Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #122771  by ccw3432
 Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:16 pm
I'd like to get another guitar in the future and ever since a recent Travis Bean thread here I've been thinking about the Kramer guitars with aluminum necks. I'd love to try a Travis Bean but don't have that kind of money to spend on it, especially without trying it first. I know at least a couple members here have Kramers and I'm interested to get your thoughts on them. I know the heavy metal community loves these and it they seem to get good reviews, but I just can't find any sound samples or a whole lot of detail on them for using them in a Jerryish or rock/blues sounding application. My impression is that they would work pretty well. I am concerned it will be too shrill sounding, but I think if dialed in right they would be awesome for this type of music and would be able to produce a certain type of clarity. I've never tried one though.

Any thoughts or soundclips would be awesome.

I've been eyeing the Kramer DMZ2000. It has super distortions and coil splitting switches on it already. Here's some photos:


 #122772  by redeyedjim
 Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:33 pm
Yeah, that's one gorgeous guitar :)

I'm on my phone now and can't really write up a decent reply, but I'll put one together later tonight when I have time. In the meantime, you can search for my UGB/OBEL build thread from November, 2011. I have some pics and thoughts on the whole process. The short answer is that these are really great instruments. They have a few quirks, but then, most 30 year old instruments do. But I love my 450G, which I've owned since 1978 or so :)

Anyway, I'll post more later when I have time. Feel free to PM or email me if you want. I'm not a pro, just a Deadhead that likes to play guitar, but I do have a lot of years w/my Kramer.

Last edited by redeyedjim on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 #122773  by ccw3432
 Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:38 pm
Thanks redeyedjim. I'll search for your post. The photos I posted are not of one for sale that I'm looking at, but just some photos I dug up online of the DMZ2000, because ya, it's a looker.
 #122778  by redeyedjim
 Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:48 pm
OK, here are a few before and after pics of my Kramer 450G, and some info/backstory.

I'm the second owner. I bought the guitar as a high school student back in '78 or '79. This was how the guitar looked before I did my Garcia-inspired mods:


Originally it came with the stock Kramer surface mounted tail-piece, which is different than the stud mounted, tune-o-matic tail piece on the DMZ2000 you posted. I added the Kahler locking tremelo and nut sometime in the late 80's. I did this in part because I wanted a tremelo, but mostly because I was completely frustrated with the stock aluminum nut, which was very "grabby" and made it very hard to keep the guitar in tune. The Kahler locking nut and tailpiece-mounted micro tuners were huge improvements over the stock setup. In retrospect I think it's likely a good luthier could have fixed the nut issues with a file and some graphite, but I don't regret changing tailpieces, and I certainly don't regret adding the locking nut; the aluminum nut was very aggravating, as every time you bent a string it went out of tune. Grrrrrrr.

The original owner had replaced the original Kramer pickups with Dimarzio SuperDistortions before I bought it, so I never heard it with the OEM pickups. It sounded great with the SuperDisortions, though. There were some funky things going on with the wiring setup -- the previous owner had installed some Bill Lawrence Q Filters, and while it had good tone it wasn't ideal, and the neck pup was always dark and not entirely useful. But overall it played well, with good action and great sustain. It's worth mentioning that it's a very heavy guitar - probably ~10 lbs. Heavy enough that you appreciate having a padded strap. ;)

Fast forward to 2011, when I finally became so tired of the guitar's funky electronics that I was inspired to make some major changes. I wanted to do the full ration of Tiger mods: triple pups, new pup ring, UGB, OBEL, Strat-style 5 way switch, and coil splitting toggles for the HBs. Without a doubt, finding this forum and seeing so many other people go down a similar road gave me the confidence I needed to modify my baby.

This was my build thread for that project. Looking back on it now, I wish I had taken more pictures of these mods when we were doing them. But lack of work-in-progress pictures is my only regret; I'm absolutely ecstatic with the end results.

Here are a few pics after the buildup, with the triple pup ring, the three pups (neck: SDS-1; middle: Super II; and bridge: DualSound), and the new selector switch installed:


One of the downsides of hanging out on TGP is that pedalboard has changed a lot since this photo was taken, lol...

Not pictured: Just last night I added a second 25k volume pot to control volume to the OBEL loop. To do this I moved the OBEL jack from the top (where it was using one of the old tone control pot holes) to the bottom edge. I love this new OBEL volume control, as it instantly improved the tone of my fuzz pedal :D

Bottom line: this is a fantastic sounding and playing guitar! I think these old aluminum necked Kramers are excellent guitars for Garcia-inspired playing. It's tone is very clear and musical, but I can also get some great, gritty sounds from it with the right amp or pedals. Due to the relative size of the fretboard, which is a little wider than a Strat's, it probably isn't a good choice for Strat-style shredding, but it plays well and it has a great, authentic tone. It's just a great sounding and great playing guitar.

Electronics aside, I think it's weight, feel, and playability are pretty typical of the early aluminum necked Kramers. If you are in the SF Bay Area, drop me a line; I'd be happy to get together and give you a chance to play it and see if you like the feel of it. And if you haven't found the Kramer guitar forums yet, be sure to check them out, too:

Lots of people there with more knowledge, experience, and skill than me :)
 #122805  by ccw3432
 Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:49 pm
Redeyedjim, Thanks so much for the detailed write-up. It looks like an awesome guitar and rig. I really like the work you did on it too. If I can find a good deal on one I think I'll go for it and give it a try.