NAMM 2024: “Angular, cubist and aggressive”: Kauer’s divisive Gripen guitar does away with all curvature for an early contender for ‘boldest guitar of 2024’

Kauer Guitars Gripen
(Image credit: Kauer Guitars)

NAMM 2024: Kauer – a California-based firm known for its bold-looking guitars – has done it again with the Gripen, a guitar that looks like an origami Explorer. Its first “truly new” guitar in nearly eight years, the model is so angular that even its inlays are wonderfully wonky. 

Named the Gripen, after the Swedish word for awesome, it’s the result of a joint design between Doug and Max Kauer. It’s not too dissimilar from the company's flagship Banshee model but instead replaces all its curves with more angles than Nintendo 64 graphics.

Its cubist shape is cut from Spanish mahogany and is neck-thru. The 24.75" scale guitar encompasses a bound wenge fretboard with Gripen-specific crown inlays to complete its symmetry-free aesthetic. 

Players can customize their order by opting for one, two or three Wolfetone, Lollar or TV Jones pickups. With that in mind, there’s a five-way pickup switch on hand to get the most out of whichever pickups players opt for.

For the neck pickup, the options take in KauerBucker and Kauer90 (Wolfetone), Imperial, Novel 90 (Lollar), and TV Jones Powertron pickups. Those options remain the same in the middle and bridge positions, except the Powertron is replaced by a Magnatron and a Powertron+ respectively.   

There is also the choice of nickel or gold hardware to complement one of the many color options the company has created. From sparkling pinks and greens to a one-of-your-five-a-day orange and grey camouflage, Kauer is making sure its finishes are as extravagant as its silhouette.    

Its hardware is rounded out – although chiseled out may be more appropriate here – with a fixed Tune-O-Matic bridge and tailpiece and locking Hipshot tuners. There's a side-positioned output jack “to allow for the combination of strength and thin wings” and a striking pickguard, complete with a three-stripe, audio bars-esque cut out.

The guitars are made-to-order, with choices from left- or right-handed down to the neck size (thin C 83-93" or standard C 86-98") – fretboard binding color (black or white), and pickguard guard, of which there are six options.

Kauer makes what it calls “perfectly cromulent guitars” – ten points if you get the reference. It's perhaps best known for the aforementioned Banshee model, which has been played by Brad Whitford, Walter Becker, and Rival Sons' Scott Holiday. You'll hear a shed-load of Banshee goodness on Rival Sons' album, Great Western Valkyrie.

“I can’t say enough good things about my Kauer Super Chief,” Holiday once told Guitar World. “That shit is magic! It’s a semi-hollow guitar with Wolfetone pickups and it’s so versatile I can do anything with it. When I’m using it in the studio, it has so many sounds I rarely switch for different tracks. In addition to just a great standard sound, it has a coil-split, phase reverse and a bunch of other options.”

If ordering a more personalized Gripen, there is some important small print to take note of. It states that “Kauer Guitars is not responsible if our product fails to turn women into rabid fans of you or doesn't land you a record deal.” Damn. Wait time for custom orders is currently two to three months.

Regardless of what spec you choose, our experimenting on the website always resulted in a $3,550 price tag. 

Feast your eyes on more information on the Gripen at Kauerguitars.com.

Keep up to speed with all gear releases during NAMM 2024 via our guide to the latest NAMM 2024 news

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Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to Prog, Guitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.