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Back in the mid-’80s, Kramer was one of the most popular guitar brands around, partly because of endorsements from such iconic artists as Eddie Van Halen. For various reasons, the company went through ups and downs, but with the Kramer Assault 220, they have produced an entry-level model which shows that they are back in the game.
Many of the traditional Kramer models of the past had modified Strat-style designs, but the Assault 220 takes a different path. It has a single-cutaway design (modified slightly from that of a Les Paul); those typically don’t scream ‘shred guitar,’ but don’t let that fool you. The body is constructed from maple – long known for being an excellent tonewood, and it was designed to be somewhat lighter and thinner than most similar designs. There are also several attractive color options to choose from as well.
Mahogany is the tonewood of choice for the neck, and it features a glued-in attachment instead of the bolt-on process that’s usually seen in guitars that are in the under $500 price range. What’s the difference? A glued-in neck will tend to transfer vibrations and resonance more efficiently, therefore giving you a sound that tends to be fuller.
The 24 frets are loaded on a true rosewood fingerboard, another way to increase the warmth of the tone. Fret marker inlays are a distinctive ‘thorn’ shape to add some visual appeal as well.
The Assault 220 was meant to blaze right from the get-go, with two Alnico V humbucking pickups that also have push/pull coil-splitting capability and a three-way selector switch. That’s a big deal, as being able to get decent single-coil sounds, as well as the traditional full sound of humbuckers, makes the 220 a very versatile axe. While it’s certainly meant to be a shred machine, we’d be comfortable using it for many other genres as well.
What would a good shred guitar be without a good tremolo system? The Assault 220 comes standard with a licensed Floyd Rose trem bridge, long known and respected for being one of the most stable and reliable trem systems that were ever introduced. You can dive-bomb to your heart’s delight without ever having to worry about going out of tune.
Rounding the Assault 220 off hardware-wise are die-cast tuners with a 14:1 ratio for smooth operation.
If you want more heat in your sound, then the Assault 220 may just be the guitar for you. The Alnico V pickups are tuned with higher output than most traditional humbuckers; that makes getting to meltdown mode super easy. The coil tap feature may not be an exact representation sonically as what you’d get out of a Strat or a Tele, but it’s certainly good enough to add some flexibility to your tones.
Most guitars meant for fast playing have a relatively flat fretboard radius, and with a 12” radius, you may find that playing those lightning-fast runs are a piece of cake. Having 24 frets also is a big help to squeeze out those higher register notes. It’s stable and stays in tune well, so in our opinion, it’s a great choice for a gigging rock guitar player that’s on a budget – it fits right in with guitars that are on the higher end of the price scale.
Kramer may not be as prevalent in the market as they were at one time, but with models like the Assault 220, there’s no reason in our minds why they can’t ascend back up to the heights of popularity they enjoyed a few decades ago. It’s a very solid model that plays well, sounds good, looks great, and won’t make your piggy bank sweat bullets.
For more info about the Kramer Assault 220, click here.
For more of the best electric guitars under $500, click here.