The difference between Gibson and Fender (talking about their most successful guitars) is obvious: Gibson's are much darker and Fender's are much brighter...
But what about the 3rd option - PRS? How do they compare to Gibson (specifically the Les Paul vs Custom 24)?
I hear that PRS's are much more midrange heavy whereas Gibsons are bottom-end heavy, but then I also hear that Gibsons are focused on the lows and mids, and PRS's are somewhat scooped in the mids. Don't know what to think.
PRS does so many variations now in overall type that it's virtually impossible to generalise like that. They have the 'classic PRS' Customs, a take on the Les Paul with the SC and Stripped 58s and 245s, the very Gretsch-y Starla, the Fender-esque DC3 and NF3s, and way more.
Even Gibsons vary lots with all the available models and styles. You can get at least a dozen flavours of Les Paul, a myriad of semi-hollows and way more if none of those grab you - Nighthawks, Explorers, etc etc... and the tones available can vary immensely.
I've never owned a PRS, but I've worked on lots of them. All tonal issues aside, the PRS is in my opinion, a superior design. Simply put, they stay in tune much better than a Les Paul. The problem with tuning on Les Pauls is the headstock angle, which is unnecessarily steep, causing friction issues at the nut. The PRS has just enough angle to allow the open strings to ring clearly, but not enough for the strings to hang up and bind in the nut slots. Fender guitars, of course have the string tree, which is another friction point that can cause tuning issues.
The scale length does affect the sound of the instrument to some degree, but at 25", it's just 1/4" off from the 24-3/4" scale length of a Les Paul - Not a significant enough amount to make much of a difference.
If you want a Les Paul sound, your best bet is to get a Les Paul. But I suspect that a PRS with PAF style pickups could approximate the sound of a Les Paul relatively convincingly - more so with the 22 fret model as opposed to the 24 fret model, since the neck pickup is further back (towards the bridge) on the 24 fret model.
I used to think of PRS as filling the gap between the big two. But as Whitecat says, they have so many variations now that they've dipped deeply into the Gibson and Fender markets.
I've always found them to be the best made mass produced guitars around. Owned a bunch from a nice 86 Custom 24 to a more recent Swampash (wish I'd kept that one!). Even the SE's are nice far beyond the price.
I've always thought PRS quality control is great. Def more consistent then a lot of others. Problem is I just don't like the way they sound in my hands or others.
I sold off all of mine for the same reason. Couldn't connect. But I think many players make them work really well.
My C24 felt so refined, it was distracting. Absolutely no resistence. I like a little fight from my guitars.
The Swamp Ash was better. Big fat birdseye maple fencepost of a neck, and the body had been beat to death already by Smashmouth. Apparently, Camp gave it to his roadie and he sold it to me, but I traded it off long ago to a friend who won't trade back. Bad move.
I haven't played all the variations of the PRS seriously. I've owned Customs and CEs and EGs and several models of Hollowbody and early versions of the SC. My problem with PRS has always been that, while they had a lot of great sounds, they didn't have that one sound that made a guitar something I respond to emotionally. A neck P90 pickup on an LP Special, the bridge pickup on a Tele or a LP Jr., in between on a Les Paul, notch positions on a strat... My PRSi always seemed to sound good, and lots of variety, but not that one stellar sound.
The one place I'd say they absolutely excell is in high gain applications. Plugged into a Dual Rectifier there's no guitar I'd rather have than a CU24.
To me the PRS's are kind of the middle option. If you think LPs are too dark/fat, but also find fenders too bright/thin, a PRS might be exactly what you want, as its sound is somewhere in between, imo. Like if a Gibson and a Fender could have sex their offspring would be a PRS lol
Both great. PRS have better consistency in my experience.
As for sound, I love both. People who go from Gibson to PRS seem to not bond. I guess if you are used to something specific, it's not natural but I find PRS to sound every bit as good and musical as a Gibson just with better QC. I guess you could say the tone is more modern, but it all depends on the player as to where he takes his guitar.
I have a 1981 LP and it's brilliant. I had a 1963 Jr and it wasn't great if I'm honest and I had a few others which were nice. I had a PRS CE22 which was one of the best guitars I have played and stupidly sold it. Idiot. Played tons of Gibsons and most were excellent. A couple were really not great (a 90's LP classic was clearly a poor instrument) and they do vary.
Anyway, either will be great instruments if you choose well but if I was buying new and looking for affordable quality, I'd go with a PRS.
I had a PRS CE22 which was one of the best guitars I have played and stupidly sold it. Idiot.
This is a funny thing. I've offed 5 PRS's, and had seller's remorse after every one because it felt like a loss. But then, thinking back, I never used them, recording or gigging, except the Swamp Ash as a back-up for gigging.
Recording, they lacked a definitive character. Very confined and safe. I just hated selling them because they were so damn well-made and just downright beautiful, but never used them, so off they went.
So what, in tonal terms makes a PRS different to a Gibson, generally?
More mids, less mids, less bass...?...etc...
Depends on the guitar. My Les Paul has Tim Shaw Gibson pickups (1981) and t has very complex mids and really sounds great for classic rock stuff. A typical PRS 22 tends to be more balanced and perhaps a bit brighter, but for modern stuff, they work brilliantly. Very flexible. The CE22 I sold had a very aggressive sound, but in a good way. Not annoying just rich and forward.
Personally I don't see it as a choice between them. Each has their uses and are only as good as the player.
Check out Davy Knowles for example. PRS player and he sounds great.
One thing I would say is that the cheaper PRS SE are WAY better than the cheaper Gibsons IMHO.
So what, in tonal terms makes a PRS different to a Gibson, generally?
More mids, less mids, less bass...?...etc...
To try and pin it down, quantitatively... I'd say they don't emphasize mids and lows (Gibson typical) or highs (Fender typical). They are very balanced and refined across the spectrum, but with no distinctive voice that identifies them.
-Fender is an old sports car; excitement from the fact that things could fall apart at any moment. Contoured, thin, light and responsive. Feel the road.
-Gibson is American muscle; get in step on the gas and hang on. Square edges, heavy, low to the ground, got some weight to it sonically and physically. Lots of tradition working there.
-PRS is Lexus; smooth and refined. You might forget that your riding in a car. Careful where you park it. No danger in it. A very safe, reliable and secure envelope, but not much to either love or hate. It just is.
Yeah, I know. Whole lot of BS probably. But the best way I can describe my impressions.
PRS are definitely brighter, they are both really good sounding guitars on heavy distortion since they remain really crunchy. I think PRS overprices their guitars, and the build quality is not higher the gibsons.
The necks are quite different as well, some of the PRS necks i cant stand, other are super comfortable. My main problem with the gibson necks are the higher frets for some reason no matter which model I try it simply not as comfortable as the other guitars I own.
Besides the sound, i find that PRS has much better action. As far as the sound is concerned, PRS sounds smoother (in general) and Gibson is more aggressive, but this would be talking stock pickups. If you are specifically comparing the Les Paul, the PRS single-cut i think is a much better guitar. Gibson has issues with not setting up (some) guitars properly off the line, i'm sure it would be nice once setup, but that is lame after buying an expensive guitar. I would be shocked if you didn't like the PRS single-cut, I will acquire one when possible. Never played a Les Paul i really wanted to own, but they do some cool things.
I think the Taylor comparison is apt. It is a beautiful guitar and solid performer, with some trade offs in the X-factor vibe department.
I've played a PRS Custom 24 since 1993, and I find it to be very reliable, durable, and consistent. It handles very well on stage: sounds good, stays in tune, locking cams make string changes fast, and it can achieve a broad set of tones in the neighborhood of both Gibson and Fender (actually, I feel like it has its own sort of mid focused thing going on-- particularly the 3rd position on the rotary dial--love it).
When recording, there are certain things I love it for simply because it is so focused and reliable, but I have other guitars I grab when I want vibe (of course, then I have to figure out how to keep them in tune).
I went with PRS because of quality control and intonation stability. I am able to knock a SG 61 reissue out of tune much easier then my McCarty. I also found my mccarty hangs better where the SG tipped downwards if I don't hold the neck with my left hand. Overall the PRS just seemed better. The SG tone is great but can be matched with the right pickups on the SG. I also find that the PRS has just as good sustain as the gibson stoptails. The neck shape is also more refined. I have a wide fat but its not chunky like an SG standard. PRS fingerboards and fretwork are in a different league when compared to gibson. The build quality of PRS is second to none. The scale feels like a gibson which i prefer to the longer strat.
I would say its accurate to place the tone somewhere between a fender and gibson but that is a generic statement since PRS has a wide lineup and pickup options. Overall it can do a lot of different tones. I use the coil tap to get a strat like tone on the bridge pickup. My mccarty neck pickup is very warm and not scooped in the mid. I would think the best comparison would be using P90's in a mccarty compared to a les paul or sg with P90's. I also think the PRS are just as beautiful. Mine is a korina McCarty. Definitely a dream guitar for me.
The PRS used market is the way to go IMO. I bought mine used in perfect condition for half of what it would have been new. You lose the lifetime warranty but you don't need it. I can't say the same for Gibson. I wouldn't buy a used Gibson.
I'd have to say Boring in, Boring out.
Too many great players sounding great on Gibsons and PRS to blame the tool.
One guitar might not suit you, but it doesn't make your choice right for anyone else.
I find it a shame PRS stopped the CE22. That's a superb instrument. I guess the bolt neck thing put purists off..
Many PRS are pricey new as well, although the MIRA is very affordable.
Richlite? Baked Maple? Firebird X? Most the time when Gibson try and innovate it goes wrong and they are badly run, but they have a hell of a heritage and a good Gibson is a fine instrument.
Then again, I do think there are many other great choices these days and if I was buying new, I'd be looking at one of the smaller known builders.
To me, the differences between PRS and Gibson aren't so much in the sound, as it's already been noted, each brand has many different models which create many different sounds, but rather in the neck carve. And that's why I don't like Gibson guitars. I'll play one, sure. They're great guitars. There's nothing wrong with them. I'd even buy one if the price was right. But I've never picked up a Gibson and thought "I love this neck", and for the money they command, I want to love everything about it, or I'll get something that I do. Neck carves are also a reason why I'll probably never own an Ibanez.
The necks vary greatly between models in both brands. An SG feels nothing like a Les Paul. But neither appeal to me. PRS also has different neck carves. A friend of mine hates my McCarty because he doesn't like the neck. So it's not a matter of one being better than the other, but rather, which one YOU like better. If you played with all of my guitars you'd find that all of my guitars, acoustics and electrics, have very similar necks with rosewood fretboards. It's what I like.
Action is a function of how the guitar is set up, not something inherent to the guitar.
Thanks for stating the obvious. Did i say that the action was something inherent to the guitar? The setup is an artform in itself, and Gibson is not very good at it. Whatever local tech you pay to fix your Gibson is likely not as good as the fellow at PRS. I am a professional guitar tech so I am well aware that the action can be changed, and it is also why i respect PRS so much for their excellence in achieving such fine action, it is far beyond the average tech. Better action results in better sound in my experience. That being said, the setups done by the techs at PRS are superior to Gibson and most guitar shops or other people. You won't get a PRS setup from anybody except PRS. Without their setup, its not the same. Fender Custom Shop does very nice setups too.
I have a bunch of old Gibson guitars and a bunch of PRS guitars. The stock PRS guitars are kind of blah to me. They look cool but they don't sound all that special (to me). If I say Les Paul sound or Strat sound you know what I mean. PRS sound, not so much.
I have a couple of the ones they write your name on the back of the headstock and they're killer. The best baritone guitar I have is a custom made (I think they made 12 or 24) PRS.