GERMANY’S NIK HUBER WAS AMID the forerunners of a recent wave of minimalist, no-nonsense rock ’n’ roll guitars with his single-pickup Junior of a couple years ago. Clearly that curl has yet to break, so Huber has now added another stripped-down solidbody to the lineup in the form of the Krautster, just introduced at NAMM last January. While the name pokes good-natured fun at the homeland, the guitar itself is aimed at down-to-business rockers on both sides of the pond. Its single H. Häussel humbucking pickup in the bridge position and lone Volume control with push-pull pot for coil splitting give you everything you need for any of the “hyphen-rock” genres (i.e. punk, garage, roots) while its flat-topped construction and austere cosmetics tell us this Huber has come to be played, not fondled. Despite its simplicity, however, the Krautster bears the hallmarks of one of modern luthery’s finer woodworkers. Subtle touches like the ebony trussrod cover, rosewood control-cavity cover, and routed (rather than sawn) fret slots, which miraculously hide the fret tangs on this unbound rosewood ’board, all tell of the attention to detail applied in the Huber shop.
The choice, two-piece mahogany body has a deep ribcage contour that, in addition to the guitar’s light weight, makes it super comfortable seated or standing. Its satin gold polyurethane top finish with cream binding and satin open-pore back finish handsomely dress up this blue-collar workhorse. The neck is another Huber masterpiece, cut from highly figured maple and profiled to Huber’s standard rounded-D shape, with a 25" scale length and a compound radius that graduates from 10" to 14". It feels sublime in the hand, and fails to impede any effort from its bone nut to its contoured, glued-in heel. A set of Klusonstyle Gotohs take tuning duties, and Huber’s own in-house-machined compensated aluminum wraparound tailpiece keeps it simple at the tail end. Both tailpiece and pickup cover are plated in aged nickel, a muted touch that gels well with the satin-finished body.
Tested through a range of vintage and contemporary tube amps, the Krautster revealed itself to be bright, crisp, and surprisingly well defined for a mahogany-bodied guitar with a high-output humbucker. It segues from jangle to twang to crunch like very few similarly appointed guitars I can think of, but ramp up the gain and it slams, sings, and sustains with ease—and there’s still impressive clarity amid the saturation, even before you switch to single-coil mode. I’ve always admired Häussel’s ability to pull single-coil tones from a hot humbucker, and the Krautster is no exception. Knob-up, it’s all a little brighter and snappier, but remains meaty and bold at its core, and can still grind when you dig in. Arguably the only thing missing is a warmer, mellower tone (which the lack of a tone control makes tougher to achieve), though picking up toward the neck with the volume rolled slightly back gets close. And if that’s a voice you can’t live without, you can order a Krautster with neck pickup and tone control added. As it stands, though, it’s an astoundingly versatile instrument, and a huge pleasure to play.
CONTACT Nik Huber Guitars, nikhuber-guitars.com
PRICE $2,650 retail/street price N/A
NUTWIDTH 1 21/32"
NECK Maple, glued in, 25" scale length, rounded D profile
FRETBOARD East Indian rosewood, compound radius 10"-14"
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo, hardened nickel alloy
BODY Solid two-piece mahogany
PICKUPS Custom-made H. Häussel humbucker with aged nickel cover
CONTROLS Single Volume with push/pull switch
BRIDGE Huber-made solid aluminum compensated wrap-around design
TUNERS Kluson-style by Gotoh
WEIGHT 7.3 lbs
KUDOS Superb build quality, sublime playability, powerful voice.