The old "what makes a 10 top" debate

danktat

Award winning tattoo artist ... Amateur guitarist
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So, I was floating around a facebook group based around PRS. There was a guy there with a REALLY nice 10 top guitar, who seemed a bit disappointed that his 10 didn't seem as "10" as a lot of other pictures he saw posted in the group. Now, his was a very classic looking, flamed 10 top. But I am pretty sure, just from images in the group, that he was looking at some of the ridiculous tops that we all know PRS is known for. So, he was allowing himself to feel bad about his guitar because he was comparing it to what "other people" had. This was my reply to him.......



"You have to understand, when on a forum or a group where people are "showing off" what they have, you are going to have those people who can afford the best of the best. So, a lot of what you see will be the highest end 10 tops, wood library specimens, artist tops, and private stocks.

So, think if it like neighborhoods. If you want your kids to go to the good school district, you will want to move them to the best neighborhood you can afford to live in. BUT, just because you made to that neighborhood doesn't mean that you can get the biggest house there, or have the largest yard, or drive the nicest car. There will be those, who can afford to reside where you do, that have MUCH nicer houses than you do. You DO get to live in the same zip code. But there will be those, with that same zip, that have "more" or "better".

In this case, at least you get to reside in the land of the 10s
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"

And again, his top was nice. The group is "private" so I don't know if I can link the pic to it, but I will try to post it below for reference [and, of course, attention].

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I always thought the 10 meant the figuring was consistent from the center seam to the outer edge. That guitar looks the part there.

I'd be curious to know which guitars this is being compared to because I don't see the usual contrast from the black stain used on some colors before the actual color is applied on top.

Those have a huge contrast in the figuring but aren't as 3D as this one would be.
 
To me, the color / stain, lighting, and angle make all the difference in top / grain appearance. I mean, the material you're working with is obviously a factor, but wood grain can dramatically change depending on the aforementioned circumstances.

All that being said, that's a beautiful guitar that anybody would be lucky to have.
 
I don't now what the exact specs are, but 10's to me always seem to have smooth, very even, consistent flame. No 'blank' areas, and no mineral streaks. The ones that meet all those criteria, but then have more elaborate figuring and patterning go to Artist grade.

But sometimes smooth, even and consistent can also be a bit boring because they're too 'perfect'.

There are the tops that don't make the 10 designation that have, to me, more interesting character even though the flame may not be completely consistent over the entire surface and/or there may be mineral streaks or 'blank' spots. I've certainly seen some non-10 tops that I thought were way cooler than some 10's.
 
To me, the color / stain, lighting, and angle make all the difference in top / grain appearance. I mean, the material you're working with is obviously a factor, but wood grain can dramatically change depending on the aforementioned circumstances.

All that being said, that's a beautiful guitar that anybody would be lucky to have.

Yeah, they aren’t doing themselves any favors by shooting it at that angle.
 
The wood is selected before carving, then after carving & staining they're supposed to be reviewed again and some will up upgraded/downgraded. I've been looking at HBII's and there's a few piezo "10 tops" out there that clearly have dead spots that should have been downgraded (I'd rather not post pics as the most egregious is at my favorite dealer who seems to keep getting the dogs... no offense to our canine friends). I've also recently seen some non-10 top HBII 594's that have fantastic figuring and consistent tops. I assume it's much more difficult to get a top/back set that meets the 10 top requirements and PRS may be a little looser on their standards for HB's.

Here's the official word on 10 tops.
 
Yeah, they aren’t doing themselves any favors by shooting it at that angle.

Yeah, I agree....it's very difficult to capture the depth of the wood grain on camera when shooting straight on. An angled shot with offset lighting would've really put the guitar in position where the grain would pop more.

Also, I find yellows and oranges (and in this case McCarty burst) are just extra difficult to "look" more dynamic. My Vintage Yellow CU22 can look completely plain in some lighting, especially straight on. But under stage lights or off-set sunlight, the grain is as pronounced as any of my other "more-figured" guitars.

I still think the top on the one above is beautiful, though....even in the not-so-flattering lighting / angle. Sucks the person who owns it isn't as enthusiastic about is they apparently are about other people's guitars.
 
That's a beautiful 10 top. The vertical grain is very distinct and adds to the beauty. The color isn't one that I would choose, but I wouldn't let this one go if it was hanging on my wall. I say, "Enjoy and have fun playing it"!!!
 
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