Price paid: A$ 170
Purchased from: pawnbrokers
Features — 7
Made in Japan in the ESP factory, 1986 or 1987 they went to a 5-way selector switch instead of the 3 mini switches. Alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard. 22 frets, dot inlays. Original Floyd Rose bridge top mounted no recess, locking nut, string retainer bar. 1 humbucker and 2 single coils made by ESP passive. Superstrat shape. Bolt on neck, 1 volume knob. No name on the tuners. I think the frets are jumbo, it is really hard to track down exact specifications for some Kramer guitars. I got some of this information from vintage Kramer and they say "Like all Kramer head eras, necks again varied wildly in radius, shapes and nut widths. No two are alike." So I can't say what the fretboard radius is on this one. I did get a hardcase with this guitar which was a real bargin for the $170 I payed for it and it did come with a tremolo arm.
Sound — 8
I have this tuned to C# for some technical death metal mainly Dying Fetus songs so I can get in some shred and arpeggio playing. I play through an old valve amp, a Carvin XV212 with no effects, I just use the reverb from the amp and the hi lead sound. The humbucker is quite good especially with the lower tuning of C# it is quite bright and not muddy at all. The neck pickup offers some very clean sounds. When I got this guitar the middle pick up was taken out so I cannot comment on that. Also the mini switch was broken on the 3rd one but as it is the 2 that there turn the rear and the bridge pick up on and off. So you can do the cool on off sounds that come from turning the switch on and off as in Eddie Van Halen's solo on you really got me. You can call it the kill switch effect. So you can have the rear and bridge on together if you want depending on your own perception you may think it sounds good or bad.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I got this 2nd hand and have spent some time adjusting it to how I like a guitar to be. For those who are not aware the truss rod adjustment is at the heel, which means at the bridge pick up position. Now I have read some forums where people say you have to take the neck off to adjust it. I just lowered the bridge pick up as far as I could get it to go, used a Philips head screwdriver about 6'' long and it worked fine. One thing about this and some other Kramers I have observed is there is very little fretboard on each side of the E strings which means depending on how you play you risk having the E strings actually slide off the fretboard. Once you get used to this and like the narrow fretboard, with the top mounted original Floyd Rose you can get the action as low as you want so you can whizz around with relative ease. I actually read up on this issue and loosened off the four bolts and had a go at moving the neck in its pocket to have more fretboard under the high E string and had some success.
The fretboard to me is very similar to the one on my NJ Series BC Rich Ironbird if you are familiar with them. One big playability thing to mention is and I read another person's comment on this so I am not alone is the big chunky 4 bolt on neck joint. There is no slant on the joint that you can find on other guitars like say some Jacksons. And if you have smallish hand it is possible you will run into it when wailing away on the higher frets from 15 and up. If you have hands like Paul Gilbert, George Lynch or Jimi Hendrix it won't be a problem. It is something I really notice as opposed to a lot of other guitars I own. The Original Floyd Rose has next to no pull back so is only good for dives; it does stay in tune quite well. With one volume knob and mini switches there is no crackle anywhere on the electronics. The neck is superfast and it is real easy to play technical death metal with the high velocity speed of say a Dying Fetus song and get good note clarity.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar is solid, it is very meat and potatoes, it is built to play so live playing is not an issue. I have never broken a string on it but since they are heavy gauge 12 to 56 that is not surprising. The hardware is real solid, all very basic and reliable, the strap buttons are very typical of the era, I have seen some strap buttons that are a lot larger so there is less chance of a strap falling off but on this Kramer the strap buttons are the smaller type. The finish is great there is barely a chip on this guitar despite its age of around 28 years old. I would use it without backup but if I had lighter strings on it I would take a back up mainly because of the time taken to restring a Floyd Rose equipped guitar.
Overall Impression — 8
I have been playing for over 20 years and mainly play Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe shred mixed with some Carcass, Necrophagist, Dying Fetus. So I will always go for guitars suited to this style. I pretty much knew what I was getting. The Original Floyd Rose is often touted to be one of the better tremolos on the market I personally don't get the fuss over them. I have a Floyd Rose II on a Fender Heartfield Talon and like it better because of the pull back factor. I have also used licensed under Floyd Rose tremolos and found them to be just as good as this one. I tend to avoid the mythical mystic built around some guitars and products and call them as I see them which is really just my perspective. It is fine if people want to think and say Original Floyds are the "best" it is just my observation and is it is good to have an array of guitars to pick up and so an A/B test with them for comparison. I picked up my BC Rich IronBird NJ Series, Fender HM Strat and Heartfield, Yamaha RGZ, Jackson JDR, Charvel XL 650 and ESP LTD MH 250 and would say the upper fret access on all those guitars is easier than this Kramer. I also have a Samick, Jackson PC3 and DK2's.
I would replace this Kramer if I lost it because the neck above the 15th fret down to the headstock is awesome to play. It is quite light and has a nice chunky bright sound where pinch harmonics ring out clearly. I love the neck, I dislike the chunky neck joint because of my average sized hands it does hinder access to upper frets to a point. You can get around it with some work but I'd rather not have to deal with it, for the larger handed readers it won't be an issue and the guitar as it stands in that context is awesome. So yes if it had a tapered neck joint it would be a great guitar instead of just a good one in my opinion. Also a humbucker in the neck would be a plus as well.