What makes PRS a 5000$ guitar?


New Member
Feb 25, 2024
New here. Hello guys and gals!

I'm new to this brand. All my life I played Strats. Single coils. And now I'm on a hunt for some humbuckers so I have my eyes on Gibson and PRS. I always liked Gibsons but over the years I found out that I hate how they are built. They are cool looking, icoinic and some if them sounds like the song I love.

In the past few months I am thinking of buying a PRS. I buy guitars rarely and I tend to buy them high end expensive. I dunno, well crafted guitars make me play more.

So I am comparing Gibson Les Paul Reissues vs PRS Core McCarty 594 and the questiong is really, what makes them 5000$ guitars? I played an great 10 Top today but I saw some tiny imperfections in the build. I know it will be hard to find a 100% perfect guitar but still.. its expensive becauae of the wood? The lacquer? The factory's bills? Is core McCarty 594 equivilant to Gibson's Custom Shop in terms of knowledge and the level of the carftmanship?

I bought my Strat Custom Shop for about 3300$ a few years ago and I can actually notice the amazing maple piece they used for the neck, and the uniqe and expensive alder body they chose. With the PRSs I played (today) I didnt seem to notice a big difference between the lower end ones, or didnt see "eye popping" woods except the 10 maple top ofcourse. I dont have much experience with Mahagony wood to determine so I take this in mind.

Sorry for my English, hope I got it right so you understand what I'm asking.

Edit: Forgot to ask. Are PRS necks easy to break as Gibsons? Like one fall and bye bye type of necks?

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PRS necks are notoriously hard to break. Somewhere there is a picture of an employee standing on a neck. The thing that most jumps out at me about my “more costly” PRSi is the impeccable fretwork and durability. My avatar guitar has been a lot of places it shouldn’t have, courtesy of the previous owner. The neck is still amazing. Yes, it’s beautiful and sounds amazing. It’s got the scars of constant use, with some bare wood on the back. When I look at the market prices, they’re not out of line with other brands, even though everything is too expensive. Watch the YouTube videos, especially Tim Pierce, about guitars. You don’t have to spend $5,000 to get a lifetime guitar. I could be happy playing my SE SAS on gigs for the rest of my life. My core SAS is simply better made, although not 5 G’s. Paul himself has said, once you get abouve a certain amount, you’re paying for looks. Personally, I only have 2 that I bought new. The rest are used. Remember, people take better care of luxury items simply because they cost more. That’s true of most everything that is so-called luxury.
As a Luthier I think PRS's are very reasonably priced. The majority of my builds that are near the PRS level are at least $2000 in parts and materials. Violin carves are expensive to do from a wood perspective . The woods they use are top grade and well seasoned.
Add labor and markup .. and the consitent excellent quality and the price is spot on for the cores.

Of the 11 I own only the Artists and PS's cost 5k + and several were less than 4 .

The necks , bodies, finish , pickups and inlays are better than anything Fender or Gibson ever dreamed of , and I have Custom shops of both
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I am new to PRS. Bought my first one last week (Paul's Guitar Core, 10 top) . I've been playing guitar for about 45 years. The quality of his guitar out of the case is amazing. The setup was perfect. The tone is really good...but the playability is off the charts.

I will compare it to my Les Paul that I bought new in 2008. I love that guitar. But it probably cost me $2K in upgrades to get it where it needed to be. I had to replace all the hardware over time. I replaced the frets in order to remove a slight hump in the neck. The first few years of its life the neck would move so much due to the changing seasons. It has now stabalized as it has aged. I had to replace the cheap nut with a bone nut. And I eventually switched out all the electronics and the pickups.

I recently bought a Fender Custom Shop. Great guitar, but I had to get it pleked because, as the dealer said, "Fender pays zero attention to fret work."

My PRS is perfect out of the gate and the finish, hardware, and electronics are perfect. It is amazing to see on a production guitar. That is what you are paying for.
Welcome to the world of PRS Guitars. As others mentioned, the PRS Core quality is fantastic and consistent. I struggled with the same question in understanding the difference between PRS and Gibson for a while. Many other people on the forum encouraged me to try for myself to see what worked best for me. I now have 3 Core 594's and 3 Gibson LP Customs.

In general, all of these are fantastic instruments. It is interesting to note that the Gibson LP Customs can often cost more than the PRS, but in my view are not nearly as good of an instrument. The PRS build quality is better than the current non-historical Les Pauls. That is not to say the Gibson's are bad, they are just very different instruments. The PRS guitar is more comfortable, modern, refined, and easier to play. I really enjoy playing all of them though they are different. The PRS is like a brand new high end car (Mercedes or Audi, for example) with modern technology and a focus on comfort. The Gibsons are nice new models from a "traditional" car manufacturer, with a focus on what people have always wanted.

Both are of similar prices which reflect NA-based manufacturing, high quality materials, and a lot of hand work. If I had to pick just one of the 6 guitars below, it would be my SC594 (Tampa's Green) and if I then had to pick a second, it would be my SC594 soapbar (McCarty Burst). The Customs would come in at #3. That should give you an indication of how I feel with direct hands on comparisons.

PRS McCarty 594's

Les Paul Customs
A lot of it is the amount of hand-work and/or time that is spent on each instrument. Not only that, you have to take into consideration the materials too as some may state they are 'Mahogany' for example but aren't actually using 'true' Mahogany but a similar species that has a similar look.

PRS use 1 piece Mahogany blanks for both their Bodies and Necks. You need trees of a certain size and of course, these cost more. Same with neck blanks will cost more than a plank of wood that can be scarfed to make a 'neck'. The waste is also a lot more, but this neck construction method is also a lot more time consuming as you have to wait for the neck to settle between removal of material. Even the Maple tops cost more because of how highly figured they are. They also are thicker than S2 for example and require about 3x more 'sanding' time because of the more pronounced carve.

A lot of the cost is really in the attention to detail, the amount of 'time' spent on ensuring its built to very precise and strict tolerances and ensuring they maintain a high Quality Control standard. When someone spends say an hour on sanding a carved top compared to say 5 mins on a flat top, that's a massive difference that affects the price. Even things like Fret Wire, the quality of the alloy they use makes a difference too.

SE's don't have a figured 'Maple' top - they use a thin veneer to look pretty over a 'maple' cap and multiple piece 'mahogany' neck/body. All made overseas where labour costs, material costs (especially if they aren't using Canadian Maple or Genuine Mahogany), overhead costs (electricity, rates etc) are all much lower with much less individual hand time spent on each instrument to keep the 'costs' down to you, the customer.

Its up to you to decide if the differences are 'worth' it to you or not. Maybe an SE is good enough and reliable enough for you, but compared to Custom Shop guitars, I think the Core line is exceptionally good value as you get 'Custom' shop Quality, attention to detail etc as standard.