News / USA

American Guitar Maker Stands Out in Crowded Industry

Paul Reed Smith holds one of the guitars he makes as he discusses what is involved in the craft - and art - of creating these customized instruments, June 2011
Paul Reed Smith holds one of the guitars he makes as he discusses what is involved in the craft - and art - of creating these customized instruments, June 2011

Multimedia

Jeff Swicord

In the early 1980s, a young guitar maker named Paul Reed Smith first tried to sell his guitars to major artists. Now more than 25 years later, Smith's guitars are considered some of the finest instruments made.

Latin artist Carlos Santana, and jazzman Al Di Meola play two different styles of music. But they both have something, or rather, someone in common: Paul Reed Smith.

“I started building guitars in wood shop in high school, in my brother’s bedroom and in my bedroom," he said. "And I would rent equipment.”

State of the art

Not anymore. Today, Paul Reed Smith Guitars are built in a state of the art factory on the Maryland eastern shore.

The company’s 260 employees made 13,000 guitars in the U.S. Another 25,000 guitars were made in South Korea for a less expensive line. PRS earned $40 million in sales last year.  

Since its founding in 1985, the company has carved out a niche in a competitive market. When asked about his business philosophy, though, Smith simply says he just tries to make the best guitars possible.

“We have been asked why the guitars are different and I have come to the conclusion that it is a very complicated, long list of attention to detail,” he said.

Attention to detail

That detail is most apparent in the built-to-order Private Stock line, often referred to as part works of art and part instrument.

“We have maple tops, we have mahogany necks… ,” said Smith.

PRS president Jack Higginbotham said building an exceptional guitar starts with the wood.

“Nice piece of mahogany," said Higginbotham of one block. “Nice ring to it,” he said as he tapped on it.

Exotic wood

PRS buys exotic woods from around the world, and its guitars are known for their eye popping, curly maple tops.

“This is a pretty exceptional example of what will become a private stock guitar," said Higginbotham. "What we are about is just trying to obtain the very best wood as far as visual goes and sound goes.”

Higginbotham said the manufacturing process is equally important. Wood is slowly dried in a special room. The guitar is shaped within a thousandth of a millimeter on computerized milling machines. All pieces are hand-sanded, stained, and lacquered. Neck inlays are done by hand. On average, it takes about six weeks to build one guitar.  

Smith said his company seeks perfection.

“Our job is to try to make the guitars better and better and better. And then when we get to the point where we don’t want to mess with them, then we try to repeat the same thing over and over again,” he said.

That attention to detail is not lost on musicians. Brian Meader sells guitars at Chuck Levins Washington Music Center, one of the first stores to carry PRS.

“This is the PRS Custom 24, it is the original PRS guitar… ,” said Meader.

Quality production

He said that when it comes to quality, for a mass production guitar, PRS is unmatched.

“You are getting custom guitar construction, build quality and tone from now a production guitar company," said Meader. "And there are very few out there that can kind of compete with them on all of those levels at the same time.”

Paul Reed Smith is applying the same attention to detail to a new line of acoustic guitars.

“I mean the thing is going nuts," said Smith. "It sustains forever right?”

PRS guitars range in price from around $600 to tens of thousands for the Private Stock line.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid