PRS Acoustics: A Conversation With Senior Acoustic Luthier, Michael Byle

Posted Feb 12, 2014

Behind The Gear

Nestled in the second floor of the 85,000 square foot PRS shop in Maryland, a small team of acoustic luthiers build PRS Acoustics. Since their introduction in 2009, these guitars have become known for their tone, quality, and playability. I recently sat down with Senior Acoustic Luthier Michael Byle to talk Acoustics. Here is a bit of our conversation:

Hunter: Give me a brief overview of PRS Acoustics.

Michael: We believe we are making heirloom-quality instruments with a truly unique voice. A large part of their voice comes from our unique approach to guitar building which locks down the back and sides of the instrument while allowing the top to vibrate. They also have an extremely thin finish that allows the woods and the vibration that our bracing pattern promotes to translate directly into a projecting articulate voice and balanced tone. Anyone who admires the art of the acoustic guitar and hasn’t heard one should check one out. When you’re in the room with one, the tone and quality of these instruments are quite remarkable. I say that knowing this is not the easiest quest…this will be our fifth year in production, and we plan on building fewer than 200 instruments for all of 2014. So while we’ve been here for a while, we have kept the team and the output rather exclusive.

Hunter: Can you tell me about some of the luthiers on the team?

Michael: Right now, we have a small team of about 10 people. Everyone on the team has attended a formal guitar-building school or has had extensive training working on other lines at PRS before moving over to the team. PRS Acoustics are handcrafted instruments, so every member on the team has excellent guitar-making skills – whether that be wood-working, finish work, final assembly, etc. – and everyone has an uncanny attention to detail.

Hunter: You mention attention to detail. What steps do you and the acoustic team take to ensure that every guitar leaves PRS in the best possible condition?

Michael: If you know PRS, you know we are all about quality. Acoustics are no different. We check and test every guitar we make from wood selection to final play testing – not just a sample of a population. For instance, we ultrasound the finish thickness of every guitar to make sure it meets our specifications.

Hunter: What notable artists are playing PRS Acoustics at the moment?

Michael: Well, we have our signature artists: Tony McManus, Martin Simpson, Cody Kilby, and – most recently – Alex Lifeson. These guys make a living playing guitar, and they could choose to play any guitar in the world. We are proud that they have chosen to be a part of the PRS family. Some other PRS acoustic artists include Ricky Skaggs, Mike Eli (Eli Young), Brian Craddock (Daughtry), Shannon Curfman (Kid Rock), Bob Miner (George Straight), and Dave Weiner (Steve Vai).

Hunter: Any final thoughts?

Michael: As a quick testament to our quality, I feel I should mention the extensive deflection testing we do on each guitar’s top. We do this test before and after bracing the instrument to ensure it will have the voice we are looking for.

Check out some photos from the acoustic department!