Will Kramer’s shred friendly ode to hair metal stand up to modern standards?
Overview & Final Score: 8.0
Wow, hair metal is alive and well at Kramer and I’m here for it. A tribute to one of the most legendary guitar designs from the original Kramer company, this guitar is loaded with impressive specs. A Seymour Duncan JB pickup holds down the fort with a push-pull volume pot that lets you series/parallel tap the legendary humbucker. A Floyd Rose 1000 series “double locking” trem system is paired to their own “doubling locking” nut system for all you dive bomb ready Satchel wannabes. Rounding out the hardware on this stripped down guitar are Kramer 14:1 tuners and sadly, they are not also “doubling locking”.
On the construction end you’ve got an Alder body with a Hard Maple neck that’s bolted on. That Hard Maple neck features a nice Walnut skunk stripe and a Hard Maple fretboard as well. I was sent a model in the Metallic Blue finish, one of five eye grabbing and ’80s influenced colors. This 25.5″ scale length guitar has 22 medium jumbo frets with classic dot inlays.
The single Seymour Duncan JB humbucker is a ton fun, providing classic high gain and high output tones left and right. I was able to get way more than just an ’80s rock tone with the ’84, as pretty much any crunchy tube amp tone sounds great with this pickup. Where it loses a few points for me is the versatility. And yes I know it was designed this way on purpose, I know there is a reason it only has limited electronics. That being said, a coil cut seems like a better option than the phase switch, especially because it cut the volume off so much when I used it. It was still useable and I found some cool uses for it in the indie rock realm of my rig, as long as I was quick to engage a boost.
The sounds that you can pull from that JB are phenomenal however, and I found it hard to identify any other sonic flaws. The ’84 was full of sustain as well, making it an excellent guitar for both traditional lead players and more experimental musicians. I really found some cool, drawn out shoe-gaze style stuff when I layered chorus, delay, and a uni-vibe on top. Surprisingly versatile in terms of inspiration, but certainly sonically limited and built for the ’80s guitar sound.
The highlight for me is the neck on this Kramer ’84. It’s fast, smooth, and has a sort of thin finish that prevents it from getting sticky. It even looks and feels a little worn in, which helped me get over my fear of Floyd Rose guitars and really dig into what this thing can do. The Floyd Rose and locking nut do their job well, keeping the guitar in pretty good tune. As someone who always has their hand on the hardtail bridge of my guitar, I was so annoyed that every time I went to palm mute I was basically using the whammy bar. The bridge is just so sensitive to motion, but I think in the right hands that’s actually a plus! Out of the box, the ’84 had great action and really felt familiar in my Strat-fan boy hands. The great playability makes it a great option for shredders of all genres, especially modern technical musicians.
Finish & Construction: 8.5
It’s hard to mess up such stripped down construction, but even so I was pumped when I cracked open the box. The ’84 is a gorgeous super strat, with softer edges than some of the other ’80s competitors. It gives the Kramer ’84 enough of a classic look to appeal to a wide variety of players. The pickup and hardware was well installed, especially the double locking trem and nut. Why not double locking tuners too? Just kidding, I can see someone taking that seriously and calling me an idiot any minute…
The finish came out really well, something that Kramer will definitely need to continue to prioritize as it rebuilds. Looks aren’t everything, but this guitar’s looks make you want to pick it up when you walk by. Even non-metal or shred fans can get behind this guitar thanks to the great build quality. It’s overall just a super solid and reliable guitar. Certainly gig ready!
Kramer’s ’84 feels like perhaps it could be a bit cheaper based on the stripped down electronics. On the other hand, I appreciate the brand name features like Seymour Duncan JB and Floyd Rose trem and nut. Overall, I think a gigging musician in the high gain or nostalgia scene may get the most out of these guitar thanks to the great playability. A wider range of players would probably actually love this guitar, and hopefully they’ll come to embrace the re-launched Kramer. However, it certainly itches that Poison/Ratt/Warrant scratch while also dipping into the Marty Friedman and Jason Becker vibe. Hey, maybe even EVH fans will see this as a high quality option! But if you’re looking for some vintage looks and feel, this Kramer ’84 is worth every penny.
Good for: Shredders and Technical Players, ’80s Revivalists, Hair Metal Fans, Super Strat Players, High Gain Players, Gigging Musicians