PRS vs Ibanez: Which Electric Guitars are the Best?


Ibanez and PRS are both huge names in the electric guitar industry, but who makes the best guitars? In this article, I’ll compare the tone, origin, looks, components and ranges of both Ibanez and PRS so you can decide which brand is the best for you.

The Quick Answer

Ibanez produce electric guitars primarily aimed at metal guitarists, whilst PRS make guitars which suit a wider market. The Ibanez range includes entry-level models, all the way up to the professional level. PRS guitars do not cater for beginners and start at a higher price than Ibanez.

Brand Overview

Before we jump into some specific comparisons, I wanted to briefly go through an overview of each brands to explain how they organise their models so you can see what kind of choices are available to you.

PRS

PRS arrange their line-up into several series which cater to different budgets:

  • SE: this is also known as the “student-edition” range, which caters for the mid-range market. They are the cheapest guitars in the PRS range and cost between $580 and $1500, but most models are under $1000.
  • S2: these range between $1000-$1500 and are made in America.
  • CE: these models have bolt-on neck constructions and cost around $1900-$2250. They are made in the USA.
  • USA Core: this is the most expensive series in the PRS range with all guitars being made in America. These start at around $3500.

I’ve written an article explaining the PRS range in more detail if you’re looking for some more information on the differences between each series.

PRS offers different shapes which can be found in several of the series listed above:

  • Custom 24: double cutaway with 24 frets, maple top, with tremolo.
  • Custom 22: double cutaway with 22 frets, maple top, with tremolo.
  • 245 Standard: single cutaway with 22 frets, no top, no tremolo.
  • Standard 24: double cutaway with 24 frets, no top, with tremolo.
  • Santana: double cutaway, symmetrical design, maple top, with tremolo.
  • Mira: double cutaway, symmetrical design, no top, no tremolo.
  • Starla: single cutaway, no top, no tremolo.
  • Silver Sky: double cutaway, no top, with tremolo and pickguard.
  • Hollow body and semi-hollow body

Other signature models include the Zach Myers, Paul’s, Mark Tremonti, McCarthy, DGT and Mark Holcomb guitars.

Here are some images showing the different shapes. All the images link to a specific model on Amazon, and most are available in multiple colour options.

Custom 24

Standard 24

Standard 245

Santana

Mira

Starla

Hollowbody

Silver Sky

Ibanez

Ibanez’s range has been a source of confusion for many people for a long time, as they names of each guitar look like codes instead of words. Here’s what they mean.

  • The range is split into different tiers or “series” which target a specific price bracket. From most to least expensive they are called: J. Custom, Prestige, Premium, Axion Label, Iron Label, Standard and GIO.
  • Ibanez use a 2-3 letter abbreviation at the start of the name to determine the different shape.
  • The two second to last digits indicate the pickup configuration. 10=H, 20=HH, 30=SSS with pickguard or HH with pickguard, 40=HSS with pickguard, 50=HSH with pickguard, 60=HSS without pickguard, 70=HSH without pickguard, 80= directly-mounted humbuckers.
  • The last digit provides any extra information such as the number of strings, or bridge type.

There are several different shapes of Ibanez guitars, which can be found in different series to suit various budgets. Here are some of the main ones.

  • AZ: double cutaway, flat top.
  • AZS: single cutaway, flat top.
  • RG: double cutaway, flat top.
  • RGA: double cutaway, curved top.
  • RGD: double cutaway, flat top, extra long neck.
  • Q: double cutaway with bridge cut-out.
  • S: double cutaway, curved front and back.
  • SA: double cutaway, curved front, flat back.
  • X: Z-shape.
  • Iceman: single cutaway, offset.
  • AX: double cutaway, symmetrical.
  • AR: double cutaway, symmetrical.
  • ART: LP-style.
  • JEM: double cutaway, flat body, handle cutaway.
  • AS: semi-hollow.
  • AF: hollow.

Here are some images to show the most iconic Ibanez guitar shapes, all the images link to a specific model of that shape on Amazon.

I’ve also written a full guide to explaining the Ibanez naming system.

JEM

RGA

RG

Iceman

AX

AF

Comparing the Tone

Ibanez guitars usually sound punchier than PRS guitars which sound fuller and more rounded. Ibanez models are usually geared towards metal players, whilst PRS models are considered very versatile and capable of playing a wide range of music styles, but are less commonly used for metal than Ibanez.

PRS guitars usually have passive humbucker pickups which have a balanced tone. They sound warmer than something like a Stratocaster, but not quite as mellow as a Les Paul. They are designed to appeal to a wide audience by producing versatile tones. The SE line also have a coil split function on the Custom 24 model, providing even more tonal variety. The mahogany tone wood and reasonably short scale length on most models, does provide the guitar with quite a thick and full tone, but they are not usually associated with modern metal since they only have passive pickups.

Ibanez guitars come in a range of forms, but most have at least one humbucker pickup, and the mid-high end models are usually made from mahogany, similarly to PRS. However, it is more common to find active pickups on an Ibanez guitar, meaning they lend themselves well to modern metal.

Whilst Ibanez makes a vast range of guitars which target different genres, PRS take a different approach. The guitars in the PRS range are more similar to one another, but have a more balanced and versatile tone, rather than a sound that leans more towards an extreme, than Ibanez.

If I were to describe the tone of PRS, I’d say it was classic rock ‘n’ roll, whereas Ibanez is more punchy, aggressive and modern tone.

You can listen to these difference between two representative models from both brands in this video. The Ibanez has a punchier tone due to it’s more pronounced treble frequencies, whilst the PRS has a more rounded and full tone.

Where are They Made?

Ibanez make their electric guitars in China, Indonesia, Japan and the USA, whilst PRS make guitars in China, Indonesia, South Korea and the United States.

  • Most Chinese and Indonesia guitars produced by Ibanez are under $1200. PRS make most of their guitars under $1000 in Indonesia, except for the hollowbody guitars which are made in China.
  • Ibanez makes most of their premium lines in Japan, with models starting at $1000.
  • PRS make some of their SE line in South Korea ($800-$1000).
  • Jackson make their top-of-the-line guitars, the USA signature series, of course in America. These start at around $3000. PRS make most of their guitars in America, and they start from around $1000, including the S2, CE and Core lines.

Does it Matter?

The country a guitar is made in, is not all that helpful when determining the quality, but it can be an indication for some players. Chinese and Indonesia guitars are mass produced and have a reputation for using lower quality materials. South Korea and Japan are well regarded for making mid-high end guitars, whilst America has a reputation for producing top-of-the-line guitars.

If you’re looking for an American made guitar on a lower budget, PRS is a better option, as American PRS guitars start at around $1000, compared to around $3000 for American Ibanez guitars. Most of the models under $1000 by both brands are made in either Indonesia or China.

I’ve written a full article discussing the differences between guitars made in different regions, so check it out if you’re after a more detailed answer.

Style

PRS guitars have a very classic, but quite safe style compared to Ibanez guitars which look more dramatic and aggressive.

Take the two flagship models from both brands as an example: the PRS Custom 24 and the Ibanez RG8570Z. Both have double cutaway bodies, but there are several differences:

  • The Ibanez model has pointed upper and lower horns whilst the PRS has more rounded horns.
  • The Ibanez has a sharp and flat body, whereas the PRS has a rounded, curved design.
  • The PRS has bird inlays and the Ibanez has a tree-of-life fretboard.
  • The hardware and tremolo on the Ibanez is darker and bulkier than the PRS.

Even if we move away from these specific two models, PRS guitars are available in pretty safe single and double cutaway shapes, whilst Ibanez produce a range of dramatic and alternative shapes. You can see the kind of target audience with both models.

Ibanez guitars suit metal players with their aggressive designs, whereas PRS’ safer, although still very unique looking finishes and shapes appeal to a wider market. You could see a guitarist playing pretty much any genre with a PRS on stage, but if a country or jazz player was using an Ibanez, it may look a little out-of-character.

PRS SE Custom 24 (image links to Amazon)

Ibanez RGA42HP (image links to Amazon)

Components

Before we take a look at at some highlights from each brand’s ranges, I wanted to look more generally at the components used by Ibanez and PRS to manufacture their electric guitars.

Neck

Ibanez necks are much thinner and flatter than PRS necks. Ibanez use the Wizard neck on a lot of models which is one of the flattest and thinnest necks available, which makes it very popular for shredding. PRS have a wide C-shape neck which is more rounded and the upper frets are also more difficult to access.

Personally, I found the Ibanez neck a bit too thin for playing barre chords, whilst the PRS feels thicker, it suits my style of playing more as I’m not a shredder. It’s all personal preference though, and you should definitely try some models out in a guitar store to decide which feels more comfortable to you.

Bridge

Ibanez and PRS both make their own tremolo systems which vary slightly depending on the model. Ibanez bridges allow for more dramatic pull-ups on the tremolo arm, whilst PRS tremolos don’t allow for as dramatic pulls. You can also find fixed bridges on both PRS and Ibanez guitars, although it is probably easier to find a fixed bridge on an Ibanez model since the range is a bit bigger.

Pickups

Ibanez guitars often have Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, or Fishman Fluence pickups on a lot of mid-high end models, whilst PRS guitars often use PRS-brand pickups. PRS models almost exclusively have passive pickups, whilst Ibanez models can have either passive or active pickups.

Tone Wood and Finish

Pretty much every PRS model has a mahogany body, and most models such as the Custom 24, also have a maple cap. These are premium tone woods and help produce its iconic tone. The thick mahogany body provides plenty of depth to the tone, but the maple helps to add some more high-range frequencies to provide some more definition.

Ibanez use mahogany on a lot of their models, but the low-end guitars are often made from poplar or nyatoh as well. This contributes to the slightly more pronounced treble frequencies on most Ibanez models. Ibanez bodies tend to be a bit thinner, and thus, lighter than PRS bodies.

One thing that really sets PRS apart, is their maple cap on most models, which has a unique quilted or flame pattern which looks amazing, especially on stage. Although many Ibanez models come with a maple cap as well, PRS are known very well for this feature and their guitars come with some of the most premium finishes available.

Constructions

Ibanez use a bolt-on construction for most models throughout the range, whereas PRS primarily use a set-neck construction.

  • Bolt-On: this involves joining the neck and body together using screws, and is the cheapest method of construction. It offers the least sustain, but makes neck changes very easy.
  • Set-Neck: this involves gluing the neck and body together. It offers better sustain, and also often is lower-profile than the bolt-on construction which can sometimes have a “heel”.

I’m not a huge fan of the look of bolt-on constructions, and the sacrifice of sustain, but many premium brands such as Fender still use them across the entire range, so it’s not really an indication of quality, it’s just a personal preference.

Some Ibanez guitars have a neck-through construction, where the neck and body are made from a continuous piece of wood, which is the most expensive construction method and offers the best sustain, but this is rarer to see than the bolt-on construction.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

The Ranges

I’ve selected several of the top selling models from Ibanez and PRS to compare in the tables below. The prices are all from Guitar Center at the time of writing and the tables are all ordered from the lowest to highest price so you can see some common features at the different price points.

Note: there are no new PRS models available under $5000 at the time of writing.

Under $500 (Ibanez Only)

GuitarConstructionPickupsBridgeBody WoodPrice
Ibanez GRGM21MBolt-OnPassive IbanezFixedPoplar$150
Ibanez GRGR120EXBolt-OnPassive Infinity RTremoloPoplar$200
Ibanez RG6003FMBolt-OnPassive Ibanez QuantumFixedMahogany$350
Ibanez RG450EXBBolt-OnPassive Ibanez QuantumDouble-Locking TremoloMeranti$400
Ibanez JEMJRSPBolt-OnPassive IbanezDouble-Locking TremoloMahogany$500
Selection of Ibanez electric guitars under $500.

$500-$1000

GuitarConstructionPickupsBridgeBody WoodPrice
PRS SE Standard 24Set-NeckPassive PRSPRS TremoloMahogany$580
Ibanez RGRT621DPDNeck-thruPassive DiMarzioFixedMahogany$650
PRS SE 245 StandardSet-NeckPassive PRSFixedMahogany$650
PRS SE Custom 24Set-NeckPassive PRSPRS TremoloMahogany$790
Ibanez RGIB21 Iron LabelBolt-OnActive EMGFixedNyato$800
Ibanez RG550 GenesisBolt-OnIbanez PassiveIbanez Edge TremoloBasswood$1000
PRS S2 Standard 24Set-NeckPRS PassivePRS TremoloMahogany$1000
Ibanez vs PRS guitars between $500 and $10000

$1000-$2000

GuitarConstructionPickupsBridgeBody WoodPrice
Ibanez S61ALBolt-OnActive FishmanFixedNyatoh$1100
Ibanez RGA61ALBolt-OnPassive AftermathFixedNyatoh$1300
PRS S2 VelaSet-NeckPRS PassiveFixedMahogany$1450
Ibanez RGR652AHBF RG PrestigeBolt-OnPassive DiMarzioFixedAsh$1500
PRS S2 Custom 24Set-NeckPassive PRSPRS TremoloMahogany$1650
Ibanez RG5120M PrestigeBolt-OnActive FishmanLocking TremoloMahogany$2000
PRS CE 24Bolt-OnPassive PRSPRS TremoloMahogany$2000
Ibanez vs PRS guitars between $1000 and $2000

Over $2000

GuitarConstructionPickupsBridgeBody WoodPrice
Ibanez RG5170G RG PrestigeBolt-OnActive FishmanIbanez Lo-Pro TremoloBasswood$2200
PRS Silver SkyBolt-OnPRS PassivePRS TremoloAlder$2400
Ibanez AZ2402FF AZ PrestigeBolt-OnPassive Seymour DuncanTI802 TremoloAlder$2800
Ibanez RG8570Z j.customBolt-OnPassive DiMarzioIbanez Edge-Zero TremoloMahogany$3000
PRS Custom 24Set-NeckPassive PRSPRS TremoloMahogany$3850
Ibanez vs PRS guitars over $2000

Which are the Best?

Ibanez often produce more affordable models, whilst PRS produce more premium models. If you’re looking for an affordable electric guitar, then Ibanez will be the best option, but if you are spending several thousands, then PRS tend to produce higher quality instruments.

Ibanez guitars are better for playing metal and hard rock than PRS guitars, which are more versatile. PRS models also have premium finishes and a classic look, whilst Ibanez models are best known for their aggressive and alternative shapes and colour options.

Of course, the best thing to do is to see what options are available in your budget and appeal to you, and try them out in your local guitar store.

Around 5 years ago I was really torn between a PRS SE Custom 24 and an Ibanez S Series S621. Both of them looked amazing, and played really well. They had quilted tops, a dual-humbucker pickup configuration, set-neck, 24 frets and coil split function. Both were similarly priced as well, since the PRS model was currently on sale in the colour I wanted. In the end, I went with the PRS, since I preferred it’s more classic styling and rounded neck, but it was a tough choice! It was definitely only a decision I would have been completely happy with if I’d have tried them both in the store, so if you’ve got the option to do it, I would 100% recommend it.

Although I went with the PRS in the end, I’ve not let it affect my judgement throughout the article, and I’ve kept everything as fair as possible. I’ve still got a lot of love for Ibanez, and you can be sure that I’ll be considering one for my next guitar!

My PRS SE Custom 24

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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