Another AM-1 review...by request of AlanH
The 25th of April, Day of Liberation in Italy, I travelled with a friend and visited a famous shop in the north east of the country. I had with me some pedals I didn't use anymore and my idea was to find a good chorus and the handwired edition of the TS-808.
With great surprise I found in the shop the ENTIRE line of new Kramers: Strikers, 1984s and two SM-1, one black with EMGs and one white with Duncans. Having a fetish for off white guitars I immediately tried the passive SM-1 and realised that as expected from the pictures on this website I wanted to buy it.
They were renewing the shop so everything was 20% off, and in the end the price of the guitar was 495 €, plus 20 for a battered case. I also bought a T-rex analog choruse and I think I made a great deal. But let's look close to the SM-1:
First, I never had the opportunity to own an original Stagemaster, so I can't say how the SM-1 feels in comparison, what I can say is bhow it feels in comparison with my other throu necks.
The guitar I got has a almost perfect finish and a beautiful ivory colour with off-white binding that really makes it look a 25 years old guitar. A friend o'mine has got a white Charvel model 6 that looks the same.
The SM-1 is made of mahogany, excellent choice for me regardless of originality: hog has a beautiful warm tone and there aren't any other neck through on the market made of this wood except the hog Jackson Soloist whose price is about 2300$. What the Sl-MAH doesn't have is an arched top, just the Charvel 750XLs and the Soloist Pro of the early 90s have it. These guitars are very well sought today and they command silly money.
The fingerboard is made of a good grade ebony that after a little bit of lemon oil looks uniformely black. The inlays are the classic Kramer headstock of the late 80s, they are described as perloid but they look like real MOP to me. The frets are medium jumbo, the same used on the Stratocaster today, not too small like the MM Axis but not as big as the Soloist's, however the fretwork is VERY good and doesn't need crowning: the set up from the factory was already very low, when I came back home I lowered again to my standards and there aren't any dead spots of buzz.
The headstock is the traditional rounded pointy of the late 80s with the appropriate logo, the backof the headstock looks like the classic ESP/Kramer profile with the volute destined to house the two screws of the locking nut even if now it's top mounted. The back of the guitar looks like a Soloist of the mid 80s:
Take into account that the SM-1 was closer to the camera and the neck of the early 90s Soloists were extremely thin with a shallow U profile never present in the 80s Soloist and today's Jacksons.
Besides that the two guitars have a lot in common IMO:
Both of them were made in Orient, both of them were top notch quality instruments with the Solo Pro being a little better because I don't like the matt black paint the Korean used for the cavities of the PUs and the Floyd.
In conclusion my impression of the guitar is very positive and in these days I'm playing her a lot, I recommend the instrument to everty neck through fan for its unique features, on the points Kramer/Gibson can improve is the carving of the top (a little too soft), the already mentioned paint of the cavities and most important...an original hard case! The one the shop gave is nice, but a little to large as you can see from the pics.
I'm also not impressed by the name SM-1, if I were in Gibson I would have proposed the name "Mach 2" like the original (I think they lost the rights of the Stagemaster name, I would also suggest to thnk about introducing another Stagey with two humbuckers, a bound flamed maple top and a sunburst finish in order to offer those who can afford paying 3k$ for an old Soloist archtop another option and fill that niche of the market.
The two opening onthe back are really comfy for changing the spring force and adjust the bridge when you change gauge of strings.
Regarding the neck it's the traditional Gibson slim taper,a feature that a lot of people don't like, however the neck is not to big and I have no problem shredding with the SM-1.
The hardware is of quality: the tuners are hard enough to rotate, the Floyd is a Korean one, but it works well (and I found it on more expensive guitars like the Blaze K-2),a blade selector, two knobs with a volume, a toen and a push pull switch that activate the bridge in any position of the switch. It's just effective on the first tow positions, of course (neck and neck/middle) but it's a nice feature.
There also is a coil tap switch but on my guitar it doesn't work too well, however since the output is half of the traditional humbucker I'm not gonna use it. In general it's a pretty flexible circuit that allows to get all the sounds of the Les Paul, Strato, Tele and traditional SSH Superstrat.
With my great surprise after changing the original strings with a set of hybrid slinky I found out that the bridge PU is not an Alternative 8 as spec but a JB like it was stated in the specs previous the introduction of the guitatr. Always according to the pre-production specs, the neck and middle are hot rails. A lot of people would like this configuration, but I noticed that the hot rails overpower the JB so I had to lower them and raise the HR (this operation is quite difficult, a screw is almost gone), however since the JB is very close to the strings I get a piercing and very thin from the PU. In any case, I never liked the JB so I think it's gonna be replaced soon.
The clean sound of the HR rails is very good and warm, the JB thin and cold, with some distortion the JB gets some points but the sound is always too compressed with the result that I mostly play neck and middle.
Somebody cold be interested to compare the neck profile of my '90 Soloist Pro with the SM-1, here there's a (bad) pic:
Sound: the guitar is amazing, the HR sound like on my Pro-axe with a little bit more sustain and a slightly darker tone, for the JB I already wrote what I think, but of course it's my personal opinion.
In conclusion, I would recommend the guitar to any neck through lovers.
Last edited by Pro-ace; 04-28-2012 at 04:44 AM.
1) '92 Fender Strat, scalloped neck
2) '97 Gibson Les Paul Classic
3) '97 Jackson RR1, pile o'skulls
4) '90 Jackson Soloist Professional
5) '03 Burns Brian May signature black beauty
6) '07 Rich Perfect Bich, 10 strings
7) '07 Ovation BCS Collector's edition
8) '04 Ovation 6759 Custom Legend, 12 strings
9) '81 Guild D-25 sunburst
10) '08 Guild Cv-2C, two of them
11) '00 Guild JF-30-12
12) Gibson Flying V '84 reissue
13) '89 Kramer Pro-axe dlx G0067
14) Baretta reissue