Not all wood is created equal. As a result, not all figured tops are created equal either.

At PRS, there are many different varieties of wood that translate to different tiers based on their visual appeal.

A common misconception is that a “10-Top” is an indicator of the difference between a 10mm top and a 6mm top – this is not the case at all.

The 10-Top is a reference to the quality of the figuring, and just how clear and vivid that figuring is. Any figured top you see of a lower quality may still be gorgeous, but there will be certain spots that are weaker, and occasionally you’ll see “dead spots,” where the pattern isn’t clearly defined at all.

You can see a side-by-side example of a 10-Top (purple and blue) and a normal top (blue top) below:

PRS categorize the level of the pattern as being a clearly-defined pattern across the entire top with no dead spots.

There will be no more tonal differences between a 10-Top instrument and a non-10-Top instrument than what you might hear between two identical guitars.

The designation is purely meant to describe the quality of the figuring, and nothing more.

For most people this is very much a “once you see it” feature. If you don’t know the difference, you likely won’t care. Once you know the difference, then you might care.

On the guitar itself, a 10-Top is designated by the number “10” written on the back of the headstock. On some older models this designation was stamped instead.

One interesting fact is that the “class” of a top may not stay the same throughout the build process. Depending on how the wood is carved, how a finish might bring out or subdue the figuring, etc. what starts out as a 10-Top could become a lower grade, or vice versa.

This is why PRS checks the top at nearly every stage of the process to see if the figuring quality is maintained throughout the instrument’s construction.

At the end of the day, this information is not relevant to most buyers, but if you really want the best PRS money can buy, you may want to spend the extra few hundred dollars to get a 10-Top instrument. They are pricey, but they are true works of art.

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