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Discussion in 'Guitars' started by axe4me, Feb 24, 2021.
Paul sure is an interesting guy. His guitars are made well but generally speaking, they are more or less just copies or slight improvements/differences of what others have done.
My vote would go to Edward Van Halen. I think he has done more to further the instrument than Mr PRS.
Everyone jumps right over Ken Parker who revolutionized the electric guitar in the 1990s, and still makes some of the finest archtop guitars.
What PRS did was, in my considered opinion as an experienced luthier, was basically take the Strat body shape, restyle it to make it more elegant, and apply a nicely done carved top to it, thus blending the elegance of the Les Paul with the comfortable ergonomic shape of the Strat. And do it with a level of quality of workmanship and attention to detail that we had previously seen only out of the likes of the Hamer factory. (Hamer was doing PRS quality before PRS launched his company.)
I don't think PRS made revolutionary guitars. I think his contributions are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
I'm admittedly a fan of the PRS aesthetic. See my avatar? That guitar is basically my own reinterpretation of a specific PRS Private Collection guitar that inspired me. I didn't copy that PRS, but it gave me the incentive to make the guitar that I'd order from PRS via their private stock program, if I (A) could afford to do so, and (B) wasn't already a fully capable and competent professional level luthier in my own right, fully able to make it myself.
Where PRS really shines is in their commitment to attention to detail, quality control, fit and finish, and if you're into such things, exotic and beautiful finishes. Yeah, some people also like the unique electronics options PRS puts in their guitars, but as for me, I'm not that impressed. I've got access to every wiring and switching option there is and I choose to NOT use the PRS variations.
I am not a fanboi of their pickups, either. They're good but I don't hear any special mojo out of them. Yes, PRS uses a pickup winding machine that was used in the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo in the late 50s....but so what? Who actually thinks that gives the pickup a certain mojo?
As obsessed as guitar players are with models from the 1950s and 60s, I think being evolutionary rather than revolutionary is the main reason why Smith's guitars have been such a success story. That, and the luck of being in the right place at the right time with the right product. In 1985, Gibson and Fender were in a serious rut due to the beancounters at Norlin and CBS calling the shots, and Paul hit the scene with a product line that smoked the big guys in quality and fit & finish.
The "revolutionary" builders of the same time period were Parker and Steinberger, and look at how they faded away within ten years, while PRS kept growing at an exponential rate.
Yes, him and Floyd Rose.
The failures of Parker and Steinberger were the model for Gibson's failures with the Robot guitars and the Firebird X.
In all these cases, those guitars suffered from the wrong-think of the designers that caused them to believe that there was a big market in deviating from time honored traditional designs. While they did find a limited audience, and are certainly good to excellent instruments in their own right, the truth is that after all this time, most players still want guitar-shaped guitars made of wood. Most players have a somewhat traditionalist attitude about that. Even if it's x-shaped and covered with painted-on skulls and glow-in-the-dark blood stains.
If you don't have that traditionalist attitude, you may find that guitars such as Parkers, Steinbergers, and oddballs like an 8 string fanned fret headless guitar made of carbon fiber and equipped with robot tuners and a built-in MIDI interface may be just what you are looking for.
It's a good topic, and an interesting question, but I'd have to give it a thumbs down. I tend to think along the same lines as @Matthews Guitars with regard to his having blended the Strat & LP ... but that was already kind of done by EVH with his Frankenstrat, and really started coming to life with the introduction of his signature Wolfgang guitars (EBMM/Peavey/EVH). I'd even say there is a Tele vibe in his Wolfies throughout the years as well (at least in looks). It's kind of a Strat/LP/Tele combo.
Think about how many guitars EVH inspired with his original Frankenstrat. Think about the number of guitar manufacturers who were not only in the game then, but are still in the game today (albeit, under other ownership) due to that radical change in the guitar world this many years later. How many copied the PRS guitars? I'm sure there are some smaller luthiers who do that kind of thing, but PRS has never had that kind of industry impact.
PRS does make some really nice looking guitars though. I particularly like the water themed tops with a light back. I have a PRS SE guitar that was gifted to me a number of years ago, and while I don't really pick it up all that often, I do like the guitar a lot for sentimental reasons. I named her Jackie, after Jacqueline Kennedy, as at the time my condo overlooked The Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy Reservoir, and I'd often watch the birds fly over the water (was a beautiful sight). Anyway, the guitar is what I believe they call Whale Blue, so with the birds on the fretboard, I couldn't help but make the connection and hand out that name. No, it's not on the level of their spectacular looking guitars I referenced above, but it's still a nice looking guitar. Comfortable too. Great whammy system they seem to have (I'm guessing it's even better on the pricier side). I'm just not so crazy about the sound. Oh, and Jackie Kennedy was a fox.
What Eddie did with his Frankenstrat was make a purely FUNCTIONAL guitar, a real hot rod made by him to suit his needs, which were arguably well advanced beyond the level of nearly anybody else playing rock at the time. There was no effort made on Eddie's part to make a more beautiful, more elegant expression of the luthier's art. That is definitely where PRS earned their stripes.
Look at Eddie's guitars and what you see is a stripped down Strat body, a Strat neck, one pickup, and a cutting edge tremolo. One volume no tone control. A dragster as far as guitars go. But taken individually, nothing remarkable there. And Ed's original "main" guitar was actually made from a "second", a slightly flawed body made by Wayne Charvel. The innovation here was in the simplicity, the Floyd Rose tremolo, and all the little tweaks that made it outrageously playable.
Of course, any company he had an endorsement with had to deliver a similarly playable instrument but one that was made to a good worksmanship and finish standard. When he started the EVH company they really started to branch out to more "artsy" guitars, but even today, EVH guitars are all about being player's instruments first, and not about being beautiful collectibles for those who have more dollars than sense. That's for PRS.
PRS's mindset was "Let's take a double cutaway Strat type shape and mix it with the best of Gibson's Les Paul carved tops and let's take the sunburst over flamed maple finish to another level. And put a level of attention to detail and craftsmanship into it that's almost unheard of. For every single guitar we make."
I was a traditionalist who owned about two dozen Fender and Gibson guitars. Then I played and bought my Parker Fly Deluxe. Shortly after that, I sold all the others because the Parker outshines them in every way. It's everything I want in a guitar: tone, sustain, tuning stability, weight, balance, playability, and quality. It's 26 years old and all I've ever had to do is wipe it down after playing, change strings, and tune it every once in awhile. I doubt I'll ever buy another traditional guitar.
I tried a Fly and could find no fault with it....but it was sterile. I didn't feel a connection to it and it didn't inspire me to play differently, which is something all my other guitars do. They all have their own character and all make me play differently.
I don't see PRS as doing anything revolutionary. Kudos to them for breaking into a tough market and making a name for themselves though. But he's no Leo Fender that's for sure.
I agree PRS makes beautiful guitars with amazing craftsmanship, but I wouldn't call him revolutionary. While I do love my Custom P22 with the Piezo pickup, there isn't anything revolutionary about the guitar. But I do stare at it a lot because of its aesthetic beauty. I see PRS as just another guitar manufacturer who happens to be very good at design and aesthetics. But still, I dislike his pickups, and I ripped out the pickups on my P22 and stuck in Bare Knuckle pickups that completely made the guitar come alive.
With the existing history of electric guitars and most everybody keeping with the basic formula, I think it's difficult to pin the "revolutionary" title to any modern builder.
Hell no !!
PRS are nothing revolutionary or evolutionary at all IMHO. They do make decent guitars but I just never could get into the way they look.
i recall when I became aware of PRS guitars, i was a broke ass struggling "musician' , living from paycheck to paycheck with gig money going toward studio time. Never have I owned one, played a couple an dwas amazed. To say PRS was not revolutionary is something that is clearly personal opinion, but no doubt the PRS guitars & features are copied consistently. I'd like to own one and if it were between a prs and les paul, i'd lean towards a prs for ability to cover multiple sound ground. imo
Biggest thing about this company, is that PRS had offered a determined scale size smack dab in the middle of Fender and Gibson that guitar players liked for an option. Also the love/hate of players ranging from playing furniture to saying a soulless guitar.
haha! reminds me of what players feel about Kemper.
PRS guitars always struck me as an arranged marriage between a Gibson and a Fender , and there is a market for that as some want the best of both worlds . At the end of the day the consumer is better served by having more choices in the marketplace .