|Founder||Paul Reed Smith|
|Paul Reed Smith|
|Products||Electric & acoustic guitars |
PRS Guitars (also known as Paul Reed Smith Guitars) is an American guitar and amplifier manufacturer in Stevensville, Maryland that was founded by luthier, Paul Reed Smith in 1985. The company is widely known for its hand-made, high end, electric guitars.
The company was founded in 1985 by luthier, Paul Reed Smith who had been building guitars since the mid-1970s. Early adopters included Stanley Whitaker, Derek St. Holmes and Howard Leese. The company's big break came when Carlos Santana began playing one of his hand-built models. Their signature models are named after Carlos Santana, John Mayer, Mark Holcomb of Periphery, and Alex Lifeson.
Smith set up a partnership to create a factory in Annapolis, Maryland. He produced 20 guitars for the 1985 NAMM Show and found a niche in the upscale guitar market. After three years the company employed 45 people producing 15 guitars per day. By 1995, the factory was making 25-30 guitars daily and employing 80 people. In 1996, production moved to a new factory in Stevensville on Kent Island. By the end of 1998, PRS was producing 700 guitars a month with a staff of 110.
The company was hurt badly by the American recession of 2008 and sales declined by 12% in 2009 but grew by 30% the following year. In 2013 Smith commented that "things are better now, but they ain't great." 
Nuts are synthetic and tuners are of PRS's own design, although some models feature Korean-made Kluson-style tuners. PRS guitars feature three original bridge designs: a one-piece pre-intonated stoptail, a vibrato, and a wrapover tailpiece. The Vibrato was designed with the help of guitar engineer John Mann. It was an update on the classic Fender vibrato and used cam-locking tuners, which offered wide pitch bending with exceptional tuning stability.
Pickups are designed and wound in-house. While most of the pickups are humbuckers, some are actually a pair of single coils wound in opposing directions, one intended for the neck and one for the bridge position. Through the use of a unique rotary pickup selector switch, PRS pickups offer 5 different sounds: a combination of thick humbucking Gibson-like tones, and chimey single-coil Stratocaster-like tones. The standard treble and standard bass pick ups use magnetic pole pieces in the non-adjustable inner coil, and a rear-placed feeder magnet in order to achieve a more authentic single-coil tone when split by the rotary switch
PRS developed pickups for the aggressive rock market, offering pick ups such as the chainsaw, and the Hot-Fat-Screams (HFS) initially used on the Special model.
In 1998, an electronic upgrade kit was released for pre-1993 instruments which included lighter-weight tuner buttons, nickel-plated brass screws for saddles and intonation, a simulated tone control, and high-capacitance hookup wire. In 2012, PRS released the 408 pickups used on the 408 and Paul's Guitar models. These pickups include innovations that feature no loss of volume when in coil split mode. They have an exclusive agreement to use wire drawn from the same machine that made wire for Les Paul and Stratocaster pickups in the 1950s.
In 1992 PRS introduced the Dragon 1 model. Only 50 units were produced. It featured an intricate dragon inlay which ran down the finger board, a wide 22 fret neck, and a non-vibrato Stop-tail bridge and a new pick up design. The changes in design from previous models added a noticeable tonal improvement which led the company to use the same characteristics in later models such as the PRS Custom 22. The Dragon 2 was released in 1993, and the Dragon 3 in 1994. Both featured dragon inlays which became more extreme with every year. Only 100 of each of the 2 models were made. In 1999 PRS released the Dragon 2000, which featured complex body curves, and a 3 dimensional dragon inlay. Just 50 Dragon 2000's were ever produced.
PRS introduced a more affordable line of guitars in 2000  referred to as the "SE" which are manufactured in Korea by World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd. for the electrics and Wildwood for the acoustics. PRS produces a large range of models in the SE series including the Custom 24, SE245, SE Kestrel and Kingfisher bass guitars as well as signature guitars such as the Bernie Marsden, Tremonti, Zach Myers and Santana amongst others.
In 2001, PRS released their Singlecut model, which resembled the traditional Les Paul. Gibson Guitar Corporation filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the owner, Paul Reed Smith. An injunction was ordered that required PRS to stop manufacturing of the Singlecut at the end of 2004. Federal District Court Judge William J. Haynes, then ruled the Singlecut was an imitation of the Gibson Les Paul. However, in 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court decision and ordered the dismissal of Gibson's suit and PRS resumed production.
While no changes to the design of the Singlecut occurred as a result of the lawsuit, some Singlecut owners and sellers have adopted the term 'pre-lawsuit' to differentiate their Singlecut guitar from others.