Ibanez vs PRS: Which is the Better Guitar Brand?

If you think of PRS and Ibanez when it comes to guitars, then you have a pretty good understanding of the rivalry. Both have been in the business for decades and have each made a name for themselves by producing high-quality instruments at different price points. 

Each has its key selling points along with some unmistakable differences. However, one thing is certain, Ibanez and PRS are two of the most well-known guitar brands in the world. Both are highly respected by musicians and critics alike, but when it’s Ibanez vs PRS, can one brand claim to be better?

Ibanez makes electric guitars primarily for metal players, whereas PRS makes models for a broader market. The Ibanez collection features models ranging from entry-level to expert. PRS guitars are equally good, but are more expensive. As a result, they are not usually suggested for beginners.

ibanez vs prs

In this article, we are going to take a deep look at the two brands and how they differ. This way, you can get a better fit for your music style.

History of Ibanez and PRS Guitars

The history of both Ibanez and PRS guitars is a long and colorful one. Both brands have broken new grounds in their respective industries over the course of their histories. Both also produce exceptional instruments, which set the standard for many other guitar manufacturers to follow.

Ibanez Guitars 

Ibanez guitar

Ibanez guitars are named after the Valencia-based Spanish luthier Salvador Ibanez. Hoshino Gakki, a company that still exists today, distributed these Spanish guitars in Japan.

Because the Valencian company was forced to close because of the Great Depression of 1929, the Japanese distributor began producing Spanish guitars entirely on its own. Japanese-made  Ibanez instruments were first manufactured in 1935.

After acquiring the trademark rights to the name, the Ibanez franchise started to dominate the US customer base in the 1960s. The guitars were initially inspired by more well-known manufacturers, but Ibanez soon began developing its own designs.

Ibanez quickly became a market leader in the competitive electric guitar marketplace. Ibanez now offers a wide range of instruments, which include electric, acoustic, and bass guitars in a variety of designs and price points.

PRS Guitars 

PRS Guitar

PRS, founded and also still led by Paul Reed Smith, is a popular American guitar and amplifier manufacturer based in Stevensville, Maryland. Beginning in 1985, the company initially concentrated on incorporating Fender and Gibson attributes in their instruments. PRS’s product lines include electric and acoustic guitars, basses, and amplifiers.

It took a while, but PRS guitars eventually became well-known. With their excellent playability and a wide range of tones, PRS guitars are excellent alternatives to the usual Gibson and Fender models. PRS guitars also have distinct design elements that are not found on any other instruments.

PRS guitars are best described as all-purpose instruments. Blues, jazz, rock, and even metal players can all use the same PRS model. And to help make things even more versatile, they have a wide range of guitars to choose from.

Ibanez and PRS Guitar Model Comparisons

Both PRS and Ibanez have many models that provide different price points as well as higher quality guitars. Each model, or line, has been designed to provide guitarists with many options. This spans from beginners who are just looking at getting started, to experts who are looking for much more!

Ibanez Guitar Models

Ibanez has broken their lines down into different series. These series include:

  • J. Custom
  • Prestige
  • Premium
  • Axion Label
  • Iron Label
  • Standard
  • Gio

These series are differentiated by their price and the quality the guitars offer. For example, the J. Custom series are guitars that are made in Japan by top luthiers using exotic tonewoods and high quality parts. They are also produced in smaller batches and are harder to get.

Prestige model guitars are also very high quality, but are easier to get and provide great parts are tonewoods.

As you move down the list of models they offer, you then find that they become more affordable. This is because a lot more of the affordable models are produced in countries like Indonesia and offer cheaper parts and construction methods.

The Ibanez Gio for example, is a very affordable beginner’s guitar that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. But the quality is not nearly as good as the Prestige or J. Custom.

PRS Guitar Models

PRS doesn’t have as many lines as Ibanez, but they also offer higher quality guitars, even from their more budget friendly options. These models include:

  • Private Stock
  • Core
  • Bolt-On
  • S2
  • SE

The thing about PRS guitar models, is that most of them are made in the USA. This is why they are more expensive as experienced luthiers build them, plus the parts and materials vary depending on the model.

The Private Stock line of guitars is a custom build based on what you choose. This line is very expensive, but is also of very high quality. Some of the woods and materials used are about as good as it gets. Plus, some of the most experienced guitar builders are responsible for making them, which makes them worth more.

As you move down the list of models, the price also decreases as the parts and materials are sourced from more affordable companies. There is also less detail to the body contours in order to keep them more affordable.

The SE line of guitars is not made in the USA and is the most affordable option available by PRS, as we will see later in the article.

Ibanez Vs PRS Guitar Differences

Sound Quality 

Ibanez guitars sound punchy and articulate, as they are normally made more for modern metal tones. This equates to an increased brightness that is not shrill but well-defined and noticed more in the bridge pickup position.

PRS guitars on the other hand sound fuller and more rounded, as the mid-range is quite different from Ibanez. This is because PRS guitars are made to work great in more music styles than just metal. This added mid-range content can work just as well for metal as an Ibanez, but might not have as much cut in the mix.

A lot of shredders like Ibanez guitars because they get excellent note definition with high gain amplifiers. This allows them to play much faster without the tone getting muddy. This is primarily due to the pickups used on Ibanez guitars, which can be either passive or active. Active pickups tend to be more aggressive, but both types are designed to get that articulate Ibanez tone.

PRS pickups are also designed to get a unique, full, and round tone and are not normally as aggressive as Ibanez sets. But this also depends on the model of guitar you are playing and the output of the humbuckers installed.

Build 

In terms of build quality, such as woodworking, finishes, tonewoods, and components, PRS has a higher standard on average. PRS also provides genuine USA-made guitars such as its Custom, Standard, and Eagle series.

Although the Japanese-made Ibanez Prestige series is also guaranteed to be of high quality, it simply cannot compete with the American-made PRS guitars. PRS’ build quality, even on the foreign-made SE model, is outstanding, and the company stands behind its instruments.

You will also find that PRS guitars are primarily constructed with set neck designs, as opposed to Ibanez’s bolt-on method. Many players say that it affects the sustain, but this isn’t always true and depends on the wood used. The real difference between the two construction methods is the access to the upper frets.

A set-neck design allows the builder to contour the point at which the neck meets the body in a way that a bolt-on cannot allow. This keeps the area free for your hand when you play the upper frets on the guitar.

Having said that, PRS offers a superior product, with nicer tonewoods, meticulous attention to detail, nicer finishes, and electronics. Ibanez guitars are of great quality too, especially the higher-end models, but PRS has the entire industry beat more often than not.

Check out our PRS vs Schecter comparison here!

Design and Aesthetics

PRS guitars have a classic and vintage look to them. They are safer in the sense of not being too flashy, but there are still eye-catching finishes and styles that resonate with a wider demographic.

On the other hand, Ibanez guitars have a more striking and aggressive aesthetic. With their aggressive styles, Ibanez guitars are ideal for metal players. With a PRS on stage, a guitar player can play almost any genre. However, if a country or jazz musician used an Ibanez, it might appear out of place.

Overall, PRS guitars have top-quality finishes and a classic appearance, whereas Ibanez models are renowned for their aggressive and unconventional shapes and color combinations. This must be taken into consideration when purchasing a guitar, as the look can be just as important as the sound in some instances.

prs guitar finishes

Feel

The feel of Ibanez and PRS guitars is vastly different. If you are unfamiliar with either, you should play both before purchasing. 

The wizard necks on Ibanez guitars are very thin and flat, which can be great for players who want to play fast and shred solos. But some players have expressed that it can be hard to play chords, especially if you have large hands. Alternatively, players with smaller hands love them!

The PRS necks are thicker and have a rounder fretboard. This means that they are going to be better for chords and general playing. But they are not going to be great for shredding when compared to the Ibanez’s necks.

There is also a difference in scale length with some models when comparing the two brands, this will also affect the feel. Ibanez guitar bodies are normally thin and light when compared to PRS models, which are a bit heavier than standard.

These are all things to consider, and so trying them out is the only way to find the best fit and feel.

Ibanez Guitar

Music Style

As we have mentioned earlier, Ibanez guitars are typically tailored to metal players, but they do make models that are not. In the last few years, Ibanez has released models that are more like Fender guitars, capable of lighter sounds. But because you are reading an article comparing Ibanez and PRS, it’s probably safe to assume you are not interested in those.

PRS guitars are considered to be extremely versatile, allowing guitarists to play a huge variety of musical genres. Their guitars are not only designed to acquire many tones with versatile electronics, but they can also look the part in most scenarios.

Ibanez tends to focus on ergonomic qualities in general, and they are more widely known among metal musicians as a result. PRS guitars, however, are popular among rock, hard-rock, and blues performers. If you enjoy shredding, the Ibanez is the way to go. If not, a PRS guitar is a great option.

Check out our Ibanez vs ESP comparison here!

Price Range

PRS segregates its offerings into several series that target different budgets. The SE line, which appeals to the mid-range market, is the most affordable guitar from PRS. Prices range from $580 to $1500, with the majority of models costing less than $1000.

The PRS S2 line, on the other hand, is priced between $1000 and $1500 and is manufactured in the United States. The PRS CE series, which have bolt-on neck construction and are also made in the United States, these models range in price from $1900 to $2250. 

The USA Core series is the priciest in the PRS lineup, with all guitars made in the United States. This product line’s models start at approximately $3500.

This table provides some PRS models and their prices.

PRS SE Standard 24$649.00
PRS S2 McCarty 594$1949.00
PRS CE 24$2499.00
PRS Custom 24 Piezo$5470.00

For Ibanez, their entry-level guitars are part of the GIO series, which normally costs between $200 and $300. These models are manufactured in China and feature Ibanez branded pickups. Ibanez also offers the Standard series, which includes a wide range of models priced between $300 and $1000.

For higher-end guitars from Ibanez, the company offers the Prestige series, which are manufactured in Japan and usually cost upwards of $1500. These are flagship Ibanez models, and they are meticulously crafted from high-quality materials.

The only series that can compete with the Ibanez Prestige is the J Custom. These models can be extremely expensive, with prices starting at $3000. Models from this series are also made in Japan.

Below is a table with some Ibanez guitar models and their prices.

Ibanez GIO GRG220PA$299.99
Ibanez Steve Vai JEM77$1599.99
Ibanez Prestige RG5170G$2199.99
Ibanez J Custom RG8560$2999.00

Conclusion

As is the case with any sort of brand comparison, the answer to the question of Ibanez vs PRS is going to be subjective.

Ibanez guitars are better suited to metal players, whereas PRS models can be used for guitarists playing a variety wide range of music styles. PRS guitars also have a vintage and classic aesthetic, whereas Ibanez are known for their aggressive and unconventional shapes and color palette. 

Finally, Ibanez is known for producing more reasonably priced models, whereas PRS is known for making more expensive models which can be tough for beginners to get started with.

If you’re still deciding between the two brands, definitely take the time to try them both out in a local guitar store. You might just get a greater appreciation for one over the other that way.

As for me, I like both brands for different reasons. Ibanez for leads and great metal tones, but the PRS is for everything else!

PRS
Ibanez Prestige
Photo of author

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!