The 10 Best PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars: Full Review & Buyer’s Guide
If you’re in the market for a new guitar and are wondering which is the best PRS Guitar for your needs, then you’re in the right place.
Paul Reed Smith is one of the most reputable guitar brands out there. While they are known for their PRS Custom 24, which is made in Maryland, their lineup has become quite vast over years.
Rather than only having premium American-made electric guitars, they now have various lines of guitars for different use cases and budgets.
However, with all of the different options available today, it can be difficult to determine which is the best PRS guitar for your specific use case.
In this comprehensive PRS Guitars review and buyer’s guide, we’ll take a detailed look at 10 of the best PRS guitars available today. We’ll cover PRS guitars for all different use cases, music preferences and price points to help you identify the exact PRS model that fits your specific needs as a player.
Let’s get started!
The 10 Best PRS Guitars Reviewed
- Best PRS Guitar for The Money – PRS SE Custom 24
- Best PRS Guitar Under $2,000 – PRS CE 24
- Best Premium PRS Guitar – Paul Reed Smith Custom 24
- Best Affordable PRS Guitar- PRS SE Standard 24
- Best Single-Cut PRS Guitar – PRS SE 245
- Best Baritone PRS Guitar – PRS SE 277
- Best Strat Style PRS Guitar – PRS Silver Sky
- Best PRS Acoustic Guitar – PRS SE Angelus A50E
- Best PRS Guitar for Metal – PRS SE Mark Holcomb
- Best PRS Guitar for Jazz – PRS SE Hollowbody II
PRS SE Custom 24 – Best PRS Guitar for The Money
The PRS SE Custom 24 is one of the best value guitars on the market. It offers professional quality, stunning design, excellent sound and playability all an affordable price.
Read our PRS SE Custom 24 Review
My top pick for the best PRS guitar for the money is the PRS SE Custom 24. I have owned several of these guitars over the years and have never been disappointed.
If you’re looking for professional quality guitar at an affordable price, then the PRS SE Custom 24 is one of the best guitars that money can buy.
This guitar is modeled after the iconic PRS Custom 24 guitar, only is it manufactured overseas, which significantly reduces the price.
While this guitar is technically in Paul Reed Smith’s budget line of guitars, there really aren’t too many compromises in terms of quality, sound and playability. Most people really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and an American Made PRS that costs 5x as much.
The PRS SE Custom features a mahogany body, maple top, and PRS-designed 85/15 S humbucking pickups, which are modeled after the American made 85/15 pickups.
It’s 3-piece wide-thin maple neck and rosewood fingerboard is an absolute joy to play on. In my opinion, it’s one of the most comfortable guitar necks I’ve ever played.
Overall, the PRS SE Custom 24 delivers an excellent bang for your buck and is comparable to guitars that cost twice as much. Its excellent build quality, comfortable neck, and clear sounding pickups make it a versatile guitar that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
PRS CE 24 – Best PRS Guitar Under $2,000
The PRS CE 24 is a fully spec'd American made Paul Reed Smith Guitar at a more affordable price than the Core line. Aside from the maple bolt-on neck and thinner body, it's the exact same guitar as a PRS Core Custom 24 at a fraction of the price.
Read our full PRS CE 24 Review
For those of you who want a American Made PRS Guitar, but don’t want to break the bank, then the PRS CE 24 could be a good pick for you.
Paul Reed Smith’s Core line of guitars is notorious for being some of the most expensive guitars on the market, some costing north of $5,000. And while they are excellent quality guitars, a lot of that price tag is due to the elaborate finishes on the wood.
The PRS CE 24 essentially gives you everything you would expect in a top of the line PRS Core guitar with just a few minor sacrifices to significantly reduce the price.
The main differences between the PRS CE 24 and the PRS Core Custom 24 are the maple bolt-on neck instead of a mahogany set-neck, less elaborate finish options, and a thinner body with less of a carved top.
Aside from that, the PRS CE 24 is pretty much the same as a PRS Core guitar at half the price, which is an amazing value.
It is a completely American made guitar, with the same pickups as the Core line of guitars.
And in terms of playability, I actually preferred the CE 24 over the Core because the thinner body was easier to hold.
Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 – Premium Pick
The PRS Custom 24 is Paul Reed Smith's claim to fame. It's one of the most iconic guitars ever made right up there with the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul. A stunning guitar that is the best of the best in terms of build quality and performance.
If you’re someone who truly wants the best of the best, then the Paul Reed Smith Core Custom 24 is the best PRS has to offer.
This iconic guitar is Paul Reed Smith’s claim to fame.
While these guitars definitely don’t come cheap, if you can shell out the cash, the PRS Custom 24 can pretty much last you a lifetime. I’ve personally had my Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 since 2008, and it’s still in pristine playing condition today.
This guitar is made in Maryland using the highest quality woods, something the Paul Reed Smith himself is quite particular about.
It features the 85/15 pickups, which offer extraordinary clarity and sound quality. These pickups sound amazing and are extremely versatile for high-gain and low-gain music.
And the main selling point to a PRS Core guitar vs an SE is the finish options and overall build quality and polish.
You get a thick flame maple cap with a deep carve, almost resembling that of a violin. PRS even have their own rating system for woods with the best of the best being labeled a 10-Top.
All-in-all I wouldn’t say that the PRS Custom 24 is for everyone simply due to the price tag. You’re looking at $3,500 at least for one of these bad boys. And while it’s an excellent guitar in every regard, it’s definitely not 5 times better than a PRS SE Custom 24 as the price tag would suggest.
That said, if you’re a guitar enthusiast and have the extra cash to shell out, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
PRS SE Standard 24 – Best Affordable PRS Guitar
The PRS SE Standard 24 gives you the quality you would expect from a Paul Reed Smith guitar without the hefty price.
Read our full PRS SE Standard 24 Review
If you’re on a tight budget, but still want to get your hands on a PRS guitar, then the PRS SE Standard 24 is an excellent entry point into the world of PRS Guitars.
In terms of PRS guitar offerings, the PRS SE Standard is the most affordable, right under the PRS SE Custom line of guitars.
Despite that, the PRS SE Standard is far from a bad guitar. In fact, its specifications are essentially the same as the PRS SE Custom 24, just without the flamed maple top.
It features the same mahogany body, 3-piece neck, and rosewood fingerboard. It has the PRS 85/15 S pickups, which sound incredible.
If you were interested in a PRS SE Custom 24, but want to save about $250, then definitely check out the PRS SE Standard 24. It offers the exact same features, sound, and performance.
If you can handle the plainer look without the flamed maple top, then definitely opt for this guitar over the Custom.
PRS SE 245 – Best Single-Cut PRS Guitar
The PRS SE 245 is an affordable version of Paul Reed Smith's Core SC 245 model. If you're someone who loves the traditional feel of a Les Paul, but want some upgrades to make it more modern, then the PRS SE 245 could be a great fit for you.
The PRS SE 25 the Paul Reed Smith’s take on a Gibson Les Paul. If you’re someone who is interested in a Les Paul style guitar, but wanted a more modern take, then the PRS SE 245 could be a great fit.
This guitar features a full mahogany body and neck that give it a thick and beefy tone with excellent sustain.
It’s iconic single-cutaway design and wide-fat neck profile definitely give off the 50’s vintage electric guitar vibe, while still keeping some of the modern aspects that you would typically find in a PRS Guitar.
For electronics, this guitar comes with PRS-designed SE 245 “S” pickups, which are vintage PAF style pickups that have excellent clarity and punchiness. These pickups are also versatile being able to handle low and high-gain guitar tones without any muddiness what-so-ever.
In terms of overall build quality, this guitar is exactly what you would expect out of a PRS SE Custom. Consistency has always been the name of the game for PRS, meaning you’ll get a solid high quality experience with few quality control issues.
Read Also: 15 Best Gibson Les Paul Style Copy Guitars
PRS SE Mark Holcomb – Best PRS Guitar for Metal
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb is an excellent value featuring Mark Holcomb's signature Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups that are ideal for high gain metal and hard rock music.
Read our full PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review
My pick for the best PRS guitar for metal is the PRS SE Mark Holcomb signature guitar. If you’re a fan of Mark Holcomb and Periphery, then this guitar is a no brainer.
But even if you’re not a fan of Periphery in particular, this guitar is still one of the best value electric guitars for metal on the market.
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb is modeled after the PRS SE Custom 24, but has some significant upgrades specifically for metal players.
One major upgrade from the PRS SE Custom 24 is the addition of Mark Holcomb’s signature Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups. These pickups have massive output and clarity, making them ideal for high-gain music. If you’ve ever heard Mark Holcomb play, you’ll know that these pickups are designed for heavy chugs and face melting guitar solos.
The Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups alone retail for $250, so the fact that they were able to cram them into a guitar at his price points means that you’re getting a killer value.
Another addition that this guitar brings is the ebony fretboard with a white binding rather than the usual rosewood. This gives the guitar a killer look when combined with the unique Holcomb Burst finish. Also, the fretboard radius is much flatter at 20” allowing you to set the action extremely low for soloing. On top of that, it has a longer scale length of 25.5” instead of the usual 25” on PRS guitars, which allows you to play at drop tunings without floppy strings.
Overall, this guitar is a killer value and one of the best electric guitars for metal that you can buy.
PRS SE 277 – Best Baritone PRS Guitar
The PRS SE-277 is essentially a baritone variant of the PRS SE Custom 24. It features a 27.7" scale length which is ideal for people who like to play at lower tunings. Other than that, it shares the same excellent specifications and build quality as a PRS SE Custom 24.
If you’re someone who likes to play at lower tunings, then the PRS SE 277 is an excellent choice. This guitar is essentially the same exact build quality and design as a PRS SE Custom 24, but in a baritone version. This means you’re getting all the consistency, features, and value that you would expect from PRS.
The PRS SE 277 name stems from the fact that it features a 27.7” scale length, meaning the length from the bridge to the nut is longer. This allows you to play your guitar at lower tunings such as B Standard or C Standard without having floppy strings.
This guitar is ideal for heavy metal players who like to play down-tuned riffs or djent. This guitar also shines when it comes to ‘60s surf rock or spaghetti western music, but is versatile enough to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it.
It features the same 85/15 S pickups that you get in the PRS SE Custom 24 model models which have excellent clarity and sound quality even when you’re playing at high gain. This is especially important for heavy metal players to make sure they can hear every note during their brutal chugs and chords at high gain.
Overall, if you’re looking for one of the best baritone guitars on the market, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck than the PRS SE 277.
PRS Silver Sky – Best Strat Style PRS Guitar
If you're someone who loves the look and feel of a Fender Stratocaster, but want the modern appointments and design elements of a Paul Reed Smith Guitar, then the PRS Silver Sky is the perfect fit for you.
If you’re looking for a modern take on the iconic Fender Stratocaster guitar, then the PRS Silver Sky could be the perfect fit for you.
The PRS Silver Sky is John Mayer’s signature “Strat Style” PRS guitar after parting ways with Fender after more than a decade.If you’ve ever played a Fender Stratocaster before, then the PRS Silver Sky will feel right at home.
The PRS Silver Sky is a fully American made guitar, meaning it’s one of Paul Reed Smith’s top of the line models. Its vintage-inspired guitar features the same dual cuttaway shape, neck carve, and fingerboard radius, and SSS pickup configuration that you would expect from a Stratocaster, but was given the PRS treatment to help make it more modern. Some notable upgrades include the PRS-Style headstock and locking tuners for excellent tuning stability.
From my experience playing this guitar, I found that it was extremely comfortable to hold and joy to play. As someone who is no stranger to Fender Stratocasters, I found this guitar to be familiar and extremely easy to get used to. The quality of life upgrades actually make me prefer it over a traditional strat if you’re not someone who cares about the classic appeal of owning a Fender.
Overall, the PRS Silver Sky is one the best guitars out there today. It has stellar construction, playability, and sound quality. It’s not the cheapest option out there, but relative to other guitars in Paul Reed Smith’s lineup, it’s a great value for what you’re getting.
PRS SE Angelus A50E – Best PRS Acoustic Guitar
The PRS SE Angelus A50E is one of the best value electric-acoustic guitars on the market. It produces a warm and rich sound and on it's own and its Fishman GT1 under-saddle pickup allows it to be plugged into an amplifer with is ideal for live performances.
While Paul Reed Smith is mainly known for their electric guitars, their acoustic guitars definitely should not be overlooked.
From my experience, PRS does not make bad guitars. Period. This includes electric guitars as well as their acoustic guitars. PRS has core design principles and attention to detail that extends across their entire lineup of guitars regardless of what price range it falls under.
The PRS SE Angelus A50E is an affordable acoustic-electric guitar that is ideal for performing live gigs as well as well as being a complete work horse.
This guitar produces an amazing, well rounded tone with a punchy top end and a perfect amount of low-end. It also features an onboard Fishman GT1 electronics system that will allow you to plug into an amplifier or effects pedal, making it extremely versatile for any use case.
In terms of tone woods, as the name would suggest, it features an Angelus body with a solid spruce top and laminated maple back and sides. It’s wide neck shape and bounded ebony fretboard with classic PRS bird in-lays is stunning and very comfortable to play.
All-in-all, the PRS SE Angelus A50E is the one of the best valued acoustic guitars on the market today. You’d be hard pressed to find another acoustic-electric guitar with this build quality for under $1,000.
PRS SE Hollowbody II – Best PRS Guitar for Jazz
The PRS SE Hollowbody II is an excellent pick for those who are interested in playing jazz or blues. It features PRS's proprietary hollowbody construction and vintage 58/15 S pickups that give you a clear, warm and resonant tone.
My pick for the best PRS Guitar for jazz is the PRS SE Hollowbody II. While this guitar is still technically an SE guitar in Paul Reed Smith’s affordable line of guitars, it’s definitely a cut above a regular PRS SE Custom with some extra bells and whistles.
As the name suggests, this PRS guitar is a hollow body model, which is ideal for low to mid gain jazz and blues tones. It features a proprietary hollody body design that you won’t find in any other semi-hollowbody guitars that gives you a warm and resonant tone with clarity, sustain and stability. In addition, it has a thin body profile that makes it extremely comfortable to play.
For the electronics, the PRS SE Hollowbody II uses the 58/15 S humbucking pickups. These are vintage style PAF pickups that give you a warm, clear sounding tone. While this is an excellent PRS guitar for Jazz and Blues, these pickups are actually pretty versatile and can handle anything you throw at them, from country to heavy-metal shredding.
While the PRS SE Hollowbody II isn’t the cheapest in the SE line, it’s a professional level guitar that certainly gives you your money’s worth.
How to Choose The Best PRS Guitar (Buyer’s Guide)
Paul Reed Smith Guitars is a premier guitar manufacture based in Maryland known for producing some of the most stunning, high-quality guitars out there.
Materials & Build Quality
Depending on which line of PRS guitar you go with, the overall materials and build quality will vary.
While every PRS guitar I’ve ever played has been good, there is definitely a difference between a Paul Reed Smith Core guitar and a PRS SE Standard.
The higher-end PRS guitars are made in the United States with much higher quality materials including woods, hardware, and electronics. There will also be significantly less quality control issues. If you truly want the best of the best and are willing to pay for it, then a PRS Core guitar really can’t be matched.
For most people, the PRS SE line of guitars is the way to go since you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. These guitars are manufactured overseas in Indonesia to help cut costs.
Their overall construction quality, woods, hardware, and electronics are not quite as high quality as the American made PRS guitars, but are still excellent overall considering their price point.
Read Also: Where are PRS Guitars Made?
When choosing your PRS Guitar, it’s important to make sure it has the proper pickup configuration to match your specific genre of music. Otherwise, you’ll have to swap out the pickups afterward.
If you want a versatile, well-rounded guitar that can handle pretty much any genre of music decently, then the 85/15 pickups are the way to go. These can be found in the PRS Core Custom 24 or 22 and PRS CE 24 guitars. The PRS SE Custom 24 has the 85/15 “S” pickups, which are cheaper clones of the 85/15 but offer a similar tone. These pickups are excellent because they have excellent clarity and can handle pretty much anything you throw out at them.
However, they’re “Jack-of-all-Trades” pickups and may not be the best choice for certain genres of music, such as metal.
If you want a PRS guitar that excels in metal and high-gain music, then the PRS SE Mark Holcomb signature is the way to go. It has Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups that handle high gain music like a champ.
If you’re looking for more of a vintage tone that Gibson Les Pauls in the 1950s were known for, then you’ll want a PRS guitar with the 58/15 pickups, which are a PAF style. You can find those pickups in the PRS SE Hollowbody II guitar.
Number of Frets
Depending on the type of music you play, you’ll need to make sure your PRS guitar has enough frets.
Paul Reed Smith guitars can either come in either 24-fret or 22-fret configurations depending on the specific model.
If you’re someone who generally likes to play lead and solos on the higher frets, then you’ll definitely want a 24-fret guitar.
For most situations, 22 frets on a guitar are enough but having the extra two frets can always come in handy.
Some say there is a slight tonal difference in 22 vs 24 fret guitars due to the position of the pickups relative to the body and neck of the guitar. However, from my experience, the difference is negligible.
So when you’re choosing your PRS guitar, just be mindful of how many frets it has.
The most popular Paul Reed Smith is the PRS Custom 24, but they also have the PRS Custom 22, which is essentially the same exact guitar, only with 22 frets instead of 24.
Read Also: How Many Frets are On a Guitar?
When choosing the best Paul Reed Smith guitar for your needs, you’ll need to consider which body shape feels most comfortable to you.
Most PRS guitars have a similar body style modeled after their iconic PRS Custom 24 shape.
This body style is extremely comfortable to hold, looks classy, and will feel good to most people.
In my opinion, this iconic shape is right up there with the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster. And in terms of playability, I think it outclasses the Les Paul design, which is known to be clunky in your hands.
Some PRS guitars have a similar shape to the PRS Custom 24, but with slight modifications.
For example, the PRS CE 24 offers very similar design elements but has a thinner body. From my experience, this actually made it easier to hold than a PRS Core Custom 24.
In addition, the PRS SE Hollowbody II has a similar shape but as the name would imply, has a hollow body. This makes the guitar significantly lighter. If you’re someone who will be performing live or playing for long sessions, then you might want to consider getting a lighter guitar.
If you want a PRS guitar that looks and feels more like a traditional Les Paul, then you can opt for the PRS SE 245. This guitar offers a single-cut body shape, which captures the feel of a traditional Gibson Les Paul and combines it with the modern elements of a Paul Reed Smith guitar.
On the other hand, if you want a PRS Guitar that is similar to a Fender Stratocaster, then you can go with the PRS Silver Sky edition, which is a newer edition to the PRS lineup in partnership with John Mayer.
Now this one’s a no brainer. When buying a PRS guitar, or any guitar for that matter, you’ll need to consider what fits in your budget.
Some of the higher end Paul Reed Smith guitars are notoriously known for being ridiculously expensive, some costing over $5000!
That said, PRS has various lines of affordable guitars as well that can fit practically any budget.
And like I mentioned before, I have NEVER played a bad PRS guitar. Whether it’s a top of the line PRS Core guitar or a PRS SE Standard, you’re getting a quality instrument. I’ve played practically every line of PRS Guitars and they always felt high quality.
If you truly want the best of the best, then you can opt for an American Made PRS Core guitar or a PRS CE guitar, which is slightly cheaper.
However, for most people, the PRS SE Custom line of guitars is the way to go. In my personal opinion, they are the best bang for your buck out of any guitar out there regardless of your skill level.
You don’t NEED to spend thousands of dollars to get a professional quality guitar. Keep in mind that 99% of people won’t be able to hear the difference between a $700 guitar and a $3,000 guitar.
Read Also: Cheap Vs Expensive Electric Guitars: What’s the Difference?
Frequently Asked Questions
Are PRS Guitars Good?
Paul Reed Smith guitars are good. Period. In fact, PRS Guitars is known for being one of the most high-quality and consistent brands out there. Every PRS Guitar, regardless of whether it’s an American made PRS Core or an import PRS SE, has stunning attention to detail, high-quality materials and construction, and clear sounding pickups.
Why Are PRS Guitars So Expensive?
While Paul Reed Smith has different models of guitars that fall into various price ranges, their top of the line Core line of guitars are definitely notorious for being extremely expensive. This is because these are American made guitars where production costs are significantly higher than overseas in Asia.
On top of that, PRS is a premier guitar brand that meticulously picks out high quality materials for their guitars, including woods, hardware, and electronics. They also have extremely elaborate finish options which jack up the price quite a bit. That said, if you want a PRS guitar but don’t want to break the bank, PRS also offers more affordable options on their SE line of guitars.
Where are PRS Guitars Made?
PRS Guitars are made either in the United States in Maryland, or overseas in Indonesia depending on the model of guitar you purchase. Today, the top of the line Paul Reed Smith Private Stock, Core, CE and S2 guitars are still American made in their Maryland factories. PRS SE guitars, their more affordable line of guitars, are made overseas primarily in Indonesia to cut production costs. PRS used to manufacture their SE Custom line in South Korea and their SE Standard line in Indonesia, but the quality of Indonesian guitars has risen to the point where PRS felt that it made sense to make the full switch over to Indonesia for their new PRS SE Custom guitars as well.
What Guitarists Use PRS?
PRS Guitars have become the main stay to many famous guitar legends. Some examples of famous guitarists that use PRS guitars include Carlos Santana, Mark Holcomb, Mark Tremonti, John Mayer, and many more. Many of these guitars actually have PRS Signature guitars that anyone can purchase.
Recap: Our Picks for the Best PRS Guitars
|PRS Guitar||Best For|
|PRS SE Custom 24||Best PRS Guitar for the Money|
|PRS CE 24||Best PRS Guitar Under $2000|
|Paul Reed Smith Custom 24||Best Premium PRS Guitar|
|PRS SE Standard 24||Best Budget PRS Guitar|
|PRS SE 245||Best Single-Cut PRS Guitar|
|PRS SE 277||Best Baritone PRS Guitar|
|PRS Silver Sky||Best Strat-Style PRS GUitar|
|PRS SE Angelus A50E||Best Acoustic PRS Guitar|
|PRS SE Mark Holcomb||Best PRS Guitar for Metal|
|PRS SE Hollowbody II||Best PRS Guitar for Jazz|