New Framus German Pro Series & Custom Shop Models Reviewed

Common wisdom would recommend that you don’t mess with perfection, but Framus can’t seem to keep from continually retooling its impeccable construction formula.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Common wisdom would recommend that you don’t mess with perfection, but Framus can’t seem to keep from continually retooling its impeccable construction formula. These are guitars that are typically so exquisitely built that it’s almost a downer to review them, because there are only so many superlatives you can use before readers start thinking you’ve either lost your critical footing, or are somehow on the Framus payroll.

Well, we’re not—taking kickbacks from shadowy agents of Framus, that is—nor am I comfortable believing that myself and the other GP editors have been rendered incapable of credible and unbiased product evaluations. But one lives by perceptions in our imperfect world, and, let’s face it, our only real check-and-balance for all the excellent Framus reviews published by this magazine is for readers to try some of the models themselves.

It’s a good time to take that plunge, because Framus recently “messed” with its guitar line by introducing an improved German Pro Series. What they could have actually improved upon is a very good question indeed, but the new series includes high-quality seasoned woods, Invisible Fret Technology, fluorescent side dots on fretboards, Seymour Duncan pickups, Tone Pros and Graph Tech hardware, and a Rockbass Starline gig bag—all team built and inspected in the Framus factory in Markneukirchen, Germany. Some of these features have been seen on past models, but it seems that everything has now been integrated under the German Pro Series banner.

Framus sent us two German Pro Series instruments—a Mayfield Legacy and a Phil XG Artist—as well as a Custom Shop AK 1974S for our final issue of 2015. It’s no surprise that there were no surprises. The guitars are built like fined-tuned watches, sound great, and look stunning. They’re also expensive—which is why you don’t see a lot of Framus headstocks milling around the average club gig in the hands of the average club band. But these guitars are much like a hand-tooled Aston Martin Rapide S sedan. If you can’t afford one, it’s still a gas to look and dream, and if you do have the budget to snatch one up, it will certainly be worth every penny spent.

CUSTOM SHOP AK 1974S

Image placeholder title

A descendent of the Framus Jan Akkerman Signature Model of 1974—and its name is obviously a nod to that original guitar—the AK 1974S blends the girth of a Les Paul with the airy shimmer of a semi-hollow ES-335. It’s a good tonal combo plate right there, but the sonic menu is further spiced-up by the guitar’s 6-way switch that offers split-coil flavors along with the customary humbucker sounds. I tested the AK 1974S through a Vox AC30, a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, and an Orange Tiny Terror through a Mesa/Boogie 1x12, and the armory of sounds was impressive. You can dial in warm low end for jazzy riffs, some spank for country pickin’, hollow mids for modern shred, gritty overdrive for all styles of rock, and enough off-kilter tones for moments of surprise. For those who actually adjust their Tone knobs, there’s a fair amount of sweep in the AK 1974S’ Tone control to add even more colors to wherever you park the rotary switch. It’s hard to believe you’d ever run out of tonal options with this machine.

The workmanship is flawless, of course—right down to the rounded, “hot dog end” frets. (Love those, love those, love those.) Playability is excellent, but this is an almost 9.5 lb slab of wood, steel, and electronics, so if you’ve neglected to keep up with your calisthenics, don’t expect to tour the world with the AK 1974S across your shoulder without causing yourself some hurt. Of course, it will be difficult to put this beauty down, as it provides so many wonderful sounds, feels so good to play, and looks so gorgeous. But, yeah, you’ve been warned.

MODEL

CUSTOM SHOP AK 1974S

CONTACT framus.com
PRICE $5,599 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT 1 11/16" Graph Tech Black Tusq Low Friction
NECK 25.5" scale, flamed maple, set
FRETBOARD Tiger stripe ebony
FRETS 24 jumbo (Plek finished)
TUNERS Graph Tech Ratio Locking
BODY AAAA flamed-maple top, AAA back and sides
BRIDGE Tone Pros Tune-o-matic
PICKUPS Two Seymour Duncan SH-1 59
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone, 6-way rotary selector
FACTORY STRINGS Cleartone, .009-.046
WEIGHT 9.47 lbs
BUILT Germany
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Versatile tones.
CONCERNS None.

GERMAN PRO SERIES MAYFIELD LEGACY

All of the Mayfields we’ve tested throughout the years have been exceptional semi-hollow-bodies. This one has a nice, old-school vintage vibe to it, with its P-90s and a groovy “Built in the heart of Saxony” sticker positioned inside the body under the top f hole. Very cool. The Legacy’s clean tones are absolute mind blowers. Every note has a warm pop that’s simultaneously sensual and articulate. Good trick that one. There’s also an acoustic-like shimmer to the highs, as well as solid midrange tones with no edginess or grit. It almost seems like sacrilege to sully this baby with overdriven and distorted sounds, but if you so dare, you’ll still get round, balanced, and clear note articulation. The Seymour Duncan P-90s are dynamic pickups that translate pick attacks accurately, so you can really use your fingers to create different tones, as well. The fleshy pads of your fingers, fingernails, and various picks in different materials are reproduced with excellent clarity. Call it your secret weapon. In any case, it’s a blast to experiment and see what types of sounds the Legacy can deliver.

This is going to make me sound like a total jerk, but I was a little giddy to find that the frets on the Legacy were a bit sharp. Shock! You typically don’t discover any such anomalies with a Framus. [Framus states that our test models were some of the first off of their production line, and that the frets have been corrected on all instruments since.] Otherwise, the workmanship was the usual Framus rating of awesome. For some reason—perhaps due to the fact that the Legacy has a 24.75"-scale neck as opposed to the 25.5" scales of the AK 1974S and Phil XG—the tuning machines on this guitar turned like churned butter. They were so smooth that I felt like doing a bunch of alternate tunings, just to keep running my fingers on the buttons.

The Mayfield Legacy certainly proves itself to be well-dressed and sophisticated when armed with P-90s. If you adore clean tones, this may be the guitar that keeps you in bliss forevermore.

MODEL

GERMAN PRO SERIES MAYFIELD LEGACY

PRICE $2,799 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT 1 11/16" Graph Tech Black Tusq Low Friction
NECK 24.75" scale, mahogany, set
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 22 jumbo (Plek finished)
TUNERS Graph Tech Ratio Locking
BODY Laminated mahogany top and back, solid mahogany sides
BRIDGE Tone Pros Tune-o-matic
PICKUPS Two Seymour Duncan Vintage P-90
CONTROLS Two Volume, two Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Cleartone, .010-.046
WEIGHT 6.61 lbs
BUILT Germany
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Great tones.
CONCERNS Some sharp fret ends.

GERMAN PRO SERIES PHIL XG ARTIST MODEL

Canadian session guitarist Phil X (Xenidis) jumped into one heck of a limelight when he replaced Richie Sambora in Bon Jovi in 2013. (To me, this is almost as cool as his coaching the actresses in the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie, but I’m weird.) For his signature model, Phil helped design a stripped-down number with one overwound alnico 8 humbucker made expressly for him by Arcane Inc. (Framus offers the guitar with other pickup choices, and even a Bigsby), but we tested the Phil-approved model.) This guitar had a beautiful, natural-stain mahogany finish. Construction was mostly superb with first-rate hardware—although, as with the Mayfield, I found a few sharp frets. The satin-finished neck has a thick contour, but it’s comfortable to play, and if you’re a burner, it gives your fingers a high-octave place to shred.

Thanks to the parallel/single-coil/series configuration of the 3-way selector, you can get a fair amount of tones out of the single humbucker, as long as you keep in mind that Phil designed this guitar for heavy rock sounds. It definitely roars with ballsy, tight, and snappy tones in all positions. The master Tone has enough of a sweep to allow some warm, low-midrange sounds, but you can forget about any jazz or faux-jazz tones—this monster was not designed for tuxedo music!

The Phil XG is a simple and aggressive take on the SG formula. It has all of that high-end Framus quality, but it’s like an Armani suit or a red-carpet gown with a road-beaten leather jacket over it. Nothing stops this machine from uncorking some gritty and wonderfully dangerous snarls and growls. Rock on!

MODEL

GERMAN PRO SERIES PHIL XG ARTIST MODEL

PRICE $2,499 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT 1 11/16" Graph Tech Black Tusq Low Friction
NECK 24.75" scale, mahogany, set
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 24, small/high nickel silver
TUNERS Graph Tech Ratio Locking
BODY Mahogany
BRIDGE Tone Pros Tune-o-matic
PICKUPS Arcane Inc. PX8 humbucker
CONTROLS Master Volume, master Tone, 3-way toggle switch for parallel/single-coil/series
FACTORY STRINGS Cleartone, .010-.046
WEIGHT 8 lbs
BUILT Germany
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Super-aggro rock tones.
CONCERNS Some sharp frets.

RELATED