February 13, 2010 - ModGuitar Senior Editor
Kramer Focus 1000 Review
The Kramer name is still in production as a brand owned by Gibson. The Kramer name is synonymous with Neptune New Jersey, a certain 80s guitar star, and high quality import guitars. Take a look at this near vintage mid-80s Japanese (built by ESP) solid body electric guitar.
Kramer® branded instruments have been spotted in limited production runs on various big music retailer websites, while previusly having been distributed through the musicyo web site. It’s nice to see the brand in production. It’s easy to confuse the current Focus line with the series by the same name released in the 80s. The models of today really don’t compare to the import models of the past. This review features a candy apple red Focus 1000 in good condition. The original Focus series also included the two pick-up 2000, the three pick-up 3000 and the 5000 “Vanguard” three hum-bucker model, as well as bass instruments. Th vintage Kramers featured a comfortable, slim taper neck, jumbo frets and a thin fingerboard. The Focus line was Kramer’s lower priced offering with Berettas and Pacers costing much more.
This prized used find has cool 80s styling complete with matching head stock, comes equipped with an Original Floyd Rose® Locking tremolo – stock. The finish has taken a beating in almost twenty years. We were able to polish out most of the minor blemishes, the rest are “character”. The candy apple red still looks good. The original finish is a tough urethane and tough as nails to remove (something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of refinishing one of these bad boys). The body is most likely made of Poplar, a light resonant wood with a tonal quality somewhere between Swamp Ask and Alder. The fingerboard is pretty chewed up. Whomever owned this guitar played hard!
A real 80s work horse featuring one volume control and one slanted bridge pickup. On further inspection, the volume control has an inline resistor to allow some treble signal to pass through as the volume control is turned down. Did Eddie Van Halen use this Mod or inspire it? The stock pick-ups distort readily but aren’t really sweet sounding – even after 20 years of aging. This is one of the key differences between the import Focus line, and the USA Kramers such as the Pacer series from this time period. The Pacer’s often had Seymour Duncan pickups stock. Aside from the pick-ups, you’ll be hard pressed to find any significant differences in quality between the import 80s Focus and the USA made Pacers. The bodies are shaped the same, along with the finish, and other components being high quality. The Focus necks went through a series of changes to the head stock shape over the years. Maple fingerboards seemed to have been reserved for the Pacer line. The Focus models are sleepers, since they share so many of the high quality features as the USA made Kramers. Prices have started to rise for the Focus series as the supply of USA made vintage Kramers dries up. Sadly, many of these closet classics are being parted out to sell the Original Floyd Rose tremolo separately.
Like Charvels and Jacksons from the same period these guitars were made for Rock & Roll, and they deliver! The neck profile is comfortable with the fretboard radius being fairly flat and the frets medium jumbo in size. All of our vintage Kramers have rock solid necks, that are a joy to play.
The metal parts of the trem, lock nut, and tuners needed a good polish, but were mostly good as new. The trem arm mounting nut assembly can get sloppy over the years, but aftermarket arms are available. A little modern guitar polish does wonders with the kinds of grime and tarnish that can accumulate on guitar parts.
The fingerboard and frets needed a little TLC, a light fret level and crowning, along with a good scrub got them looking almost new. A good polish overall, everything put back together, and it’s like Mr. Peabody pulled this one out of the ‘way back’ machine.