through the Cub IV the way I have it set. The Hot Cat 30 gets tweaked on the gain channel for the guitar - but so far I am only using those in the room for fun. If I get a live thing I'll pick one of the two amps and a guitar or two that cover a lot of bases with minimum tweakage on the amp. Same will go if I get a session call that requires an amp ;)
 
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