Review: Framus Panthera and Diablo Seven-Strings
Warwick GmbH & Co. Music Equipment KG, framus.de
Solid-color Panthera seven-string (with Premium Line Plus Rockbag), $6,789.00; solid-color Diablo seven-string (with Premium Line Plus Rockbag), $5,719.00
Whichever is best for your needs, both are exceptional axes that exemplify the power and versatility that’s gained with the addition of a low B string.
Most savvy guitarists are familiar with the history of Framus. From the mid Forties through the early Seventies, the Germany-based instrument maker built its reputation with excellent guitars, basses, lap steels and banjos (John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Bill Wyman were all Framus owners). Market fluctuations caused Framus to go out of business in 1975, but in 1995 Hans Peter Wilfer (son of founder Fred Wilfer) reinstituted the company as a subsidiary of bass maker Warwick.
The Framus guitars of today exhibit the fit, finish and flawless playability befitting a storied guitar maker. They also feature some of the finest woods anywhere, and with good reason. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Framus has one of the most massive and expertly selected collections of guitar tone woods, which are uniquely dried and cured by the region’s ideal humidity and temperature variances.
It’s these woods, and the company’s keen engineering sense, that allow Framus’ Panthera and Diablo seven-string guitars to effortlessly produce all of the low B strings’ nuances and delicacies with cello-like definition. Given Framus’ connection to Warwick, it should come as no surprise that the company is well-versed in creating instruments with world-class low notes. However, as their names suggest, these are two entirely different guitars. The Panthera delivers its sound with a powerful grace, while the Diablo uses divisive force to dominate the stage.
Superlative mahagony is used for both guitars’ carved-top bodies. TonePros Tune-o-matic and stoptail bridge systems keep notes crisp, and the low-friction master volume and tone pots are recessed into the dished mahogany recesses. Framus crafts its own locking machine heads, which are remarkably smooth and extremely accurate. Framus is also one of the very few guitar manufacturers that utilizes a Plek fret-leveling and finishing machine for all of its instruments. Designed in Germany, the Plek ensures that every fret is absolutely perfect in height and crown, eliminating any chance that strings will buzz or fret out. In addition, both guitars feature Seymour Duncan’s award-winning active AHB-1 pickups with specially tuned internal preamps that balance and illuminate the seven-strings’ wider frequency range.
As a function of its shape, the Panthera’s single-cut body delves deep into the seven-string’s tonal palette, ringing loudest through the low mids and bass. Set-neck construction further enhances the mahogany neck’s baritone voice, maintaining thick punch and long sustain. Medium jumbo frets let you feel a lot of the rosewood board, something that’s best for the player who prefers to fret with a little more pressure.
No matter what playing style I employed, the Panthera responded with warm and powerful harmonic undercurrents, like an amalgamation of Jaco’s and Django’s tones. Not surprisingly, given these characteristics, pinch harmonics sounded especially gorgeous. There is an orchestral sort of beauty in the Panthera’s tone whether the guitar is played through a clean or overdriven amp. At times, the combined sustain from the wood and the Duncans fooled me into thinking that my clean boost pedal was engaged. As for the low B, it rang clear and true without ever overpowering the overall frequency balance. For lush tones, the Panthera seven-string is hard to beat.
Typical of a double-cut body, the Diablo has sharp highs and cutting lows. The maple neck further accentuates the guitar’s punch and response speed. In addition, the Diablo seven-string’s neck bolts in with two external and two internal screws, a design that blends the qualities of a bolt-on and set-in joint. This joint improves sustain over a typical bolt-on configuration. The jumbo frets are nice for those with a lighter touch and give a nice sonic edge to each note.
Low notes from the Diablo were wicked and firm, like a blacksmith’s hammer striking an anvil. They’re not quite as three dimensional as the Panthera’s but definitely deliver the goods in a focused and immediate manner. Midrange is pronounced above 1,500Hz, and the highs can scream with a slashing attack. There’s enough sustain here for clean and dirty applications, but you’ll probably want to boost the Diablo’s output with a pedal if you need extreme metal performance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Framus' intelligent use of its famously resonant woods give the Panthera and Diablo seven-strings distinct flavors and attributes. The set-neck, all-mahogany Panthera delivers its expansive range with elegant authority, while the Diablo’s maple bolt-in neck and double-cutaway mahogany body give up some sustain for sharp attack and traditional balance through the mids and highs. Whichever is best for your needs, both are exceptional axes that exemplify the power and versatility that’s gained with the addition of a low B string.
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