PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars are made in a few different countries and sell for a wide range of prices. This guide will explain the different PRS models and where each model is made.
PRS Guitars are made in the USA, South Korea, and Indonesia. The premium electric guitar models are built in the USA and the lower-cost models are built in either South Korea or Indonesia. The PRS SE acoustic guitars are made in China.
The USA-made guitars are made in Paul Reed Smith’s factory in Stevensville, Maryland. The Korean-made guitars are manufactured by the World Musical Instrument Company. The Indonesian-made guitars and the China-made acoustic guitars are manufactured by Cor-Tek Musical Instrument Company.
This guide will explain the different PRS series and where each one is made.
PRS Guitar Models Explained
There are a few different PRS models that sell for a very wide range of prices. There is a big difference in price, options, and quality between some of the PRS series, so it’s worth looking at where each series is made and why.
Here are the main PRS Guitar models:
- PRS Core: premium quality guitars at a high price point
- PRS SE: SE stands for ‘Student Edition’. SE models are the budget range of PRS guitars
- PRS S2: S2 stands for ‘Stevensville 2’. S2 guitars are mid-range in price and features
- PRS Bolt-on: models built with a bolt-on neck
- PRS Private Stock: one-off custom guitars at the highest quality
Let’s go through all of the above series of guitars as well as where they’re made.
Where are PRS Core Guitars Made?
The PRS Core model guitars are promoted as high quality and are built in the USA.
PRS Core Guitars are made in Paul Reed Smith’s main factory in Stevensville, Maryland, USA.
Maryland is a US state on the East coast and the PRS factory is located on Kent Island.
As you might expect, building guitars in the US costs more than other countries where labour costs are lower. This is why only the higher-end PRS series are produced in the US.
One of the advantages of the Core series is that there are a lot more different finishing options compared to a lower series model.
The PRS Custom 24 for example has 18 different options for finishes currently listed on the PRS website. Compare that to the 4 options available on the PRS SE Custom 24 and you’ll get an idea of the big difference in the different series.
While the back of the headstock on the other guitar series will show the country of origin, PRS Core guitars do not show this. The only thing on the back of the headstock will be the guitar’s serial number.
Where are PRS SE Guitars Made?
The PRS SE model guitars are PRS’ budget range of guitars. The SE stands for ‘Student Edition’.
PRS SE Guitars are made in South Korea and Indonesia. Earlier models were all made in South Korea and most newer models are made in Indonesia.
The PRS SE guitars made in South Korea are built by World Musical Instruments Company then inspected and set up by PRS in the US before being sent to stores.
World Musical Instruments Company manufactures guitars for a lot of different brands and their factory is based in Incheon, South Korea.
PRS SE guitars were exclusively built in Korea for a very long time. In 2019, PRS set up a factory in Indonesia in partnership with Cor-Tek Musical Instruments Company (known for Cort brand guitars).
The Indonesian factory is based in Surabaya and only produces PRS SE guitars.
A big advantage to this factory is that it completely focuses on PRS SE guitars. There aren’t other guitar brands being built in this factory, so all of the equipment and employees are focused on one specific series of guitars.
This likely gives PRS better quality in the end as they have more control over the build process. If it also costs PRS less to build guitars in Indonesia, you can expect to see more PRS guitars with Indonesia stamped on the headstock in the future.
You can tell whether a PRS SE guitar was built in South Korea or Indonesia by looking at the back of the headstock.
PRS guitars built in Korea or Indonesia will clearly label both the country of origin as well as the company that manufactured the guitar.
If you see a guitar without one of these stamps on the headstock, it likely means it is one of the series that was built in the US (or it’s a fake).
An interesting note about PRS SE guitars is that while they are manufactured in South Korea or Indonesia, PRS set up each guitar in their US factory before shipping them to stores.
This means the final quality control and setup is done in the US rather than done overseas and being sent straight to stores.
While PRS SE guitars use similar designs as the Core series, the price and features are completely different.
The above guitar shows a PRS SE Custom 24. It may look similar to a PRS Custom 24, but if you compare the two directly, you’ll notice an obvious difference in hardware, body contour, and overall quality.
That doesn’t mean PRS SE guitars are bad. They’re fantastic guitars and I enjoy playing my PRS SE SVN Seven String. But there are reasons why a PRS SE can cost $900 and a PRS (Core) can cost $4000.
Where are PRS S2 Guitars Made?
The PRS S2 guitars are promoted as ‘reimagined’ shapes and styles. These guitars sit somewhere in between the SE and Core series in terms of features and price.
S2 stands for ‘Stevensville 2’ and refers to a second factory line set up in their Stevensville factory.
PRS S2 Guitars are made in Paul Reed Smith’s main factory in Stevensville, Maryland, USA.
PRS’s goal when they started the S2 series is to produce USA-built guitars at a third of the cost of their Core models.
To do this, they use stripped-down features, imported parts, and a limited range of models. This simplifies their manufacturing process and cuts down the time it takes them to build guitars.
A PRS S2 Custom 24 costs around $1600 which is less than half the price of a Core Custom 24 model. Some of the more basic S2 models cost only slightly more than an SE.
A big part of why the S2 models cost far less than the other USA-built Core models is due to the guitars using imported electronics. The pickups in the Core guitars are built in their USA factory, while the pickups in the S2 models are imported.
Keep in mind that a PRS SE Custom 24 costs around $900 and offers similar features as the S2 model. To find out whether the extra money will give you noticeable improvements in quality or tone, I suggest directly comparing both guitars in person.
Where are PRS Bolt-on Guitars Made?
The PRS Bolt-on range of guitars is the only PRS guitars with a bolt-on neck. Learn about different neck joints in this detailed guide.
PRS Bolt-on Guitars are made in Paul Reed Smith’s main factory in Stevensville, Maryland, USA.
The most popular PRS Bolt-on guitar at the moment is the PRS Silver Sky.
The Silver Sky is John Mayer’s signature PRS. Find out more about this guide and the rest of John Mayer’s guitar rig in this guide.
A lot of people have said that the Silver Sky is manufactured on the S2 production line, but I couldn’t find any confirmation of this. Whether the guitar is produced on the S2 line or the Core part of the factory, it is US-made with US components.
Another popular guitar in the Bolt-on series is the CE. CE stands for ‘Classic Electric’ and there have been many CE models over the years.
Where are PRS Private Stock Guitars Made?
The PRS Private Stock guitars are custom-made and the highest quality guitars you can get from PRS. As you might expect, they’re built in the USA.
PRS Private Stock Guitars are made in Paul Reed Smith’s main factory in Stevensville, Maryland, USA.
The prices for PRS Private Stock guitars seem to start at around $10,000 and can shoot up from there if you want something truly unique.
There are about 100 different finishing options listed on the PRS website for Private Stock models and a massive range of hardware configurations, exotic woods, and inlays.
If you’ve ever seen a completely over-the-top inlay design or finish on a PRS, it may have been a Private Stock guitar.
The PRS Dragon (there are several versions from over the years) is one of the more well-known Private Stock models due to the wild fretboard inlay design it uses.
The above guitar should give you an idea of how far PRS will go in their Private Stock series. If you want a one-off custom PRS using exotic woods and wild inlay designs (and you can pay for it), you can probably get it built.
It’s worth mentioning that second-hand Private Stock guitars can often be seen selling for well under $10,000. While some truly unique models may appreciate and become collector’s items, it seems that a lot of them depreciate fast and hard.
Where are PRS Acoustic Guitars Made?
While PRS are best known for their solid-body electric guitars, they also make acoustic guitars.
PRS currently sells acoustic guitars under the SE series as well as Private Stock.
PRS SE acoustic guitars are made in China and manufactured by Cor-Tek Musical Instruments Company. PRS Private Stock acoustic guitars are made in the USA.
As you can see from the above headstock, the PRS SE acoustic guitars are clearly marked as made in China. Cort produces a range of acoustic guitars, so it’s no surprise that PRS gets them to manufacture their acoustic guitars.
While the range of PRS acoustic guitars is limited compared to guitar brands that focus on acoustics, you can always get a custom model built under Private Stock if you can afford one.
Where are PRS Basses Made?
PRS sells basses under the Core, SE, and Private Stock series.
PRS Core and Private Stock basses are made in Paul Reed Smith’s main factory in Stevensville, Maryland, USA. PRS SE basses are made in South Korea and manufactured by World Musical Instruments Company.
As you can see from the below photo, PRS SE basses are made in Korea:
If a bass doesn’t have the country of origin on the headstock, it was built in the USA.
Comparing PRS Guitars
If you’re trying to decide whether you want to buy a US-made PRS or an import PRS, there are a few things to consider.
There’s no right answer in which one is the right choice because every guitarist has different needs and budget.
Let’s have a brief comparison of the differences between the different PRS series to help you figure out which one might be right for you.
USA-made vs Korean-made or Indonesian-made PRS Guitars
In the past, comparing USA-made and Korean-made or Indonesian-made PRS guitars was straightforward. The USA-made guitars were meant to be seen as superior in quality in every way and the Korean-made guitars were meant to be budget options.
Core vs SE
If you pick up a Core model Custom 24 and compare it to an SE model Custom 24, you’ll notice differences in the feel and quality of the finish and hardware.
The above photo compares a Core Custom 24 (top) and an SE Custom 24 (bottom).
Some differences are obvious in the photo such as the body contours. The Core model has full body contours that curve all the way up to the pickups. The SE model only has a slight bevel around the edges to make manufacturing faster and easier.
Other differences such as hardware are clear when you directly compare the photos. Notice how the tone and volume knobs are sunken in the body on the Core model compared to the SE model which sits them on top of the guitar.
The closer you compare the two guitars in person, the more you notice small differences in detail and finish.
You’ll likely notice a big difference in tone as pickups are often the cheapest part of import guitars. You’ll feel and hear a big difference if you’re able to directly compare both instruments.
Whether these differences are worth the big price difference is up to you. For some people, paying 3 or 4 times more for a Core model just makes sense. For other people, the differences aren’t worth the extra money, which could be used to buy two or three other guitars or a great guitar amp.
S2 vs SE
When most people think of comparing a USA-made guitar and a Korean-made PRS, they think of comparing a Core model and an SE. It’s an easy comparison with obvious differences between the models.
But things get blurry when you compare an S2 model (USA-made) against an SE (Korean or Indonesian-made) model.
When you compare S2 and SE guitars, you’re comparing USA-made vs Korean-made or Indonesian-made. But the difference this time is that the S2 series was designed to be a third of the cost of a Core model.
So this time you’re comparing a budget USA-made guitar with an import guitar.
The above photo compares an S2 Custom 24 (top) with an SE Custom 24 (bottom).
There are still differences between the models, but the differences are minor compared to the earlier comparison.
Notice that the S2 has a similar body contour as the SE. The thickness of the wood used for the body is much thinner than what is used in the Core model, so it cuts down on cost as well as time and effort. Producing a basic bevel is significantly faster and easier compared to the full contours you see on a Core model.
What is important to keep in mind is that while the S2 is USA-made, it uses imported hardware. So both guitars will use imported pickups and imported hardware.
The main differences people tend to notice when directly comparing these guitars are the overall feel and quality. Some guitarists feel that both guitars are around the same level of quality, while other guitarists notice the S2 feeling better to play.
This is why I always recommend trying to directly compare any two models you’re thinking about in person. You may be surprised with how the guitars actually sound and feel compared to what you read or hear online.
I know some guitarists buy an S2 instead of an SE and immediately upgrade the pickups and bridge. The main point to keep in mind here is that these two series are much closer together in terms of quality and features compared to a Core model and an SE.
So when comparing models, don’t just look at the country of origin. There are many other factors to consider.
Korean-made vs Indonesian-made PRS Guitars
In the past, all PRS SE models were built in South Korea by World Musical Instrument Company.
Today, it seems PRS is shifting more towards their Indonesian factory, which focuses completely on building PRS SE guitars.
Whether this shift is due to costs or quality is something only PRS know.
While there is a clear difference between a Core model and an SE, it’s very hard to compare Korean and Indonesian-made PRS SE guitars in terms of quality.
I have read that some people preferred the Korean-made guitars while others preferred the Indonesian-made guitars.
If you hear somebody say something like “Korean-made guitars are superior to Indonesian-made guitars”, take comments like that with a grain of salt. Often, people pick up a cheap Indonesian-made guitar, hate it, then from that time onwards, they only think of Indonesian-made guitars as junk.
Comparing a Korean PRS SE from twenty years ago against a brand new Indonesian PRS SE is also an unfair comparison. A lot has changed in the last twenty years in terms of manufacturing processes, labor costs, materials, and hardware. So
The reality is that any country can produce amazing quality guitars and any country can produce bad quality guitars (even the USA).
So there is no clear answer whether you should look for a Korean PRS or an Indonesian PRS. Instead of worrying about which country the guitar is from, just find a guitar that feels great, sounds great, and fits in your budget (I know that’s a hard task!).
PRS Guitars FAQ
Here are some common questions you might have about PRS guitars and where they are made.
Which PRS Guitars Are Made in USA?
The PRS Guitars made in USA are the Core, S2, and Private Stock series. All other guitars are made in either Korea, Indonesia, or China.
Who Makes PRS SE Guitars?
PRS SE guitars are manufactured by World Musical Instruments Company in South Korea and by Cor-Tek Musical Instruments Company in Indonesia.
Why are PRS Private Stock so Expensive?
PRS Private Stock guitars are so expensive because they are built in the USA using exotic woods, high-end hardware, and built by experienced luthiers. Many Private Stock guitars are one-off custom-made guitars, which are far more expensive to build than a standard model built in bulk.
How Much is a Custom PRS?
A custom PRS built by Private Stock can start at around $8,000 and go up from there depending on the features and materials requested.
What is the Most Expensive PRS?
The most expensive listed PRS you can buy is the Dragon from Private Stock, which sells for more than $20,000.