VOA TV – The Making of a Paul Reed Smith Guitar

Latin-rock musician Carlos Santana … and jazz great Al Di Meola play different kinds of music. But they both use guitars from the same manufacturer: Paul Reed Smith.

PAUL REED SMITH: “I started building guitars in wood shop in high school and in my brother’s bedroom and in my bedroom. And I would rent equipment.” Today, Paul Reed Smith builds his guitars at a factory in Maryland.

PAUL REED SMITH: “We are selling a lot of these blue sunburst guitars … they are going very, very well for us.”

His company, PRS Guitars, now has 260 employees. They have made 13,000 guitars in the United States. Another 25,000 guitars were manufactured in South Korea. The company opened in 1985. It had 40 million dollars in sales in 2010. Paul Reed Smith says he tries to make the best instruments possible.

PAUL REED SMITH: “We have been asked the question a lot about what, why the guitars are different, and I’ve come to the conclusion [that] it’s a very complicated long list of attention, attention to detail.”

That detail is clear in the built-to-order Private Stock guitar line.

JACK HIGGINBOTHAM: “We have maple tops, we’ve got mahogany necks …”

Jack Higginbotham is the president of PRS Guitars.

JACK HIGGINBOTHAM: “Nice piece of mahogany. Nice ring to it.” PRS buys woods from around the world. Its guitars are known for their curly maple tops.

JACK HIGGINBOTHAM: “And this is a pretty exceptional example of what will probably become a private stock guitar. What we’re about is just trying to obtain the very best wood as far as visual goes and sound goes.”

Jack Higginbotham says the manufacturing process is equally important. The wood is slowly dried. All pieces are hand-sanded and stained before a protective finish is added. On average, it takes about six weeks to build one guitar. Paul Reed Smith says his company seeks perfection.

PAUL REED SMITH: “It’s our job to try to make the guitars better and better and better and better and better. And then we get to the point where we don’t really want to mess with them, we try to repeat the same thing over again.”

That attention to detail is not lost on musicians. Brian Meader sells guitars at a music store in Washington.

BRIAN MEADER: “This is a PRS Custom 24. This is basically the original PRS guitar. This is what essentially launched the company.” He says the quality of PRS is unequaled for a mass production guitar.

BRIAN MEADER: “You’re getting custom guitar construction, build quality and tone from now a production guitar company. And there’s very few out there that can kind of compete with them on all of those levels at the same time.”

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

PAUL REED SMITH: “I mean the thing is going nuts. It sustaining forever, right?”

A PRS Private Stock line guitar can cost as little as $600 or up to tens of thousands of dollars. I’m Jim Tedder.