Kramer Guitars 2010 - Kramer Pacer Classic Review
by Dave Nardelli

Remember the days of long hair, spandex pants and shred-o-rama? When MTV and music video sparked all that mojo in us to go out and be the next guitar hero? Ah, yes, the 80s... ok, I don't remember much... BUT, I do recall those great guitars, back in the day when lead guitar was king. Locking trems and hot pickups were the order of the day and a basic need that all us young inspiring hot shot EVH wanna-be's had to have.

One of the biggest selling brands of the 80s was Kramer guitars. Endorsed by everybody who was anybody, Kramer was the hottest guitar in town, bar none, and the exclusive distributors of the now infamous Floyd Rose. The brand flourished until 1990 when it suddenly disappeared off the face of the map and was subsequently sold to Gibson/Epi a few years later.

Now, Gibson/Epiphone offers the Kramer Pacer Classic. A take on the vintage 'beak' or 'classic' head necked series of vintage Kramer Pacer guitars, the new Kramer Classic offers some new details as well as a few throw back to the older original models.

Design and Cosmetics

First, it should be noted that the Classic is not a reissue and it is not supposed to be; it is a new affordable twin humbucker, double cutaway model reminiscent of the vintage Kramer Pacer Imperial. Let's look at the details.

The guitar's body is your familiar square-ish shouldered, double cutaway style with a Floyd Rose licensed locking trem, black hardware, and all maple neck. As of this writing, the body color is available is candy red and pearl white and is made of mahogany, a great warm sounding tone wood that works well against the brightness of the maple neck. Controls are bridge volume, neck volume and master tone with a 3-way switch like many of the old style Pacers. The volume knobs also feature a bleed mod exclusive to these guitars.

The body is quite light and and easy on the shoulder. Both pickups are humbuckers and really have great output. Plugging in, I was skeptical about these at first but afterward I was quite surprised and impressed at the muscle of these pickups, they really throw out...more on that in a minute.

Another nice feature on all of the new Kramer guitars are the slots cut into tremolo back plate. These provide great access for spring tension adjustment, after a change of strings that might be of a different size.

The Neck and Playability

The 22 fret, 25.5" scale neck is the all popular maple neck which most beak necked Kramer collectors actually prefer. Purists will notice the headstock is slightly longer than the vintage style. This is due to accommodate the truss rod adjustment nut to make tweaking easier, a good idea.

The light finished, flat radiused, satiny feeling neck is a joy to play and action is quite low. The nut width size is a R4 which is 1 11/16" size and the locking nut is 'old school', meaning that it is rear mounted through the neck. The neck is also outfitted with very large frets, very close to the vintage style of the Pacer Imperials from the early years. The radius differs slightly than vintage beak Pacers in that its more flat, thereby making a Floyd setup that much easier. While more round radius fretboards are more comfortable in some instances, the flat fretboard provides a better overall ability to get the action lower with Floyds. The edges are very well dressed on this review model, with a nice rolled edged feel overall on the neck.

Tuners are black and of a non-locking variety..but who needs that when you have a locking nut, right? The headstock is adorned with vintage style logo and "Classic Series" with same font as the older Pacers. Sweet. Additionally, it has a allen wrench key holder on the back of the neck, a definite plus!

Trussrod Adjustment and Headstock
Gotoh Style Tuners and Allen Holder

Pickups and Electronics

This guitar was hard to put down. Jumping straight to the gain channel on my amp, harmonics were easy to coax and just flew out of the thing, in short, the pickups are very responsive. One couldn't help but 'drift back' to those days and begin cranking out some old, ..did I say 'old' ..?, I didn't think of yester-year. Tapping is also effortless on the this neck. Switching to clean and using both pickups, the chime-like tones were clear as crystal and quite engaging. Adding some reverb made it all the better giving the sound a bell like ring. Beautiful. Having a great clean and distortion sound in one guitar, what more can one ask for?


The Pacer Classic joins quite a few super str*t type guitars in the sub-$500 range. The Pacer Classic model was built as an affordable version of the USA Pacer Imperial that Kramer released in 2007. To be fair, this model is comparable to most LTD models released by ESP in the same price range. The necks are fairly similar in shape and design to the maple fretboard and back shapes of the LTDs. The Kramers are more affordable, allbeit, the LTD's do feature Floyd Rose Special trems. Many of these guitars, including the Pacer Classic and the LTD"s are very close in fit, finish, and overall quality to USA made instruments. The CNC's used overseas these days make guitars that make it very hard to justify the price difference when choosing an instrument.

For the USA purists out there that say "Only a USA Kramer is a real Kramer" - well, you might want to tap the brake there slightly. Kramer actually released many Japanese market Pacers (JK models) in addition to some USA labeled Pacers which utilized Japanese made ESP necks. The Pacer Classic is an Asian made instrument, however, compared to some Japanese market exclusive Kramers of the 80's, they bear a striking resemblence to the same idea Dennis Berardi and team came up with in the 80's (see 1987 Japan Catalog - right).

The Classic definitely holds its own to the Pacer Imperial, that was made and assembled in USA by Kramer 3 years ago. There are some slight cosmetic differences to the 2007 Imperial, such as less roundover on the body edges, truss rod at the headstock (improvement), and the subtraction of the walnut skunk stripe on the back of the neck. There are also a few hardware differences, such as the licensed Floyd over the Original Floyd Rose tremolo, but again, at the price range of the Classic, that is expected.

Why to buy? At under $400 in some instances (retail), you can't beat a good gigging guitar that you don't mind scuffing up at your local bar. This is also a great guitar to use as a basis for hot rodding; upgrade a few parts and you have quite a little beast on your hands. While the stock pickups and bridge are adequate at the price range offered, throw some Duncans and a real Original Floyd Rose on there, and bam, you have yourself the equivalent to a Charvel So Cal or Japanese made Jackson. Additionally, you can take that finish off the back of the neck with your favorite sandpaper, and then slap on gunstock oil or tung, and again, you have upgraded an affordable guitar into a mojo candidate!

You are not going to sacrifice your ability to gig or play if you choose the Classic over USA models. It is road worthy, and it's also just overall a great jamming guitar!

Value and Final Thoughts

If I had to categorize the usability, this guitar is a shoe-in for classic rock, modern rock, metal, heck, I bet even some country gents would love it. It's versatile, comfortable and sounds great. The biggest attribute of this axe, at least to me, is the price. At under 4 bills street, this guitar is very affordable and to be honest, there's something about it that makes you want to pick it up and play it. For it's price and all it's great features, Vintage Kramer gives the Kramer Pacer Classic a big enthusiastic 'thumbs up' so check one out soon!

Ok, now I'm going back to play the Classic some more. Maybe some of that old mojo is coming back... thanks, Gibby!!


Here is a test run of the guitar on youtube. Enjoy!


Pacer Classic Specs:

Made in: Asia
Body: Mahogany
Body Finish: Urethane
Neck: Hard Rock Maple, Thin Taper C Shape
Fingerboard: 14" Radius - Hard Rock Maple
Headstock: Classic "Beak" with Allen Wrench Holder bolted to back
Fret Size : Medium Jumbo (closer to Jumbo)
Neck Finish: Smooth Satin Clear
Bridge Pickup 910T - DC Resistance-13.85Kohm, Induction@1K – 7.15H, Alnico 5
Neck Pickup 900R - DC Resistance-8.5Kohm, Induction@1K – Alnico 5
Bridge: Licensed "Kramer" Floyd Rose Tremolo
Scale: 25.5"
Number of Frets: 22
Nut: R3 1 11/16 Locking Nut, Rear Mounted (through the neck)
Construction: Bolt-On with Kramer Neck Plate
Controls: (2) 500K Audio Taper Volume Controls w .002 cap for volume bleed, (1) Tone Control
Controls: Mini 3-Way Pickup Toggle Switch
Input: 1/4" "recessed" Barrel Jack
Machine Heads: Non branded Gotoh Style, Tuning Ratio 14:1
Hardware: Black
Strap Pins : Metal Strap Buttons - Black
Color Options: Candy Red, Pearl White
Box Candy: Warranty Card, Hang Tag, Adjustment Wrench, Economy 10" cord

Specs for the Kramer Classic can be found on Kramer, and on the Gibson website.

Additional Photos

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