In the Eighties glory days of hair metal and glam rock, Kramer was one of the industry’s leading guitar companies.
But the company slipped out of the limelight during the early Nineties, at about the same time that musicians started swapping their spandex for flannel. Although Kramer didn’t disappear, the company’s guitars mostly flew under the radar after Gibson acquired the brand in the early Nineties and started selling its models direct via mail order.
Lately, however, Kramer guitars have worked their way into public consciousness once again through a growing artist roster and more aggressive distribution through traditional retail channels.
These days you’re much more likely to find a new Kramer guitar on display at your local music store than you were a few years ago, and a growing variety of Kramer models is available from online retailers as well.
Today, the company’s line consists of 15 different guitar and bass models. We took a look at a model that represents Kramer’s past—the Pacer Vintage—as well as an entirely new model, the Assault Plus, which represents the brand’s present and future.
FEATURES The main motivation behind guitar design in the Eighties was the “best of both worlds” combination, with “both worlds” being the Les Paul and the Strat. That spirit is alive in both the Pacer Vintage and the Assault Plus, which present different spins on a combination of classic designs, along with “hot-rodded” enhancements.
The main distinguishing attribute of the Assault Plus is its familiar-shaped single-cutaway body made of solid mahogany. The glued-in set neck is mahogany as well, but it features a maple fingerboard with no fretboard markers, 24 medium-jumbo frets, a 25 1/2–inch scale, a 12-inch radius and a SlimTaper profile. The bridge is a recessed Nashville-style Tune-o-matic, but the strings are anchored through the body instead of a stop tailpiece. Hardware includes Seymour Duncan Alternative 8 (bridge) and 59 Classic (neck) humbuckers, individual volume controls with push/pull series/parallel switching, a master tone knob and locking tuners.
The Pacer Vintage is based on the best-selling flagship Kramer Pacer model of the Eighties, featuring a slimmed-down offset double-cut- away body made of maple. The bolt-on neck is maple as well and includes a maple fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets, a 12-inch radius, a 25 1/2–inch scale and a thin-taper elliptical profile.
The Pacer Vintage features a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers as well, with a JB model at the bridge and a JN model at the neck. Controls consist of individual volume knobs for each pickup, with push/pull series/parallel switching and a master tone control. A .002mf capacitor bleed circuit retains treble frequencies as the volume controls are turned down, and a floating genuine Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo completes the shred-approved design.
PERFORMANCE While the original Kramer guitars were very well made (hence the reason why they attracted an impressive list of endorsers), the current models are better than ever, thanks no doubt to Kramer’s current parent company.
The attention to detail in the construction is quite impressive, particularly in the fretwork, which is among the best we’ve seen for guitars in this price range. The finishes are also stunning. Our Pacer Vintage boasted a Pearl White finish on the body and headstock front, while the Assault Plus had a glowing Candy Tangerine finish applied to the entire body as well as the back of the neck.
Both guitars deliver the sparkling treble and tight bass that one would expect from a guitar with a 25 1/2–inch scale, but the Assault Plus is slightly darker and warmer sounding thanks to its mahogany body and neck. The Pacer Vintage’s all-maple construction produces the expected brightness, but unlike many maple guitars, its tone is not piercing but well balanced and articulate, with exceptionally fast attack. The Duncan humbuckers chosen for both models complement the body materials very well, providing exceptional clarity across the entire tonal range and smooth, singing midrange.
The series settings on both provided single-coil-style sparkle but without noise. My only criticism is the mini pickup-selector toggle on the Pacer, which some players may find a little difficult to manipulate while others will appreciate how it stays out of the way.
LIST PRICES Assault Plus, $1,050; Pacer Vintage, $1,267
MANUFACTURER Kramer Guitars, kramerguitars.com
Modeled after the best-selling flagship Kramer Pacer model from the Eighties, the Pacer Vintage features dual humbuckers and a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo. The Assault Plus has a classic single-cutaway body design but features a neck with a maple fretboard, 24 frets and a 25 1/2–inch scale. Both models offer individual volume controls for each pickup, with push/pull switching for selecting parallel or series pickup- wiring configurations. Premium USA Seymour Duncan humbuckers are installed on both models: JB and JN pickups on the Pacer Vintage, and Alternative 8 and 59 Classic on the Assault Plus.
THE BOTTOM LINE No mere throwbacks to the Eighties, these new Kramer models are certain to please players who love the shred- worthy vibe of the original Kramer guitars but prefer the playability and tonal versatility of a modern guitar.