Story by Richard Bienstock
Photo by Massimo Cammacurta
The Framus name may not have the mainstream recognition afforded certain other guitar manufacturers, but those in the know are well aware of the German brand’s storied history. Founded in 1946 by Fred Wilfer, the company had an illustrious several-decade run, during which its products hung around the necks of some of rock’s biggest names.
A young Paul McCartney cut his teeth on a Zenith model 17, while his bandmate John Lennon occasionally rocked a 12-string Hootenanny, as seen during a performance of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” in the Beatles’ film Help! And on the low-end end, the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman and Buffalo Springfield’s Bruce Palmer were known to be fans of the company’s Star Bass.
By the mid-Sixties, Framus had established itself as one of the largest guitar makers in Europe. But in the face of increased competition from other manufacturers, and in particular the growing import Asian market, the company went bankrupt in the mid Seventies and closed shop. But in 1995, Wilfer’s son, Hans Peter Wilfer, resurrected the name as a subsidiary of high-end bass manufacturer Warwick GmbH.
Framus’ second act has been a fruitful one. In the past decade and a half, the company has built up a new stable of devotees with models such as the slick Panthera, the semi-hollowbody AK 1974, and the jazz-boxlike AZ-10. Among the company’s most popular offerings is its Diablo Series of solidbody electrics and, in particular, the Diablo Supreme, which, along with its sister guitar, the three-pickup Supreme X, has become the flagship model of the line.
The Diablo Supreme makes an impression even before you set eyes on it. The guitar comes enclosed in a heavy-duty RockCase flight case, a behemoth that will undoubtedly ease any worries about anyone or anything damaging the precious cargo within. The instrument itself is no less stunning, boasting a satin-finished mahogany body and a beautifully figured AAA carved flamed maple top. The mahogany neck is topped with a rosewood fingerboard sporting 22 medium standard frets and classic oval inlays. Other features include Sperzel Trim-Lok machine heads, a TonePros wraparound bridge, Graph Tech Black Tusq low-friction nut, and chrome hardware.
The two Seymour Duncan pickups — an SH-1 ’59 at the neck and an SH-4 JB at the bridge—are controlled via one volume and one tone knob and a five-way selector switch. As with all higher-end Framus offerings, craftsmanship on the Supreme is top-notch and not without a few special touches. The guitar is an ergonomic pleasure, comfortable and smooth against the body, and the neck’s silky satin finish contributes to easy playability. The heel arch of the set neck is gentle almost to the point of nonexistence, making for easy access to the uppermost frets—a particularly nice feature.
Thanks to Framus’ Plek Technology, in which computer-aided fret dressing contributes to a factory-perfect setup, the Supreme was ready to play right out of the box. Run clean through a Vox AC15 Custom and a Marshall JCM900, the Supreme was supremely crisp, with clear highs, hefty bottom, and an overall full—and quite loud—presence across the tonal spectrum.
Dialing in some dirt yielded substantial grit and bite that belied the guitar’s refined features. The two Duncans handily covered a range of hot-rodded tones, from chunky chording and riffing with the SH-4 to warm, singing single-note lines with the SH-1. With only one volume control, it isn’t possible to play with the balance of the two pickups, but the responsiveness of the tone knob makes it possible to achieve almost any desired sound.
In fact, though its upscale looks and features may scream “high-end luxury,” the Diablo Supreme is at heart an incredibly playable and versatile guitar with a decidedly indelicate roar. Just another example of German engineering at its finest.
List Price: $5,999.99, including RockCase flight case and Framus user kit
Framus International, framus.de