The brand synonymous with large-haired names like Van Halen, Sambora, Batten, Morello, Schon and more is back with a well-priced range of rockers. Review by Martyn Casserly
Kramer was once the biggest-selling guitar company in the world. For a couple of years in the mid-’80s, aided by the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Richie Sambora, these pointy-headstocked guitars widdled their way to the top of the pile. The success was short-lived, though, and a few years later Kramer went into bankruptcy, eventually to be purchased by Gibson. Now, with an ’80s nostalgia revival going on, they’re back with updated models to catch the eye and tug at a few heartstrings. Pink plectrum at the ready? Let’s rock.
The name sounds like some kind of weapon you’d hear the kids screaming about while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on the Xbox, but to be fair it does wield some firepower.
The single cutaway body is a no-nonsense slab of mahogany with a gentle top carve and a ribcage contour. The mahogany set-neck bears a 24-fret ebony board with ‘thorn’ inlays.
A solid white finish with black binding gives it a Alex Lifeson/Dave Navarro/Hives feel; there’s a black finish option. Gone is the pointy headstock, replaced with one that looks like a softer version of a PRS.
Appointments are simple: Floyd Rose vibrato, locking nut, twin humbuckers, two allen keys attached to the back of the headstock, three-a-side tuners.
There’s a three-way switch and volume and tone knobs, and the volume has a modification that keeps the treble in the signal as you back off the level, stopping the guitar from getting muddy.
One small complaint: with the whammy bar in place it’s difficult to perform the old ‘violining’ trick by wrapping your little finger around the volume knob.
The Assault’s neck is very fast. The flat, spacious fretboard is a playground for rapid runs, legato phrasing and of course those wild tapping solos. You can almost feel your hair start to perm as you play.
Through a clean amp the Assault gives a good account of itself. The neck pickup is bright while retaining decent warmth; you can get a light jazz voice that works well with the fast fretboard.
Overdrive reveals a credible classic rock guitar with big, focussed chords and solo lines that sing nicely thanks to impressive sustain.
The tone is slightly metallic at the edges, but still very usable. High gain is where the Assault shines, and the aggressive attack of the pickups mixed with the rapid playability makes for a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience that’ll bring out the metaller in all of us.
Low-down chugging is effortless, and notes seem to come in flurries once the solos begin. Great stuff!
It can be a risk brinKramer Assault 220R ging a once-great name back to prominence - you're up against iconic models plus a sprinkling of rose-coloured memories of the good old days. Kramer - or, more accurately, Gibson - should be happy with what they've achieved here, because both these new models are fine examples of affordable manufacturing, and they've been made with a high level of quality. The Assault is a proper rock guitar with attitude, big tones and excellent playability. It's surprisingly versatile, and modern rockers looking for a tough and inspirational axe should definitely check one out. For less heavy styles the Striker is a tantalising option. That's not to say it can't rock hard - it can - but with the sonic possibilities of the single coils it would seem a little constricting just to leave it in humbucker mode. In a technical sense Kramer has always been around in one guise or another, but it feels now that maybe, after all this time, the company is finally back.