Fender vs PRS Guitars: Which is Better?

Fender and PRS are two of the most popular guitar brands in the world. Fender has a long history of innovation and quality. PRS hasn’t been around quite as long, but has some great guitar offerings. Ultimately, both have achieved a lot of success. 

Fender has been making guitars for over 70 years now, and its Stratocaster is one of the most iconic instruments in rock ‘n’ roll history. PRS Guitars was founded in 1985 by Paul Reed Smith with the aim to make high-quality instruments that are better than what’s on the market.

Both companies have made significant contributions to the world of music over the years, but which one is better? 

Generally, Fender guitars have simpler designs and are better for producing bright, low gain tones. In contrast, PRS guitars offer more advanced designs and are better for producing warmer tones, especially when using distortion or high gain.

Let’s take a look at Fender and PRS guitars to see what makes each one unique.

fender vs prs

History of Fender and PRS Guitars

Before we compare Fender and PRS, let’s look at their histories. Both brands have built a fantastic reputation, but one has been around for a long time, and the other, only half as long.

Fender

Fender started as a small company in 1946. Leo Fender, who had previously designed radio sets and electric amplifiers, decided to get into the guitar business after receiving requests from local musicians looking for an affordable option to expensive hollow-body guitars. 

Leo soon produced his first solid-body guitar, known as the Telecaster. The popularity of the Telecaster led to other models such as the Stratocaster being added to their lineup. Although these guitars typically cost more than their competitors, they became very popular among professional players due to their unique sound and build quality.

The Stratocaster was first introduced in 1954 as Fender’s top-of-the-line guitar, available in a non-tremolo and a tremolo version. Thanks to its impressive versatility and comfort, the Strat quickly became popular with musicians of all styles.

PRS

Paul Reed Smith founded his own guitar company in 1985, hoping to capitalize on a weakening market share at Fender and Gibson due to more competitors entering the industry. Paul Reed Smith visited retailers directly to build up pre-orders for the company’s guitars. In 1985, Warren Esani invested in PRS Guitars, and the company moved into its first factory.

PRS produces about 1,100 guitars per month in its Maryland factory. The company imports another 2,500 SE models from Korea. PRS has a well-established reputation for high-quality guitars. It intentionally designs its guitars to combine features of two iconic legends on the planet: the Les Paul and the Stratocaster.

John Mayer, a longtime Stratocaster enthusiast, collaborated with PRS to create the Silver Sky guitar modeled after the Fender version. Aside from the headstock and bird inlays on the fretboard, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Differences Between Fender vs PRS Guitars

Both the Fender and PRS guitars are impressively capable instruments.

Sound

Fender guitars are known for their bright, clean sound and PRS for their warm tones. They use three single-coil pickups, so they have a brighter tone. In contrast, PRS generally use two humbucker pickups, which results in a darker and warmer, higher gain tone.

The video below offers an excellent comparison of guitars made by Fender and PRS that are almost identical. You’ll notice a much brighter, almost bell-like tone when listening to the Fender. With PRS guitars, you’ll hear a much deeper and warmer response.

Build Quality

When buying an electric guitar, it’s important to think about build quality. Both of these brands make guitars that can withstand some reasonable abuse. This might be regular gigging every night, high intensity practice sessions, or even just lessons at your music school.

You will find that Fenders typically include bodies made with Alder for their lighter weight, where PRS will use mahogany, which is a bit heavier but adds warmth to the sound. Unless of course you are comparing the PRS Silver Sky, this guitar uses alder as well.

In either case, you will find that the build quality is fantastic and gets better every year with new models and improvements.

Both Fender and PRS offer guitars made in the USA, but also countries like Mexico, Indonesia, China and South Korea for their entry level models.

Looks and Aesthetics

These guitars have different design aesthetics, but they both appeal to different audiences. 

Fender guitars have a basic design and do not use any patterns on the fretboard or body.  The Stratocaster for example, is a trendy design, and most companies who build knock-offs normally copy this Fender electric guitar as a result of the clean build.

PRS guitars have a unique design with a glossy look and, depending on the price and model, can be built with a beautiful flame or maple top! They also have a more modern design with intricate fretboard inlays and body patterns. 

Some models also have elaborate electronics to add versatility and great looks.

Feel

Fender guitars are more comfortable than PRS models. Their ergonomic design is excellent, and you can play for long periods without having to stop due to any discomfort. The body doesn’t have any sharp features, and reaching the highest frets is very easy thanks to the great shape, which includes a cutaway in all the right places.

When playing PRS guitars, long sessions might become a bit tiresome because the center of the body is elevated. You can feel this when your arm rests on the edges of the body.

With their new Silver Sky guitar line, however, they are now just as comfortable as a Fender and are hard to tell apart except for the headstock and neck. Their warmer sound also adds a different feel when playing.

Music Style

Fender guitars are suited to genres where a clean, bright sound is needed, such as rock and country. The bright tones contribute to a crispness and clarity to the sound that complements those styles very well.

PRS guitars, on the other hand, are best suited to genres requiring a hard rock or metal sound. They use humbuckers and produce warm, loud sounds with lots of gain. If you need a guitar that can handle lots of effects or distortion, PRS might be a good choice.

Price Range

PRS is more expensive than Fender, depending on the model. For example, you can buy a Fender American Professional Stratocaster for $1500, while an equivalent PRS Silver Sky model will cost $2400. However, an entry-level PRS guitar costs much more than Fender’s, but less than its iconic Stratocaster.

Fender vs PRS Guitars: Which One Is Better?

Fender and PRS are both great guitar brands, so the choice really comes down to your personal preference.

Why Choose Fender?

Fender guitars are for players who prize traditional looks and build quality. PRS guitars are well-made, but may be out of reach for a beginner on a tight budget. The Fender Squier is an excellent first instrument if you want to start playing guitar on a budget.

Fender guitars are well-rounded instruments that are suitable for a wide range of genres. Their bright, single-coil pickup tone is really only something you can find on a Fender. They are also very easy to play with a great neck, which is perfect for someone who is just starting out.

Consider a Stratocaster or Telecaster for music types like, country, blues, jazz, pop and rock.

Why Choose PRS?

If you’re looking for a guitar that can give you some unique sound and style, then PRS is the brand to go with. Their guitars are also high quality, so you can take PRS as a worthy investment that holds their value.

PRS guitars also offer a great range of tones. Their warm humbucker tone and built-in electronics can offer a guitarist a lot of versatility. They are a lot of fun to play and do high gain and rock tones incredibly well.

With a double humbucker equipped PRS guitar, you can play music like, blues, jazz, country, rock, and metal.

The Silver Sky does capture that bright Fender tone quite well, but the Stratocaster is still my pick, as it’s a Fender innovation. The Silver Sky has a more mid focused warmer tone, and so for that bell like brightness, Fender is where it’s at. But the Silver Sky is also an amazing guitar.

Check out our Fender vs Gibson comparison here!

Fender Player Stratocaster or PRS SE Silver Sky?

If you’re looking for a great all-rounder that can handle any genre, then the Fender Player Stratocaster is a great choice. It has the great Fender single-coil pickup sound and a modern output that a strat is known for.

If you want something with unique style and sound, then go for the PRS SE Silver Sky. It has the same type of performance as the Fender Stratocaster, but has less output from the pickups and features a more vintage vibe with warmer tones.

They are so similar in price that cost really isn’t a reason to choose either one. You may fancy the strat silver sky because of the inlays and new neck design. Or, you may want to stick with Fender for the history it holds. Either way, you get a great guitar!

Conclusion

With so many nuances and variations in tone, playing a PRS or a Fender can offer the player experiences that are almost incomparable. What’s more, over the years, both brands have developed strong followings that keep players coming back for more. 

So if you’re looking to join the ranks of dedicated Fender or PRS players, making your choice will ultimately come down to your musical style and tone preferences. It’s not uncommon to eventually own a guitar from each brand!

FAQs

Is PRS as good as Fender?

Yes, both PRS and Fender are very good guitar manufacturers. The difference between them is their tones and options. Fenders sound is not the same as a PRS, and so when looking at either brand, make sure to select the guitar that best matches your music style.

Does PRS make a Telecaster?

While PRS has made a guitar that is very similar to the Fender Stratocaster, they currently do not make anything that is close to a Telecaster.

Which brand is better for a beginner?

Either Fender or PRS are great guitars for beginners. We suggest that you choose the brand and guitar that better suits your musical tastes. This will allow you to stay inspired to play and keep learning.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!