GERMANY’S FRAMUS IS ONE OF THOSE GUITAR MAKERS that deploys mammoth resources and care to deliver near perfection. The factory in Markneukirchen looks as clean and modern as a Mercedes plant, and technology such as Plek machines and computer-controlled routers integrate seamlessly with ages-old hand work by actual humans. Exotic woods are carefully stored onsite, and new ideas in hardware and other parts—if proven to be better than previous options—are swiftly adopted into the product line. Nothing, it seems, stops Framus from tirelessly innovating or producing super-high-quality guitars that appear to be constructed by angels.
But as wonderful as all of this attention to quality is for guitarists, the flipside is that it’s a real problem for reviewers. In fact, product reviews almost seem unnecessary. The German-crafted Framus models we’ve evaluated at Guitar Player are always meticulously superb. No hidden glitches. No ill-fitting shirts or lettuce stuck between the teeth, so to speak. They are 99.8-percent perfection. The only downside—apart from the subjectivity of art, meaning that one player’s awesome guitar may be another’s undesirable plank—is the cost factor inherent at bringing high-quality German workmanship to these shores. A Framus will cost as much or more as other high-end brands, and with perhaps a tad less resale value than guitars produced by American companies. However, those willing to jump in and own a brand that is unique and different than the usual suspects will absolutely be rewarded with a gorgeous instrument.
The Idolmaker Five R certainly proves this point. Part of a series developed by Framus and guitarist Stevie Salas (the line also includes the Idolmaker Standard and the Idolmaker Stevie Salas Signature), the look of the guitar is immediately striking, and the luxurious woods and craftsmanship are readily apparent to the eye. It’s like brilliant architecture. But as sexy as this machine looks, that’s nothing compared to the feeling you get when you hold it in your hands. It’s a very light and comfortable guitar, and the slim, satin-finished neck almost begs you to play beyond your means. Everything seems possible, and I found myself playing the Idolmaker almost incessantly, losing track of time. It’s that kind of instrument. Ergonomics are excellent—the master Volume and Tone controls are within easy reach for pinky manipulations, the 5-way pickup selector is right where it needs to be for rapid tone changes, and the smooth and rounded frets almost feel invisible. Even something as relatively minor as its wood tuning knobs adds to the lush feel of playing this guitar.
The Idolmaker Five R’s sing-sing-hum pickup configuration delivers a very wide menu of tonal options. The bridge humbucker produces a feral roar, and if you want a bit more zing or jangle, you can grab the Tone control’s push/pull knob to activate a coil split. The middle single-coil is articulate with a nice, steely pop and snap, and the neck single-coil adds some bottom to the tone that’s bold without being muddy. One of the nice surprises was position 4 (bridge humbucker with middle single-coil), which delivered a near-perfect emulation of the rhythm tone Nile Rodgers used on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. Funky!
The Idolmaker’s only fault—and quite unexpected, given Framus’ attention to detail— is that the wraparound bridge is positioned so close to the bridge pickup that changing strings can be frustrating. There’s barely enough room for the string’s ball end to fit, and the bridge’s string slot doesn’t always guide the string properly. But one small blemish doesn’t ruin a supermodel’s allure, and it also doesn’t tarnish the superior beauty, playability, workmanship, and tone of this Editors’ Pick Award-winning guitar.
IDOLMAKER FIVE R
PRICE $4,999 street (includes aluminum RockCase)
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", Graph Tech Black Tusq
NECK Maple, set
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.5" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 jumbo
TUNERS Graph Tech Ratio Tuned, locking
BODY AAA flamed-maple top over red alder
BRIDGE Graph Tech Wraparound ResoMax
PICKUPS Nordstrand Shush Puppy single-coils (neck/ middle), Nordstrand NDC humbucker(bridge)
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone (push/pull for humbucker splitting), 5-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Cleartone, .009-.046
WEIGHT 7.4 lbs
KUDOS Gorgeous workmanship. Excellent playability. Great tones. Lightweight.
CONCERNS Expensive. Tight spacing between bridge and bridge pickup makes changing strings difficult.