#1
If you love Kramers enough to know them inside out, end to end, you can offer a little advice.

I've thought of another super-strat option here. Kramers were amongst the original classic metal guitars, used by George Lynch, Van Halen (maybe?) and Queensryche. However, (apparently owed largely to Gibson's takeover) the quality has gone down so much that traders and performers here strongly advise against buying a Kramer. The man who sold me my Strat and Mustang told me to keep away from Kramers because "they're not so good anymore" and instead advised me to opt for a Jackson or Schecter or ESP. To be honest, the Kramers in our city are of poor quality.

But when I read some of the spec sheets of some Kramers, like the SM-1 Duncan, the Striker and the Pacer, I found a lot of them rather interesting. Real Duncans? A real Floyd Rose? 24 Frets? Decent Mahogany/Maple/Alder? Oh well, let's look at these.

Then there are fans who say that older generation guitars are better built, feel better and sound better than the current generation, and that's very much the case with Kramer. Clearly, a new option.

A few turn up on Guitar Center occasionally. Some of them come between $400-800, look good, seem to have good specs, but I know nothing about these guitars. I'm located in South Asia, far away, so the question of (flying over and) testing out these guitars isn't quite there. I have to ask the store managers about these guitars, and then anticipate repair/refurbishing needed once they come to my city.

I have a little checklist-
  • North America strongly preferred (even if it is made by Godin) but I may think about Japanese-origin
  • HH strongly preferred
  • If there's a neck-through, I'd like to know of it
  • Seymour Duncans preferred in the pockets.
  • Original Floyd Rose preferred, or at least the option of fitting one.
  • That generation which had the best build quality- which Kramer enthusiasts would know best
And of course, an estimate of how much these should cost. That is, if I choose Kramer over Jackson and Carvin.
#2
Ok, you asked.

1. Kramers were built in several different places depending on the year you buy. The most consistent quality came during the ESP era from '86 until the company's dissolution. These are referred to as the "pointy" or "pointy droopy" headstock guitars. All necks and bodies were made by ESP in Japan, with the American line being final assembled in Neptune, NJ with Duncan pickups. All of the American and Focus series guitars have W. German OFR bridges, with the Striker line being made in S. Korea and of much lesser quality. Note that only the American series came with Duncan electronics, and the F series had Japanese (various manufacturers) electronics.

2. There are several HH equipped Kramers, notably the Pacer Imperial, PC2 style Imperial, and F2000. There is also the Stagemaster Liberty, but I'll come back to that.

3. The Stagemsster is only neck through model that I'm aware of. It came in a flat top and arch top design, and the only submodel that I know of that is HH is the Liberty. The Liberty is the top of the line, and were only built for one year. They are extremely expensive if and when they come up for sale.

4. Duncan pickups came in all of the American series of this era.

5. See point 1.

6. Again, see point 1. There is some debate over what THE best era is, and different Kramer enthusiasts will tell you different things depending on what era is their favorite. I like the '86 and later guitars, and own two. YMMV

Edit:

7. Costs are variable. Generally you don't want to pay more than $300 for a Focus or F series guitar, maybe a bit more if it has the OHSC and is extremely clean. American series go for a bit more. Some can be had cheaply, but one with an OHSC and case candy in beautiful shape and NOT needing a refret should be less than $600 in this market. Custom paint jobs, usually by Dennis Kline, are exceptions. It would have been higher several years ago. It's really up to what you like and are willing to pay.
Last edited by 4FunandProphet at Mar 3, 2013,
#3
Actually the new Gibson Kramers are great, especially for the money. SOME of the old ones were better. I know that a lot of old kramers can be pretty bad. The good ones are really good though. Depends largely on the year and the model.
#4
Thanks a lot, folks. That was really useful.

I had, in the past, come to this page, which outlines what's a Made in USA/American Series guitar. Then again, this person was for long one of the most reviled in the guitar community, but he may have a point. Here are some highlights on how to spot an American-made or so-called American Series guitar.
In general, the following is a good way to determine if your Kramer is USA made or an "American" series:
  • If your Kramer has a Strat or Classic headstock and has a Kramer logo with a capital "K" followed by a lower caser "ramer", the guitar is an early 1981-1984 USA made Kramer guitar.
  • If your guitar has a banana headstock and a block style Kramer logo in all caps "KRAMER", it is a 1984-1986 USA Made/American Series Kramer Guitar.
  • If your guitar has a pointy headstock and a block style Kramer logo in the same sized lettering in all caps, it is a 1986/1987 American Series Kramer Guitar.
  • If your guitar has a pointy headstock and a diminishing sized Kramer logo with the letters diminishing in size from the K to the R and, there is a script "American" decal after the "KRAMER" logo, it is a 1987-1994 American Series Kramer Guitar.
  • If your guitar has a pointy headstock and a diminishing sized Kramer logo but does not have "American" in script after the logo, it is NOT an American series guitar.


The following wood neck guitar models were the ONLY Made in USA or "American" Series guitars:

Baretta Series, Pacer Series, Stagemaster Series, Vanguard Series, Voyager Series, Classic Series, ProAx Series, NightSwan Series, Ripley Series, Spector Series, Paul Dean Series, Richie Sambora Series, Triax, Enterprize, Elliot Easton Series, Sustainer Series, Liberty Series, & Condor Series.
This person also said that the earlier Kramers of American origin had their parts built by Godin, and the assembly happened at Neptune, NJ.

I haven't yet gone through the entire content on VintageKramer, maybe there I'll find some useful information on how (and where) they were built- like the Pacer Imperial at GC right now.