Framus Mayfield Custom Semihollow Electric Guitar
Originally printed in Guitar World, November 2008
Germany musical instrument companies like Hofner, Framus and Hoyer built a variety of impressive guitars that were popular during the Sixties and Seventies. Framus (which is mercifully short for Fränkische Musikinstrumentenerzeugung Fred Wilfer K.G.) developed a devoted cult following, primarily thanks to musicians like the Beatles, original Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and Jan Akkerman of Focus, but the company went bankrupt in the late Seventies when it was unable to compete with the growing Asian import market.
Warwick, best known for its high-end basses, resurrected the Framus brand in 1995, and since then Framus has produced a diverse line of impressive new electric guitar models that is helping the company build a new devoted following. Framus currently offers a variety of solidbody models with provocative names like the Streetwalker and Panthera, a hollowbody jazz box (the AZ-10), and a variety of semihollow models like the AK 1974 (a reproduction of the Jan Akkerman signature model) and the Mayfield. I’m not sure if the Mayfield was named after soul brotha Curtis Mayfield, of Superfly fame, who was a devoted Fender player, but the Framus Mayfield Custom is sure to please funkmeisters, rock and rollers, blues blasters and even reggae rebels.
Apparantly inspired by the venerable Gibson ES-335, the Mayfield Custom is distinguished by its impeccable German craftsmanship and engineering. Like a 335, the Mayfield features a rounded double-cutaway body shape, but its body is slightly smaller, which makes the Mayfield much more comfortable to play, especially for guitarists accustomed to playing solidbody instruments. The body is built from laminated maple and features a stunning AAA flamed maple veneer on top and a solid mahogany sustain block. The 22-fret set neck is also AAA flamed maple and features a deep black ebony fingerboard decorated with custom mother-of-pearl inlays.
Framus is one of several companies that use computerized Plek machine technology to perform incredibly detailed fret dressing, nut slotting/shaping and saddle trimming, which ensures that each guitar has optimum playing action and setup when shipped from the factory. As a result, the Mayfield Custom’s neck has an exceptionally fast and smooth feel. But even though the jumbo frets are dressed to a mirror-like glow and have a silky, sexy feel, the edges of several frets on my example extended over the fingerboard and felt somewhat sharp. Although any experienced repairman could smooth the sharp edges in a few minutes, it seemed like a gross oversight on an otherwise immaculate fret job.
The Mayfield Custom is equipped with a pair of covered Seymour Duncan humbuckers: a JB SH-4 at the bridge and a Jazz SH-2 at the neck. Controls include the standard three-position pickup selector and individual volume and tone controls for each pickup. In addition to a traditional Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece, the hardware is distinguished by exceptionally efficient Framus locking tuners and Warwick security strap locks.
Thanks to its maple body, mahogany sustain block, ebony fingerboard and Seymour Duncan humbuckers, the Mayfield Custom delivers the perfect blend of hollowbody bark with solidbody bite as notes explode with crisp, articulated attack and swell into smooth, violin-like sustain. The maple body’s bright treble overtones are balanced out by the warm, dark bass of the mahogany sustain block. Even when subjected to high gain levels on a VHT Deliverance amp, the Mayfield never succumbed to feedback, and it retained outstanding note-to-note definition.
The Mayfield Custom ships with .009–.046 strings, which make the guitar exceptionally easy to play. However, I recommend swapping out to a larger gauge set to really make the top sing and to make the overall tone fatter and heavier. Even with heavier strings, the 24 3/4–inch scale, 12-inch radius, smoothly rounded C-shape neck profile and Plek setup make the neck feel as fast and comfortable as a slimmed-down shred machine. The low-friction nut and locking tuners keep the Mayfield perfectly in tune even if you bend strings like Albert King after a Viagra overdose.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you're considering purchasing a semihollow guitar and you can afford to spend a few extra bucks, the Framus Mayfield Custom is an excellent upgrade over the standard semihollow models on the market. While it may initially attract attention for its flamed maple top and fingerboard inlays, the Mayfield Custom’s brilliant tones and luscious playability are what will keep players coming back for more long after the thrill of its looks have faded.
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